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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Little Brazil
You and Me
Mt. Fuji Records

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

January 26, 2005
Though frontman and songwriter Dan Maxwell cut his teeth touring with Desaparecidos and The Good Life, and two other members play with Son, Ambulance, Little Brazil are a bit of an anomaly in the Omaha rock scene, and a great one at that: they have no pretense whatsoever of being anything more than they actually are.

And what are Little Brazil? A pop band. A companionable, youthful, distorted guitar slinging pop band.

Like Cursive, Bright Eyes, or the other bands they've been in, Little Brazil wring out their alienation and sexual frustration in frank first-person diary (or LiveJournal) entries, but they forego the meta-commentary and sociopolitical jabs. In other words, Little Brazil don't try to pass You and Me off as a concept album or any kind of "statement."

The music is similarly honest and unpretentious - aside from a few minor embellishments on a couple of tracks, Little Brazil stick to the basic guitar/bass/drum setup, resisting the urge to gloss over simplistic songcraft with wax paper thin layers of strings, keys or horns.

On at least three occasions, Little Brazil hit, dead-on. Opener "Now" pounds down the door with early Weezer's dirty pop swagger, and its predictable-yet-effective quiet/loud shifts make it an instant anthem.

The lead guitar really steals the show, though - the bridge is full of brash, anthemic fuzzbombs that recall '90s Chapel Hill rockers like Archers of Loaf and Small 23. This clamorous kicker-offer gives way to "The Way You Listen"'s moody cello lines (when the songs do use extra instrumentation, they make it count) and fluid, melodic guitar work. For its entire five minutes, the song gradually builds to a mock epic finale, eschewing simple verse/chorus format but still packing a couple of solid hooks. "Pointing Fingers" is a late album highlight - its catchy syncopation and off-kilter guitar interplay recall Braid at their finest, and its chorus offers one of the album's most solid melodies.

The other six songs on the album, however, aren't as immediately fetching, and even these stronger cuts leave much to be desired. While much of a band like Little Brazil's appeal lies in their ability to touch on common experiences with their lyrics in the context of a familiar, comfortable sonic environ, they don't strive to be distinct enough on You and Me. Maxwell's Thursday-ish vocals often detract from the less dramatic, more melodic guitars, and the sinking feeling of having heard every single track on this album done better on twelve other albums by twelve other bands looms large.

The lyrics cement the disc's mediocrity - while they're probably something many listeners could relate to, what with all of the broken hearts and wounded friendships and infatuation floating about, Maxwell keeps them so vague that you have to wonder why he felt that these stories were worth telling in the first place. He presents no striking images, shocking plot twists, or uncomfortably ambiguous situations - his stories are both full of good/bad, happy/sad situations and so devoid of detail that their ability to penetrate the surface is almost entirely lost. The makings of solid future albums are still in place, however, and as stated earlier, the band's innocence and integrity makes them pretty damn hard to ever really dislike.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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