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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
Martina Topley-Bird
Anything
Palm Pictures

Rating: 6.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Martina Topley-Bird was a deceptively innocent, wholly original voice when she gushed forth on Tricky's landmark Maxinquaye back in 1994. The fresh-faced teenager's involvement with Tricky, both romantically and musically, was the perfect counter to his gravelly, weed-defused and paranoid braggadocio. Her vocals soared above the syrupy beats, at times beautifully melodic and sometimes almost nonchalant and lackadaisical, as she barely put forth the energy to add tune to her lyrics. And that was why it worked so well. Over the course of Tricky's next few albums, Topley-Bird's vocals remained a constant, as did the quality of the work. Then, they parted ways, and in what is perhaps a complete coincidence (but probably not), Tricky's albums started to suck. Well, Martina T-B is back with a new solo album called Anything. This record was actually released last year in the UK under the name Quixotic, but it made little waves overseas; it was picked up by Palm Pictures and re-mastered and re-sequenced for a U.S. release.

Tricky actually does appear on two of the record's best tracks, offering vocals, production and programming. The Maxinquaye-style rickety jungle beat of "Ragga," over which Tricky threatens to "bring my bat around and pop one in your shoulder," as T-B name-checks her former partner and easily warbles about the changes she's gone through since meeting him. Also, the muffled and bubbling "Ilya," where T-B quietly mulls the tortures of love, gives resurgence to the term downtempo.

But this is not an entire album of throwback material. Topley-Bird and her main production team, Amp 9, show a maturity and depth in their songwriting and arrangements, veering from epic rock ("Need One" - which also features Mark Lanegan and Josh Homme) to moody jazz ("Anything") to standard-influenced songs ("I Still Feel"), although all are tinged with electronic flourishes and a modern sense of production and texture. "Too Tough to Die" teams T-B up with producer David Holmes, giving her sweet vocals an ominous presence as a jagged electro-blues guitar riff plays beneath, evoking images of P.J. Harvey.

Martina's voice is rich and developed throughout, sultry and playful from line to line, and many of the songs slyly nod their head to genres like R&B and rock. In fact, T-B names bands like Fishbone and Guns 'N' Roses as some of her biggest influences.

The main problem that plagues this record is a lack of real risk taking moments. All the pieces fit together, and the equation seems to have a solution that might give this a higher rating, but there are pieces missing that keep the record from rising above a comfortable base of mediocrity, besides a few exceptional songs.

Topley-Bird's ideas, her production team, and the general feel of the record all elicit a sense of greatness to be, but these highest levels are unrealized. But how knows, if her trajectory is constant, and maybe she takes a cue or two from Bjork, her potential may be fully realized on her next effort.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker

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