Music 

Love as Laughter and Radar Bros.: perfectly acceptable indie rock.

Laughter's Fifth

Love as Laughter

(SubPop)

The O.C. has become the Oprah's Book Club for indie rock. Whenever Seth Cohen namedrops a band like Death Cab for Cutie or the Shins, their sales spike, even if only a little. The show's latest find is Love as Laughter, a Seattle-based group with four albums under their belt. Their fifth is titled, appropriately, Laughter's Fifth, a cheeky reference to both Beethoven and Jack Daniel's.

The O.C. pick is "Dirty Lives," a catchy indie-pop number with all the requisite grinding guitars, wiseacre lyrics, and buoyant melodies. The rest of Laughter's Fifth follows in a similar vein, with a penchant for sardonic wordplay and loose guitar grooves. "Canal Street" is a shuffling singalong about buying Louis Vuitton ripoffs, and "Corona Extra" is a bizarro-world Jimmy Buffett ballad about being dumped on vacation: "I put you on a milk crate, baby/There's a file at the Miami P.D.," Sam Jayne sings. "I would cry tears of joy if they said you'd be back to me."

For all its cleverness, though, Laughter's Fifth possesses a surprising bitterness that adds a skewed depth to these tongue-in-cheek songs. The uncertain promises of "I Won't Hurt You" and the mock epic "Makeshift Heart," during which Jayne exhorts us to "open up your curtains and step outside," find the silver lining in the dark cloud blocking the California sun.

-- Stephen Deusner

Grade: B+

The Fallen Leaf Pages

Radar Bros.

(Merge Records)

Not sure what this says about my ears, but the Radar Bros.' blatant lifting of Pink Floyd circa '70-'72 sounds scads fresher than the cribbing of vintage Gang of Four or Wire that's become so de rigeur, which is to say I can do without the next Bloc Party and have a habit of muting Volkswagen, Target, and bank commercials. Apples and oranges, you say, but I'm just taking our contemporary musical climate, from the underground to what bumps its nose against the mainstream, into account here.

Far from following trends, the Radar Bros. have never deviated from the formula they established at their late-'90s outset: slothlike, though livelier than your average Low song. Be comforted, the band's sound has nothing to do with what some were calling "slo-core" in another century. It is not Ida.

The opening mention of pre-'73 breakout Pink Floyd, specifically the albums Meddle and Obscured by Clouds, is not a reach. If you hold Floyd's minor hit "Fearless" or Obscured by Clouds' "The Gold It's in the … " or "Free Four" in high regard as slightly "off" pop constructions (and you should), the Radar Bros.' knack for making that sound contemporary, and their continued ability to pull good songwriting out of the template, is just what you need. -- Andrew Earles

Grade: B+

Haughty Melodic

Mike Doughty

(ATO Records)

Mike Doughty has come a long way with a terrible singing voice. Over three albums with Soul Coughing, his nasal pitch, which limits his range and force, added another level of eccentricity to his boho white-boy hip-hop lyrics, and his first solo album, Skittish, sounded all the more earnest and intimate for all the imperfections in his vocals.

On Haughty Melodic, his major-label debut and his first solo album with a full backing band, his vocal limitations become just that -- limitations. His voice sounds weak and thin, lost amid the bustle of instruments.

It doesn't help that the music itself is so anonymous. Doughty's band, which includes former N.E.R.D. drummer Eric Fawcett, churns out run-of-the-mill jam-band half-grooves, burnishing away all of Doughty's rhythmic and lyrical idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, producer Dan Wilson (formerly of Semisonic) pushes most of the out-of-the-ordinary instruments -- the banjo and saxophones on "Busting Up a Starbucks," for instance -- so low in the mix they're nearly inaudible. As a result, Haughty Melodic is Doughty's first-ever completely unmemorable album, which is saying a lot for an artist who has made so much of his peculiarities and shortcomings.  -- SD

Grade: C

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Explore Bike Share Officially Launches

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week (May 24-30)

News Blog

Ford Canale Appointed as Interim Council Member

Hungry Memphis

Margarita Fest

News Blog

Changes Urged Against 'Free' Water

News Blog

Barbecue Fest 2018

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Milos Forman's Debut Loves of a Blonde Screens Tonight

News Blog

Tennessee Wants More Hemp Farmers

News Blog

Airbnb Marks Its Biggest Memphis Weekend

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Support Local Music

    Music Editor Chris Shaw says farewell.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Down By The River

    The African Jazz Ensemble play the Harbor Town Amphitheater this Sunday afternoon
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Country Outsider at 60

    Gearing up for Dwight Yoakam at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica.
    • Nov 10, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation