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Arts in Review

SoundBites (Dum Dum Girls, Blitzen Trapper, Ryan Adams, Zola Jesus)

Reviews for the latest releases from Dum Dum Girls, Blitzen Trapper, Ryan Adams, and Zola Jesus

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Date Posted: October 7, 2011
Print Edition: October 5, 2011

Dum Dum Girls
Only In Dreams

On their second full-length record, Dum Dum Girls deliver on the promise of this summer’s He Gets Me High EP with a mature, adventurous and affecting collection of noise pop that moves in surprising new ways without abandoning the group’s basic musical toolkit of Psychocandy guitars, girl group vocals and surf-rock percussion. These self-styled femme fatales’ take on the genre has more bite than contemporaries Best Coast and Vivian Girls combined and Only In Dreams proves their willingness to move beyond the stirring simplicity of their debut. This newfound range is best exemplified on the effortlessly sublime six-minute opus “Coming Down,” that at one point strips down to lead singer Dee Dee’s plaintive vocals and a distant snare-kick rhythm in a disarmingly intimate moment. The album’s only weak point comes early in the album with “Just A Creep,” a fairly pedestrian and forgettable garage rock track that recycles a tried and true rhythm and never really hits the mark. Brighter production, more confident vocals and complex song structures help make Only In Dreams a more enduring and consistent record than their first.

NICK UBELS

Blitzen Trapper
American Goldwing

“It’s me trying to evoke a true American nostalgia,” says Blitzen Trapper’s singer and songwriter Eric Early about their new release American Goldwing. Early’s fascination with all things 1970s is eerily apparent right from the beginning with the proto-psychedelic Southern rock opening track “Might Find It Cheap”. The trouble here is we know that these Portland rockers are capable of much more and fans are slowly lowering their expectations of the once masters of rambling country rock. Ever since the carefree sprawl of 2007’s Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper has slowly lost their sound somewhere between the Allman Brothers Band and Bob Dylan-esque vocals. Besides the title track, which is crammed full of harmonicas and West Coast breeziness, throughout the album you find a groovy confidence that has replaced the glorious slack-rock and glam rock riffs that peppered their earlier releases. The songs on American Goldwing are engaging enough in their simplistic manner; however the feeling of their music has been substituted with callous stories about travelling the open road.

TIM UBELS

Ryan Adams
Ashes And Fire

A new album is always preceded by apprehension when an artist takes a hiatus from singing and song writing. After a two-year break, Ryan Adams will be releasing a new album this fall which won’t disappoint. Adams’ followers have come to expect something slightly different from him every time he goes into a recording studio. His new album Ashes and Fire showcases the more sedate and smooth side of Adams’ musicality. The mellow feel is furthered by the voices of his wife Mandy Moore and his long-time friend Norah Jones which can also be heard on the album. While on a hiatus from music, Adams married Moore and from the sounds of it he’s enjoying married life because there are several sappy love songs on the album such as the song “I Love You But I Don’t Know What to Say.” It would seem that as Adams ages his music matures along with him. This album (ideal for relaxation, an evening of quiet studying or for background noise) comes out October 11.

GRACE ROMUND

Zola Jesus
Conatus

“I’m always on the hunt to make a perfect pop song, which you can dance to but also feel visceral emotion,” says 22-year-old Niki Rosa Danilova from Los Angeles. Danilova is more recently known as Zola Jesus, who burst onto the scene last year with Stridulum 2 – a hauntingly synthy mash-up of atmosphere and club-friendliness. Her latest album Conatus is, if anything, a continuation of the same project. This “one-woman industrial-electro act” makes it a point to combine her strong, almost operatic vocals with upbeat, sometimes tribal-esque rhythms ripe with reverb and dissonance. Zola Jesus leads listeners through songs with titles such as “Ixode” and “Hikkomori.” While never slipping into full on “dark” territory, there is a distinctly gothic/romantic tone to the album that is unrelenting even as the beats grow up-tempo. The result is polymorphic, perplexing, and undeniably stirring.

LEANNA PANKRATZ

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