Music

CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Man Man, Mungolian Jetset, and Devotchka

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Man Man
Life Fantastic
(Anti-)

Man Man continues its sometimes frantic, sometimes psychedelic adventures into experimental rock on this sophomore album for Anti/Epitaph. The band's familiar circus of instruments remains, from strings and flutes to xylophones and saxophones, and singer Honus Honus is still crafting acid-fueled, Tom Waits-style lyrical rants that evidence what truly must be a "life fantastic." If anything stands out as new on this record, it's that producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes) has succeeded in bringing out a '60s sexiness in Honus Honus, to the point that he's sounding like a seriously impassioned Rudy Martinez (Question Mark and the Mysterians) or like Jim Morrison, screaming over Vox Continental organ parts through vintage-sounding reverb. Toss in something oddly Cajun/voodoo-feeling, and you've got a real live Lizard King who crawled out of the 9th Ward. Except they're from Philly. —Tom Sturm

*

Mungolian Jetset
Schlungs
(Smalltown Supersound)

Rare is the album that brags of lyrics involving "tales of fatal alien abductions and ghosts of murdered (but snazzily-dressed) transvestites." But not every album is Schlungs. For that, audiences should all breathe a collective sigh of disappointment. Though really Jetset's third album under their current moniker, this new release is being classified as a debut effort because it's the group's first featuring exclusively original compositions. Opening with the mostly instrumental "2011—A Space Woodysey," the record quickly transitions to the funk-heavy rave-up "Moon Jocks 'n' Prog Rocks." Playing out over 10 adventurous minutes, the track is a hard-to-top highlight. Other songs wander in forests of obscure electronic samples and repetitive beats. Still, when the bouncy synthesizers meld with the hooks on numbers like "Bella Lanay," the eclectic mix is worth a second listen. —Michael Cimaomo

*

Devotchka
100 Lovers
(Anti-)

Devotchka's latest, released earlier this year, reveals a band that's come into its own. The band's earlier releases seemed to almost take flight, but ran short of the energy required. This time, the rhythms are sophisticated, the sounds dramatic. Much on 100 Lovers taps into the reverb-drenched and epic feel of cinematic pop, pairing slow-moving vocals and big chords with pounding percussion. It's an interesting direction for a band that has evidenced strong Gypsy and folk influences, but Devotchka seems comfortable in these snazzy clothes. The Gypsy influence is, happily, not gone entirely—the instrumentation sometimes includes bandoneon, violins and trumpets, and song introductions often sound like Paris street fare, before departures into pop-fueled territory. "The Man from San Sebastian" is a standout, a beautiful marriage of Eastern European melancholy and '80s-style pop. One of the year's most rewarding listens. —James Heflin

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