Album Reviews: Liza Kate, Atlas Sound, Iron Age, Speech Debelle, Brand New

by | Sep 22, 2009 | MUSIC

Liza Kate
Don’t Let the Dogs
Holiday for Quince Records

After years of eager anticipation, Liza Kate’s first full-length has finally arrived. Don’t Let the Dogs feels like a collection of contemplative thoughts that allow the songstress to examine herself along with the world that surrounds her. With the use of thought-provoking metaphors, Kate manages to add a level of depth to her ephemeral tales. In one of the many highlights on Don’t Let the Dogs, the song “No Good” shows an absolute strength in discovering one’s vulnerability. In doing so, Kate sheds the skin of tired clichés typically associated with most singer-songwriters. Instead of excessively pointing the blame at others, she exudes a level of maturity by willing to accept her fair share as well.

This is a record that is powerful in its beauty and relishes in its lush production provided by Lance Koehler. The sparse arrangements are delicately accentuated by the accompaniment of several guest players including Josh Small on banjo. The record relies on just voice and guitar for the most part. In those moments, Kate is perhaps at her most personal and emotive.

Don’t Let the Dogs clocks in at just over twenty-two minutes. I always like to attribute Kate’s musical sensibility for shorter songs to be ingrained into what exists of a “punk” spirit. While exchanging the ravaged guitars and furious tempos for something that is quite the opposite, perhaps her songs act as a response to the movement. In how she can create something that evokes such feeling in less than two minutes is a testament to her craft. It’s in the subtle nuances where Kate’s presence on the folk genre can be felt and appreciated by all.

You can fault me all you’d like for saying this, but I haven’t had a record affect me like Don’t Let the Dogs since Homemade Knives’ No One Doubts the Darkness. This is an album that many dream of creating. If it takes another long wait for her to follow-up Don’t Let the Dogs with something just as masterfully crafted, then I’m ready for the wait.

-Shannon Cleary

Atlas Sound


A mostly collaborative effort of Bradford Cox of Deerhunter fame along with various other artists, Logos is the newest album by Atlas Sound. Following two mellow opening songs, the first single, “Walkabout”, comes as a nice surprise. Featuring Noah Lennox of Panda Bear, the song is a cheery one that has much of what you would expect from a Panda Bear song, with a bubbly beat and soft vocals. Other collaborators include Sasha Vine from Sian Alice Group on “Attic Lights”, and Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab on “Quick Canal.”

Each song carries the eerie and mysterious style that Cox applies to all his projects, and the album flows along with similar patterns heard throughout the album, yet each holds its own unique element. “Kid Klimax” is an example of new venues Cox may be exploring, utilizing more electronic components. More closely aligned with the styles of Deerhunter’s Microcastle than the last Atlas Sound album, Logos gives its listeners the familiarity of Cox’s style with a hint of the new, surprising even the most loyal listeners.

– Abigail Eisley

Iron Age
The Sleeping Eye
Tee Pee Records

Combine the fast-paced thrash of early Metallica, some of the most memorable and heavy riffs in recent memory, enough solos and harmonics to satisfy any metal enthusiast, and an eerie inexplicable aura surrounding this creation and you have just described The Sleeping Eye, Iron Age’s newest release. This perfect mix of hardcore, metal, and thrash achieves complete nirvana for any fan of the band and/or genres.

The Sleeping Eye
starts at a lightning pace and rarely ever slows down for a break. When they do, Iron Age lays down some head-pounding, bone-breaking, fist-pumping riffs that ignite flames of adrenaline in your blood and the only thing to do is bang your head along.

The record’s fourth song, “Materia Prima”, creates the dark ambience that leads into the slowest, but also the catchiest song on the album, “A Younger Earth.” Being one of the only songs on the record that is at a slower more introspective speed blends the songs before and after it perfectly. This magnetizes the entire album into a monstrous amalgamation of metal and hardcore. The song, “The Way Is Narrow”, follows a similar pattern, but with a completely different feel and atmosphere to it, ends the album and leaves you breathless.

The Sleeping Eye is Iron Age’s best release to date. It culminates the band’s efforts to try something different and still stays close to their hardcore roots. You won’t be disappointed.

-Knox Colby

Speech Debelle
Speech Therapy
Big Dada/Ninja Tune

It’s great when an artist produces something original in their art that completely breaks the mold. Speech Debelle has done that on her debut release, Speech Therapy. In a genre that doesn’t always embrace such actions (hip hop) her original style, unique word play and frankness about her life and experiences pull you in. The British community agreed on September 8th when Speech Debelle won the Mercury Prize for best album, beating out other established British acts such as Bat for Lashes, Friendly Fires and Kasabian. This is the second time a Hip Hop artist has won the prize and the first for her label Big Dada/Ninja Tune.

The South Londoner has crafted a fragile, intimate and soulful look at getting by in life. This is evident in such songs as “Better Days”, which is about seeing the situations in life that are affecting her health and well being and trying to change them. “Spinnin’” keeps it upbeat and hopeful that things will get better for everyone struggling. Roots Manuva guest writes and sings the chorus for “Wheels in Motion”, a real look at being poor in the city. Producer Wayne ‘Lotek’ Bennett hooks you quickly with his jazzy rhythms. Dark and melancholy lyrics contrast sharply with his sparse and imaginative beats. Sunny Sunday morning drums mingle with trip hop bass lines, 70’s era piano and soulful backup vocals. Plutonic Lab keeps the songs they produce on the Jazzy tip with dance-y beats. Completely engaging and beautiful, Hip-Hop has never been done in quite this way before.

-Christian Hendricks

Brand New

Interscope Records

You know that band? The one that you decide to enjoy secretly or incessantly defend as your peers ridicule them? For me, that band is Brand New. During my last rites as a teenager, they seemed to embody the absurd angst of that age and turn it into something remarkably catchy. With the release of their seminal album Deja Entendu, their fan base grew exponentially. After this success, the band grew resilient to this fame and disappeared.

Upon their return, they had a new album in tow entitled The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me. This wasn’t the same band I had filed away to the depths of nostalgia. Most of the lyrical content was bleak with strides of intelligent wit. The songs were unpredictable in structure while being heavier than any prior fan could have expected. The album seemed overlooked for the most part. For those who did take notice though, they were rewarded.

Now, where does their fourth full-length Daisy stand compared to such a remarkable predecessor? The first moments are auditory artifacts with light touches of piano that feel directly removed from another time. This introduction helps develop a tension that simply explodes by the time Jesse Lacey’s voice takes center stage on “Vices.” The maturation of Lacey’s lyrics is one of the strongest aspects of the band. While the peers of a band like Brand New have continued to languish in familiar territory, Lacey continues to contemplate the realities of entering your thirties and still feeling just as confused, if not more so.

If it’s even possible, the band might sound even louder on this record. With a track like “Gasoline,” the rampant bass line and static-fused guitars offer promises of imminent sonic destruction. The record does offer itself to the softer/slower-tempos that the band has to offer. The success of these songs relies on the keen manipulation of multiple instruments by the group and the subtle melodies the band evokes in these moments. This juxtaposition helps keep the momentum at a feverish pace and show how far Brand New has pushed themselves creatively over the years.

In these moments, Daisy reveals itself to be the album this band wants to make. Their satisfaction doesn’t depend on cheap accolades or the acceptance of fans that exist in a scene that the band may have a difficult time relating to. This is their album. Take it or leave it.

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

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