By Tobias Carroll


1.

Venice Is Sinking: Azar

(One Percent Press)

Recently, Venice Is Sinking’s Lucas Jensen posted some thoughts on Google’s MP3 blog takedown at Chain of Knives.  It reminded me that I’d been meaning to listen to his band’s album Azar for a while now, and I pulled down the review copy that had been glaring at me from my shelf for several months. My mistake was not getting to it sooner: the band recalls a number of Dave Fridmann-affiliated bands, with the ornate playing of Mercury Rev applied with the precision and intimacy of Sparklehorse. They’re a band capable of epic scopes whose concerns can be found in the details — not a bad contrast at all.

2.

Title Tracks: It Was Easy

(Ernest Jenning Record Co.)

Following a seven inch on Dischord, It Was Easy marks the full-length debut from Title Tracks. Yet if you’ve heard John Davis’s previous band Georgie James (and if you haven’t, you really should), you’ll have a sense of what to expect: blissful pop in the classic sense, hooks that go subliminal and the occasional blissed-out harmony vocal. His foil here is Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell, and the two songs to which she contributes — “No, Girl” and “Tougher Than the Rest” — mark the album’s highlights. The  fact that a guy who spent years behind a drum set knows rhythm is probably a given, but the low-end subtleties of “It Was Easy” and “She Don’t Care About Time” help reinforce the notion that this is a power-pop album made with a perfectionist’s ear.

3.

Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore: Dear Companion

(Sub Pop)

Daniel Martin Moore’s 2008 album Stray Age never quite clicked for me. Well-crafted? Sure, but just understated enough that it never made much of an impression. Moore’s collaboration with Ben Sollee doesn’t have that problem: Sollee’s brooding compositions  balance Moore’s airier ones, and Jim James — sorry, Yim Yames — produces and makes  some vocal and instrumental contributions of his own. It’s that overlap of sensibilities that makes this stand out: when Moore and Yames harmonize atop Sollee’s cello on “Sweet Marie,” you can hear what each of them brings the album even as they coalesce into a brilliant whole.

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