The Armada - The Armada

In 2006, The Tea Party’s Jeff Martin released his overwrought solo album Exile and the Kingdom and calling it a disappointment would be an understatement. Lyrics were never his strongest suit so going the non-angsty exotic-tinged folk route was not a musical path worth traveling. He has come to his senses and turned back to dark and heavy material more akin to his former group.

Reinventing himself as The Armada with instrumentalist Wayne Sheehy, this self-titled album sounds much like a continuation of the last few albums from The Tea Party which makes me question how much input Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows had in the end (Where’s The Art Decay?) You’ll find a “No Quarter”/Robert Johnson-like reprise of “Black Snake Blues”, the only decent song from the previous solo album. Otherwise, it’s all-new studio rock material with Middle Eastern instruments abound that take many cues from Led Zeppelin, which is no surprise at all. After listening to the first minute of the opener “Going Down Blues”, I only questioned why they didn’t just cover “When the Levee Breaks” when the bombastic drums and panning harmonica are lifted straight from that classic. All songs hit around the four minute mark with songwriting that aims at a commercial direction in line with The Tea Party’s Triptych although there are no obvious singles to be found.

The catch is the album was released online last November, costing 15 EUR + 3.50 shipping = $29.06 CDN. Given my refusal to pay for lossy music, you know how I acquired this. Fortunately, it is getting a wider released in North America come March so anticipate one of Canada’s best pop musicians getting back to form (even if he lives in Ireland now.)

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Domino

I really wouldn’t have expected to be praising this Scottish band, but here I am in 2009. Their massively overplayed single “Take Me Out”, used to sell Sony PSPs, and the dirty indie rock disco thing were both cliché sleights that left me disappointing. You know the shtick: emotional vulnerability transitioning quickly to swagger, swagger, swagger. This release has at least changed my opinion of their direction.

It’s not like they’re pulling a 180 here as the usual elements are found but it’s artistically more focused and confident. The first item you’ll recognize are the prominent synthesizers found throughout, which actually put the seed in my head that they’ve outdone the last Primal Scream album for a hybrid pop dance sound. The eight minute long “Lucid Dream” takes the singles version released late last year, twisting into an extended club cut with a four minute synth/programmed beats outro reminiscent of DFA productions. That little bit of experimentation goes a long way in my book. “No You Girls” is one of the best songs of the still-early year (right behind Animal Collective’s “My Girls”) and this album deserves to be in any hedonistic dance party collection. Now I feel bad about belittling a friend for spending $100 on eBay to see them at Lee’s Palace late last year. Maybe I can accept that some people are on closer to the bleeding edge than me… maybe.

Also, please skip the dub bonus album Blood as it’s dull to the max. But the worst musical slices this week are definitely Microsoft Songsmith reinterpretations of classic songs that are infecting the Internet. YouTube it and you’ll see, then weep

Last.FM weekly chart

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