Matt and Kim
Matt and Kim

Sure, people will make obvious references to the White Stripes or Mates of State, but besides the one boy and one girl similarity, Matt and Kim are their own glorious entity. With just Kim playing drums and Matt playing keyboard, they somehow manage to give the illusion of being a rambunctious crowd, if not a mob. This eponymous album is wholesome, stripped down, candy coated, sing-along crazy and so damned animated you want to drink a gallon of Sparks and dance your clothes off.

The duo’s lyrics are simple but often accomplish as much heart-crushing in one clever fragment as most bands can pull off in 10 full sentences. “Yea Yeah” is the discernible ready-for-radio standout, but “It’s a Fact (Printed Stained)” and “Dash After Dash” are just as mesmerizing, stocked to the brim with buzzing reverb a la Japanther and warm keyboard hooks. Matt’s voice is all affected conviction without any pretension, and Kim pounds out efficient but spirited drum beats with seamless ease. A few tracks get buried between more sinewy compositions, but for the most part this is a cohesive album with a hell-if-I-care attitude in the guise of extreme enthusiasm. (Erika Fredrickson)

J.C. Auto
A Global Warning
Run 8 Records

The first thing that jumps out at you about the new album from Bozeman’s J.C. Auto—aside from the overtly political title—is that it rides a fine line between badassitude and fuzzy sentimentality. That’s no small trick, either, because you expect a song called “Deepthroat” to be either dirty or political (is there a difference?), but instead it’s as sunny-side punkish as any Screeching Weasel song, charged as it is with resplendent chords and appeals to young love. Then there’s “Bloodsucker Proxy,” with the lyric: “Cross my path and I’ll make you mine/break my heart and I hope you die.” Only instead of angry inflection it’s bursting with new wave rock and seared with hot-headed riffs and pining vocals. “Here Comes the Sadness” is a brilliant punk lullaby with sweet grit and vocal rounds. And even if the band’s cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge” doesn’t quite distinguish itself from Green Day’s version, A Global Warning is a thorny, pretty prize—bait for all those impassioned punk rockers feigning hardened cynicism. (Erika Fredrickson)

International Choral Festival
2006 Festival Highlights

In July 2006, choral groups from Taiwan, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Australia, Slovenia, Wales, India, South Korea, South Dakota and Kansas made their way to our Garden City for five days of noncompetitive singing. Festival participants stayed with host families and sang at various venues around town. The international gathering had a communal appeal, and this two-disc live CD, which highlights several pieces from each of the 15 participating vocal ensembles, captures that feeling well.

Every performance group offers its own twist on the formal choral style of singing, many bringing a little humor to the mix—the Usti Children’s Choir from the Czech Republic, for instance, delivers a brilliant version of the familiar West Side Story tune “America” (“eye want to be een Amereeca”) with a wink and a nudge. Among the straighter approaches, listeners will find the Adelaide Chamber Singers, from Australia, chirping a lilting, irony-free version of “Waltzing Matilda” that’s as surprising as it is beautiful.  

Here you’ll find works by contemporary composers from Asia nestled in comfortably alongside the likes of Mozart. If you missed the festival this time around, the CD will hold you over until the next one in 2009. If you were there, listen closely and you’ll likely hear yourself clapping. (Caroline Keys)

Lovers and Ghosts
Lovers and Ghosts
Rock Shock it! Records

Sometimes Lovers and Ghosts is as smooth and elegant as a top-shelf cocktail, but Nat Kendall and Cy Ducharme, the creative minds behind this fusion of experimental jazz and hip-hop, know precisely when to light a fuse.

“Stormy Introduction” is a cool beginning with snippets of emotionless answering machine voices and newscasts. That intro leads into “Think About That,” which, despite Kendall’s calm and fluent rapping, is teeming with political questions and criticisms of national leaders. It’s not all politics, but certainly this is a thinking person’s album, a philosophical groove without the gushing sentiment or the typical hip-hop bling references.

“Still Here” begins with jazzy strumming and Ducharme’s silky Al Green-influenced vocals. Kendall, who’s better known as part of Bozeman’s hip-hop collective Eightrack Mind, steps in moments later, waxing about the galaxy and the easy beauty of being a piece in the larger puzzle.

The album-closing title track is the only effort that seems misplaced. It initially feels messier than its predecessors, and almost rushed. But considering Lovers and Ghosts’ experimentation, Kendall and Ducharme deserve credit for lassoing this album into a tremendously polished sound that, despite its eclecticism, ultimately manages a smooth unification. (Erika Fredrickson)

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