Wednesday, December 2, 2020

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Sound Check

2/12/2014

cd Justin NiceswangerJustin Niceswanger

“Alternate Reality”

Independent

Sometimes bad news is best delivered quickly, like pulling off a Band-aid: This isn’t a good album. The most charitable thing that can be said — the absolute best possible spin I can put on it — is, at its very strongest, bits of “Alternate Reality” sound like a poor man’s version of a poor man’s version of a They Might Be Giants B-side. You can see flashes of good ideas here and there, but Niceswanger’s clearly overwhelmed by trying to do everything on his own, and the whole project has a feeling of a guy just wanting these things to see the light of day, for better or worse. He’s a talented guitarist, but he’s not up to the task of a totally solo album. He knows it, too. “When I hear this album,” he writes in the insert, “I’ll always wonder what it would have sounded like with better production, different lyrics, other arrangements and contributions from a different vocalist, bassist and drummer.” So will we. CV

 

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cd Suzanne VegaSuzanne Vega

“Tales From the Realms of the Queen of Pentacles”

Cooking Vinyl

It’s been seven years, and we’ve all kind of missed Suzanne Vega. Maybe the simple fact that we missed her is enough to make “Tales From the Realms of the Queen of Pentacles” an enjoyable listen. Certainly, everything that makes Vega great is on display: the charming, disarming singing voice; the simple guitar work. But there’s a level of dissonance between what Vega sounds like and what she’s singing about that makes the album clunk around more than it should. No one wants to hear Vega singing about how much she loves Macklemore. Or hear her sample from a 50 Cent song. Is a ballad about the greatness of Steve Jobs really Vega at her best? CV

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