The Drop

William Elliott Whitmore
Animals in the Dark
Anti- Records

If Levon Helm had a deeper voice he might sound something like William Elliott Whitmore. Animals in the Dark, Whitmore’s fourth album and the anti-label debut from this Iowa-based artist, opens with “Mutiny” both literally and figuratively. His peculiar mix of folk and delta-blues sounds characteristically out of place in 2009, but the surprise on the opening ode to the murder of a ship’s captain comes with the closing refrain: “He don’t need no water/ Let the motherf***** burn/ Burn motherf***** burn/ Well burn motherf***** burn.” Ironically, Whitmore manages to escape novelty by utilizing the lyrics of the Bloodhound Gang’s hit single “Fire Water Burn.” The marriage of moronic mid-’90s rock with Whitmore’s retro stylings would seem uneasy at first glance, but the understated subversion of a desiccated genre brings with it a welcome shot of humor. Rather than spitting out clich├ęd lines taken straight out of a depression era time capsule, the song at least hints at a semi-modern context. It’s nice to see a crack in the armor of retro-folk affectation. Whitmore isn’t always so adventurous (he never sings about doing it like they do it on the Discovery Channel), and the rest of the album can sometimes seem monotonously generic. But he plays the genre well and sometimes that’s all it takes. -SC

William Control
Hate Culture
Victory Records

After AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget released Blaqk Audio last year, I was expecting tons of artists to follow suit. Their electronic, new wave influenced band came and went with little public fanfare, but it clearly inspired some of the other artists in the hard rock genre to try their hand at something different. Wil Francis, the front man and main songwriter for the band Aiden, had a batch of songs written that clearly weren’t fitting with the main band’s post-hardcore, screamo sound, but needed an outlet for them. He set out and created William Control, an alter ego where he could let loose with his inner Bowie and proclaim his love for Depeche Mode and other ’80s electronic industrial bands and surprisingly, it’s not half bad. It’s easy to say that this side project is better in every way than anything Francis has ever released with Aiden. William Control could be the soundtrack to ’80s night at Area 51 or a Bret Easton Ellis novel and fit right in. The lyrics are typically dark and filled with tales of death and suicide, but that’s nothing new. What caught me is that, without looking at the lyric sheet, most of these songs are quite upbeat and danceable, which8212;hopefully8212;is exactly what Francis was hoping to achieve. Mission accomplished. -TH

Late of the Pier
Fantasy Black Channel
Parlophone Records

Synthesizer-driven prog rock bands from Europe are a dime a dozen these days and usually have a hard time offering anything worth writing about. Fantasy Black Channel, the eagerly awaited debut album from British buzz band Late of the Pier manages to successfully walk the line between experimental and catchy. Singer Samuel Eastgate has a playful lyrical style that bounces in and out of funk nasty synthesized madness. Fantasy Black Channel works because the band pulls in elements of so many different musical styles that it’s never too grounded in the dull electronica that usually kills these kinds of bands. You never know whether you’re supposed to take it seriously or just jump around and laugh along. Favorite song of the album has to be “The Bears are Coming” which sounds like a Flight of the Conchords number that got slapped across the face by Mr. Oizo. -CS