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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
Hot Hot Heat
Happiness Ltd.
Sire

Rating: 5.4/10 ?


September 19, 2007
Like Rilo Kiley or Liz Phair, Hot Hot Heat are lambasted in their pop band incarnation because they began indie. Not that Jimmy Eat World or Fountains of Wayne matter in 2007, but in 2001 and 2003 respectively, those bands maintained a consistent run of enjoyable pop music with a tiny bit of stardom, and Hot Hot Heat deserved the same for 2005's winning Elevator, as enjoyable as any alt-sellout record of recent years. But because they bore the Sub Pop stigma of a keyb-core turned quasi-dancepunk past that popularized them among the pre-blog net set, their strongest set of pop tunes was roundly ex-communicated for its shiny semistar aspirations. And now that I've processed its markedly more milquetoast follow-up, Happiness Ltd., I'm ready to concede that maybe the interweb was right in this case. But they were an album early.

Happiness Ltd. is a big mess, and the band's going to try to angle that as a result of singer Steve Bays' breakup with his girlfriend, which inspired the songs. It's not that it's untrue or even played up; Bays' voice is deeper and squishier than on past records, as if the romantic split left a permanent lump in his throat, and the song titles, well… "Waiting for Nothing," "Give Up?" and "Good Day to Die" are indicators enough that I'm hoping the guy's not reading any "Don't Jump, Life's Worth It" books. HHH's last two albums were marked by a nervous sense of humor, or at least a sarcastic edge that lent an otherwise normal alt- band an image that slotted them indie, and while these new tunes are no less sincere, they could use a touch of the old adolescent joy.

Take "Let Me In," the surprisingly widescreen single, which floored me initially. Bays' eternal pubescent croak finally came full-circle to a choked-up power ballad, complete with that old major label luxury, a string section, and a chorus that feels large enough for all the Polyphonic Spree to chorale it unison. But coming off the dragging opener "Happiness Ltd." it has none of the get-go that marked Elevator's manic "Running Out of Time." I'd hate to admit Bays' former lover sapped him of his energy. It's still one of three great things here, along with the classic HHH call-and-response disco of "Give Up?" and the itchy jerk of "5 Times Out of 100." But you get the feeling those are only there to sate the faithful. The band seems far more interested in outrunning Bloc Party with big, reverb-fogged ballads like the back to back "So So Cold" and "Waiting for Nothing" that cap proceedings with decidedly less fervor than "Let Me In," which would've made a great exception if it wasn't the rule. But, I'm forgiving; when Bays gets over his ex, I'll be waiting with open ears to see him retain the light satire and punchy hooks he'd be known for in a kinder blogosphere.

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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