Odds 'n' Sods: Toro Y Moi, Merle Haggard, Gemma Ray, Freedy Johnston, Kissaway Trail, and More

​The new releases are piling up here at Nothing Not New HQ, and I hate to see them not getting some blogspace. So I'm going to employ the "quick hit" approach and give you my thoughts on a handful of records about which I probably wouldn't get a chance to write full posts. 
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Let me know what you think about some of these records if you heard them . . .


Toro Y Moi -- Causers of This: I've been questioned by readers about why I continue to listen to electronica records even though I'm not enthralled by the genre. Maybe it's because I'll hear one someday that will turn me around. I did like Causers of This more than most I've heard this year, mostly because of hip-hop beats keep these trance-y chill-out tunes moving along. Still . . . not a convert yet.

Freedy Johnston
 -- Rain on the City: Longtime quirky singer-songwriter comes out with another collection of the kind of expertly crafted and timeless power-pop nuggets that the kids unfortunately have little use for these days. Best song: the bulletproof "Don't Fall in Love with a Lonely Girl."

The Nadas -- Almanac: One-hit wonders return with concept album about 12 months in the year of a band (The Nadas) that probably weren't really that interesting to begin with. It's totally serviceable jangle pop that will offend no one.

Austin Collins and the Rainbirds -- Wrong Control: Perfectly competent if not terribly exciting alt-country/southern rock/college rock that goes the extra mile to throw some dirt on Collins' pretty-boy vocals. Gin Blossoms fans will dig.

Gemma Ray -- It's a Shame About Ray: British songstress with a sweet voice takes a stripped-down and dirtied-up approach to pop music and re-imagines a whole mess of covers by such acts as Gun Club, Mudhoney, Lee Hazlewood, Sonic Youth, Gallon Drunk, Sinatra, Everly Brothers, and Elvis. Fun in small doses.

The Kissaway Trail -- Sleep Mountain: The Kissaway Trail's music sounds like it was recorded solely for inclusion on the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack. It's that derivative. And more importantly, it instantly sounds passé, as most music does when Hollywood starts to exploit a genre in its movies.   

Merle Haggard -- I Am What I Am: Hag sounds really good on his new record, better than anyone could've anticipated actually. As is often the case with old-timers making records, the songs deal with bittersweet nostalgia and twilight-of-our-lives stuff, but Haggard's lively delivery and strong voice make this record seem more like a night out at a honky-tonk than a requiem. Don't expect the emotional depth of the Johnny Cash American Recordings, but I Am What I Am shows Haggard can still write a tune.

MiniBoone -- Big Changes: This Brooklyn band is an rising star in the blogosphere. I don't know, their nerds-who-sorta-rock thing isn't really working for me, but then again, I've gone on the record as saying the Talking Heads are the most overrated rock band of all time. Thing is, on this six-song there are flashes of straight-ahead power pop brilliance. If I were producing this band, I'd tell them to stop trying so hard to be unconventional and quirky.

Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-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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