REVIEWS

M Review Playlist No31

M Review Playlist No31
M Review Playlist No31  Read More →

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ROOTS

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ROOTS
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ROOTS Wise Up Ghost [Blue Note] If he weren’t such a great and versatile singer—irritable punk one album, tender balladeer the next, something entirely different the one after that—Elvis Costello might have made a fantastic rapper. Thankfully, he doesn’t prove it on this surprise collaboration with eclectic Philly hip-hop collective the Roots, but he does rely more on words (always his best friends) and grooves than... 

MAVIS STAPLES

MAVIS STAPLES
MAVIS STAPLES One True Vine  [Anti-] Like Bettye LaVette and the late Solomon Burke, gospel-soul singer Mavis Staples’ career has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to a fruitful collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. But Staples never feels the need to compromise her roots or reverence to mine commercial appeal. Instead, she tows the line between unwavering faith and a tireless quest for redemption, and while the majority of these songs... 

PORTUGAL. THE MAN

PORTUGAL. THE MAN
PORTUGAL. THE MAN Evil Friends [Atlantic] On first pass, listeners with no knowledge of this band might hear Evil Friends and wonder if it’s a man or a woman singing. Not only is it a man—it’s the man. Portugal. The Man’s John Gourley has a high-pitched voice that’s among the most distinctive in indie rock, and on his group’s eighth studio record, it proves a striking instrument. Generally faster and more aggressive than previous PTM releases,... 

CAMERA OBSCURA

CAMERA OBSCURA
CAMERA OBSCURA Desire Lines [4AD] Perhaps unfairly, Camera Obscura have always been lumped in with the other jangly indie-pop bands from their hometown of Glasgow. On their fifth album, the group seizes an opportunity to carve out their own identity, moving away from the kinds of vibrant string arrangements so prominent on their previous releases. While “I Missed Your Party” has shades of the orchestral charm and brass-band camp that—like hand-wringing... 

GUY CLARK

GUY CLARK
GUY CLARK My Favorite Picture of You [Dualtone] At 71, Guy Clark is one of Texas country’s elder statesmen, a songwriter’s songwriter whose material has been recorded by luminaries like Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash. My Favorite Picture of You, his first studio album in four years, was worth the wait. The title track, written with Gordie Sampson, is a poignant tribute to songwriter and artist Susanna Clark, Guy’s wife of 40 years who passed... 

QUEENSRŸCHE

QUEENSRŸCHE
QUEENSRŸCHE   Queensrÿche  [Century Media] It’s taken Seattle prog-metal stalwarts Queensrÿche more than 30 years to release a self-titled album, but with original singer Geoff Tate absent, this marks the debut of a new lineup. Today’s group comprises three co-founders (bassist Eddie Jackson, rhythm guitarist Michael Wilton and drummer Scott Rockenfield), latter-day guitarist Parker Lundgren, and rookie singer Todd La Torre. Instrumental... 

SURFER BLOOD

SURFER BLOOD
SURFER BLOOD Pythons [Warner Bros.] There’s something delightfully ’90s about this Florida quartet’s sophomore album and major label debut, and with producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Counting Crows, Throwing Muses) at the helm, it’s no huge surprise. Pythons is full of punchy guitar hooks and smooth, harmonious vocals, and while it’s poppy, there are some fetching bursts of anger. On opener “Demon Dance,” frontman John Paul Pitts sings about... 

ALISON MOYET

ALISON MOYET
ALISON MOYET  The Minutes [Cooking Vinyl] As Yaz, Alison Moyet and synth-pop maestro Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Erasure) recorded one of pop’s most simple yet haunting songs, “Only You.” Here, Moyet has another significant other: producer Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Robyn, Madonna). And Sigsworth’s presence is significant; these wonderfully arranged and produced songs find the pair flitting with ease from edgy to laissez-faire. Breezy opener “Horizon... 

DELBERT & GLEN

DELBERT & GLEN
DELBERT & GLEN Blind, Crippled and Crazy [New West] A 40-year gap between collaborations must be some kind of world record, but it’s not as if Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark—who last recorded together in 1973—have been sitting around doing nothing. Clark’s songs have found their way to the likes of Bonnie Raitt and the Blues Brothers, while McClinton has been an Americana hero since before that genre had a name. What’s most remarkable... 

