Carina RoundCarina Round
Slow Motion Addict
(Interscope)


Some albums don't grab you on the first listen, but rather, unfold slowly in the back of your mind, insidiously demanding your increased attention over multiple listens. Often, these are the most rewarding discs, because with each new listen, they reveal some new lyrical ingenuity or sly musical flourish emerging from the mix.

That's a long introduction to say that if you like albums that don't rest simply on a bunch of quickly knocked out three-chord rock tracks that will be forgotten tomorrow… Slow Motion Addict is for you. This is an inventive and quirky pop-rock disc that melds New York glam and punk with offbeat pop vocal backups and an unabashed manic energy that Debbie Harry once might have approached. Round gets compared frequently to PJ Harvey and Patti Smith, who also work in offbeat pop palettes, and those comparisons ring true throughout the vocal calisthenics of Slow Motion Addict, where Round sometimes moves from quiet growls to high-pitched wails to whispery pleas -- all in the same chorus.

I've passed on reviewing Round's past couple albums because they never gelled for me, but this time around, I think she's hit the mark she's been working towards for the past few years. That's possibly thanks to the help of Alanis Morissette producer Glenn Ballard, whose polar opposite pristine pop sensibility no doubt warred with Round's more esoteric experimental attack in the studio. But the result is a great pop-rock record with undercurrents that will suck you into a rewardingly deep end. Every song churns through a new pool, from arty poeticism and edgy, breathy vocals to slammin' guitar rock with a fierce passion at the mic. You probably won't hear any of these tracks on pop radio anytime soon, despite them all having hooks worthy of humming along to. Round is just a little too experimental for Top 40 – but therein lies her charm. Her vocals exude little girl innocense and then slum into 2 a.m. sensuality and you can almost hear her winking as she moves between the two extremes.

One of the standout tracks comes in “Take the Money,” where she asks “how long can I be hungry?” while sounding like she's pogo-ing around the studio as the band jams a throbbing post-punk anthem. On the opposite extreme, the disc closes with the sonic experimentation of “The City,” a song that opens with a gentle bell melody reminiscient of The Velvet Underground's “Sunday Morning”, before building to a big-finish celebration of the urban heartbeat … it's a trip that a young Jane Siberry might have been proud to have taken. There are also 10 other great tracks that all are worthy of repeated listening, from the come hither opener of “Stolen Car” to the subtle cycle of the title track.

For more information, check her site at www.carinaround.com.

RecoilRecoil
subHuman
(Mute)


Alan Wilder has had a long history of experimenting with darkly fascinating sounds. In the ‘80s, he replaced keyboardist Vince Clarke in Depeche Mode and helped the band move from its poppy roots to its more edgy sound. Later in the ‘80s, he started releasing side projects as Recoil, to explore more atmospheric collaborations and collections of sound effects and tape loops. Eventually, Recoil became his full-time outlet for music in the ‘90s, though it has been seven years since the band's last release.

But now Wilder and his revolving door of collaborators are back with subHuman. The deep south blues vocals of Texan Joe Richardson color some tracks of the new release, with Carla Trevaskis handling the mic on other songs. Whereas Richardson's tracks hint of lost shadowy swamp secrets, Trevaskis takes the sound into the ethereal, with angelic trip-hop on songs like “Allelujah” and “Intruders,” both of which could have appeared on a Delerium or Conjure One album. The entire album listens like a mysterious movie soundtrack, as it moves seamlessly between swampy techno-augmented blues, Jean Michael Jarre-inspired synthesizer loops and string-laden stretches of heavenly interlude. There are only seven tracks, but the shortest clocks in at 6.5 minutes long (the longest is 11.5 minutes).

subHuman is a headspace album – there are no easy pop songs here; this is a disc of interwoven dream. Lay back for an hour to fully enjoy this one. For more information, check the website at www.recoil.co.uk.

 

Sound the AlarmSound the Alarm
Stay Inside
(Geffen)
½


The latest entry in the school of what I like to call “whiner rock” is Sound The Alarm. The band's debut CD Stay Inside is out now on Geffen, and it's a polished punky pop collection of a dozen guitar rock tracks that sound remarkably familiar from the first listen. You've heard this album before from a whole crop of bands – Third Eye Blind, All American Rejects, Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182, My Chemical Romance – all of these bands write songs that feature a steady twining buzz of guitars coupled with interconnected harmonic vocals. To me, all of these bands tend to hang on notes too long and sing in a high register which makes them sound like they're whining… but certainly they've all hit it big on radio.

Sound The Alarm hopes to follow suit with a similar formula. They've got some solid songs – the ironic opener “Closer” is one of the catchiest pieces on the disc, opening with a building pound of drums and a crunching bass and guitar riff that drives into a high-energy head-banging chorus. “Picture Perfect” follows, with a hint of Third Eye Blind in the vocals, and “Suffocating” has a slowly unraveling lead vocal and background harmonies that sound like an All American Rejects track.

Derivative, absolutely. But if you like the bands they borrow from, you'll probably find a song or two to jam to on Stay Inside.

For more information, check the band's website at www.soundthealarmmusic.com.