CD reviews

Paperboy, Unreleased (You Do the Math): Three Stars

Genre(s): Pop punk.

You’ll like it if: You enjoy punk music that doesn’t need to address strife every time out.

Defining song: “Creature on the Beach” — Punk goes surf.

“Let’s have fun,” lead singer Ann Bush dares the listener on Paperboy’s new release, Unreleased. It’s just the sort of theme this new wave/post-punk quartet needs for their album to work, and usually it does. Bush’s voice has the punk sneer, but it’s accompanied by a sardonic wink. Stories of cliche monster movies, a male for sale, and the universal fear of carnies reminds the listener that punk doesn’t always carry a frown. The aggression remains with the instruments (courtesy of Rob Ovitt on guitar, Mick Glasgow on drums and Jeff Rowe on bass), creating a contrast with lyrics that sound like a meld between Blondie and the Pixies. Pop this CD in if you’re in a pleasant mood, but still have an inclination for smashing things.

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J. DiMenna, Awkward Buildings: Five Stars

Genre(s): Rock, Indie, Ambient.

You’ll like it if: You gravitate toward albums that reveal a different personality with each listen.

Defining song: “Chopin” — An epic song that seems to have a photosynthetic nutrient for growing goosebumps.

A Brooklyn native, J. DiMenna began Awkward Buildings three years ago while still living in Asheville. Almost alienating in its metropolitan hue, DiMenna’s debut release is peppered with Asheville natives: Toubab Krewe’s Drew Heller appears (along with his father, Steven, who produced), Donna the Buffalo’s Bill Reynolds, the “secret weapon” Tyler Ramsey, and even the late, great Bob Moog. The contributions are worthy, but the shine is DiMenna. The comparisons are endless — Radiohead, Sam Prekop, Elliott Smith, Django Reinhardt — yet DiMenna’s sound is his own. One side of his mastery resides in his innate sense of corralling legions of sound and manifesting it into one powerful movement. On the other is his grasp of lyricism and themes. At times, the album directs its dissent at what DiMenna calls “literalist interpreters,” people so caught up in their narrow view of the world (sometimes circumvented through religion) that they can’t empathize with the majority of the population.

“Peas in a pod mutate for me,” DiMenna laments on “Peas in a Pod.” “The slogan Mom thought would be/ Still now the same laws pend/ Most likely till the end/ And the narrow view will reign/ When we are trapped inside that train.”

Many of the warnings are bleak, but somehow rays of light penetrate each tune. Perhaps it’s the wall of sound that can be whittled to a minimalist guitar chord (“Comfort,” for instance). Or maybe it’s the thrill of discovering a new sound each time the album hits the player. Then again, it could be the joy of discovering a prime-time performer before he hits the big time. And believe me, J. DiMenna’s tenure at intimate places like Asheville Pizza Company (on April 28 at 8 p.m.) will soon be replaced by larger, awkward buildings.

[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]

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