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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Player Hater
Picking You Up Just to Put You Down
Kessel Run Records

Rating: 7/10 ?


March 25, 2005
Everybody plays the fool. One of my favorite albums, Portastatic's Summer of the Shark, received a glowing review from yours truly when it first came out, where I went on and on about how good it made me feel listening to it. It still does; it still brightens my day. However, it was not until about the 500th listen or so that I realized it was an album about September 11th. If I would have known before loving it, I would have pinned it as a much sadder album, but just the tone of Mac McCaughan's voice and the chipper, carefree notes that spring from his guitar make me joyful nonetheless.

Player Hater shares the same sort of plucky acoustics as Portastatic, but regardless of its upward sound, I'd never have pegged this as sprightly - chiefly due to the vocals of Jeff Gomez. His Joy Division/Magnetic Fields-styled vocals move matters to a very wry playing field, where tone and humor are equally dark, and any hints at feistiness are just a cover.

As one might expect, those more upbeat tunes are the most immediately satisfying, as they play out on both levels, and have the most sarcastic humor of the bunch. "Let's Hope This Time is the Last Time" holds the same dreamy reverb of the rest of the album - courtesy of spindly, Cocteau Twins-style layering - but functions as a fairly optimistic, Magnetic Fields breed of windowpane observation piece.

The disc's true stunner, "Who's Walking Away," is lovely and rich with nice faux bells and a Cureish, low, whispering buzz. The track shows what happens when the pieces come together quite exactly, and Gomez does everything right. What's more, it shows he's capable of hitting it right on the head, at least once, even if some of his bits-and-pieces attempts fall just short.

The two main characteristics that lead to such missed attempts are an overall "samey" feel, where the disc tends to drag along, and an abundance of synthesized instrumentation. On "They Might Be Assholes," where there are synthetic strings, an actual string section would assuredly move the track from passable to glorious. Likewise with "While You Weren't Listening," where its slowcore intimacy would truly open up if the track didn't have such an unnatural feel.

On the other side of this, however, when Gomez's vocals are laid purposefully flat - as best heard on the closer, "Leave" - their tinny quality gives a very stinging, guarded effect that plays to the album's strengths. The air of dreaminess is fully complimented as Gomez's vocal reigns stop short, allowing the skewered balance the room it needs to really be noticeable.

The milky, dense feel of Picking You Up Just to Put You Down, along with its slow, molasses-sticky sweetness, gives it enough likeability to make a follow-up enticing, and repeat listens necessary. While there is room to move, it's clear Gomez has the right direction in sight.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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