Switches – Lay Down The Law

It’s the third British invasion, and we’re third time lucky, as Switches sound more Beach Boys than Beatles or Blur. They may come from across the water, but the band’s self confessed spiritual home is our own west coast so there’s sunny harmonies amongst that London grime!

Switches
Artist: Switches
Title: Lay Down The Law
Label: Interscope
Rating: 8.5/10

Corporate line:
It’s the third British invasion, and we’re third time lucky, as Switches sound more Beach Boys than Beatles or Blur. They may come from across the water, but the band’s self confessed spiritual home is our own west coast so there’s sunny harmonies amongst that London grime!

Best cuts:
“Lay Down the Law” – Rock cockiness with a little attitude with a of early Blur pop that leaned more towards disco than rock. The concoction makes it a must to rock your iPod.
“Coming Down” – The harmonies when pulled sweetly together almost reaches back to either the Beach Boys or the Partridge Family. At least somewhere in the middle they still can be cool enough.
“The Need To Be Needed” – When Switches breaks into this song you realize that they are indeed more the Beach Boys than the fake pop television family type. This is a killer song full of twists and turns and beautiful harmonies.
“Drama Queen” – A straight up rocker that sounds l like Tower of London stealing a Rolling Stones chorus.
“Every Second Counts” – A beautiful song that builds and builds right into the chorus with every member taking their shot at belting out a bit of the chorus into bliss.

The rest:
“Snakes and Ladders” – The song sounds right-on track until Switches jump into the chorus singing about “snakes and ladders.” It’s rock that quickly turns into nothing more than a farce.
“Message From Yuz” – “Last night I got a message from you” ends up composing most of the verses. The best part of the song is s small little break: “rip out your heart and give it to me.”
“Stepkids In Love” – Quirky, cute, and a bit bizarre. If you dig the styling of Ben Folds then you might find this fitting right in your library.

Finally:
Even with a few tracks that can’t be regarded as hits, Lay Down The Law is a brilliant record. It’s certainly topping the list for the best releases of 2008 here in the States. Fans of Blur will love these guys more than fans of the Beach Boys, unless all you like of the Beach Boys is everything from Pet Sounds and beyond. Switches picks up where Blur’s The Great Escape left off and gives us a lot of hope for the future.

Counting Crows – Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

With over 20 million albums sold worldwide, eight Top 5 singles, and three records that have broken the Top 5 on the Billboard 200, COUNTING CROWS are set to release their long awaited new album SATURDAY NIGHTS & SUNDAY MORNINGS.

Counting Crows
Artist: Counting Crows
Title: Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
Label: Geffen
Rating: 5/10

Corporate line:
With over 20 million albums sold worldwide, eight Top 5 singles, and three records that have broken the Top 5 on the Billboard 200, COUNTING CROWS are set to release their long awaited new album SATURDAY NIGHTS & SUNDAY MORNINGS. The record is the Crows’ first studio album in almost 5 years, since the release of Hard Candy in 2002.

Best cuts:
Nothing.

The rest:
“Los Angeles” – Slow, lovely, but there is nothing here that is going to force the listener to believe its better than it is.
“Cowboys” – The melody is there–the punch hits you–but the lyrics aren’t up to snuff.
“Insignificant” – There is no melody for this track. It meanders through and through never finding anything to grasp on to.
“Le Ballet D’Or” – Duritz has the ability to take a simple melody and make it sound like a full blown masterpiece. This track often feels like its going to break into such a masterpiece and yet it never reaches those peaks.
“1492” – The moment Duritz works up enough emotion to make you believe he actually cares about what he is singing about it’s a silly history of Columbus. The sad part is that the chorus is good–its the silly lyrics that kill the song.
“On a Tuesday in Amsterdam” – It gets a bit boring to find Duritz going back to the well over and over. All these lyrics about Amsterdam, satellites, on a wire, lost love and so on. It was old five years ago and its only getting worse.

Finally:
Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings is a hodge-podge of Counting Crows old, new, and undetermined. For whatever reason a great record that seems missing here just waiting to explode out of its skin never comes through. The sad fact is that this has become the same story over the last few albums. Duritz is uncanny in his ability to write good songs and make you believe too bad neither of his better qualities made their way to this album.

Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple

Following the worldwide, unparalleled critical acclaim for 2006’s St. Elsewhere and their record breaking hit “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley is set to release their sophomore album this April.

Gnarls Barkley
Artist: Gnarls Barkley
Title: The Odd Couple
Label: Atlantic
Rating: 8.5/10

Corporate line:
Following the worldwide, unparalleled critical acclaim for 2006’s St. Elsewhere and their record breaking hit “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley is set to release their sophomore album this April. Titled, The Odd Couple, the album features 13 tracks of new material from Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green. The first single, “Run” has been met with rave reviews, and The Odd Couple is without question one of the most anticipated releases of 2008.

