Wednesday April 20, 2005 2:20 am
Gear Live Playlist: Hot Hot Heat and Ben Folds Album Reviews
Another edition, another change to the Playlist format. From now on, we’re going to be reviewing discs weekly, with two releases reviewed in each edition. This week we have a disc from indie rockers Hot Hot Heat, and another solo release from singer/songwriter Ben Folds, enjoy.
HOT HOT HEAT: ELEVATOR
As a follow-up to 2002’s major label debut, “Make Up The Breakdown”, Hot Hot Heat has unleashed thirteen tracks of pop rock goodness. On “Elevator” we get to hear tight, efficient and extremely danceable tracks. Easily the most lyrically clever indie band on the market, Hot Hot Heat has improved on their hook-heavy sound with this, a more mature release. Radio hit “You Owe Me An IOU” is a good indication of the sound on the entire disc, with simple and efficient instruments that lets you clearly hear and understand the lyrics, which are sharp and well written. The vocals of lead singer and keyboardist Steve Bays are distinctive but emotive, and express the wise ass sentiments of many of Hot Hot Heat’s tracks. “Island Of The Honest Man” is another solid radio-ready track, with a chorus that is made for belting out while driving down the road. The song is complete with hand claps, utterly perfect dance rock. The downside of the disc is that the sentiment is constant, not a lot of variety. But what they do, Hot Hot Heat does well. This disc is chalk full of cheeriness, which could be a turn off to the weepy emo lover among us. All in all, Hot Hot Heat’s sophomore disc (at least major label wise), is an improvement, and well worth the purchase, an 8/10.
Another solo release from Ben Folds, a sort of follow up to 2001’s “Rockin The Suburbs”, that definitely follows in the trajectory of its predecessor. A collection of simple and sparse pop songs, which are evidence of Fold’s immense songwriting and piano playing talent. In the song “Gracie”, which is a cheery love letter to Fold’s daughter, you have to listen closely to appreciate the acrobatics Folds is accomplishing with his hands. On the track “Trusted”, Folds gets the help of drums and background singers that give the song a great full sound. On “Late”, Folds laments the loss of his friend Elliott Smith, saddened by all the moments that they can’t share anymore. Fold’s lyric “Elliot man, you played a fine guitar, and some dirty basketball, the songs you wrote, got me through a lot, I just wanted to tell you that, but it’s just too late”, is indicative of the entire disc, not overly complex lyrics, but heartfelt and poignant. The gags that showed up on a lot of other Ben Fold’s Five albums, as well as a few on his solo release, are gone but not really missed on this disc. Folds seems to be getting more introspective with each album, and it suits him beautifully. The track “Time” has a great 80’s feel, without feeling cheesy, the best of the 80’s without the worst. All in all, Fold’s second release without the band is further evidence that not only can he make it on his own, he is better off on without them, an 8/10.
- Greg Norton
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