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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Sub Pop

Rating: 9/10 ?


May 12, 2010
Don't these guys know Neutral Milk Hotel is where the money is? Nevertheless, a garaged-up 4-track take on the Apples in Stereo is always welcome in my hook silo. In a rare case of shyness making music more inviting, King Tuff's Kyle Thomas joins dream duet partner Ruth Garbus (sister of tUnE-yArDs' Merrill) on drums and bassist Chris Weisman for Happy Birthday, a debut that didn't migrate all the way to Sub Pop over two years because of luck.

Thomas' craft is tremendous for a newcomer, especially in an indie-rock moment that needs it. Admire what you will of say, Beach House or Flying Lotus, but those guys are impressionists, not songsmiths. And neither are most of the sun-baked ragamuffs who currently share Happy Birthday's warmed-over production aesthetic, which is equal parts the grunge of their homestead and whimsical twee-pop of K Records. They exercise that range too: Elephant 6's pop offshoots have launched tons of choruses out of the park that swell and snap like "Girls FM," but nothing feedbacking with rage like the No Age-ish "Cracked" or the single-minded rage of the perfectly titled "Zit." "Perverted Girl" bridges both. The cheap guitar effects take on different color throughout and variegate the sonics, most spectacularly on a chorused break in "Subliminal Message" that parts the sea. Thomas' melody lines are even odder and more compelling when he sings them; witness "2 Shy" descend lengthily from the chorus into a cool low-note pocket. His love of throwing in odd minor or diminished chords into the mix is reminiscent of a much friendlier St. Vincent, and a ton more interesting than the straight sugar shots too many twee-poppers can't help but offer for full-course meals. Even the overly effects-dependent psych-outs in the second half ("Eyes Music"? If you say so, dorks) are justified by tune. Would-be power ballad "Subliminal Message" and power-pop chops showcase "2 Shy" are the instant classics, though the minor-key "I Want to Stay (I Run Away)" takes you all the way to an intense, violin-aided bridge.

And you have to love their sense of humor, if you can comprehend getting the blues from a band named Happy Birthday playing a song called "Fun." And he screamed the perfectionist id's secret vice on the track before: "Don't want to make shit/Just want to break shit/Just want to waste it yeah." But they're the rare indie children who don't waste their debut at all. In fact, far from it.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss

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