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Spot Check



JOAN OF ARC 3/15, FIRESIDE BOWL Indie savant Tim Kinsella is prolific as all get-out--but so much of his work is diverting instead of exciting that I'm tempted to accuse him of the musical equivalent of spamming. Sometimes persistence pays off, though--So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness (Jade Tree), the first Joan of Arc album since Kinsella got busy with the Owls and Friend/Enemy, is without a doubt his best work yet. Its 11 songs are bittersweet in a self-contained and cinematic sort of way: each tune stands resolutely apart from its fellows, posing against a lonely black-and-white backdrop. And here there's something almost plaintive about Kinsella's calm voice and the clean guitars. Another Joan of Arc disc, In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust, will come out on Perishable this spring. MISS ALEX WHITE 3/15, EMPTY BOTTLE Seventeen-year-old guitarist and singer Miss Alex White has already gathered a following on the Chicago garage scene, first with the Red Lights, now with the Hot Machines. On a three-song recording made in January at WNUR with drummer Chris Playboy, White's throaty bellow, joyously devoid of ladylike restraint, sits top-heavily on a crude pillar of fuzzy Rickenbacker crunch. Are the vocals a little high in the mix or is she always that overwhelming? Sweet Heat and Tijuana Hercules also perform; the Gossip headlines. I AM THE WORLD TRADE CENTER 3/18, SCHUBAS Dan Gellar and Amy Dykes were living in New York City when they chose a "meaningless" name for their duo in 1999. They're currently based in Athens, Georgia, where they run the Kindercore label, and their decision to stick with their now loaded handle has turned a lot of heads. On their second album, The Tight Connection, released last year, there's a world-weary fatalism to their neo-new-wave grooves--listening to it reminds me that faux-decadent electropop originally blossomed in the hawk-shaped shadow of the Reagan-Thatcher years, when lots of us pretty much assumed we were a heartbeat away from a party at ground zero. Much has been made of Dykes's Debbie Harry-like brittleness (a similarity that the duo's cover of "Call Me" rams home), but she lacks Harry's winking barmaid-on-the-make persona--her delivery has more in common with Terri Nunn's affected lack of affect. And the overall combination of sounds and structures would've been highly unlikely prior to Stereolab. TEGAN & SARA 3/18, DOUBLE DOOR Are they the anti-Paris & Nicky or the anti-Jenna & Barbara? These smart-ass Canadian twins, who've just released their second album, If It Was You (Vapor), project a sort of restrained Gen-Y glamour, borrowing just enough of Ani DiFranco's feminist ethic to appeal to a certain kind of young woman--one who's too smart for slut pop but not quite ready to leave her armpits unshaven. The punky tinge of their twin-acoustic hack-and-slash elevates their middle-of-the-road songwriting--their tunes are dark but sweet, biting but not too hard. JASON ANDERSON/WOLF COLONEL 3/20, SCHUBAS After several years of posing as a band (Wolf Colonel), Jason Anderson has joined up with some fellow travelers to form a band that poses as a solo artist (Jason Anderson). For his/their third album on K, Something/Everything! (credited to Wolf Colonel), Anderson culled 14 promising numbers from his ever swelling catalog of song sketches and beat them into shape in the confines of an actual studio. The soaring "Break the News" sounds like some great forgotten Raspberries or Big Star rarity found under the couch cushions, where it's accumulated a layer of sonic lint. CANDYLAND RIOTS 3/20, EMPTY BOTTLE Like a bunch of fledgling bands, LA's Candyland Riots distribute their music primarily via their Web site--if, unlike me, you have a computer of relatively recent vintage, you can download the four-song EP Stereonucleosis at But if I hadn't been snail-mailed a traditional copy of the EP, I would never have heard it. Would I be missing out? Yes, because the band has its own sound--thick layers of organ and gorgeous overlapping harmonies, used to full effect on "Listen and Learn the Days of the Week." But the songwriting has a ways to go. Adam Green of the Moldy Peaches headlines. CURSIVE 3/20, METRO This Omaha band's new album, The Ugly Organ (Saddle Creek), is their best yet. The addition of cellist Gretta Cohn was a brilliant idea: the all-too-typical emo-boy guitar flailing gets anchored when answered by a drier, wiser instrumental voice. And at just under 40 minutes, the album doesn't overstay its welcome. But front man Tim Kasher still sounds too self-conscious, as if his sensibilities are slightly offended when he has to rock out. And someone should tell him that ironic asides about marketing strategies are to the 00s what ballads about life on the road were to the 80s.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Krista Gaylor.

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