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+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
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+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
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Give Blood
Rough Trade

The best part about the Brakes and their new album Give Blood is their attitude: they take neither themselves nor anyone around them too seriously, which means they're never trying too hard and they're always having fun.

Coming together on a drunken whim in Brighton in 2002, Brakes consist of singer/guitarist Eamon Hamilton (of British Sea Power) bassist Marc Beatty (of Tenderfoot), guitarist Tom White and drummer Alex White (the latter two brothers of the Electric Soft Parade). When they play, they sound confident and sloppy. When they sing, they sound sincere and sarcastic. They crunch and slash like early punk, toy with country like The Mekons, and use chiming melodies like indie rock. And all fastened together by a combination of mockery and carelessness, they come out with something that could easily stand up against any of the favorite rock 'n' roll records you turn to for a good time.

The snappy, crunching "Heard About Your Band" sounds a little like Sonic Youth at their most melodic and pokes fun at the industry: "You were screaming in my ear/ Coked up asshole/ Waiting for The Liars/ You shared a cab with Karen O/ Oh oh oh oh oh/ ...You met Electrelane/ Eh eh eh eh eh... I heard about your band/ Whatever dude!" The druggy, down-tempo "You Always Have a Place to Stay" finds Hamilton at his most disturbed, sounding a bit like Daniel Johnston. "All Night Disco Party" is fueled by a driving bass line, an angular riff, dance-y hi-hat slaps and subtle jab at current trends: "It's an all night disco party: a super nonstop über rocking disco party!" Give Blood holds 16 tracks, but a few don't add up to full-length songs. The thrashing, Black Flag-reminiscent "Cheney" is 11 seconds long, the stomping, country cut "NY Pie" is less than two minutes, and the speedy, frustrated "Hi How Are You" ("How do you dress?/ Who are your friends?/ Why don't you shut the fuck up/ I'm trying to watch the band") is about 30 seconds long.

Brakes also throw in a couple of covers: the Johnny Cash/June Carter duet "Jackson" and the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Sometimes Always." The album closes with a slow, ballad-esque "Fell in Love With a Girl" (not the White Stripes song) which features just Hamilton's muffled croon atop fragile picks at the acoustic guitar. Give Blood doesn't care if you like it or not. And that's precisely why I do.

by Jenny Tatone

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