The Weekend Review: June 2011 Report

By Chris Moore:

June was a quiet month, and I didn’t initially appreciate some of the great work that is represented below.  This is one of the only benefits to posting these reviews so belatedly this year: that my criticism has had months to percolate and develop.  I think that is revealed below…


Suck It And See (Arctic Monkeys)

Producer: James Ford

Released: June 6, 2011

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “She’s Thunderstorms” & “Piledriver Waltz”

With so many individually excellent songs – the opening electric barrage of “She’s Thunderstorms” and the gorgeously  Suck It And See should be an instant classic.  There’s something lacking, though: predominantly, a sense of momentum.  Individual songs achieve momentum relative to themselves, but there just isn’t a sense of ever-mounting energy as the tracks continue.  Still, the retro-rock/punk groove of tracks like “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” is undeniably catchy, and the Arctic Monkeys certainly haven’t lost their range, one which runs from the mean distortion of “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” to the placid ballad “Love is a Laserquest.”

Alpocalypse (“Weird Al” Yankovic)

Producer: “Weird Al” Yankovic

Released: June 21, 2011

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “CNR” & “Skipper Dan”

With Poodle Hat (2003) and Straight Outta Lynwood (2006), Weird Al raised the bar considerably, and it would seem to be a setup for failure to compare all future work by the watermark of discs like these.  Still, Alpocalypse rises to the occasion: there’s the dual-layered parody of “Born This Way” and Lady Gaga in the opener “Perform This Way,” style parodies of Weezer (“Skipper Dan”) and the White Stripes (“CNR”) that will stand up to his best work, and of course, a wittily titled polka medley (“Polka Face”).  Weird Al even manages to make the catchiness of that celebratory, patriotic Miley Cyrus tune accessible to the rest of us in “Party in the CIA.”  With Alpocalypse, Yankovic has also caught up on a few items that, in retrospect, I’m surprised haven’t fallen under his radar previously:  “Craigslist,” performed in perfect Doors/Jim Morrison fashion, and the appropriately faux-epic “Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me.”


Is For Karaoke EP (Relient K)

Released: June 28, 2011

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Surf Wax America” (originally performed by Weezer) & “Baby” (originally performed by Justin Bieber)

While I usually cannot condone an album of covers, much less an EP, and especially from a band that has only recently put out some of the most mature and masterful original material of their career, Relient K’s Is For Karaoke EP is actually quite good.  In seven brief songs, they span the decades, from as recent as last year and stretching all the way back to April 1980 with an impressively spot-on take of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Here Comes My Girl,” not forgetting the nineties in between, particularly with their not to Weezer in “Surf Wax America,” an excellent choice of band as well as song.  Frontman Matt Thiessen shows off his vocal range on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and Relient K renders another annoying track listenable in their cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” a resuscitation of a cover that can only be compared with Fountains of Wayne’s version of Britney Spear’s “Baby… One More Time.”  Overall, a masterful little EP, and not bad at all to tide us over until their follow-up to 2009’s outstanding Forget and Not Slow Down, my pick for number one album of that year.


Rave On Buddy Holly (Various Artists)

Producer: Randall Poster & Gelya Robb

Released: June 28, 2011

Rating: 3/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” (Cee Lo Green) & “Changing All Those Changes” (Nick Lowe)

As with all tribute albums, the quality is uneven throughout.  And, buyer beware, there are some real clunkers here (Lou Reed’s distortion-drowned “Peggy Sue,” to name only one of several).  However, there are also some gems, and some hail from surprising corners.  Cee Lo Green’s take on “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” is easily the best track on the record, followed quickly by a plethora of pleasing yet unsurprising covers by an admittedly impressive array of artists, from Paul McCartney to Modest Mouse and Fiona Apple to the Black Keys.  There are too many strong tracks here to write Rave On Buddy Holly off, yet there are too many forgettable (at best) flunkers to offer up too much praise too easily.

The BEST COVER SONGS of 2011 (The Year-End Review Awards)

By Chris Moore:

What better way to kick off a Monday at the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song music video blog than to unveil the Weekend Review’s picks for the top ten cover songs of 2011.  After all, this is kind of our thing.  And this has been a busy year for covers.  Not only were there two – not one, but two! – collections of Buddy Holly covers released as tribute to the legendary singer/songwriter in 2011, but there were also two covers EPs put out by Relient K.  This is not to mention Brian Wilson digging back to his childhood (farther back than the Gershwin brothers this time) for the inspiration to In the Key of Disney.

