Saturday, January 20

Soundbites


A&E


Zero 7 “When It Falls”
Elektra



Subtle seduction and smooth sophistication are much sexier than
overt licentiousness. This defines U.K. band Zero 7′s
cooler-than-Mod Squad cool, bedroom-intimate, mid-tempo, chill out
music. Surely, a release date closer to Valentine’s Day would
have been a sharper marketing strategy for an album so sexually
conducive. Zero 7′s combination of funk bass groove with
invigoratingly warm, harp-like acoustic guitars and soulful vocals
creates beautifully reflective yet detached songs. With an even
rotation of five vocalists, the album never becomes monotonous.
While male vocalist Mozez presents a Nat King Cole-type assurance,
female vocalist Sophie Barker resembles Dido’s whispering
tone. Tina Dico’s mature voice is reminiscent of Tori Amos,
while Sia Furler could pass for Nelly Furtado with her youthful,
jazzy, grainy tone. Rhythms also vary from slow and waltz-like in
“Somersault” to upbeat, hip-swinging in “Passing
By.” Such nice-sounding keyboard solos, like those featured
in “Somersault,” “When It Falls” and
“The Space Between,” have been a rarity in the 21st
century; their last major spotting came in the ’70s with the
Doors. The extended harmonica solo featured on “Look
Up” is also supremely impressive. Moderate use of the trumpet
and flugelhorn and the rotating speaker effect on the synthesizer
give the overall album an ambient, moving, dream-like quality. The
effect is a lessening of the enormity of the world and a slowing
down of the day, which is clearly reflected in the first
chorus of the album: “Warm sounds, falling slowly, takes the
time away from me.” -Angela Lu

The Washdown “Yes To Everything”
Lookout!



Another week, another group of shaggy-haired hipsters trying to
cash in on The Strokes’ success. Lookout! Record’s band
The Washdown’s first full-length album, “Yes to
Everything,” is another boring pop-garage collaboration with
distorted guitars and unmemorable lyrics. Though self-described as
“dance punk,” “White Stripes wannabes” is a
little more appropriate. Sixties-inspired rock is all the rage
these days, and it appears The Washdown’s contribution to the
trend is to try and incorporate ’80s pop into the mix. Had
this been successful on the album, it would have been a hundred
times more listenable and memorable. Ryan Hess’ vocals are a
dead ringer for Julian Casablancas’ throaty voice, and such a
similarity in the front men requires a stark distinction in the
music to avoid comparison. The most upsetting dimension of
“Yes to Everything” is that the album had the potential
to be great, but was poorly executed. An ambitious attempt to
re-create Ottis Redding (just replacing horns with guitars) has
failed on this record; but The Washdown might have the ability to
pursue this on their next album. If the keyboards is emphasized
more and the guitar distortion kept to a minimum, The Washdown has
the ability to create amazing music, but at this point, they sound
like just another band trying to ride the garage rock trend
bandwagon to success. -Vasiliki Marras

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