Hotel Valentine by Cibbo Matto (B)
Hotel Valentine falls somewhere in between Cibo Matto’s first two full-length albums. It blends Viva! La Woman’s underground hip-hop vibe with Stereotype A’s Sean Lennon-produced metro-pop (yes, I just made that up). One thing for sure is that this does not sound like a nostalgia act. Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda have come back together after 12 years and it sounds like they haven’t missed a beat. If anything, they sound more assured than ever. The guitar work is the strongest they’ve done, and Hatori’s vocals display an increased range and subtlety. Unfortunately, Hotel Valentine, while wholly original and bursting with inventiveness and those lovely, quirky Cibo Matto idiosyncrasies, is probably their worst album (it’s about on par with 1997’s Super Relax EP). Perhaps constraining themselves to a concept album format (it’s about a haunted hotel) diminished the quality of the songs. Still, it’s a near miss, and a sub-par Cibo Matto album is still worth a few spins. Maybe it will grow on me. Plus, I get the chance to see them play some of these songs live next week; that should be wonderful.
Emmaar by Tinariwen (B+)
I don’t know of another band that embodies their region of origin quite like Tinariwen. You could make a case for Sigur Ros, maybe. This group of Touareg musicians from Mali make gritty yet subtle soundscapes, evocative of the wind, of the endless expanse of sky and sand and rock they call home. Their official bio starts off like this: “THE DESERT IS A PLACE OF HARDSHIP AND SUBTLE BEAUTY, A STARK WORLD THAT REVEALS ITS SECRETS SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY.” Their music is also stark, and its secrets truly do emerge only after careful listening. Emmaar is the group’s sixth full-length release, and this time around the band welcomes guest musicians like Chili Pepper Josh Klinghoffer, Matt Sweeney from Chavez, Nashville fiddler Fats Kaplin, and poet Saul Williams. I like all the hand claps.
Sun Structures by Temples (C+)
After about 30 seconds in, I was ready to dismiss this album and band as nothing but another Beatles wannabe. And guess what: my first impression was not far off. However, depending on your stance on those boys from Liverpool, a psych-pop group from the UK putting out trippy little ditties might be just your thing. The production is neat, the vocals and harmonies are clean, and the songs are breezy. There is some interesting and challenging work going on behind the scenes on a number of these tracks, and the band shows potential for growth beyond this particular pigeonhole. The keyboard work in particular elevates the overall work, alternating between spacey melody lines and beefy bass riffs. In all, not a bad start; let’s see if these boys from Kettering can find some dark and gritty to add to their sunlight.
††† by ††† (Crosses) (D)
††† is a collaboration between Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and guitarist Shaun Lopez of Far. I’m not overly familiar with either band, and sadly, the ††† project is unlikely to send me in either direction. It sounds destined to be a footnote. The duo, working with producer Chuck Doom, has now produced two EPs and a full-length of music that could easily slide right onto The Crow soundtrack, or any mid-90s alternative, goth-rock mixtape. The production and arrangements are very NIN-esque, while Moreno’s vocals run the gamut between alt-rock crooning and alt-metal screaming. They’re not really breaking any new ground here.