Issue: #368


Eminem "Relapse Refill DOUBLE CD SET," Aftermath/Interscope/Universal


  • Passion Pit "Manners," Frenchkiss/Startime/Columbia/Sony
  • Various Artists "Africa," Putumayo
  • Angie Stevens "Queen of this Mess," Boss Koala
  • Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst "Topanga Ranch Motel," Silent City
  • Bob Rodriguez "Portraits," Art of Life

Mary J. Blige "Stronger With Each Tear," Matriach/Geffen/Universal

Shutting down any possible doubt that Blige is truly one of a kind, Stronger With Each Tear is an r&b album like no other. Not only does this album trump any attempt at high-energy soul that has arisen in the past, but the intensity and pure elegance that Blige pulls off with this release rivals Like a Virgin or Thriller.

As expected, the entire album consists of electronic production, but seeing as she can afford the best production money can buy, Stronger With Each Tear allows for this technical low point to be overlooked by the sheer energy and addictive nature of this masterpiece.

*****Shelton's Single of the Week: "So Far From The Clyde"*********

EDITOR'S NOTE: Her authoritative and no-bull delivery has made her one of the important new voices - a bridge between the R&B world and the hip-hop nation, she has pioneered the movement that became neo-soul.

Human Nature "Reach Out," Sony/RED

Yes, this is THE Human Nature. And, finding their niche within the doo-wop sound, a logical covers album was in order. And man, this is as good as you could imagine.

Temptations, Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, The Four Tops...all on here, done just about as well as the original. While I'm usually against these sorts of things, this album is absolutely fantastic. And it doesn't hurt that these are some of the best songs ever written to begin with.

*****Shelton's Single of the Week: "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"*********

Eminem "Relapse Refill DOUBLE CD SET," Aftermath/Interscope/Universal

The mastermind behind the biggest disses of the early 21st century, Eminem, has come off his five year hiatus in what the world, lovers and haters alike, pray to be the most ostentatious and outlandish record to ever be released.

Relapse's opening, a nightmare-ish scene of Shady's drug abuse counselor pushing the recover-ie back into using, drives right into typical Eminem fashion of offensive renditions of what most of the world has come to be called "hip-hop" but looks more like a freakshow coming from his mouth.

No one is safe from his attacks, exacerbated by his colossal Oedipus complex, but the real question is: is that enough this time?

Relapse, still proving Eminem's gift for story-telling, falls short in his actual ability to create the hook driven and infectiously uncomfortable lyrics, measuring the album a few steps below his using-years. The second release of this album, entitled Relapse Refill, unleashes an extra 7 songs. None of which are especially memorable, but compared to the warpath Eminem has laid in the past, very little will achieve the unforgettable nature as songs about domestic violence and suicide.

******BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK*********

Shelton's Single of the Week: "Hung Up"

EDITOR'S NOTE: Eminem shows a penchant for arresting detail; a remarkable ability to switch between conversionational flow, left-flow role-playing, or rage-fueled torrents at a moment's notice; and bouts of surprising self-awareness. He's done it again.

Adam Steffey "One More For The Road," Sugar Hill

When country/bluegrass is done right, very little in the world can compare. Steffey's One More For The Road is a shining example of this. Folky vocals lead the banjo and finged picked melodies that are the signature of this release, refusing to back down for a second as the intensity builds through each track. I couldn't hope for more from a record.

Orianthi "Believe," Geffen/UMG

So when the shock of seeing a pop musician playing their own instrument wore off, I couldn't help but wonder if the world really needs another Orianthi. While I cannot deny the catchyness of "According To You", or the impressiveness of performing on tours with both Prince and Michael Jackson, the fact remains that these tracks are anything but original.

I would be hard-pressed to believe that she wrote these songs herself (not that I doubt her musical ability, but when songs are routinely recycled through the mainstream, you can't help but call conspiracy...) and that any of them are written about real people. Seems like someone else is playing Lou Pearlman's game.

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

Andy Narell and Relator "University of Calypso," Heads Up/Concord

I have to be honest: I know next to nothing about calypso. I know what it sounds like, I know that, in terms of sound, it is one of the most lively and exciting things that has graced the world, but I couldn't really tell you the history or notables.

Hence the beauty of Narell and Relator's University of Calypso. The sound is exactly what I know of Calypso, complete with jazz guitar hand in hand with steel drums, and the signature vocal melody that runs throughout. For the ignorant types like me, this will do you a world of good.

Neil Young "After The Gold Rush," Reprise/Warner Bros.

Much like Born To Run, After The Gold Rush is an album that surpasses the artist. The album is perfect: from the wandering-folk opening "Tell Me Why" through his first vocal shift to a lower register on "Cripple Creek Ferry," the album encompasses everything that made Neil Young great. This is the best introduction to one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history.

************LATE BUT GREAT***********

*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Southern Man"**********

EDITOR'S NOTE: The most durable and independent of rock's elder visionaries, he's taken unpredictable twists and turns all through his career while gaining a certain eccentric wisdom along the way.

Days of Fire "Losing All," Razor & Tie

Christian rock like any other. Some catchy melodies, sure, but beyond that this album is uninspiring as sugar-free gum. Lots of regurgitated concepts and themes and literally nothing that caught my interest for more than a few seconds. Beneath the distortion, the forced emotion, and the sound that was fixated in modern culture by Creed, this band is a bag of bland.

