Recordings

Sunset Rubdown
Random Spirit Lover
Jagjaguwar

{grate 3.5}

Once upon a time, a Canadian singer named Spencer Krug
traveled the world defeating things of winged and wicked nature, riding his
stallion across the land in search of hunters and the diamonds they carried. He
and his band of merry companions, together called Sunset Rubdown, documented
their journey in Random Spirit Lover using only the instruments on their backs.

Their journey began abruptly one morning when the quartet
awoke to a jaunty guitar riff accompanied by staccato piano known as “The
Mending of the Gown,” which lacked nuance but served as an adequate wake-up
call, dense with mythical imagery. They knew it was time to leave for the ocean
where the hunters dwelled, so Krug quickly gave a toast; he said, “This one’s
for Maggie, and this one’s for Sam,” and the adventure could begin.

As Sunset Rubdown bushwhacked through the backwoods of empty
kingdoms, “Magic vs. Midas” reminded them to take the occasional break and
count their lucky stars. They sat in a circle, gently strumming bonfire
acoustics and exploring Casio pads that suited their off-kilter renaissance
balladry. Once dawn faded into morning, the caravan resumed its brisk pace,
yodeling various accusations at each other over synth and glockenspiel, then
autoharping themselves to tropical villages in “For the Pier (and Dead
Shimmering),” until finally they tired and set up camp near a local theatre
troupe by the coast.

It was opening night, so the band took their seats far from
the stage and complemented the actors with drum rolls and dissonant shrieks
both electric and organic, which the audience adored. But once Spencer and his
friends reached the hunters’ ocean caves, they did not find any diamonds. For
the last time, the group huddled together and passed around an acoustic guitar,
ending their journey on a somber note. Spencer was determined to return after
another season of honing his craft, older and wiser.

— Chris Kokiousis

Staff Writer


Britney Spears
Blackout
Jive Records

{grate 2.5}

Dear God, could it be true? Could the tabloid mess that is
Britney Spears actually produce a compact disc fit for more than propping open
doors at a future ‘00s party? Spears’ fourth release, coming after a four-year
musical void, is the booty-shaking electro-pop delight we wanted to expect from
the former teen queen and her winning entourage: production giants the Neptunes
and Timbaland protege Nate “Danjahandz” Hills (who also worked on Justin
Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds). Blackout is packed with 12 tracks as
danceable as they are dumb, a musical Candyland in which Spears’ digitized
vocal chords take a backseat to her infamous vagina, thrust to the forefront of
just about every song.

“Taste it/ I’ll make sure you eat every crumb off the
plate,” she moans on “Kiss You All Over,” one of many pussy-love sermons in her
brow-raising sexual buffet, oozing innuendo and wishful lust. Though the hot
body that once backed the lyrics has since grown a little chub, the blatant lie
behind her latest batch of songs doesn’t dispel any of Britney’s magic. Her
limited soprano whine and forced husk are so expertly spliced and chopped
within the club bang of every track (save for “Hot as Ice,” where the whine
finally manages to conquer all) that in the end, Spears is actually triumphed
by her own music, one more degrading thrill on her long list of charming
shortcomings.

Born of machine, man and controlled substances, Blackout is
a hyper dance experience in the vein of Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor,
but without the flirty innovation that earned Spears her guilty-pleasure throne.
Despite a limp disposition and oft-nauseating Mickey Mouse pitch, Spears’
pervading train-wreck magnetism — along with some shining neo-hip-hop synths,
on which Brit-Brit even attempts to rap (not nearly as scary as it sounds) —
will ensure her a spot in clubs around the world for years to come. To hell
with the critics — she’ll just pop a Cheeto in her mouth and use the stack of
reviews to wipe up her spilt Slurpee. Because the notorious Spears has proved
herself humanity’s equivalent to a roach: No nuclear bomb nor hateful headline
can stop her.

— Autumn Schuster

Senior Staff Writer

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