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Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

Anonymous — The Handout Burlington jam outfit Anonymous has put together an album of some of their newest and best material and given it beautifully eyecatching artwork. The only thing left to do now is give it away. Wait, what? The band’s follow-up EP to Meet Anonymous is aptly titled The Handout, only this is one that you won’t need to stand in the unemployment line to get your hands on. It’s freely available for download on the band’s web site, though you’ll have to show up to their live dates to get your mitts on a physical copy with slick packaging, and even then you might have to ask nicely. It’s only five tracks long, with one being a cover, but each show a different face to what is really a complex, multi-faceted band. The intro to “Porta Party” recalls Weasels Ripped My Flesh-era Frank Zappa, with its rollicking horns and incorporeal narrator imploring the listener not to turn the dial before sliding effortlessly over into a funky, ska-oriented groove. “Full Moon” and “Graham County Courthouse” play like jazzy fusions of the best that Motown had to offer and electrified Appalachian roots music. I’m hesitant to call the album’s high point the cover of the Talking Head’s timeless “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” but anyone who manages to faithfully treat this classic has accomplished a great thing indeed. It’s already one of the most touching, sentimental songs ever written, but Anonymous slaps such a soulful polish over it that the song certainly merits another go-round. Get in line for this Handout; it’s worth every penny.

78/100

Cool Ethan — Songs For Your Self Esteem It’s becoming easier by the day to tear down nearly the entire pop-punk musical stratum. The formula is as cold and stale as a Starbucks bagel; get your band a name with a clever reference obvious to only the hippest among us, devise a two-part castrato vocal harmony (bonus points for a faux-British accent) built around a twin rhythm guitar attack and write songs with the depth of a kiddie pool. But once in a while, even the most strident critic can be swayed on the cerebral level by just the right combination of melody and verve, even if it flies against their better judgment. Songs For Your Self Esteem, the debut EP by Chapel Hill-based band Cool Ethan (there’s your obscure reference), begrudgingly does just that for me. As much as I want to dislike all things pop-punk, I find myself semi-beguiled by this plucky young act’s music. That doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and pick up the Ataris’ entire discography, far from it actually. But there is a certain charm and appeal that emanates from Cool Ethan (www.myspace.com/coolethanmusic) and though it might just be filed under “personal guilty pleasure,” the music is layered, thoughtful and remarkably well produced. The album has everything you’d look for in great pop music — captivating lyricism, honey-soaked hooks and bouncy instrumentation — though they don’t always come together on the same track. “Let’s Get Down to Business” is a highly notable exception, however, as you’ll be immediately reeled by the powerful guitar intro and incessantly catchy chorus. Songs For Your Self Esteem doesn’t necessarily transcend the work of their peers, but it’s nearly devoid of the wallowing hipster pretention that defines more notable acts and that warrants a thumbs-up by itself.

70/100

For a chance to have your band’s CD reviewed, mail it to: YES!Weekly, 5500 Adams Farm Lane, Suite 204, Greensboro, NC 27407. ATTN:Ryan Snyder.

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