Music Reviews

Low Brow

Clay Aiken

On My Way Here

When he wasn’t starring in Monty Python’s Spamalot, dissing Kelly Ripa or dodging gay rumors, Clay Aiken found the time to make an album. His second original work, On My Way Here, documents heartbreaks, regrets and growth since debuting as a nerdy Idol wannabe. Though he’s sporting a heavier physique and longer hair, not much else has changed. Aiken’s sound is the same – cheesy Top 40 pop that makes middle-aged women (his “Claymates”) swoon. The title track, written by One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder, sets the mood with its simple piano and sweeping strings. Aiken sticks to what he’s best at with ballads like “Something About Us” and “The Real Me”- clichéd love songs sappy enough to make Claymates toss their elastic-waisted Hanes. Although Aiken tries to switch it up with jazzy, funky beats and pop-rock guitar riffs, this one falls flat.

Tessa DeLheimer-Miller

Mid Brow

The Roots

Rising Down

Propelled by buzzing synths and by ?uestlove’s powerful drumming, The Roots’ Rising Down is an ominous, dark album with dystopian overtones. Featuring a myriad of guests, the album shares similarities with its predecessor, Game Theory, as the serious, political themes introduced are continued here. The record begins with a lo-fi spoken word piece, which sets the tone for the rest of the songs: From the title track to “Becoming Unwritten” minimalism, grimy keyboards and minor keys dominate the atmosphere. Though this motif is sometimes broken, the similarities between many of the brooding tracks make the record slightly repetitive; a distracted listener may have trouble discerning one song from another. As a whole, however, The Roots have created an enjoyable, thought-provoking album that continues the band’s development of their dark, electric sound.

Benjamin Goldrich

High Brow

No Age

Nouns

Nouns is an almost perfect marriage of the raw power of early Dinosaur Jr. records and the ethereal beauty of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless days. Now that I have set the bar so high that you don’t think any band could ever clear it, let’s take a step back for a second. No Age broke onto the indie scene last year with the album Weirdo Rippers, which was, on the whole, an incredibly overhyped and half-baked debut. While that record has a handful of redeeming moments, Nouns stomps the album into the ground and slaps it around for good measure. In a little more than 30 minutes, No Age throws down 12 distorted, poorly recorded, sloppy songs. And each one just slays. Few bands pack such an economy of brilliance into their tracks, but No Age manages to assemble songs that last barely more than two minutes while resonating with the power of bands with twice the experience.

Phil Lindert