Eleven Eyes
Scope New & Improv Music

At their best, Eleven Eyes seems destined to end up on the soundtrack of a gritty urban crime flick that calls for manic acid jazz playing behind high-speed car chases (“Tintinnabulation”) and horn-heavy funk ballads to steam up the love scenes (“77”). Or maybe they’ll end up as background on a trippy Adult Swim cartoon that suits their scattered, abstract instrumental jams (“Rogue Convoy”).

At their worst, Eleven Eyes sounds as busy and loud as a Manhattan intersection during rush hour (most of “GREx”), or as mundane as elevator music (“RBop”). Or, improbably, both in one tune (“la Estatua Que Derramo Sangre”).

Scope is billed as more composed than the sextet’s simple and engaging debut release, Depth Perception. The result is mixed. There’s no question the band has chops (with Tim McLaughlin on trumpet, Matt Calkins on sax, Mike Pardew on guitar, Steve Weems on drums, Dave Trenkel on bass and someone called the Turntable Enabler), but it’s clear they’re still figuring out how to best harness their talents. And that’s understandable when you’re channeling everything from Herbie Hancock to Blackalicious.

Despite missteps, this is no sophomore slump; Scope shows Eleven Eyes is willing to experiment with its amorphous sound. (Skylar Browning)

Eleven Eyes plays The Other Side Thursday, July 7, at 10 PM. $5 for over 21, $7 for under.

Make Believe
Geffen Records

Weezer has begun to eschew its more formulaic, bubblegum rock tendencies, but the jury is still out on whether that’s a good thing. Like a fourth-grader down to his last two pieces of Bubbalicious, Weezer’s latest doles out the sweet stuff much more sparingly than prior efforts.

Tracks like “Pardon Me,” “My Best Friend” and “The Other Way” are bookmarks stuck in a chapter on the Weezer of yesteryear, trading in the pop hooks that have long filled the dorm rooms of nerds, jocks and potheads alike. But about half of Make Believe finds Weezer experimenting with new sounds like a mad henchman with keys to the master’s laboratory. The band dons its Mott the Hoople party hats with an extra dose of cynicism for the album’s opener, and probably its best experiment, “Beverly Hills.” “Perfect Situation” features a fair deal of Coldplay-worship, but still comes out sparkling. Other experiments aren’t so lucky; “This is Such a Pity” is an aptly titled drag through the whiner-rock slums that ought to have been left to new-school Duran Duran. Ditto for “Hold Me” and “Haunt You Every Day.”

Make Believe hits the mark 75 percent of the time, but for a band dealing in pop-rock brevity, that’s not quite enough. (Mike Keefe-Feldman)

Whiskey Puppy
Fate of Man (Before the Dawn of Pants)
Whiskey Puppy Productions

Just how much fun can three folks have with a banjo, a guitar and an upright bass, and an extensive vocabulary of early Southern Appalachian songs, turn-of-the-century jug band music and a bottle of sour mash? Whiskey Puppy answers that question with the self-released Fate Of Man (Before The Dawn Of Pants). Each musician (Rachel Gold, Justin Auld and Travis Harrison) is proficient on his or her instrument(s), each taking turns at little solo runs. But rather than adding fancy curlicues to the material that they cover, the Portland-based band keeps the album vanity-free and focuses their tremendous energy on, well, sustaining their tremendous energy.

Without sounding contrived, Whiskey Puppy’s handful of originals share the same sensibility as the old stringband tunes they cover, and nestle in comfortably alongside their remakes of tunes by Uncle Dave Macon and Charlie Poole. In the tradition of the Wilders, and supported by guest musicians from the thriving old-time scene in Portland, Whiskey Puppy gets listeners punch-drunk with a high-powered sound—even if it is, according to the story of their name, at the expense of some poor baby dog’s liver. (Caroline Keys)

Whiskey Puppy plays the Top Hat Friday, June 29, at 10 PM. Cover TBA.

Four Tet
Everything Ecstatic Domino Records

Kieran Hebden, the man behind Four Tet, has once again composed a heavily psychedelic and forward-thinking album combining hip-hop drum breaks and expert instrumentation with cutting-edge audio processing techniques.

Hebden’s fourth album under the Four Tet alias is a model for other producers of the “folktronica” and “indie-tronic” genres; Hebden’s production skills are light years ahead of his peers and become more refined with each album. From the opening track, “A Joy,” to the second to last, “Sleep, eat food, have visions,” listeners are transported through a soundscape filled with rich, contrasting timbres of reverberation. Hebden’s palette consists of everything from sampled pianos, bells, sampled human voices and a xylophone to drums and digital buzz.

One of Everything Ecstatic’s greatest strengths is Hebden’s skill at layering these sounds together in a way that sounds musically cohesive and fascinating in its complexity. At times, his music requires careful attention in order to pick up all the subtle details beneath the overriding beats, but because of this, listeners have the opportunity to hear something new in the mix with each listen.

The album feels too short (42 minutes), but open-minded and adventurous listeners are in for an aural treat when they pop this into their CD players. (Ira Sather-Olson)

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