Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Sound Check

Sound Check


St. Lenox

“Ten Hymns from My American Gothic”st-lenox

Anyway Records

A concept album about the experiences of Korean immigrants carving out a life for themselves in the Midwest released just weeks before the 2016 presidential election ran the risk of being lost in the political frenzy or worse, becoming instantly dated. But Andrew Choi, who spent his formative years living in Ames and now performs under the name St. Lenox, has crafted an album that should have timeless appeal. The easiest comparison to Choi’s quirky style combined with Midwestern sensibilities and universal themes is no doubt fellow Ames transplant John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. “Fuel America” and “The Public School System” both paint vivid pictures of central Iowa with bittersweet reflections on a place left behind (Choi now calls Brooklyn home). On “Nixon,” Choi asks the 37th president, “Was it hard being president of a nation up in arms?” It’s a question that could easily be asked of presidents 42-45. Similarly, the experiences Choi and his family went through have been true for a portion of all Americans at one time. “Ten Hymns” is beautiful, truthful, haunting and perfectly timed. ♦

Dee Snider

Prep Iowa

“We Are the Ones”dee-snider

Red River Entertainment

Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider said his new album is “part Foo Fighters, part Imagine Dragons, part 30 Seconds to Mars. Forget everything from the past. Most of my heavy metal fans will hate it.” “We Are the Ones” might sound like those bands for fleeting moments, but it also doesn’t sound like a radical departure from Snider’s past work. Slowing down “We’re Not Gonna Take it” into a piano ballad makes for a minor curiosity but will not make people “forget everything from the past.” He would have been better off trying to change up Nine Inch Nail’s “Head Like a Hole” into a different style of song, instead of weakly working it over with an industrial sound that makes it sound more dated than the almost-30-year-old original version. The end result is a tepid broth, something that’s not different enough to differentiate itself from Snider’s past work, not innovative enough to excite past fans. Who is this album for? Maybe it’s just to please Dee himself, which is a noble creative intent, but not one that’s particularly interesting for anyone else to listen to. ♦



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