Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Album Briefs: Lily Allen, Harvey Danger, Neko Case

Lily Allen: Alright, Still
[Regal 2006]


Whenever I think about why I really like Lily Allen and this album, I quickly end up on the defensive.  Allen has built her major celebrity status on being a rich London brat with a deadly swagger.  Naturally, tons of people completely hate her guts and her top-40 pop drivel.  But from where I stand, she's a genius, and Alright, Still is catchy, tight, and unique.  For one, although she's later regretted the immaturity of some of her lyrics on Alright, Still, it's a genuine Lily Allen recalling bad sex and fights at the club; she's not a record company construction, but rather she has built her image on her own sassy persona.  Her confidence sells songs like "Smile" and "LDN", while the Jamaican ska vibe (as on the underrated "Friend of Mine") keeps songs sunny and dripping with cool.

Harvey Danger: Little by Little
[Phonographic 2005]


If Little by Little had come out about seven years earlier, perhaps we would associate Harvey Danger with more than 1998's "Flagpole Sitta" and '90s nostalgia over it.  But from the beginning, Harvey Danger's mainstream success was inextricably tied to that song, and 2000's King James Version failed to produce a similar radio hit to keep the band on peoples' tongues.  But for loyalists to the band well into the 2000s, Little by Little rewards with well-polished, catchy pop rock (provided so nicely by the band as a FREE download).  While a number of tracks don't have sticking power, altogether, the band's cohesiveness and Sean Nelson's excellent voice make a strong argument for a beefier legacy for Harvey Danger than that of a one hit wonder.

Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
[ANTI- 2006]


You'd be hard pressed to find an indie critic that doesn't rave about Neko Case as a vocalist, particularly for her solo, alt-country work.  And indeed, as Fox Confessor Brings the Flood consistently shows, she has a great voice capable of light tenderness, sweeping romance, and fiery temper. Her songs are coated in a mystical melodrama that transitions smoothly from loose country ("John Saw That Number") to darker folk ("Dirty Knife").  Fox Confessor is immaculately produced, as the quivering guitar twangs and patient brush drumming tie the indie-flavored songs to old-school Nashville.  Despite several melodic flops, particularly the closing two tracks, at its best, Fox Confessor is riveting and beautiful alt-country.

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