A regular amount of covers wasn’t enough for 2011.  No, no: 2011 needed more covers!  Now, as you’ll recall from our mission statement, it has always been the goal of this blog to put an end to the proliferation of bad covers on YouTube.  In keeping with that tradition, we will now take the time to recognize these non-YouTube covers that have demonstrated excellence this year, standing out from the pack of mediocre (or worse) ones:

1)  “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” – Cee Lo Green (Cover of Buddy Holly)

2)  “Caroline No” – America (Cover of the Beach Boys)

3)  “Here Comes My Girl” – Relient K (Cover of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)

4)  “Colors of the Wind” – Brian Wilson (Cover of the Disney song)

5)  “Baby” – Relient K (Cover of Justin Bieber)

6)  “Not Fade Away” – Florence and the Machine (Cover of Buddy Holly)

7)  “Interstate Love Song” – Relient K (Cover of Stone Temple Pilots)

8)  “It’s So Easy” – Paul McCartney (Cover of Buddy Holly)

9)  “Listen to Me” – Brian Wilson (Cover of Buddy Holly)

10) “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” – Brian Wilson (Cover of the Disney song)


Honorable Mention:

“Surf Wax America” – Relient K (Cover of Weezer)

“Crayons Can Melt On Us For All I Care” (Relient K Cover)

By Chris Moore:

This session pretty much speaks for itself.

Music Review: Relient K’s “Forget And Not Slow Down”

RATING:  4.5 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

Relient K’s new 2009 release Forget and Not Slow Down — the Christian rock band’s sixth studio album — is a fine addition to their catalog.  Indeed, if the recent history of Relient K has been one of striking a balance between their trademark tongue-in-cheek moves and being taken more seriously, then this album is the ultimate realization of that endeavor.

Taken one song at a time, this latest release may not initially measure up to the standout tracks of their career — think: “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been,” “Falling Out,” “Getting Into You,” or “Sadie Hawkins Dance” to name a few.  And yet, perhaps for the first time in their now decade-long career, Thiessen and company have assembled a truly excellent album.

To be sure, this is the first Relient K release to transcend the bounds of the standard “15 or so songs we wrote and recorded around the same time” theme of their previous records.


"Forget and Not Slow Down" - Relient K (2009)

"Forget and Not Slow Down" - Relient K (2009)

Forget and Not Slow Down


1)    “Forget and Not Slow Down”

2)    “I Don’t Need a Soul”

3)    “Candlelight”

4)    “Flare (Outro)”

5)    “Part of It”

6)    “(Outro)”

7)    “Therapy”

8)    “Over It”

9)    “Sahara”

10)  “Oasis (Intro)”

11)  “Savannah”

12)  “Baby (Outro)”

13)  “If You Believe Me”

14)  “This is the End”

15) “(If You Want It)”

“You’re not the first thing in my life I’ve loved and lost,” lead vocalist Matthew Thiessen croons in “This is the End (If You Want It),” the aptly titled closing track .  Simply put, this love and loss that Thiessen refers to is the driving force that unites each thread of the album .

Thus, approached as a study of one man’s reaction to the end of a serious relationship, Forget and Not Slow Down is an engaging concept album from start to finish.

The opener (and title track) sets the scene for what is to come, laying out the philosophy of accepting what is in the past, “gather[ing] regrets for the things I can’t change now.”  The second track, “I Don’t Need a Soul,” echoes this sentiment and can be read as a further declaration of independence.

The third track marks an abrupt change of pace, finding Thiessen singing the praises of a woman so beautiful as to attract so many fireflies to her “Candlelight” as to obscure her view, a beauty so pure that it results in pinched nerves in the necks of men turning around too quickly to look at her.

The idealized view of this woman is only temporary as “Part of It” finds the narrator “working with adhesives, chains and locks and ropes and knots to tether.”  Thiessen continues, “But nothing’s sticking to the pieces; I can’t seem to hold it all together.”  This is where the concept of the album truly begins to crystallize: a man is suddenly on his own — he wants to “forget and not slow down,” but vacillates between renewal and denial.

“Therapy” is a travelogue of a man on his own, riding with only music to accompany him, dressed in the clothes he woke up in.  Soon after, “Over It” is about moving forward, but seems less convincing for the repetition of the chorus.

Which brings us to “Sahara,” the hardest rocking song on the album (and probably the one that most deserves the reference to the Foo Fighters that Theissen made during a recent interview).  This track is all about frustration and airing out the scars sustained during a previous relationship.

“Savannah,” with the placidly beautiful “Oasis (Intro)” and distorted “Baby (Outro)” is the perfect follow-up to “Sahara,” and the listener can feel the calm that comes over the narrator as he refers not so much to the actual Savannah, Georgia, but rather to what the town represented for them in their relationship.

“If You Believe Me” could be read either as an “I told you so” moment or as a statement to a potential new lover, but there is no mistaking the message of “This is the End (If You Want It).”  There is frustration, but there is more importantly closure and peace in this final track.  It is truly the payoff moment for the entire album — it is not the best or even my favorite song, but it provides the perfect ending, both musically and lyrically, for this outstanding concept album.

At the end of the day, Forget and Not Slow Down appears doomed to be marginalized by the mainstream music press.  Thus far, Rolling Stone has essentially ignored its existence.  Indeed, Relient K does seem to have found themselves being written off by both rock critics (as “Christian rock” and thus not palatable to a larger, secular audience) and original fans (for having signed on with a major label).

Still, the new album debuted at #15 on the Billboard 200, as well as scoring favorable reviews in the independent press.  The only small press reviewer to award fewer than four out of five stars gave a largely favorable review, only vaguely noting that, “There are some tracks that aren’t entirely appealing.”

And if that’s the worst he could write about this album, then perhaps there is still hope that it won’t be ignored — or entirely forgotten — after all…