Vampire Weekend – Cousins
Truth be told, I wasn’t a fan of their debut. While refreshing and charming with its melodic pop,
“A-Punk” and Co. lost its carbonation and became stale too quickly for my musical tastebuds. However, “Cousins” shakes off that perishable shelf-life to create a more energetic response to their prior singles, “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma”. Speedy surfy guitars will surely draw raves from the indie rock crowd, and the minor touches, keys and bells, sell me this time around.
Crash Kings – Mountain Man
The Los Angeles trio takes arena rock, the kind you’d hear on KXXR and WIIL, and tweaks the formula on “Mountain Man.” Tony, the lead singer, tugs attention with bursting flares that, when he speeds up, nearly channels Freddie Mercury. The piano helps differentiate Crash Kings, who I feared would be another Charm City Devils-country rock with simplified lyrics-yet edges closer to Wolfmother.
Smile Empty Soul – Don’t Ever Leave
Smile Empty Soul’s gone a long way from “Bottom Of A Bottle” and “Silhouettes”, two contenders for the top alternative tracks of 2003. “Don’t Ever Leave” tries to channel the likes of Puddle of Mudd’s “Away from Me” and “Control” lyrically, yet wraps itself up in a straight-jacket of confusion caught between alternative and alternative pop. As much as I enjoyed “Bottle” and the less well-known, better “Silhouettes”, Smile Empty Soul’s Consciousness holds more satisfying, distinctive pieces like “Faker” and “Faceless.”