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Listening Log: 10-19-05

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Jacksonville City Nights

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

(UMG)

It'd be oh so easy to ignore the shenanigans of Ryan Adams, the petulant, prolific clown prince of indie rockers. Then one or two gems will appear in the avalanche to keep the hopeful hoping. However, albums like Jacksonville City Nights prove that Adams is a sucker's bet at best. This alt-country drag takes every bad habit Adams has -- a yelpy voice, soft-focus songwriting, and an unwillingness to edit -- and rubs them in your ears until they are sore. Norah Jones adds flavor on "Dear John," and it's only fleeting relief. ("Dear John")

-- Werner Trieschmann

Grade: D

War of the

Awakening Phantoms

The High Dials

(Rainbow Quartz)

Filtering their '60s psychedelia through an '80s college-rock aesthetic, Montreal's High Dials owe as much to R.E.M. and the Ocean Blue as to the Zombies. This second album is full of large, U2-style songs that build gradually but surely into epic moments, like the transcendent climax of the generational anthem "Our Time Is Coming Soon." And despite the cumbersome album title, the psychedelic imagery is never an end in itself but a means to something more than mimicry or gimmickry. ("Our Time Is Coming Soon," "Sick With the Old Fire")

-- Stephen Deusner

Grade: A-

Witching Hour

Ladytron

(Rykodisc)

Just being nostalgic is not grounds for making records, especially when we're talking about the '80s. Liverpool's Ladytron, however, have apparently set out to make a career of it -- popish lyrical hooks, cocaine references, angled haircuts, moustaches. While Witching Hour is well produced, it's basically 13 songs of tacky synth-pop beats, vacant lyrics, and corny electroclash attitude. While synthesizers aren't inherently evil, the electroclash scene is making them guilty by association. ("Sugar")

-- Matt Cole

Grade: C-

The Days of Mars

Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom

(Astralwerks)

This four-song full-length follows the New York-based couple's debut single on the DFA #2 comp last year. "Rise" does just that for nearly 13 minutes, before gradually fading into the moody weightlessness of "13 Moons." "Relevée" whirls with swirling synthesizers like a Flash Gordon backdrop (the movie, not the serials). The Days of Mars is a spacey epic, trippier and more cinematic than most DFA fare, although not at all danceable. ("Rise," "Relevée") -- SD

Grade: A-

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