CD Reviews

New releases from Clinic, Julie Doiron, Menomena, and Love of Diagrams.

Clinic

Visitations

(Domino)

Surgical garb gimmickry aside, Clinic were entirely worth the frothy waves of hype that swirled around them in the wake of their 2000 debut, Internal Wrangler. Their tense, wiry garage-pop experimentations made for divisive listening: Either you were enthralled with their bizarre collisions of percolating synths, velvet-toned guitars, and frontman Ade Blackburn's insectlike, well-of-souls vocals, or you found their frosty, futuristic visions pretentious and undercooked. Fans who did sign on were rewarded with continued growth on 2002's Walking With Thee, but were distinctly less enamored with 2004's Winchester Cathedral, a stale, uninspired release that seemed indicative of a band that had run out of ideas and stubbornly refused to excavate their imaginations for new ones. Perhaps this disappointing trajectory is what makes Visitations sound so unexpectedly triumphant, but it's the careful craftsmanship and stylistic conviction that makes it a riveting rock record. Blackburn's sinister suggestiveness remains, but this time he's making good on his previously obtuse threats, belting out his trademark diatribes with menacing beauty and a fresh sense of fury, while Gareth Jones' unfettered mix allows this collection of focused, surprisingly hook-riddled songs to bristle with their own natural energy. HANNAH LEVIN

Julie Doiron

Woke Myself Up

(Jagjaguwar)

Julie Doiron, founding member of Canadian indie-rock scene-makers (and former Sub Pop band) Eric's Trip, has reunited with her ex-bandmates on a stunningly beautiful and emotional new solo album, a blend of country, folk-ballad, and lo-fi rock. Doiron has been forging her own path since the 1996 demise of her former band, and this new effort should satisfy both old fans and new converts alike. Her winsome yet mature voice and richly storied lyrics alternate between acoustic reverie on tracks like "I Left Town" and full rock-band locomotion on the lively "Don't Wannabe/Liked by You." The record's production is snappy and precise, as is Doiron's songwriting, which finds her Chan Marshall–esque singing evoking an array of melancholy images over sparingly used guitars, bass, and drums. This is singer-songwriter music for those who find that category unequivocally annoying, as Doiron creates a musical pastiche that draws from the best of the foundations that inform her craft. JONAH FLICKER

Menomena

Friend and Foe

(Barsuk)

If you judge a band by their press photos, Menomena are three fun-lovin' boys who prefer to be naked as jaybirds—from climbing trees to frolicking in the tub together, all in their birthday best. Judge a band by their album cover, and this Portland trio—who enlisted the skills of cult artist Craig Thompson for the artwork on their third album (and first outing on Seattle's Barsuk), Friend and Foe—are experimentalistic, off-the-cuff, avant-garde, arty, poppy, and unpredictable all at once. Breathtaking opener "Muscle'n Flo" builds slowly from a catchy, pulsing intro and tapers back down, only to be resurrected dramatically with swelling gospel-style organs and brimming vocals ("If Jesus could only wash my feet/I'd grow up strong/And muscle on"). Tufts of Wolf Parade poke through in track two—"The Pelican," with all it's piano-pounding, wail-filled glory. The first four tracks hook hard, and what follows is peppered with complex and cunning material. Midalbum track "Running" is supplemented with ringing doorbells and spookily delivered lines like "I'm going to make it/We're going to make it/Before the cows come home." Weirdness and all, the result is a complete and winning concoction. Far-out, fancy (and fabric) free. I can't speak to the naked part (we'll have to wait until they flash through town Feb. 2). AJA PECKNOLD

Love of Diagrams

EP

(Matador)

It's tough to figure out how Love of Diagrams do it; they manage to capture the sound of the scrappy punk of the late '70s/early '80s without sounding blatantly forced. The whole EP is thick with a spiky-haired, N.Y.C. club vibe, as well as a construction-paper- and-glue art school aesthetic. Produced by Bob Weston (Shellac, Mission of Burma), this little four-song chunk contains echoes of N.Y.C. no-wave, post-punk, and even a little Debbie Harry (hell, they even use the lyric "One way/Or another" on EP closer "No Way Out"). The bee swarm of guitars and droll vocals from lone male vocalist Luke Horton hint at Sonic Youth, while the spring-heeled backbeats and call-and-response vocals from the two ladies of the group, Antonia Sellbach and Monika Fikerle, recall early Sleater-Kinney. It's like they've gone into the thrift store and tried on several different outfits, ultimately deciding to wear them all at once. Maybe that's Love of Diagrams' key to sounding so original. Either that, or the fact that they're Australian. BRIAN J. BARR

 
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