Yellow Ostrich “The Mistress”
The Mistress is the kind of minor masterpiece created when a keen sense of melody and broken heart collide. It oozes the coldness of pain and isolation and all the warmth and pulse of surging feelings of mortality.
It's played with a delicate touch. Even the moments of chaos are controlled and sparse... helping the listener and creator shed the emerging sadness.
Alex Schaaf’s voice is the driving instrument, looped and manipulated into hypnotic, prayer-like drippings of artsy garage pop. It’s a beautiful voice that, in it’s deepest recesses conjures up the frail bits of mental sickness and the innocent sadness of someone running away from something. It becomes a monotonous drone played perfectly throughout the album; even if the first few listens beg something different. After the third or fourth listen one begins to accept the trickery and even embrace it. You’ve been allowed to peer into this man’s soul and experience the depth of his despair-and if, at first it all seemed silly or insubstanscial repeated listens provide an emotionally cathartic epiphany.
It may be the swan song come early in a career for Schaaf. His two previous EP’s not holding up in comparison to this release. They’re good, but not nearly as honest as “The Mistress”
The Mistress is a simple treat. It's complexities revealing themselves and burning your brain in all the right places. It's for the patient and heart-broken and it takes it's time slowly "healing" them... Eventually changing what once seemed monotonous and derivative (even of itself) importantly thematic.
It's best songs milking the strength of the vocal harmonies and using them as percussion or a hell-bent pusher of melody. It’s the first great album that I’ve heard in 2011.
Letter Grade: 92% (A-)
Best Songs: “Hate Me Soon” “Libraries” “WHALE”
Harlem is what would have happened if the Beach Boys had all been given the cheapest street drugs from the moment they picked up their instruments. I think it’s important to note the previous statement as complimentary. Harlem proudly plays trashy, surf-rock, garage-pop…who else is proudly playing trashy, surf-rock, garage-pop this well? The answer is no one.
“Hippies” plays like the band that everyone wanted to start in high school. The energy in the garage of the drummer’s parents is palpable. The tension is so jumpy and hopped up on “Hippies” that the album all goes by in a blur,resulting in what feels like a very short trip. There are a few “meh” moments in “Hippies” but they are few and far between. Everything seems to be forgivable for an album and band that don’t appear to give a fuck about anything. It’s an early punk rock aesthetic that Harlem employs, or rather, just can’t shake. Crashing drums, jingle-jangle guitars, solid simple bass, and snotty vocals culminate in a solid release whose singles should be radio staples at the moment. What a relief to hear a band that doesn’t take itself so seriously, but seriously plays good music.
My new year’s wish is that Harlem will play every prom, wedding reception, bar-mitzvah, and VFW hall in 2011. I think they would do it too, given the opportunity.
Letter Grade: 90% (A-)
Best Songs: “Gay Human Bones” “Friendly Ghost” “Poolside”
Best Song (Not on “Hippies”) : “South of France”
Random Notes: Britney Spear’s new single is atrociously bad. It imagines a world where homosexual men have created robots to produce music. That comment is not meant to be disparaging to homosexual men or robots. It’s just that Britney Spears career somehow survives and it can only be because the homosexual community is extremely loyal to artists whose careers have reached their shelf life. So…I want to thank the gays for that. Thanks for Britney, Liza, Cher, and all the rest. Is this club music? I wouldn’t know because I don’t go clubbing. If you asked me to go clubbing I might sooner think you were referring to baby seals. In which case I wouldn’t be interested in that either; too cold. However, might I suggest that those who would club baby seals listen to Job For a Cowboy, and those who would go to a large space and have this trite, over-produced, infantile pop played at airplane-volume not spin this new record.
Let Britney go back to wherever she came from and get a job at KFC running the deep fryers. So…here’s the formatted Britney review:
Britney Spears “Hold It Against Me”
Jive Records (A Division of Sony)
Letter Grade: 5% (F) The 5% credit given for the spoken word breakdown. Which, after three listens is still funny.
Random Notes Pt. 2:
Songs you should have (No excuses):
“Where Were You?” The Mekons
“Little Johnny Jewel” Television
These need to be added to your collection immediately. They are both 70’s punk rock masterpieces which you will undoubtedly use on your next mix cd.
-William S. Chaffin