What does "indie rock" even mean anymore? Minmae, kind of a rock-starless anti-band, is what I wish it meant. 835 gives you your simmering tempos under no virtuosity and that peculiar male indie rock/folk voice. But Minmae, which is mostly Sean Brooks, takes it further with delicate, wilting arrangements and surprising instruments. Brooks is not a guy who's afraid to let his pop sensibility deflate and crumple into a noisy heap, though I hear this is actually his most accessible work to date. Why is it that the guys who aren't necessarily trying to make pop are often the best at it?
I'm all for new directions. RJD2 ditched the samplers (and Def Jux) in favor of live instruments and his own candy-sweet voice. This disc will undoubtedly introduce him to a whole new market, the one consuming easygoing, inoffensive musicstuffs. Sadly, the whole thing comes across as a bit boring for a longtime fan used to D2's lighter-fluid beats, combustive on their own or good for heating up any MC. (Although excellent moments do surface; cause for an adventurous listener to jerk out of their drowsy catnap.) There's little refuting RJD2's skills with effects and assembly, but all that is negated by the overarching banality of The Third Hand .
There are many things I don't know about Norway. For instance, I was totally, foolishly unaware that Norway was the kind of place likely to export America's "three chords and the truth" country music. But that's what Olav's all about. They say it's alt.country, but let's go ahead and lose the "alt." this time. Larsen's kicking out straight country, with all manner of clichéd lyrics (i.e. the truth) and just the barest hint of a seriously non-Southern accent. Best line: "I've always been a reasonable boy, with reliable thoughts and thoughtful ideas." Good on you, Olav. And howdy. Olav Larsen & The Alabama Rodeo Stars