Music News

Odds 'n' Sods: Delta Spirit, Stereo Total, The Tallest Man on Earth, The Cringe, The Dig, and more

Let's clear off the desk, shall we?

Stereo Total: Baby Ouh! -- This band on the Kill Rock Stars label is a multi-lingual new-New Wave boy-girl band with songs sung in English, German, and French. It's quirky with a capital "Q" and not nearly as charming as it thinks it is. Still, most songs are under 2 minutes, 30 seconds, so it's not as though they wear out their welcome. And occasionally, they do knock one out of the park. Listen: "Barbe a Papa."

The Tallest Man on Earth: The Wild Hunt -- Some really nice acoustic finger-picking is the highlight of the new record by this singer-songwriter on the Dead Oceans label. Sounding like a cross between Vic Chestnutt and Jack White, The Tallest Man writes and energetically performs well-above-average Simon & Garfunkel-style songs, most of which are directed at, you guessed it, a lady. Recommended. Listen: "King of Spain."

The Cringe: Play Thing -- If you're dying to relive the 1990s alternative-rock era all over again, make sure you take The Cringe's new CD along for the ride. These guys seem stuck in a time warp, sounding like an amalgamation of Clinton-era riff-rockers like Stone Temple Pilots, Jane's Addiction, and Soundgarden. The songs are serviceable, the production is refreshingly honest, and the performances are solid. Watch for The Cringe at a suburban sports bar near you. Cringe fun fact: Wikipedia says one of the dudes in the band is married to TV cooking person Rachael Ray. Listen: "Ride."

The Delta Spirit: History from Below -- Now, whatcha have hear is some good old-fashioned, warbly-voiced indie rock dressed up like it's going to some alt-country party. It's sort of like The Old 97's, but with about 57 percent less energy, charm, hooks, chops, and, most important, material. Aw, it's not that Delta Spirit is bad -- and there are a few bright spots -- but it sounds less-than-inspired to me, though. Listen: "White Table."

The Dig: Electric Toys -- Like The Cringe, these guys have a terrible name as well as an anachronistic alternative rock sound. The Dig also mine the 1990s for inspiration, but dip liberally into the early 2000, as well. The singer sounds a lot like The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, and the songs use synths to veer toward atmospheric and brooding, rather than straight-up rock. The songs are too long. I lost interest pretty quickly. Listen: "Two Sisters in Love."

Miggs: Wide Awake -- The lead track, "Let the Games Begin," reeled me in with its minor-key verses and "hey, hey, hey!" chants. It sounded like a modernized version of the Greg Kihn Band or The Plimsouls or some other early '80s guitar-based power-pop. Wait, what's this?! In the liner notes, bandleader Don Miggs thanks Rick Springfield for influencing his songwriting. Well, that explains a lot. There are few other great sing-along moments on Wide Awake, but nothing else on this record is as good as that opening track, but that's okay. It was fun while it lasted. Listen: "Let the Games Begin."

Andy Bell: Non-Stop -- The former main dude in Erasure is back with 10 more dance-pop tracks. Unlike those old Erasure hits, the songs on Non-Stop are less interested in great melodies and big pop hooks than they are in the dance beats. Listen: "Running Out"

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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