Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Music in Brief

Arizona emo-pop band The Format has produced one of the brightest songs of the summer in "Time Bomb," a peppy, piano-driven dance number with bursts of harmony and slyly nasty lyrics directed at the ex-girlfriend of singer Nate Ruess. The rest of The Format's sophomore LP, Dog Problems (Nettwerk), relies a little too much on pat power-pop formulas, though Ruess' sweetly elastic voice and honest anger carry a lot of the songs close to "Time Bomb" sublimity… B+

Portland psych-pop veterans The Minders keep the Elephant 6 dream alive on their fourth album, It's A Bright Guilty World (Future Farmer), which reunites bandleader Martyn Leaper with his producer friend Robert Schneider, of Apples In Stereo fame. The result is a lo-fi record with hi-fi ambitions, full of distorted instruments and heavenly hooks, given kitchen-sink arrangements that toss in organs, handclaps, and all manner of percussive cacophony. It's a charming throwback—not to the trippy '60s, but to the indie-rock '90s… B+


Those who miss the Blood On The Tracks-era Bob Dylan should scoop up Jesse DeNatale's sophomore effort Soul Parade (Jackpine Social Club), which features the same kind of down-to-earth poetry and casual American lilt that made that album a classic. The San Francisco-based DeNatale is a little rigid with his song structures, which tend to go verse-verse-verse, with the occasional bridge, but he overcomes his vague melodies with riveting storytelling and relaxed country-rock instrumentation… B+

New-school Delta bluesman William Lee Ellis sounds a little like Eric Clapton when he applies his raspy voice and "rolling and tumbling" acoustic slide guitar style to a song like "Snakes In My Garden," which slips along in an easy groove, as natural as a bad mood. Throughout God's Tattoos (Yellow Dog), Ellis keeps his vocals low and his guitar loose, crafting a set of lovely, rootsy songs. The best of the bunch is "Perfect Ones Who Break," a song of sympathy that blows through like a whisper… B+

The sinewy bass, drum, and synthesizer threads that weave through "Never Even Made A Voyage," the first song on Heather Duby's third full-length, are a triple-match for Duby's voice, which shifts easily from ethereal to bratty to grandly theatrical. Heather Duby (Sonic Boom) expands the singer's sound, moving beyond the atmospheric piano-and-electronics balladry that she started with in 1999. The new album pulses and surges, responding to heartbreak with defiant triumph… B

Looking to fill the gap before the next Postal Service album, Jimmy Tamborello noodled around in his studio with famed house DJ John Tejada, then invited a few friends (like Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and Erlend Øye of Kings Of Convenience) to add vocals, and he's released the results under the name James Figurine. The album, Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake (Plug Research) is chillier and more hardcore techno than Tamborello's other work, though the New Order-style synthesizer runs of "Ruining The Sundays" and the moody soundscapes of "Stop" show an abiding affection for the genre that is, in a way, its own kind of warmth. B-