Best cuts:
“Charity Case” – Classic Gnarls Barkley. You can dance to it. You can singing along. Or just chill with your headphones on and get lost in the sound.
“Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” – Not only is it a beautiful piece of music, but Cee-Lo brings the house down in a way that you wouldn’t expect. His voice is so toned down and never attempts to break free from the shakles of his pain and his pain bleeds through.
“Going On” – Why waste time describing what is a masters course in how to make a great song without knowing what makes it great. There are rare occasions when you hear or see something and just know its great but can’t describe it. Welcome to “Going On.”
“Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)” – Invite some friends over, put on this song and watch a dance party break out.
“Surprise” – The vintage The Mamas and the Papas flavor sure is a surprise.

The rest:
“Would Be Killer” – An interesting song about being a killer.

Finally:
Gnarls Barkley has defined the next generation of soul. This is a modern classic.

R.E.M. – Accelerate

Accelerate, the first studio album in four years from R.E.M., finds modern rock’s most acclaimed band returning to the stripped-down, guitar-driven power that first enraptured fans.

R.E.M.
Artist: R.E.M.
Title: Accelerate
Label: Warner Bros.
Rating: 6.5/10

Corporate line:
Accelerate, the first studio album in four years from R.E.M., finds modern rock’s most acclaimed band returning to the stripped-down, guitar-driven power that first enraptured fans. Helmed by the band and, for the first time, Jacknife Lee (co-producer of U2’s ’05 Grammy® Album Of The Year How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, The Hives and Snow Patrol), Accelerate puts the 2007 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame group once again firmly behind the wheel of alternative rock, a genre R.E.M. helped invent.

Best cuts:
“Living Well Is The Best Revenge” – Stipe hasn’t seem to be on such fire since Monster. It’s good to hear the boys getting fired up again.
“Hollow Man” – A beautiful and introspective song that have always been the cornerstone of Stipe’s best songs.
“Supernatural Superserious” – This sounds like a B-side from R.E.M. long past. Document fans will be in heaven with the brilliant lyrics and rich chorus.
“Houston” – Stipe’s ode to post-Katrina survivors is another great piece of the R.E.M. pie that they cook so well. Only when Stipe has something rich to sink his teeth into does he deliver so well.

The rest:
“Man-Sized Wreath” – The guys sound like they are having fun–but that’s not always enough. “Mr. Richards” – A song that insinuates something about someone that has its moments of glory and moments of weakness.

Finally:
R.E.M.’s Accelerate sounds like a band that has been rejuvenated. It’s wonderful to know that these guys still have something left in the tank. When they decide to hang it up this won’t rank near the top–but its not going to be ignored either.

The Raconteurs – Consolers Of The Lonely

Diversity is the spice of life. Right? When it comes to a full-blown album that ends up sounding different on more than half the songs its not really diversity–it’s more like a lack of cohesion.

The Raconteurs
Artist: The Raconteurs
Title: Consolers Of The Lonely
Label: Warner Bros.
Rating: 6.5/10

Best cuts:
“Consoler Of The Lonely” – A stiff kicking rock song made all the better by Brendan Benson’s brilliant vocals.
“Salute Your Solution” – Jack White rips off verses as if he were marching into a blitzkrieg. This is the foundation southern rock was built on.
“You Don’t Understand” – A beautiful melody that soars beyond what you’d ever expect from Jack White.

The rest:
“Old Enough” – It seems odd to hear a bunch of rock ‘n’ rollers doing something that sounds like it belongs on a Corrs album.
“The Switch and the Spur” – If Willie Nelson were still young this might be a song that he’d have done.
“Top Yourself” – Sounds like a Led Zeppelin B-side.
“Rich Kid Blues” – Benson and the boys sure wear their idols, The Who, on their sleeves.
“Carolina Drama” – This blues track is more White Stripes than Raconteurs.

Finally:
Diversity is the spice of life. Right? When it comes to a full-blown album that ends up sounding different on more than half the songs its not really diversity–it’s more like a lack of cohesion. The Raconteurs are good but in order to be great they’ve got to be consistent.

Nada Surf – Lucky

Nada Surf is the kind of band you really want to rally around. When a song doesn’t end up being as good as it could have been or you hope it would be there is a let down. It’s just too bad Lucky is so average.

Nada Surf
Artist: Nada Surf
Title: Lucky
Label: Barsuk
Rating: 5/10

Best cuts:
“See These Bones” – Nada Surf has never lacked the ability to write soaring rock songs and this is perhaps their best to date.
“I Like What You Say” – When they cut right to the chase and record a song about something that isn’t all the way in left field they can be quite good.

The rest:
“Whose Authority” – It shimmers and will make you tap your toes but its forgettable.
“Weightless” – This has too much Built To Spill for its own good. It’s certainly the kind of track you either love or hate.
“Ice on the Wing” – Quirky, goofy, and all that has its place. It takes a great band to pull off such nonsense. Flaming Lips comes to mind not Nada Surf.

Finally:
Nada Surf is the kind of band you really want to rally around. When a song doesn’t end up being as good as it could have been or you hope it would be there is a let down. It’s just too bad Lucky is so average.