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Reviewing Noise Pop headliners' new CDs 

Wednesday, Feb 24 2010

Noise Pop offers opportunities to check out up-and-coming bands from home and abroad, but it's also a chance to hear established acts show off new wares. Get up to speed on the recent releases festival headliners will be supporting this week with our handy rundown.

Previously known as the Bay Area's great indie-rock hope — before Girls took that throne — Rogue Wave (Wednesday, Feb. 24, Bottom of the Hill) got long-winded on 2007's Asleep at Heaven's Gate and lost momentum. But on the new Permalight, the band attacks pop's jugular, going so far as to include an electro-fueled blast, "Good Morning," that could have been written with Popscene in mind. There are moments where the exuberance makes Zach Rogue and company sound ready to make that dreaded jump over the shark, but hooks are hooks are hooks, and fans of unadulterated pop will appreciate the indulgences.

Scout Niblett (Thursday, Feb. 25, Café Du Nord), the English singer-songwriter who once lived in Oakland, follows the M.O. that it's more titillating to leave certain things to the imagination. The Calcination of Scout Niblett opens with a chunk of distorted guitar that sounds like Kurt Cobain riffing between Bleach takes, so it's no surprise that she lists grunge heavyweights as her initial inspirations. But as much as Niblett and engineer Steve Albini squeeze out bluesy, sultry angst from these stripped-down creations, Calcination's reservations make the experience more frustrating than rewarding. Restraint has its place, but rock songs usually sound better when they get butt-naked and fuck.

The Magnetic Fields' (Saturday, Feb. 27, Fox Theater; Monday, March 1, Herbst Theater) Realism is the yin to the yang of Distortion, Stephin Merritt's 2008 album that successfully recaptured the essence of the band's Wall of Sound–esque early years, albeit without the use of drum machines and keyboards. Realism is, in theory, Merritt's "folk" record, though the sonic scenery won't surprise anyone who has been following his work since 69 Love Songs. The album commences with "You Must Be out of Your Mind," which easily strides into classic Merritt territory with a kiss-off to an ex: "You can't go round just saying stuff because it's pretty/ And I no longer drink enough to think you're witty." Nothing else on Realism matches the great beginning, but as a whole it's a worthy member of the Magnetic Fields' no-synth trilogy.

Kieran Hebden's interest in beats is well-documented, with the U.K. electrologist having spent several years recording and performing with celebrated jazz drummer Steve Reid. On There Is Love in You, Hebden's fifth proper Four Tet (Friday, Feb. 26, the Independent) album and first since 2005, the beats are all over the place, but you won't be starting the party with these blips and bleeps. This is intelligent dance music, after all, and you can't properly cut a rug when you're thinking too hard. Even so, there are great melodies woven into Four Tet's instrumentals. Beautifully subdued indie-rock closer "She Just Likes to Fight" stands out.

Attempting to unite the worlds of jam, prog, psych-rock, indie rock, old-school metal, and the Nation of Ulysses' fan club in a single bound, Citay (Thursday, Feb. 25, Café Du Nord) makes soundscapes massive enough to accommodate all of those genres. As usual, the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone pedal is in full effect on Dream Get Together, the San Francisco band's third album, though the role played by rock-friendly acoustics can't be overstated. Leading this guitar explosion is Ezra Feinberg, surrounded by the Fucking Champs' Tim Green, Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus, and various others who know that going big isn't just about turning it up to 11.

About The Author

Marc Hawthorne


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