In Rotation: Amy Annelle, Hood, Rivulets, Stars of the Lid, Locust, The Czars


In Rotation is a regular Opus feature where I post short reviews of noteworthy music, both new and old, that I’ve been listening to lately.

In lieu of actually writing new reviews (yeah, I’m still milking that whole “I’m working on the new design” excuse), here’s a quick overview of some of the CDs you’ll find in my player. Eventually, I’ll write as many “real” reviews of these as possible, but for the time being, this is what you’ll get. Hey, it’s 1:00am. What do you expect?

Thanks to Aaron over at for turning me onto Amy Annelle. Imagine Beth Orton covering Damien Jurado with The Denver Gentleman as a backing band, and you come close to A School of Secret Dangers. Annelle’s voice can be both husky and fragile, but she’s usually content to just whisper in your ear, while the lo-fi recording and odd samples lend a spectral feel to the entire album.

The new Hood CD, Cold House has been growing on me, in no small part to the grey skies and overcast weather that Lincoln’s had lately. Hood are quite adept at distilling that autumn mood, and as such, their records are all pretty dreary affairs. But Cold House finds the band adding glitchwork, drill n’ bass beats, and hip-hop vocals to their usually pastoral music. While the additional elements breathe in new life, they also make the album a little uneven. But, like I said before, Cold House is growing on me, and I’m sure that by winter’s end, it will have left it’s mark.

And if you’re looking for an album to help cheer you up in the midst of these grey, wintry skies, don’t listen to the latest from Rivulets. It’s a dreary affair, slowcore of the finest form. But what else would you expect from something produced by Alan Sparhawk (Low). Rivulets definitly inhabits the same wintry landscapes as Low, but the music is far rougher, darker, and more unsettling. It’s not an album that overwhelms you at first, but it’s content to wait, knowing you’ll be drawn in just the same.

Then there’s the latest from Stars of the Lid, appropriately titled The Tired Sounds Of…. This is just tired, boring music, and it makes me wonder why these guys have such a big buzz. Must be the drugs, because there’s nothing else that can explain it. The album does have some very beautiful moments, but they’re smothered by an album that’s just too mundane and boring to even make good background music. Next time guys, don’t leave the reel-to-reel running when you leave the studio. Granted, that might shave off about 90% of the recording, but it’ll be far better.

File this under “Novel But Pointless Concept”: It’s the latest from Locust. No, not the Locust, but Mark Van Hoen’s Locust. Wrong builds on Morning Light’s downtempo trip-hop, this time using only damaged analog synths to create the music. Whatever the case, the result isn’t too terribly beguiling. And what’s more, Wrong is actually a two-disc set; the discs are meant to be played simultaneously. About halfway through the disc(s), you’ll suddenly realize that, for all of it’s “neatness”, it didn’t justify the $24 you spent.

The Czars’ latest, The Ugly People Vs. The Beautiful People, has been helping me through these days. A few missteps aside, it’s an album brimming with brooding, smoldering songs of damaged relationships and hoped-for resolutions. The Czars’ secret weapon is John Grant’s voice, which can lend even the gloomiest songs a certain catch. And a guest appearance from Paula Frazer on vocals doesn’t hurt either. I’ve listened to this at work, late in the day, and I’ll suddenly find myself hunched over, head in my hands, and my eyes a little red. It almost makes me wish I was nursing a drink.

There are more, but that’s it for this installment. Besides, I need to go to bed.

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