Issue: #344

ALBUM REVIEWS


Franz Ferdinand,
Tuck & Patti,
The All-American Rejects,
Eric Benet,
Trouble Andrew,
Putumayo Kids,
Red House 25,
Volcano Suns,
Beat Union,
Yelle,
Randy Newman,
Michael Higgins,
Kris Kristofferson,
The Prairie Cartel,
Guitar Red,
Calhoun,
Gary Louris,
Gary Moore,
Kelly Richey,
Josh Boyd and the V.I.P. Band,
Sugarland

THE HIGH FIVE!!
  • Forward, Russia "Life Processes," Mute
  • Val Emmich "Little Daggers," C&P No Code
  • Jennifer Hanson "Thankful," Universal
  • Professor Louie & The Crowmatix "As The Crow Flies," Woodstock
  • David Leonhardt Trio "Explorations," Big Bang/North Country
ALBUM OF THE WEEK


Al Green - Lay It Down
Political Song of the Week:

Bruce Springsteen - "Johnny 99"
Political Article of the Week:

The Big Takeover: How Wall Street Insiders are Using the Bailout to Stage a Revolution by Matt Taibbi

Back To The Homepage

Album Reviews:


Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand -
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand


Domino/Epic/Sony BMG

These four dudes are writing the huge rock anthems of the twenty-first century. Over the top production (which is nothing out of the ordinary) added to ridiculous disco rock (which is really out of the ordinary) creates the convoluted mess that is Franz Ferdinand.


Music all over the place, that sass-packed vocal delivery that makes my skin crawl, and enough hipster charm that Tonight: Franz Ferdinand should really just make me want to pull my hair out.


As much as there are points of this record that do this (the first 20 seconds of this album, for instance), the majority has a catchyness that makes you unable to stop listening. Similar to how screaming babies make you want to put your head through a wall and speak in tongues at the same time, Franz Ferdinand have delivered something simultaneously skin grating and unbeatable. Great dance music.

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Tuck & Patti - I Remember You

Tuck & Patti -
I Remember You


T&P/Artist Garage/Fontana

Dreamy wife & husband duo Tuck & Patti aren't doing anything original or different, just honest and personal. Acoustic guitar and beautiful, deep female vocals embody a richness to I Remember You that adds life and color to a rather drull style of music. Quiet, but not boring, this is for any in the mood for something soulful.

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The All-American Rejects - When the World Comes Down (Deluxe Edition)

The All-American Rejects -
When The World Comes Down


Doghouse/Geffen/Interscope

Say what you want about this band, they are truly great. The All-American Rejects seem to be genuinely overlooked for their pure genius catchy song-writing by most people of respectable opinions.


Yes, the band is about ten years too late to get the full appreciation they deserve, but it does not mean their appeal is any less there.


Opening track "I Wanna" is pure fun: one part late 90's pop-punk, one part loser rock, the band embodies what should be the direction of all rock music today.


***Best Album Of The Week***

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Eric BenŽt - Love & Life

Eric Benet -
Love & Life


Friday/Reprise/Warner Bros.

God-loving R&B from pop artist Eric Benet continues where Hurricane left off. A bit more on the funk side of the tracks, Love & Life rolls from track to track with ease and a serious sense of positivity.

His voice is incredible, like a more controlled and less ridiculous R. Kelly, and manages to move the music forward. This is a feat that so many musicians crash and burn when attempting. Run of the mill production, with beats that take a perfect position in the background, Love & Life is the r&b that we wish everyone was releasing.

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Trouble Andrew - Trouble Andrew

Trouble Andrew -
Self-Titled


Capitol/Virgin/EMI

I know nothing about this band, so I will give this the best I got. Trouble Andrew, post-punk in nature but pop in sound, is an electronic conglomeration of fast paced spouted lyrics, catchy synthesized melodies, and a serious hipster tone. Fun and poppy, this is a dance party waiting to happen.



***ARTIST TO WATCH!!!***

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Various Artists -
Putumayo Kids Presents: African Dreamland


Putumayo

Putumayo's most recent effort of the "Dreamland" series, dedicated to releasing lullabyes and children's music from around the world, gives us African Dreamland.


As far as Putumayo goes, this is pretty standard; their standard is phenomenal. Every song is handpicked for its perfection, and it shows. Sounds and styles I have never heard before, like Chiwoniso's bell-ensemble which comes close to tear-jerking, makes the album perfect for all ages. Included on here are the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Toumani Diabate, and Samite, along with many others.

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Various Artists -
Red House 25 Volume One


Red House

Red House Records have been good to us over the years: consistently sending us some of the best folk out there right now and never letting us down.


