Album reviews featuring Team Smile and Nod, Times New Viking and the Damn Yous.
Team Smile and Nod
"Look Both Ways Before You Die"
Few lyricists in Columbus are as direct as Kara Sherman. The singer-songwriter, who collaborates with Rich Ratvasky as Team Smile and Nod, pulls no punches on the duo's expansive electro-folk debut.
Sherman zooms in on her life as a lesbian, shuffling politically charged rants alongside more conventional tales of love and loss.
On spiels like "Scrooge" and "The Party," she eschews subtlety in favor of baring her soul. "And by the way/ This girl next to me is my partner," she intones. Then: "To make it more clear/ We are lesbians/ I'm not ashamed/ And you really should not be ashamed either."
The album would be a solid collection of club-ready pop without such blunt proclamations. Its best track, the Everything But the Girl-style dance-floor ballad "Still Stuck," is as universal as any good love song.
But as long as she stays personally involved, Sherman's forays into culture and politics, even at their most heavy-handed, give Look Both Ways a unique spark. The wild-eyed accusations of "Patriarchy in Print" are too volatile to digest, but when Sherman delivers humble self-reflection on the same topic in "Consumer Whore," it works.
The band's minimal, repetitive grooves serve these songs well. However, 73 minutes is longer than any pop album needs to be, so Look Both Ways offers a bit too much of a good thing.
Times New Viking
By this point, we know what we're getting with Times New Viking. Simple but powerful is the formula, whether zeroing in on one of the parts - Jared Phillips' charred chug, Beth Murphy's less-is-more keyboards, Adam Elliott's primitive battering - or getting swept up in the screaming, bursting-at-the-seams final product. This five-song EP, available from Matador on vinyl or digitally, is a fine addendum to the spectacular Rip It Off. Those who can't stomach lo-fi production or imperfect chops will find little to like, but that hasn't stopped TNV from going global this year.
The Damn Yous
"The Damn Yous"
There's nothing ambiguous about the name, and the same goes for the music. This is straight punk, raw and unfiltered. It's fast and nasty and not damaged by art but rather poisoned by life. B-side "Suicide Squeeze" is particularly brutal, its belligerent power chords practically bleeding over into hardcore. The Damn Yous play frequently at Bernie's, whose longtime booking agent Tony Painter put out this 7-inch on his Burnt Sienna label. It's fitting; these three songs sound like that bar sounds on a good night, when a packed house crowds the regulars away from the pool table and into a raging mass of cathartic anger.