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 » 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
Voxtrot
Voxtrot
Playlouderecordings

Rating: 8.2/10 ?


May 22, 2007
It has been half a decade - what has Voxtrot been waiting for? The Austin band that formed in 2002 has maintained the same lineup since then, released three EP's (perhaps following Beta Band's arc), and has finally released a debut long-player, with all new material, no less. Well, good on ya, Voxtrotters. In this day of instant, pre-heated acts it's nice to see it done the old fashioned way: learn to play well together, develop a loyal following vis--vis solid live shows, and build those writing chops. The payoff comes in the form of a strong self-titled release, with eleven snapping, crackling and popping songs that may soon earn them comparisons to their neighbors - Austin's elder indie statesmen, the perennially great Spoon.

Spoon is a good place to start in describing the Voxtrot sound. With a similar ear toward minimalism, writer and singer Ramesh Srivastava has a keen pop sensibility, crafting melodic tunes over a backdrop of simple structures. Unlike Britt Daniel, however, not everything Srivastava touches is gold; but the young bandleader shows plenty of potential throughout this enjoyable, if slightly inconsistent, album. Aptly titled opener "Introduction" drives this point home in about ten seconds. The song starts quietly, before awakening into a delight of pitched vocals, jangly guitars, sweeping strings, and rolling bass. The image-laden lyrics are perfectly suited, as if the band is coming out to the world after hibernation: "Open your eyes/ and stretch your hands/ this house is clean/ but it is not my home" and "Remember we ran through ugly streets/ we made our rules/ and then we broke them first/ it felt like we were running all the time." It is when Srivastava sings "I won't know how much I've lost/ until I've gone away/ your sun sets/ when my sun starts to shine" that he reveals the profundity behind the track's sugary pop.

The album was produced by Victor Van Vugt, who has worked with Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and Beth Orton, and Van Vugt does a good job of capturing the band's essence, although there are times when it feels overdone. The primary offender is the excessive use of strings, which really don't add much to the bare-bones songwriting style. "Steven" starts out as a Ben Folds piano driven bopper for the first few measures before the strings kick in, changing the flavor from tart to sweet. Voxtrot do the rock and roll thing on several tracks, notably "Firecracker," "Kid Gloves," and most impressively "Brother in Conflict," but they are at their best when sticking to the more melodic pop. The twangy "The Future Pt. 1," with its Rhodes keys, easy going hi-hat, and lines about "playing soccer and kissing the girls" is the perfect vehicle for this band to shine, right down to Srivastava's slightly breaking, teenage-channeling voice. Voxtrot's best track is undoubtedly "Every Day," which begins like the soundtrack of a spaghetti western, then turns into a heartfelt dispatch on relations, with one great morsel after another: "it's hard to be steeped in your gaze," "there is no trust without needing," "there's nothing good on the radio," and the outstanding "I can trace/ an invisible piece of string/ connects between you and me/ like symbols of property." Another sliver of greatness is found on album closer "Blood Red Blood," a track which finds Srivastava straining, bordering on falsetto as he begs the question "picture me/ how will you picture me when I'm dead?"

It's no surprise Srivastava cites Elvis Costello as an early and strong influence. Like the contextual master himself, Voxtrot juxtapose poetically earnest sentiments over perfectly sweetened pop. When they fall short, the resulting songs are good; when they succeed, they are excellent. Therein lies the promise of this band: five years of solid work has brought them to the cusp of being fantastic at what they set out to do. They are not all the way there yet, but I doubt it will take another half-decade to arrive.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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