This, as the album so subtly suggests, is their 25th anniversary collection. It includes all of their best (including, but not limited to: Eliza Gilkyson, Jorma Kaukonen, Greg Brown, Lucy Kaplansky, Guy Davis, and everyone else), and it all sounds like exactly what you would expect: country and blues laced folk that drives home the heritage of the genre we all love so much.



***LATE BUT GREAT***


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Volcano Suns - All Night Lotus Party

Volcano Suns -
All Night Lotus Party


Merge

So this is one of those rare-gems that we get in at JSI Top 21: Volcano Suns, one of the follow up bands to indie-rock pioneers Mission of Burma. Taking on the, well, almost perfect sounds of Husker Du and The Hated, Volcano Suns are not quite post-punk or indie rock, or even rock and roll, but somewhere in-between it all. Lo-fi recording, amazing songs, lots of the same drum beat, and, honestly, some of the best vocals ever, this is an album that just about everyone needs to get.

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Beat Union - Disconnected

Beat Union -
Disconnected


Science

UK "pop-punk" band Beat Union is trying really hard. Really hard. And I feel bad that, despite the obvious effort on their part, that the music has turned out so annoying.


Their obvious influences, being Elvis Costello, maybe even some Green Day, works great in theory. Fantastic even. But it just doesn't work. Too heavily produced, missing the music genius-quality that made Costello as perfect as he was, and vocals that squeak way too much, Disconnected is a big disappointment, mostly because it should be so good.



***MIGHTY, MIGHTY!!***

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Yelle - Pop Up (Bonus Track Version)

Yelle -
Pop-Up


Source ETC/Caroline/Capitol/EMI

There is not a person on Earth who understands how happy this makes me. Stupidly poppy electronic music with "cute" female vocals laying a foundation of pure awesomeness.


Sung entirely in French, fluctuating between a healthy mix of genius melodies and almost aggressive rapping, Yelle is as good as it gets. A cuter version of Robyn, with more silly-but-still-perfect beats, Pop-Up should be owned by everyone. This is so good.

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Randy Newman - Harps and Angels

Randy Newman -
Harps and Angels


Nonesuch/Warner Music

The Ball Street Journal is nothing different than E-40 has ever done. He has his identical delivery that he has in every song, the same style, same flow, and yeah, the same lyrical content. Most of it still doesn't make any sense, but that seems to be his jam. I've never cared much for the "hyphy" movement, and this doesn't change my mind.



***LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!!***


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Michael Higgins - The Moon and the Lady Dancing

Michael Higgins -
The Moon and the Lady Dancing


Michael Higgins

Smooth jazz to a T. Quiet and rolling through songs at the tempo of the tortoise, Higgins seems completely oblivious of the idea of the "hare".

Slow from beginning to end, and a bit on the self indulgent side (which is basically written into the genre), The Moon and the Lady Dancing is an album that you know from beginning to end before you pick it up. What I'm trying to say is, you already know if you like this or not.

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Kris Kristofferson - The Essential Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson -
The Essential Kris Kristofferson DOUBLE CD


Legacy/Columbia/Sony BMG

Solemn, depressing, and beautiful, Kris Kristofferson's songs will remain timeless until we are all long gone. Lyrically, he is unbeatable: his articulation of hopelessness is as perfect as I've ever heard.


With songwriting that fits the music, and even surpasses the words at points in terms of raw emotions, Kristofferson's best of album is a model for a perfect collection. "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", "Me and Bobby McGee", and "Help Me Make It Through the Night" are my top three favorites from his collection, and are all on here. Two discs of beautiful folk. Get it while you can.



***POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK***

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Prairie Cartel

The Prairie Cartel -
EP1/EP2


Self-Released

I don't know why electro-trash keeps surfacing up as such hits, but somehow it never ends. The Prairie Cartel is better than most, so if you like this genre, I'd say dive headfirst into EP1/EP2.


For me, I could stick with Depeche Mode for the rest of my life and be happy. The Cartel definitely hold elements of the superior masterminds, but incorporate more of the contemporary sound that's surfacing which thrives on points that are as interesting as watching a snail run. Credit for playing "organic" electric instruments in a game that's forgotten them, EP1/EP2 is for those who wish the Rapture would keep releasing mediocre music.

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Guitar Red - Lightnin' In a Bottle

Guitar Red -
Lightnin' In A Bottle


Backspace

Jesus. This is all I've ever wanted. This is blues as perfectly articulated as history has ever given us. It's perfection, through and through.


Guitar Red, real name Billy Christian Walls, is 44, dealing with the hells that are life (alcoholism, drug addiction, heartache, and homelessness), and plays some of the most honest music I have ever heard in my life. Blues is not a genre that really diverges from its preset path, but somehow Lightnin' In A Bottle surpasses everything anyone could hope for. If you like blues, you actually just need to have this. Really.