SNOW WHITE’S POISON BITE

SNOW WHITE’S POISON BITE
SNOW WHITE’S POISON BITE Dr. Gruesome and the Gruesome Gory Horror Show [Victory] The second album from Snow White’s Poison Bite, a band carrying on the beautifully warped tradition of Finnish metal, is the music your parents warned about. By his own admission, frontman Allan Cotterill, aka Jeremy Thirteenth, is “out for blood,” and given the album’s traumatic horror-show imagery (graveyards, creeps, zombies) and ghoulish nihilism, it seems... 

ROBERT POLLARD

ROBERT POLLARD
ROBERT POLLARD Honey Locust Honky Tonk [GBV] Somehow, in between the 57 or so Guided by Voices albums he’s recorded over the past year and a half, Robert Pollard found time to make his 23rd solo record. But despite its title, Honey Locust Honky Tonk isn’t the super-prolific singer-songwriter’s traditional country music addition to his vast catalog. (The only thing vaguely country is the cowboy hat Pollard sports on the album’s cover and the... 

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
 BOX SET SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE Higher! [Epic/Legacy] Is it possible, after all these years, there’s more to the story of Sly and the Family Stone? Apparently so, as the groundbreaking interracial, mixed-gender, funk/soul/rock juggernaut left behind enough loose ends to fill these four CDs. Much of Higher! consists of mono masters of singles and album tracks, some significantly different (more punch, less air) than their stereo counterparts,... 

KEITH JARRETT TRIO

KEITH JARRETT TRIO
KEITH JARRETT TRIO Somewhere [ECM] It’s a rare jazz outfit that stays intact as long as pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Rarer still is a group this familiar to one another that manages to keep diving into uncharted waters. For the 2009 Swiss concert heard here, Jarrett was in a particularly improvisational mood. Opener “Deep Space” is all explorations and sudden shifts of temperament, and DeJohnette sits... 

BOB SCHNEIDER

BOB SCHNEIDER
BOB SCHNEIDER Burden of Proof [Kirtland] Austin-based singer-songwriter Bob Schneider has enjoyed a storied career, fronting an eclectic array of hometown bands before going it alone on such acclaimed solo albums as Lonelyland, I’m Good Now and Lovely Creatures. Major label affiliations and more than two-dozen local music awards have raised his profile, but the big breakthrough fans have sadly failed to materialize. Whether the aptly titled Burden... 

EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS

EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS
EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros [Vagrant/Rough Trade] There’s something so exquisitely retro about the third studio album from this L.A. 10-piece that you have to look twice to confirm its dozen raspy, romping tracks weren’t cut in the early ’60s. While bandleader Alex Ebert and frontwoman Jade Castrinos don’t sing together on every track, standouts such as “Two” find their voices rising above... 

TERENCE BLANCHARD

TERENCE BLANCHARD
TERENCE BLANCHARD Magnetic [Blue Note] Terence Blanchard, continues to give new meaning to the word prolific. Primarily known as a jazz trumpeter and composer, he’s worked as an educator and written music for films, theater and even opera. So when he actually gets around to releasing proper jazz records it’s an event. Happily, Magnetic is as strong as anything he’s produced. Surrounding himself with his regular quintet, Blanchard surveys various... 

SIGUR RóS

SIGUR RóS
SIGUR RóS Kveikur [XL] What is it about Sigur Rós? By rights, this Icelandic band shouldn’t be anywhere near popular enough to headline Madison Square Garden or appear on The Simpsons, and yet in the first half of 2013, they’ve done both, building anticipation for this, their seventh album of elliptical, ethereal, strangely enchanting “dream rock,” as many describe their sound. This time out, “nightmare rock” sometimes seems the better... 

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE …Like Clockwork  [Matador] It’s been six years since Queens of the Stone Age released Era Vulgaris, and in that time, frontman Josh Homme has worked with the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, and drummer Joey Castillo has left the band. But in spite of—or maybe because of—the time away, the Queens’ sixth album reveals a renewed sense of self-assurance. It’s evident in the expansive sound, which allows the guitars... 

DEMI LOVATO

DEMI LOVATO
DEMI LOVATO Demi [Hollywood] The last time Demi Lovato released an album the onetime teen Disney princess was coming off a rough patch that included a break for rehab and newly discovered bipolar disorder. Not so surprisingly, the music on 2011’s Unbroken took a serious turn. On her fourth album, the 20-year-old pop singer and X Factor judge is still in a reflective mood, but with a brighter outlook this time. And as its title implies, Demi is supposed... 

