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CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Japandroids, Lemonade, and Janis Martin

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Japandroids
Celebration Rock
(Polyvinyl)

Japandroids burst onto the indie rock scene three years ago with Post-Nothing, an exuberant debut that made waves for its combo of unrelenting punk energy and infectious power chords. For their follow-up, the Vancouver guitar-and-drums duo up the ante in every way with better songs, bigger hooks and more polished production. Celebration Rock amplifies anthemic bluster and youthful swagger and fixes that to sturdy songs designed to outlast the hype. With the verve of the early Replacements, they've crafted an album that captures the urgency of the teenage years and distills it into eight potent songs. From the raging opener "The Nights of Wine and Roses" to the simmering cover of the Gun Club's "For the Love of Ivy" to the propulsive crescendos of "TheHouse that Heaven Built," the album lives up to its title, eschewing angst for convincingly defiant uplift. —Jeff Jackson

*

Lemonade
Diver
(True Panther Sounds)

Recorded over several years in New York, Brazil and the basement of an old Catholic school, the followup to this electronic trio's 2008 debut is a synth-heavy update of sounds from the '80s and '90s. First single "Neptune" builds slowly with looped percussion and noise samples, but never loses its indie-R&B groove. And "Ice Water" ups the tempo while the vocals remain cool and aloof. Though a capable singer, Callan Clendenin frequently shrouds his voice in echo, keeping him distant from the rest of the music. This approach has its advantages, but when attempting to recall the details of a past relationship, as on "Vivid," the effect is more akin to that of a lonely man singing in isolation than a regretful lover still burning with desire. Greater variety between numbers wouldn't hurt—individual cuts are hard to distinguish from each other, even when played out of sequence. —Michael Cimaomo

*

Janis Martin
The Blanco Sessions
(Cow Island)

Valley label Cow Island helped make this Kickstarter-funded album a reality—because Janis Martin died several years ago, few labels wanted to support the project. Martin was a '50s teenage star, often called "the female Elvis" for her onstage gyrations. She left her music career behind around 1960, then returned in the '70s, and was one of the few frontwomen of rockabilly. This album, produced by Rosie Flores, was a labor of love completed just before Martin was diagnosed with cancer. It's old-school hilbilly rock and roll from start to finish, never particularly surprising, but full of revved-up vocals, equal parts smooth and gritty. Guitarist Dave Biller offers an impressive and impeccably played recreation of early rockabilly style, itself a reason to pick this one up. Martin sounds mature but full of energy, and, like Wanda Jackson, has plenty of appeal for modern audiences, too. —James Heflin

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