By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Roommate | We Were Enchanted | Plug Research
Chicago’s Roommate, a.k.a. Kent Lambert, has grown, quite literally. We Were Enchanted opens with “Day After,” and in less than three minutes, much ground is covered. There are melancholy, triumph, pacing and levity. There are synthesizers, drums, bells, strings, guitar, choral vocals and a “canjo.” There are 12 musicians. And this, quite clearly, is the start of an orphaned soundtrack. Roommate’s music is impeccably arranged and often beautiful but studied. “New Steam” borrows heavily from David Axelrod’s “The Edge,” while “We Were Enchanted” cribs its intro from Smog’s “Justice Aversion” before climbing to Homogenic-worthy histrionics. Unfortunately, Lambert misses the point: Smog’s meanderings into electronics feel like brilliant accidents; Björk’s approach is expansive; Lambert’s is precise. It’s theater, and the vocals compete with the drama, like Bonnie “Prince” Billy aping Jens Leckman without a language barrier to explain lyrical wonkiness (i.e., overwrought portrayals of plain folk during wartime). Enchanted is a solid step forward, but a sideways leap could do Roommate wonders. —Chris Martins
Tokyo Police Club |Elephant Shell | Saddle Creek
Blame Jenny Lewis. After going one and done on Saddle Creek, nearly everyone associated with the label abandoned Omaha and, as Rilo Kiley put it, “its booming music scene” to head out to L.A. It’s a move that was perhaps inevitable but nonetheless damaging to the imprint’s identity as having a grip on insular self-reference unmatched outside of DipSet. I suppose it’s for the best if it can bring in more bands like this.
Ostensibly, Tokyo Police Club are diametrically opposed to the likes of the Obersts and Kashers; it’s hard to believe an album as unyieldingly modest as Elephant Shell could be the subject of such a whirling buzz torrent. Though Tokyo Police Club are unquestionably young and fashionable (I mean, that name!), all those prefab Strokes quips don’t quite fit: If comparisons are necessary, think, perhaps, 100 Broken Windows–era Idlewild, a precocious band that also dealt in aw-shucks hooks and just-this-side-of-lit-major pretense. It’s not easy to grasp much on the first couple of listens; melodically, many of these songs turn on the same hinge, and by the time you’ve got things figured out, its 31 minutes have already lapsed.
And yet, brevity is the soul of its replay value. Vocalist Dave Monks isn’t so much guarded as he is a shrinking violet, often dispensing lyrics like, “It’s no fun playing cowboys for pretend” over sleek but surprisingly spare rave-ups — check the video for “Tessellate,” which renders the guitarist almost as superfluous as a Deftones DJ. Imagine Colin Meloy marooned in Williamsburg with no instrument ever used in an orchestra, and you’ve got a thumbnail sketch. Then again, no pencil jeans are too tight to keep precocious teens from flailing about to the likes of “In a Cave” or “Your English Is Good,” which crank the BPM without sacrificing the IQ or Q rating.