THE NATIONAL

THE NATIONAL
THE NATIONAL Trouble Will Find Me [4AD] Though the National is often described as “world-weary,” “world-wary” may be more accurate. On five previous albums, the Brooklyn-based band crafted increasingly sophisticated songs populated by characters that live in their own heads, reluctant to engage as they parse the secret angst and uncertainty of evolving adulthood. The group’s latest is a stunning refinement of the form—a search for self... 

JOHN FOGERTY

JOHN FOGERTY
JOHN FOGERTY Wrote a Song for Everyone [Vanguard] John Fogerty’s first album in four years finds him collaborating with musical A-listers on songs he’s written throughout his career. Several tracks remain faithful to the original recordings, and while the new version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” doesn’t add much, it’s a pleasure to hear Alan Jackson’s rich baritone. The most notable departure may be the Foo Fighters’ hard-rock... 

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS Nanobots [Idlewild] On Nanobots—their 12th studio album, not counting the four they’ve made for children—They Might Be Giants continue to be very serious about the business of being silly. This time out, the indie mainstays rhyme about combustible heads, the misguided commitments of karate, and occasionally even educational topics, as on their homage to Nikola Tesla and his works. With 25 tracks clocking in at just over... 

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell
Steve Martin & Edie Brickell Love Has Come for You [Rounder] Twenty-five years ago, the idea of a Steve Martin recording with Edie Brickell might have seemed like a disaster of New Coke proportions, but Love Has Come for You proves them to be a delightful creative duo. The album combines Brickell’s lyrics and smoky soprano with Martin’s intricate and evocative banjo melodies. Though they co-wrote these songs from opposite coasts, they truly... 

LOW

LOW
LOW The Invisible Way [Sub Pop] Over the course of their dozen-plus previous offerings, Low has never shown themselves to be the most effusive combo, so to hear them opting for a more expressive delivery suggests a bid for accessibility. The tone is still austere, and the subject matter decidedly conflicted—themes veer from struggle to intimacy—but the sound is no longer blanketed by the veil of melancholia that’s enveloped it in the past. Those... 

JOE BONAMASSA

JOE BONAMASSA
JOE BONAMASSA An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House  [J&R Adventures] Anyone who reserves a page of his concert DVD’s booklet for a list of guitars he plays on the disc is obviously after the gearheads. (For the record, a 1974 Martin D-41, a 2012 Gibson SJ-200 and Guild F-512 12-string are among the dozens of acoustics listed.) And up until about a year or so ago, Joe Bonamassa mostly appealed to fellow instrumentalists, who could appreciate... 

Pistol Annies

Pistol Annies
Pistol Annies Annie Up [Sony Nashville] When it comes to Pistol Annies—Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe—the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. On its second album, the country trio pays tribute to lower-class women and speaks intelligently of their struggles. Whether singing alone or in harmony, each Annie adds new wrinkles to her phrasing: Lambert sounds feistier than ever, and Presley and Monroe meet that challenge... 

FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS

FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS
FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS More Than Just a Dream [Elektra] Like any music junkie, Fitz and the Tantrums frontman Michael Fitzpatrick is well aware of the second-album curse. He responds by filling the follow-up to his band’s 2010 debut, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, with a few new styles and sounds, attempting to outrun the backlash he fears is coming. And for the most part, Fitz and the Tantrums stay one step ahead. More Than Just a Dream is more dynamic... 

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson Let’s Face the Music and Dance [Sony Legacy] For Willie Nelson, there’s no better (legal) way to celebrate a birthday than to release a record. The latest addition to the octogenarian’s 200-plus-album discography marks a return to the Great American Songbook, which served him so well on 1978’s Stardust. Nelson’s instantly recognizable, languorous vocals suit the material, giving a rough-hewn charm to standards like “Walking... 

The Three O’Clock

The Three O’Clock
The Three O’Clock The Hidden World Revealed [Omnivore] In the early ’80s, two separate yet parallel strains of Southern California rock offered different takes on ’60s revivalism. On one end, there was the hardcore punk of Black Flag and their ilk—bands that redefined “loud” and “fast” by pushing the antiestablishment rock of forefathers like Credence Clearwater Revival to hulking extremes. Punk was great for angry teenagers, but what... 

ROD STEWART

ROD STEWART
ROD STEWART Time [Capitol] After a decade of lucrative, critically unloved covers records—five Great American Songbook sets, plus collections of rock and soul chestnuts—Rod Stewart has finally gone back to writing songs. The impetus, he’s said, was his 2012 autobiography, which got him thinking back, taking stock, and basically doing what rock stars do when they research a certain age. With Time, the 68-year-old superstar sings his life in 12... 

