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taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs

J. Timber Self Titled

With his debut EP Self Titled, singer/songwriter J. Timber sounds undecided on what exactly kind of artist he wants to be. He insists he has “Something to Say” on the opener before diluting the tracks terse, choppy Fishbone-esque guitar riffs with the grandiosity of an average Coldplay melody on the chorus. The two elements never convene, so it sounds as if you’re flipping back and forth between a college rock and Top 40 station with J. Timber trying to talk over both. He settles into the album’s most affirmed persona, that of an occasionally cloying, though well-meaning summertime pop EP, on “You (The Lala Song),” a bright and sunny track whose depth never really extends past “you, you, you, you, you” and “la, la, la, la, la.” The album’s high point is undoubtedly “Tea for Two,” a chirpy, charming number with a smoky piano intro that complements Timber’s coy vocal tone exceptionally. While I wish it could have ended strongly there, “Suits & Ties (Thank You)” impresses the trite notion of the selfless artist at the mercy of the record label deities, complete with any number of clich’s, both symbolically and melodically. I thought for a moment that I had stumbled upon a compelling groove with a hard, experimental hip-hop edge, but I had actually just backed into a J Dilla track on my iTunes playlist. Bummer.

59/100

empires BANG

After selling 15,000 copies of their self-released debut HOWL, Chicago quintet Empires has big expectations attached to their follow-up BANG. For the most part, the band meets and exceeds them all with an intelligent, yet accessible alt-rock effort. Vocalist Sean Van Vleet is energy incarnate through the first two tracks of the album, though he occasionally squanders his bursting enthusiasm on one-dimensional, hormonally motivated tropes like “I want you bad/ I really want you bad” on album mid-point “Strangers.” Considering their predominantly teenage audience, however, such lines aren’t really outside the norm. Strangely enough, this is a band that isn’t really concerned with image so much as being innovative in a contextually pop package. Opener “Damn Things Over” blends riveting guitars with bristling bass interludes and ethereal synth textures that remind of Of Montreal’s “A Sentence of Sorts…”. “I Know You Know” is mostly cobbled together from the strengths of the other songs on the album, but its tender deportment makes it an appropriate album ender.

72/100

Empires will perform at Legitimate Business on Saturday, June 19 with Light Resolve and Harvard.

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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