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A. R. Rahman, Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah & Mahalaxmi Iyer - Slumdog Millionaire (Music from the Motion Picture)

Calhoun -
Falter Waver Cultivate


Many Happy Regrets/Artist Garage/Fontana

Calhoun's Falter Waver Cultivate is one of the better pieces of alternative rock to surface. Like a more restrained Frog Eyes, the band has elements which bore me, but overall create strong texture and emotional buildup in music that is usually so devoid of both.


Interesting guitar playing, vocal melodies that don't make me want to stab myself, and more than a hint of bitter-sweet deprecation ("Apocalypse: A Love Story"), the album is superb for anyone wanting something new.

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Gary Louris - Vagabonds (Bonus Track Version)

Gary Louris -
Vagabonds


Rykodisc

Singer-songwriter styled country tracks from Louris are interesting at best. Obviously heartfelt, by the numbers music for any person who loves shaky vocals and dreary acoustic guitar playing. This is one of those releases which is good, but blends in with all the rest.

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Gary Moore - Bad for You Baby

Gary Moore -
Bad For You Baby


Eagle

Thin Lizzy lead guitar player Gary Moore's new life as a blues rocker consists of doing identical solo's but now overlaying a moving blues bass line. The music is surprisingly similar to his previous work, only separated by the repetition of short progressions and vocal melodies that are, well, signature only to blues.


Every song has out-of-control guitar work which hits like a hurricane, playing faster than most contemporary blues writers of today. I guess this would be great for either fans of hair-rock and blues-rock. Gary Moore tightropes a very thin line between the two.



"SO NICE, GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE"

(created by the original NYC D.J. Jocko, 1955)

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Kelly Richey - Carry the Light

Kelly Richey -
Carry The Light


Sweet Lucy/Select-O-Hits

Blues that does not rely on vocal melodies! Not always a good thing, but in this instance, this is perfect! Songs constructed with originality and talent, and a pair of female vocal chords that bursts a whole new sense of energy into the pure song craftsmanship, Carry The Light constitutes a model for what the blues should hold.


Lots of interesting lead lines, not just noodling, simplistic but straightforward lyrics, and production suited perfectly for this style, this is for electric-blues fans everywhere.

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Josh Boyd and the V.I.P. Band -
Self-Titled


Self-Released

When I say "rock and roll", I mean Jimi Hendrix rock and roll. Josh Boyd and the V.I.P. Band are, like, really late. Blues inspired rock and roll, heavy on the masturbatory guitar playing, and a ball of raw emotion, this first release from the Ohio trio runs like any album of this sort would: songs from beginning to end with that heir of pompous rock vibe that died quickly after Hendrix did. And with a portrait of Jay of "Jay and Silent Bob" fame on the cover, this could be for you.

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Sugarland - Love On the Inside (Deluxe Fan Edition)

Sugarland -
Love on the Inside


Lost Highway/Mercury Nashville/MCA Nashville/UMG

Unfortunately annoying country rock. It has the Nashville sound, mixed with bad pop music and some of the worst country vocals I have heard in a long time. Love on the Inside is just poor taste. Soulless, pointless, and focused on the worst direction of country, I can't really think of much good to say about this.

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Political Song:
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Artist: Bruce Springsteen

Song: Johnny 99

Well they closed down the auto plant in mahwah late that month

Ralph went out lookin for a job but he couldnt find none

He came home too drunk from mixin tanqueray and wine

He got a gun shot a night clerk now they callm johnny 99

Down in the part of town where when you hit a red light you dont stop

Johnnys wavin his gun around and threatenin to blow his top

When an off-duty cop snuck up on him from behind

Out in front of the club tip top they slapped the cuffs on johnny 99



Well the city supplied a public defender but the judge was mean john brown

He came into the courtroom and stared young johnny down

Well the evidence is clear gonna let the sentence son fit the crime

Prison for 98 and a year and well call it even johnny 99

A fist fight broke out in the courtroom they had to drag johnnys girl away

His mama stood up and shouted judge dont take my boy this way

Well son you got a statement youd like to make

Before the bailiff comes to forever take you away



Now judge I had debts no honest man could pay

The bank was holdin my mortgage and they were gonna take my house away

Now I aint sayin that makes me an innocent man

But it was more `n all this that put that gun in my hand



Well your honor I do believe Id be better off dead

So if you can take a mans life for the thoughts thats in his head

Then sit back in that chair and think it over judge one more time

And let `em shave off my hair and put me on that killin line

Bruce Springsteen - Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live 1975-85