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Arts in Review

Soundbites: Karmin and The Hold Steady

Mini album reviews on Karmin and The Hold Steady.



Print Edition: April 2, 2014




The first opening line — “Get on with the dum-dum ditty!” — from Pulses immediately tells you the direction Karmin is going. “Geronimo” is a 30-second intro, perhaps a call to the muse of the pop beats, but the lyrics make you feel isolated from any meaning. That feeling remains through all 42 minutes of Pulses. Though the vocals are Glee-worthy (in that there is some talent, best seen in the track “Acapello”), the lyrics are superficial:  “I wanna make your heart beat / I love it when it beats for me,” “All I need is one more night with you,” and “sometimes I just hate to love you.” Lead singer Amy Heidemann captures too perfectly the cringe-worthy sounds of trying-too-hard-to-be-sassy that Nicki Minaj relies on. In fact, every song has something that’s been beaten to death in the pop world. There’s nothing new here people, keep moving along. All Pulses is ever going to be is a filler remix at a club, and perhaps a few plays on pop radio station. Good riddance.



The Hold Steady

Teeth Dreams

Eight years ago, Craig Finn sang about boys and girls in America having a sad time together. The first few lines of “Stuck Between Stations” were an adaption of a soliloquy from Jack Kerouac’s seminal On The Road. But boys and girls in America eventually grow up and even the “Cityscape Twins” eventually — “wake up with that American sadness.” Teeth Dreams, the band’s first record since 2010, is a comeback of sorts, after the transitional shrug of a record that was Heaven is Whenever. The band has toned down the vivid character studies of Charlemagne, Gideon, and Hallelujah, and instead focuses on demons of past lives swirling around these character’s heads. “I’m pretty sure you recognize these guys,” Finn shares on “The Ambassadors.” Halfway through the dream-like, nine-minute closing track “Oaks,” the band cuts out and Finn actually begins to carry the melody, singing about how “we dream of the views from the boats / of mountains all covered in oaks.” While Teeth Dreams never reaches the emotional heights of Boys and Girls in America, it covers all its bases and then some, exploring regret and second chances for some of The Hold Steady’s most beloved characters.


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