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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
Portastatic
The Summer of the Shark
Merge Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
I say this every time I put in The Summer of the Shark, so please bear with me: Mac McCaughan's voice is a national treasure. This newest release from Portastatic (one of the many accomplished bands synonymous with Mac's pleasant candor - I hope he doesn't mind if I call him by his first name) is a fantastic showcase for his sweet, melodic vocals, and is thoroughly enjoyable from top to bottom.

I can't say enough good things about this album, and it's making me a bit paranoid that my friends might be reading this review and saying, "Ohh, here Sarah goes again about that Portastatic album," but it's worth it. This is an album to share with those you truly love. It makes me think I can sustain on the appealing, cheerful diet of cotton candy and lemonade, and all will be well.

The Summer of the Shark is full of proficient musical parts, played on the whole by Mac and his adoring friends. It replaces the crunch that makes Superchunk so addictive with a warm, breezy feel that is just as loveable. A diverse effort, it sneaks mild electronic wizardry into light, dulcet song structures for a dash of experimentalism.

The existential tracks bring an unquestionable bit of respect to an already respectable foray. "Through a Rainy Lens" plays like a threatening showdown, bringing texture and clouds to the sun-drenched pop landscape. "Paratrooper" is a decidedly doleful ballad, balancing a chorus of chance ("I just dropped in") with the brink of tears.

The optimistic side of me, however, leans heavily toward the delicious pop candies patched throughout the release. While not as expansive or inquisitive as those off the beaten path, they rank among the most enjoyable songs Mac has ever penned:

"Oh, Come Down" is a perfect opener, pairing him with Janet Weiss for a very sweet, twangy, rolling number. By the time it starts to rock, you can bet I'm in my car somewhere, barely conscious of my foot on the gas as I "kick it down, kick it down."

"Windy Village" sounds like an outtake from Here's to Shutting Up, along the same catchy rock lines as "Art Class." "Chesapeake" is similarly stirring and forthright; the guitars chug along for a heartening recall of his ease with hooks and power chords.

"Don't Disappear" and "Noisy Night" are quieter affairs, but no less infectious. He whispers sweetly as his oh-so-endearing voice reaches to the octave heavens, and any part left unmelted can be smoothly cradled into relaxation.

In perhaps its strongest offering, the blushing, lofty reaches of "Hey Salty" are revisited from an earlier Portastatic release. This version brings great charm to thin, airy vocals and a flourish of instrumental fullness. He is one of the few people in indie rock who can thoroughly and unquestionably conjure a crush simply by pouring the tone of his voice into lyrics as plain as "kiss me…" My eyes are glazing over, my heart is beating a little more noticeably, and as a closing, untitled instrumental fades the disc into its lulling sleep, I feel so much better.

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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