Hear Me Out
The Sounds, Jason Antone
Published Thursday, 11-Jun-2009 in issue 1120
The Sounds
Crossing the Rubicon
The Swedish quintet’s crossing the Rubicon … into the ’80s? “Underground” and “Beatbox,” with their mad-crazy synths – and the rap-tastic latter cut featuring a delectably cheesy “let’s-go-roller skating!” vibe – sound straight out of that era. And if the hooks didn’t stick like peanut-buttered bread to the roof of one’s mouth, it’d be easier to give up on them and spin some Blondie. But don’t. Surrender to these synth-fueled punk-pop pleasures, even with sometimes-corny New Wave swooshes reminiscent of Debbie Harry and Co. It helps that the band sprinkles in catchy quirks, like the sing-along “uh!” on “My Lover” and handclaps on “Beatbox,” but much of the collection’s distinguishably charismatic quality is Maja Ivarsson’s affecting, ever-changing yelp, a Tegan and Sara hybrid. She’s at her strongest during “The Only Ones,” which shows a defiant, mature sound progression as they Coldplay the lament, giving it an epic, instrument-erupting mid-section before it falls back to a piano-only outro. It’s the 12-song set’s most melancholy moment, of which there are many. But the third LP also manages to be exhilarating, danceable and practically irresistible.
Grade: B+
Jason Antone
Start to Move
Elementary school students could learn something from Jason Antone – like how to churn out some of the simplest couplets in the English language. That’s his debut’s worst offense, utilizing every hard-rhyme in every children’s book ever made (“say” with “day,” “erase” with “place” with “face,” “heat” with “beat” with “feet”) – though his corny, sexed-up sound is almost as big a turnoff. His intentions (does he want to be taken seriously, or is he banking on being another novelty artist?) are hazy, but who cares? The disc is ill-fated dreck from the get-go, even if he can carry a tune. Drenched in ’80s house beats, his come-on lyrics come off as tacky as the fashion trends of that decade: the “Holiday” sampled “Ooh Ooh Ooh” contains a chorus that comically conjures a kid with a playground boo-boo. Not “love.” He’s a desperate ex on “How’s Anybody Gonna Love You Like That” and tries being a one-man boy-band on the ballad “More Than Friends.” Then there’s the cover, and – finally! – something not inspired by Dr. Seuss. On it, his voice mimics the Tears for Fears original “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – dude has a thing for the ’80s – but, Jason, baby steps. Music first, then the world.
Grade: D+
Kristine W
The Power of Music
The blond belter who can turn a note into a thunderous cyclone is rarely grouped with Kylie or Madonna. They’ve got the mainstream shimmer; she’s got the wave-propelling voice. And it sparkles, swoops and seizes on her fourth LP, a peppy self-empowerment booster produced by industry kahunas that dances its way into your soul. Sometimes too go-get-’em-tiger – and cheesy with guitar riffs, rap and misplaced ballads – the dance-club diva’s musings still feel more authentic than some of the heavyweights hogging the limelight.
Green Day
21st Century Breakdown
Patience is a virtue, they say. Whatever the hell it is, five years away paid off for the Green Day fan-gaggle. An extension of “American Idiot,” the eighth Billie Joe Armstrong-headed LP – a rock-opera, if you will – is dynamically strewn with punk-pop power and sociopolitical themes that goes full-throttle from the morphy title track to the anthemic radio-ready “21 Guns.” And they’re all almost 40. Take that, Fall Out Boy.
Swing Out Sister
Beautiful Mess
The Euro duo’s latest couldn’t be more completely routed in la-la-land – unless, of course, it came with some rainbows, unicorns and a yellow-brick road. Rife with aural dreamscapes that paint a unique reverie of escapism, the title couldn’t be more dead-on: Gorgeous retro-soul melodies, icky issues. It always looks on the bright side, though – and with song names like “Butterfly Lullaby,” fey choruses and jazzy tones, it’d be impossible not to.
Chris Azzopardi isn’t a beautiful mess in the morning. Just a mess.

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