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Vision Valley
The Vines
The teen idols of the garage-rock revival release their first album since intra-band squabbles and legal problems led to their lead singer’s being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

Jamil: The Vines are not actually that bad when they’re trying to sound like the Vines—i.e., loud and immediate. It’s the frequent attempts to mature that make this album so boring. “Dandy Daze” was clearly an attempt to write something reminiscent of the Beach Boys; what it actually sounds like is an Old Navy commercial.
Rating: 4
Best track: “Fuk Yeh”

Stacey: Not my favorite, but I love the idea of combining garage grunge and pop-ish radio punk, and I love that the band met at a McDonald’s in Australia. A few of the tunes—“Don’t Listen to the Radio,” “Fuk Yeh”—are definitely at least worth adding to the iPod.
Rating: 6
Best track: “Vision Valley”

Sarah: I have to edit what the kids can hear from this album thanks to lame outbursts like “people are full of hurl.” They notice the same thing I do—it’s divided pretty evenly into melodic songs and blaring, jarring rock. “It’s like they’re two different bands,” one girl notes. We both like the melodic band much better. The rock songs are just background noise. “This is giving me a huge headache,” one kid says of “Anysound.” Yeah.
Rating: 3
Best track: “Take Me Back”

Back to the Web
Elf Power
The Athens, Georgia–based cronies of indie stalwarts Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel return with an Eastern-flavored take on those groups’ signature combination of fantastical lyrics and elaborate retro instrumentation.

Jamil: I have no idea what the members of this band look like, but after listening to the album, I picture a long-haired, long-bearded dude strumming his guitar by a fire while his shirtless friends jig around adding their two cents on various handmade instruments. It’s an entertaining enough vibe that I could see jigging right along with them from time to time, but it’s not an album that bears repeated listening—the lyrics aren’t that interesting, and the lead singer’s voice is kind of bland.
Rating: 7
Best track: “King of Earth”

Stacey: Sounds like the Middle East meeting seventies rock somewhere in organic suburbia. Like if my yoga teacher had a band playing at the Mercury Lounge. The mellow mood works in a hypnotic, Wilco-ish way—it grows on you the second or third time around.
Rating: 7
Best track: “Peel Back the Moon, Beware!”

Sarah: I asked a boy in my class to listen to two Elf Power songs. “Somewhere Down the River” reminds him of “going to India,” which is right on. (I’m not sure what to make of his comment that “23rd Dream” reminds him of “hobos wearing bow ties.”) Many of the songs have simple, almost snake-charmer-like melodies, and the lyrics are chanted as much as sung. It’s a droning, folkie quality that the kids like—they claim it helps make their cursive handwriting better—but it just makes me a bit bored.
Rating: 5
Best track: “Peel Back the Moon, Beware!”

Show Your Bones
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
In addition to physically personifying the concept called “Williamsburg,” artsy-chick queen Karen O’s trio moonlights as a band—one that’s gotten slightly mellower since their debut, Fever to Tell.

Jamil: I’m hard-pressed to think of another artist I’d forgive for just yelping “Ooh-ooh” as an entire chorus, as Karen O does on “Gold Lion”—but when she does it, it’s a contender for single of the year. She has a naturally distinctive voice, but she uses it well: She’s unpredictable in a way that a lot of rock singers aren’t (see Elf Power).
Rating: 9
Best track: “Gold Lion”

Stacey: Psychedelic punk. I’m into it. Karen O’s voice is sharp and clear—I’d love to hear it live. The songs have a commercial feel but a Velvet Underground vibe; Andy Warhol would appreciate the tunes and the fact that, instead of lyrics, the CD leaflet features a collage for each song.
Rating: 8
Best track: “Honeybear”

Sarah: Karen O, new hero to Brooklyn’s fourth-grade girls. “She makes it so obvious that girls are cool,” one of them says (they also feel sorry for her that “someone gave her such a bad haircut”). The songs themselves don’t do much for me, though: Maybe I’m getting old, but when a girl starts screaming as a guitar blares in the background, I start rolling my eyes.
Rating: 6
Best track: “Honeybear”


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