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 » 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.
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 » 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!
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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
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
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
Head Home
Ernest Jenning

Rating: 6.1/10 ?

July 12, 2007
For a band to sound, quite literally, like it could play comfortably in a museum is an accomplishment that sometimes is worthy of neither a compliment nor an insult. They just sort of exist, with this sound, and that is all. Such is an description O'death's offering, Head Home, on which Greg Jamie's scratchy voice sounds like what a Tom Waits may have sounded like 75 years ago, not damaged by screaming into a pillow but just really strained. Jamie's voice is such a caterwaul that, at times, I was convinced that I could sing better. At other times, however, a voice is a voice and Jamie's fits the mood enough times to avoid sinking the ship.

As straight genre exercises, albums such as Head Home eventually run into limitations. As a band, O'death certainly do not shy away from using odd instruments and pure human energy, but they have so great an urge to connect with their "old-timey" and "authentic" medium that, when unchecked, they rather outpace their music. Gillian Welch managed to kick-start a new genre by changing the old-timey, but O'death have trouble playing up to speed as the good ole country boys we thought they were.

The album's seventh track, "Travelin' Man," is certainly a standout in it's true simplicity. The vocal is so trembling and vulnerable that the forlorn singer begs for sympathy, crooning in the chorus, "I'm not ashamed of who I am/ Although I'm just a travelin man/ Got nobody left to call me friend." The track basks in what, when it works, one could call O'death's lo-fi simplicity, and on its own it truly feels like it captures what the rest of the album was trying to accomplish.

Beyond the glitter of "Travelin' Man," the rest of the album is murky at best. Head Home suffers from too many overdubs, not to mention the previously noted harsh vocals. Five of the fifteen tracks clock in at under 2 and a half minutes of running time, and a lot of them feel as if they were slapped together in a bit of a rush, tempos shifting like wine-drunk punk and the melodies crunching together in an untidy jumble. There are snippets of interesting diversions - the twelfth track, "All the World is Dead," has an interesting fiddle part providing the backbone - but for the most part the tunes here are extremely repetitive and rather uninviting; the chorus in songs like "All the World is Dead" is often the only recognizable lyric.

Not all bands are cut from the same cloth. Greg Jamie has certainly done his damnest to bring new life to an old fabric, and in O'Death he is unafraid to show his true colors. Jamie is a firebrand all-right, but some of his risks aren't always rewarded and it isn't clear what lessons are learned. It already sounds like he's been hollerin' for years without stopping to check if anyone's even listening. Head Home does have moments of creativity and unique touches to an old form, but much of it comes off best as weak product falling on deaf ears. That the songs often descend into long screams and punkish frenzies is perhaps the best indication of their failing - great music is often unadorned, and Head Home too loudly hides songs that just aren't strong enough.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jeff McMahon



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