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4Play:Badly Drawn Boy, The Apples in Stereo, Eels, Autumn Defense 4/4/11

Kristi Kates - April 4th, 2011
Badly Drawn Boy - It’s What I’m Thinking: Part One - The End Records
Chock-full of emotional filling and dusted with instrumental sugar, Badly Drawn Boy’s latest - like so many of his best albums - is another musical treat that’s light enough to not be overwhelming, but still a rewarding and smart listen. His personal lyrics tell the stories, while the melodies remain as catchy as always, right from the temperate opener (“In Safe Hands”) to the reflective “What Tomorrow Brings,” the simple but effortlessly pretty balladry of “Saw You Walk Away” and “The Electric,” and onward to the slightly more musically-adventurous “A Pure Accident” and “This Beautiful Idea.” It’s fairly apparent that most of the album is inspired by relationships - but hopefully something else he’s thinking about is how to make more great music like this.


The Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time - Yep Roc
Serving as the successor to their much-lauded New Magnetic Wonder album, The Apples in Stereo push forward with more of their uber-catchy refrains and witty wordplay. A slightly more danceable feel is woven through this set, with disco beats enhancing tracks like “Hey Elevator” and the appropriately-dubbed “Dance Floor,” while songs like “Dignified Dignitary” and “No Vacation” keep those foot-friendly rhythms while blending back in the Apples’ appealing quirkiness, from their inclusion of vocoders and off-kilter harmonies to their slightly goofy way of writing lyrics that tell universal tales in a humorous way, albeit one that’s blended with alien synths and heavy rock guitars.



Eels - Tomorrow Morning - E Works
With more electronica and definitively anchoring bass lines than prior efforts, Eels frontman E (aka Mark Everett) throws out the songs on his latest effort like confetti, completing what’s being considered a concept trio of albums that began in 2009. With carefully-structured arrangements showcasing Everett’s personal, often humorous lyric stylings, this is a more hopeful album than the two prior, beginning with the instrumental opener “In Gratitude of This Magnificence” setting the tone. “What I Have to Offer” is a simple man’s love song, quickly followed by a 180, mood-wise, with “This is Where It Gets Good,” with its funky beat and synth work; and “Mystery of Life” is a standout with its obvious Beach Boys-influenced harmonies.



Autumn Defense - Once Around - Yep Roc
You might be familiar with at least two of the members of this band, namely Pat Sansone and John Stirratt, who are also bandmates in another little indie band called... Wilco. The Autumn Defense has actually been a side project of the friends for about the past 10 years, and offers both some similarities to Wilco’s sound and some fresh infusions that are all Autumn Defense’s own. The production is sharp, the arrangements bedecked with strings and plenty of backing vocals, and the songs themselves, while not as immediately catchy as Wilco’s tunes, do grow on you, especially tracks like “Tell Me What You Want,” “Don’t Know,” “The Rift,” and “There Will Always Be a Way.”
 
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