BRAD PAISLEY

BRAD PAISLEY
BRAD PAISLEY Wheelhouse  [Arista Nashville] Since upping the ante with the musically and lyrically progressive American Saturday Night in 2009, Brad Paisley has positioned himself as a guitar-slinging messiah sent here to abolish a rift between red and blue states. He directly addresses that divide multiple times on Wheelhouse, a hodgepodge of pop culture references and patriotic salutes. On the bluesy “Accidental Racist,” notable for a bizarre... 

TRICKY

TRICKY
TRICKY False Idols [False Idols] It’s been 18 years since Tricky released Maxinquaye, the trip-hop masterpiece that expanded that genre’s parameters. Nine albums later, he’s still trying to top it. The British producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist named his second album Pre-Millennium Tension, and he’s been working that theme, more or less, ever since. False Idols hits all the usual signposts: densely layered beats, gritty dance rhythms,... 

MUDHONEY

MUDHONEY
MUDHONEY Vanishing Point [Sub Pop] As a grunge revival quakes among younger bands, Mudhoney is still rumbling on with the abrasive sound that has served them since Seattle was the center of the alt-rock world. They’ve consistently turned out corrosive guitar records, and their ninth studio effort reflects a keenly focused ferocity. They’ve reined in their trademark overdriven guitars, and yet on these tight, targeted songs, singer Mark Arm’s... 

IGGY & THE STOOGES

IGGY & THE STOOGES
IGGY & THE STOOGES Ready to Die [Fat Possum] Forty years after James Williamson last contributed to a Stooges album, the guitarist makes his presence known right away on the band’s latest. Opener “Burn” uncorks with the crack of a drum and is immediately overrun with a tidal-wave riff that’s loud, dirty and dangerous—everything that’s always been great about the Stooges. There’s plenty of that on Ready to Die, an album whose best... 

VAMPIRE WEEKEND

VAMPIRE WEEKEND
VAMPIRE WEEKEND Modern Vampires of the City  [XL Recordings] Vampire Weekend’s third album expands its varied repertoire with a musical valentine to their hometown of New York City. Set to liquid chords and languid rhythms, the band’s serious-minded lyrics center on the trials of 20-something life. The band incorporates numerous sounds, from rubbery bass on the mod-rockabilly number “Diane Young” to Hammond organ on the Beach Boys-inspired... 

TODD RUNDGREN

TODD RUNDGREN
TODD RUNDGREN State [Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red] Following a recent release that delved into hard rock, fearsome blues and radically redefined versions of seminal songs he produced for others, State finds Rundgren testing his parameters yet again. Chameleon-like by nature, Rundgren revisits the synthesized setups and exotic experimentation that once marked his work with Utopia and later colored solo albums like The Individualist and Nearly Human.... 

GOO GOO DOLLS

GOO GOO DOLLS
GOO GOO DOLLS Magnetic [Warner Bros.] Last time out, on 2010’s Something for the Rest of Us, the Goo Goo Dolls went deep, singing about paralyzed war veterans, the plight of the 99 percent and other bummer subjects far removed from the misunderstood soul who pined for true love in “Iris.” For their 10th album, Magnetic, frontman John Rzeznik returns to familiar territory, penning inspirational tunes with titles like “Bulletproof Angel.”... 

THE POSTAL SERVICE

THE POSTAL SERVICE
THE POSTAL SERVICE Give Up: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition  [Sub Pop] The two biggest sellers in Sub Pop’s history reveal some of the key differences between the generation that raged along with grunge in the early ’90s and the one that took solace in emo in the early ’00s. Whereas Nirvana’s Bleach, which dropped in 1989 but didn’t really hit until a few years later, is caustic and vague—notable less for what Kurt Cobain said than for... 

SHE & HIM

SHE & HIM
SHE & HIM Volume 3 [Merge] She & Him—vocalist Zooey Deschanel and producer/guitarist M. Ward—concoct a vibrant spirit on this charming, if kitschy, collection of lo-fi psychedelic pop. Deschanel wrote 11 of the 14 songs, most of which deal with the hardships of new love. Her roll-with-the-punches performance, full of innocent sighs and moody expressions, throbs with ache. On “London,” an abstract, hypnotic piano ballad, she adds shades... 

STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES (& DUCHESSES)

STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES (& DUCHESSES)
STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES (& DUCHESSES) The Low Highway [New West] Though not exactly a New Orleans record, Steve Earle’s latest has a distinct Big Easy flavor. In part, that’s because Earle wrote three of the songs for the HBO series Treme, on which he played a street musician. There’s zydeco-style accordion on “That All You Got?”, and jaunty bayou fiddle on “Love’s Gonna Blow My Way,” and the titular reference of “After Mardi... 

THE PASTELS

THE PASTELS
THE PASTELS Slow Summits [Domino] Though they haven’t released an official album in 16 years, the Pastels haven’t kept silent. A film soundtrack in 2003 and collaboration with the Japanese band Tenniscoats in 2009 helped the band to evolve its sound, as has a continuously revolving line-up. With Slow Summits, the Pastels’ move from shambolic rock to subdued, off-kilter pop seems complete. Their sound has changed shape, and the thinned-out guitars... 

SOUND CITY

SOUND CITY
SOUND CITY [RCA] Dave Grohl’s directorial debut centers on the titular studio—the defunct Southern California facility where Nirvana cut Nevermind and countless other artists did some of their finest work—but that’s not really what this film is about. On a micro level, it’s about “the Neve,” an analog recording console purchased by Sound City’s owners in 1973 for the then-princely sum of $75,000. If Grohl and his buddies—an impressive... 

FACE TO FACE

FACE TO FACE
FACE TO FACE Three Chords and a Half Truth [Rise] Anyone craving a bite of ’90s punk should be moderately satiated by this California quartet’s eighth studio album and second since reforming in 2008 after a four-year hiatus. The Face to Face sound circa 2013 is nearly indistinguishable from that of 20 years ago, even if it lacks the rawness heard on classics like “Disconnected” and “I Used to Think.” Still, frontman Trever Keith hasn’t... 

ÓLÖF ARNALDS

ÓLÖF ARNALDS
ÓLÖF ARNALDS Sudden Elevation [One Little Indian] Ólöf Arnalds embraces subtlety in her mixes, even as she creates more complex works. On her third solo album and first entirely in English, the Icelandic singer-songwriter exercises tremendous restraint in her arrangements, and initial listens don’t reveal how much has been seamlessly integrated under the fingerpicked guitars. Arnalds’ classical training is apparent in the sparse string arrangements... 

THE BRYAN FERRY ORCHESTRA

THE BRYAN FERRY ORCHESTRA
THE BRYAN FERRY ORCHESTRA The Jazz Age [BMG] Bryan Ferry is no stranger to albums filled with cover songs. But The Jazz Age, credited to the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, is something different: 13 songs, spanning Roxy Music’s first single to Ferry’s most recent solo album, done in the style of 1920s jazz. It’s so lovingly and faithfully recreated that you’re half expecting the clicks and pops of vintage 78s on these lo-fi mono recordings. The Jazz... 

THE THERMALS

THE THERMALS
THE THERMALS Signed and Sealed in Blood [Domino] The sixth album from this Portland pop-punk trio sees a return to the kinds of scratchy vocals and trebly guitar strains heard in its earlier work. Freshly signed to Saddle Creek, the band wastes little time getting down to business. “Born to Kill” opens with Hutch Harris simultaneously striking his first guitar note and declaring, “I was born to kill / I was made to slay / unafraid to spill blood... 

THE FLAMING LIPS

THE FLAMING LIPS
THE FLAMING LIPS The Terror [Warner Bros.] No matter how much melancholy courses through their catalog, the Flaming Lips will always be known as a celebratory band. That’s more a product of their live shows—confetti-strewn freak-outs that feature frontman Wayne Coyne rolling over fans in a giant plastic ball—than it is their albums, though career highlights The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) offset sadness with... 

THE STROKES

THE STROKES
THE STROKES Comedown Machine  [RCA] The fifth album from these lo-fi New York City garage heroes clocks in at a mere 40 minutes, and for the first eight songs, it’s classic Strokes: an energetic romp that’s equal parts scratchy austerity and voltaic pop. After an opening screech, the trebly guitars on “Tap Out” smooth into something vaguely reminiscent of disco, while instantly appealing lead single “All the Time” finds frontman Julian... 

ROBBEN FORD

ROBBEN FORD
ROBBEN FORD Bringing It Back Home [Provogue] The title suggests that sometime during his four-decade career, Robben Ford abandoned the blues, but that’s not true. Even while immersed in jazz—he played with Miles Davis and was a member of the Yellowjackets—the gifted guitarist never completely strayed from the genre. Still, this is his most blues-saturated record in some time. Whether turning to established songsmiths (Earl King, Allen Toussaint)... 
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