Ben Kweller

On My Way

Ben Kweller wrote his first album during puberty, lived his adolescence in a recording studio and now, at 22, professes to know life's transcendental truths. In "Living Life," Kweller sings, "All the answers and the dreams will come to you in time" -- a rather brazen statement for a 22-year-old who never went to college. On My Way is inundated with this sort of rock star pretense.

But through it all, Kweller retains his geeky charm. His gruff, juvenile vocals vibe well with the pulsing rhythm section. The band forges through his tired lyrical couplets with tight, retro-sounding tracks, which draw on contemporary indie rock as well as Abbey Road-era Beatles. Lose the "meaning of life" crap and the painfully predictable rhymes, and On My Way is a promising album.

-- Jon Levin

Music from the O.C. Mix 1

Are you obsessed with the O.C.? Do you spend your Wednesday evenings enamored by the likes of Seth Cohen and Marissa Cooper? Have you downloaded all the episodes on your laptop but just can't seem to get enough? Fear not -- there is more O.C. to be had. Now you can make the soundtrack of the over-privileged and beautiful the soundtrack of your life. Featuring tracks by South, Spoon, Jet, The Dandy Warhols and the indispensable O.C. theme song, "California," by Phantom Planet, this disc is a vast improvement for those of you who fell into the hairy armpit known as Dawson's Creek. Although not necessarily the album you can't wait to listen to at the end of the day, this disc is nonetheless a truly pleasant mix of chill and upbeat songs -- a nice background for driving and wasting away the summer.

-- Jaclyn Einis

Oxford Collapse

Some Wilderness

Mixing equal parts punk and indie rock, the young upstarts of Oxford Collapse are inevitably drowned by their own ambitions. "Land!," the opening track off the band's first LP, begins with some lengthy archetypal guitar build-up only to disappoint with the discordant angst of Michael Pace's grating shouts and a monotonous bass line. On "Melting the Ice Queen," the group makes a feeble attempt at some Dismemberment Plan-style quirkiness but forgets that three lines of lyrics repeated ad nauseam do not make a seven-minute song. The few instances of instrumental skill buckle under the weight of the group's own self-indulgence. Lacking the dance-punk grooves of The Rapture and the intricate skill of ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead -- yet constantly aping both -- these Brooklyn natives are ultimately overshadowed by their roots.

-- Rafael Garcia

Peter Mulvey

Kitchen Radio

Peter Mulvey makes the music that many musicians succumb to as they approach middle age. Older, but still holding onto the rock spirit, the Boston singer-songwriter's latest folk-rock foray, Kitchen Radio, is a success on a number of levels. Using colorful, oftentimes Dylan-esque lyrics to fortify his simplistic musical arrangements, Mulvey crafts a number of wonderful songs about the everyday life, such as the extraordinary "Charlie."

Unfortunately, much of the album seems like Mulvey's long sigh into accepting routine. For instance, on "Shirt," Mulvey muses about "The same old friends on New Year's Eve/ The same snow falls on the same old leaves." Mulvey's resignation ultimately has an adverse effect on his songs, and it oftentimes seems as though Mulvey settles for mediocrity. If he wants to escape his current path -- which inevitably leads to dad-rock -- Mulvey needs to keep some spunk and spontaneity in his music.

-- Jim Newell

Sugarcult

Palm Trees and Power Lines

Oh, cheesy pop-punk, just when it seems you're on your way out, an unfortunate album like Sugarcult's Palm Trees and Power Lines is released. Rather than being innovative or groundbreaking, the entire disc seems content on spilling out more of the same guitar intros and drum rhythms that bands like Green Day made popular. The lyrics -- along the lines of "Cause she's the blade and you're the paper" -- are hopelessly teen pop, making it clear that Sugarcult chose accessibility over creativity. One of the few high points of the disc is the musicians' obvious familiarity with their sound, and their ability to make smooth transitions between songs. But overall, Palm Trees and Power Lines is an uninspiring collection of homogenous and overdone bad punk.

-- Hillary Kelly

Evan and Jaron

Half Dozen

The cover of Evan & Jaron's new album, Half Dozen, depicting the two artists eating doughnuts, reflects their sugary sweet music. Half Dozen ranges from the smooth Bavarian crŠme of "Standing in the Middle" to the slightly smoky toasted coconut of "Through the Blue."

Harkening back to early '90s pop rock with the likes of Shawn Colvin, their highly produced neo-folk sound is as fine-tuned as the recipe for Krispy Kreme. Like Krispy Kremes, Half Dozen is a guilty pleasure that will leave you with sticky fingers and an unsatisfied feeling. Tracks such as "What She Likes" and "Through the Blue" are merely formulaic sing-alongs lacking in depth and craftsmanship.

Let's be realistic, though. Evan and Jaron don't need musical talent to succeed. As attractive identical twins, all they really need to do is strum their guitars and the girls will flock.

--Kali Backer

Trey Anastasio

Seis de Mayo

For Trey Anastasio, releasing an instrumental album was inevitable. Unfortunately, as with many of Phish's studio albums, this may sound better live than in the bedroom. Each track on its own is listenable, and a few songs are even hummable, with the rendition of "The Inlaw Josie Wales" especially notable. The problem, though, is that the songs, from the calypso-inflected "Andre the Giant" to the full orchestral "Guyute" a really fantastic, magical track fail to connect to each other. Each piece sounds as though it belongs in its own film. The result is jarring. There is neither a sustaining rhythm nor theme to unite the album. Take it for what it is a set of seven airy, subtle soundtracks for the daily drama of reality. At the least, it's quality music to study by.

--Will Fenton


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