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 » 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
Antietam
Victory Park
Carrot Top Records

Rating: 8/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Antietam hasn't entirely lost its Southern accent. It's been years since they moved from their old Kentucky home of Louisville to New York City, but every so often their boho indie rock sound lapses into a Dixie drawl so thick with Southern-fried reverb it should come with a side of grits.

Take "Attract Mode" off Victory Park, Antietam's latest blue-plate special. Echoing through the empty halls of a decaying plantation mansion Tara Key's electric guitar has a gauzy, muted twang to it that's got kin back in the Louisville farm country where My Morning Jacket keeps its still. A cool acoustic guitar breeze of Throwing Muses-style pop blows through, with cooing background vocals blowing soap bubbles into air thick with pollen. The distant blare of Memphis-style horns in "New Parade" sounds triumphant and welcoming, as if heralding Antietam's return to its Southern roots. It sounds like Antietam's come home, if only for a short visit. They've been away long enough.

When we last heard from Antietam as a full band, it was 1994 and they had released Rope-A-Dope, arguably their best record. Everybody just kind of went their separate ways after that. Key was in a movie you may have heard of called I Shot Andy Warhol, appearing with members of Yo La Tengo as sort of a wax figure museum version of Velvet Underground. Bassist Tim Harris, Key's husband, played cello on the last two Yo La Tengo records. Meanwhile, Key released two solo albums, did an instrumental record with friend Rick Rizzo and moonlighted with Eleventh Dream Day, while drummer Josh Madell toured with Codeine; both played on Retsin's Egg Fusion record. Retsin's Tara Jane O'Neill returned the favor by recording Victory Park.

Amidst all that good will and indie rock brotherhood, the Antietam family lost five close loved ones, including two fathers. One friend died in the 9-11 tragedy, and another was viciously murdered. Victory Park is Antietam's eulogy, and it's a damn lovely one. The somber "Richochet" reaches for answers; finding none, Key rips off soaring solos that fly over the kind of emotionally charged acoustic strumming that put Britpop acts like Coldplay and Travis on the charts. "The Hold" has a dark and bobbing bass line imbued with Joy Division's suicidal despondency, the mood made even more desperate by Key's wrist-slashing razor guitar strokes. "Skying" sees Antietam lifting its bowed head and squinting at the sun through a coastal morning fog - appropriate since Victory Park was recorded in a beach house near the Atlantic Ocean - burnt off by Key's breathy vocals and keyboard drifts, and Madell's rolling bongos. Fuzz-toned, ramshackle rockers like "Stowaway" and "Coldwater Pride" wash up further down shore, along with shells of fragile, wispy power-pop reminiscent of Consonant's self-titled 2002 release or Small Factory in "Blue Rose Melancholy" and the album's zenith, the violin-stained beauty "Walk Away."

Supposedly, there are five stages of grief. Anger is one of them, and Antietam lets it out on "Stowaway", the bitterness evident in Key's acidic delivery of lines like "Push to shove the dominoes will fall down." Needing a shoulder to cry on, Antietam turns to an old friend, Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan, who offers the comfort of an extra guitar on the desert sky soundscape "Chronicle Of A Gift Horse." Yo La Tengo and Antietam go way back, and it's impossible not to notice the Hoboken indie legends' influence here, especially in the softly distorted guitars of "I Swear" and "Wish Factor" and the light conga rumba of "Chronicle Of A Gift Horse."

Like Kaplan, Key is a deceptively clever guitarist. Her languid, fluid phrasing is so unassuming she makes it sound like playing guitar is as simple as shuffling cards. Feedback-laced notes and chords fly off creosote blackness of a mechanic's garage like sparks from a welder's torch, especially in the delicious chorus of "I Swear." With Antietam, there's little in the way of instant gratification. There's a lazy river current running through Victory Park that doesn't seem at first to have much pull. Before you know it, though, you're miles downstream. Victory Park is an elegant return to glory for Antietam, even if Key's vocals sometimes fall flat in the lower registers and you can't seem to find a hook in the record's cloudy production waters. You will, eventually. And when you do, Victory Park will seem like an unknown hand reaching into the brackish flow and grabbing you by the shirt collar to drag you to safety.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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