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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]

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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.
[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
The Life and Times
Suburban Hymns
DeSoto Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


August 23, 2005
More and more, Allen Epley is becoming a creature of the night. After hours, when the whole world's asleep, the former Shiner frontman is haunting deserted drive-in theaters and rundown country ballfields in search of his lost youth. While old men with troublesome prostates are getting out of bed to take a piss for the third or fourth time, Epley is sprawled out on the hood of a sleek, shiny sports car, staring up at a black canopy full of stars and composing Suburban Hymns in his head. The license plate reads 'The Life and Times'.

Epley's new vehicle is one smooth, powerful ride, shifting gears with ease and effortlessly gathering speed on the rolling sonic overpasses of "Running Redlights", "Charlotte St." and "Coat Of Arms." Though the songs for The Life and Times' first full-length probably weren't written during nocturnal wanderings through the suburbs of Epley's Kansas City home, it's easy to imagine they were.

In "Coat Of Arms", Epley's distorted, drawn-out vocals stretch as deep and as far as the heavens when he sings, "I surrender/I'm from outer space." As he's doing so, Epley and drummer Eric Metcalf unleash a dazzling supernova of shoegazer guitar flashbulbs and exploding cymbals. Icy and dark, "Muscle Cars" flexes and wanes to bassist Eric Abert's ability to make a python of his instrument, while Epley's echo-laden croon yearns for the "parades" of his childhood and the "muscle cars and movie queens" that have become rusted cars and vanished from old movie screens. As awe inspiring as Shiner's swansong The Egg was, Epley has never written a song as majestic as "Muscle Cars." Without a trace of sadness, it simply aches with a benign nostalgia, whereas The Egg tapped into a certain paranoia that gave the sense that a nervous breakdown was imminent.

Longtime Epley followers will be struck by how the songs of Suburban Hymns seem to flow out of The Life and Times. Abandoning the complexity and odd time signatures of his old band, Epley and company opt for mood and expansive atmospherics over the sometimes rigid constraints of Shiner's math rock. Where Shiner built and designed their songs with great detail, tracks of Suburban Hymns like"Skateland" and the gorgeous "Shift Your Gaze" evolve and bloom more naturally. You see it in the way Epley's guitar configurations flower like lillies in "Shift Your Gaze" or how the riffage of "Mea Culpa" goes from heavy and crushing to light and fast almost imperceptibly. It's in the way Metcalf whips up a torrential hi-hat storms in "My Last Hostage" and stirs up any stagnant air with winds of cooling, staggering drum blows, and it's found when Abert makes soft beds of moog and lights up "Coat Of Arms" with sparkling piano even as he lays down fat, winding grooves of bass, as well as how the strings of "Mea Culpa" swoon without sounding contrived or forced.

The Life and Times have given Epley a whole new outlet to express his inner Bono; think of Suburban Hymns not so much as an ode to mundane conformity but prayers of thanks to Swervedriver, U2, REM and The Police - bands that made Epley the musician he is today. Though it sounds hardly anything like records by any of those bands - though you could make a strong case for Swervedriver's Raise - Suburban Hymns is undeniably inspired by each of them. Inching ever closer to the shoegazer epic he's always wanted to record, Epley is on the verge of something big. I'm not convinced yet that this is it - not with a throwaway like "Thrill Ride" wasting away without contribution - but until then, Suburban Hymns makes a lovely soundtrack for sleepwalking.

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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