Hatebreed "Self-Titled DOUBLE CD SET," E1

It's amazing that a band that peaked on it's second album could convince a label to put out a sixth. The self-titled double CD is exactly what you would expect from Hatebreed, and by extension, any band playing the mainstream metal circuit: mediocre breakdown leading into nu-metal breakdown into another mediocre breakdown.

I just wish that there was something about hardcore that still endowed the intensity and fear that Perseverance did.

**************MIGHTY MIGHTY**********************

Edward Rogers "Sparkle Lane," Zip

I'd heard that Rogers was doing work for television shows, but I had no idea that he had the intuition to make an album this good. Beatles-esq rock and roll, but focusing less on the sound than the themes and style. Produced just enough to make everything sound better, but not detract from the songwriting, this is what I would hope all pop music coming out today would sound like.

*******Shelton's Single of the Week: "SEEING STARS WITH PATTY GRIFFIN"**********

Various Artist "Pool Party!: Summertime Songs For Cookouts & Cocktails," Starbucks/Universal

A compilation of those classic songs that are on repeat in any television show about growing up or the '60s. Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata," Ray Charles "Hit The Road Jack," and Dick Dale's "Surf Beat" basically exemplifies this album to a T: tracks that a majority of it's listeners would never own otherwise, but collect into a mix of accessible mainstream hits. All the tracks are unforgettable, and while this is certainly not what would be on at my BBQ, the album still has more solid timeless hits than any other released in 2009.

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

Old Californio "Westering Again," Californio/Parasol

Driving, country-influenced rock and roll. Saying that Old Californio is doing it right would be an understatement: this band has accidently stumbled across one of the most perfect styles of rock music.

While not quite CCR, the band manages to tap into that underlying energy that made the band as awesome as they were. So while it is missing the screams and guitar solos that made CCR the perfect band, this band is going to have to deal with taking second place.

Nobel Voices "For Disarmament," Smithsonian Folkways Consisting of speeches under the 5-minute mark about nuclear disarmament from Nobel Price winners, this album resonates a deep sense of awe and terror from within these short lectures.

Each come from a unique perspective of genius, and each carry the weight of the dangers of our doomed path, from 1901 to the present. While this isn't something I'd recommend listening to on a regular basis, this is nonetheless an incredibly powerful set of recordings.

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

******Shelton's Single of the Week: "The Freedom Come-All-Ye"*************


The Cribs "Ignore The Ignorant," Warner Bros.

Johnny Marr, guitarist of legendary The Smiths and newest member of the Cribs, is quoted as comparing the band to Buzzcocks, Nirvana, and The Ramones. While this is so far off base that it feels like Marr is playing a different game entirely, Ignore The Ignorant does tap into the energy and emotion that is the staple of classic alternative rock bands since the early '90s.

And it's not just the catchy guitar lines, or the ambient hum resonating throughout, or even the noticeable energy produced with each track, but the general geniousness of the songwriting. More like what I wished the Smiths sounded like, The Cribs have hit the arrow right on the mark.

South Memphis String Band "Home Sweet Home," Memphis International/Merless

Folk how folk should be played. Minimal production, songs from the heart, and a repertoire of originals and covers, Home Sweet Home is just fantastic from beginning to end. Voiced through mandolin, banjo, guitar, and the wails of the musicians themselves, this album is as good as bluegrass folk can get.

**************** NEW ALBUM OF THE WEEK**********

EDITOR'S NOTE: They go to a place outside themselves, sitting under the stars or all of a sudden there's a hailstorm.

Buffy Sainte-Marie "Running For The Drum CD/DVD SET," Gypsy Boy/Appleseed/EMI

Releasing over 20 albums since the '60s, Buffy Sainte-Marie is not getting the attention she deserves. While self-described as "folk", this is anything but, and I'm surprised that something like this hasn't become huge in the underground indie-scene.

I cannot think of anything that sounds quite like this: combining notions from early punk and Ani Difranco, and incorporating native folk sounds (primarily through extensive percussion), the album smooths all of the influences into a homogenous sound. But the production really takes it: vocal loops, over-the-top reverb, and tricks that I have honestly never heard before. This should be the next big thing.

EDITOR'S NOTE: One of my true heroes. Her singing is so unique it's like speaking. She's completely naked within a song.

Paul Taylor "Burnin'," Peak/Concord

Funk-jazz with very little substance. Think a bit more upbeat Kenny G with the softer-end of Boyz 2 Men layed on top, and a saxophone line that doesn't stop from beginning to end of the album. I'm sure someone likes this, but this is certainly not for me.

Garvin Bushell And His Friends "One Steady Roll," Delmark

Fantastic soulful jazz from the late Garvin Bushell. Unlike a lot of the jazz of today, Bushell's compositions are fluid, smooth, and are composed in just the way that not a moment seems out of place or awkward.

And, with the added bonus of Barbara Lashley's unbelievable vocal ability, this album is bumped from "great" to "breathtaking".

"SO NICE GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE" (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

EDITOR'S NOTE: He drives around aimlessly - feeling there's no way to be in his kind of hell, no way to extinguish a
flame that burns, burns, burns.

The Aggregation "Groove's Mood," DBCD

Big band swing. Upbeat, with a heavy dose of horns, but luckily holding onto the reigns hard enough to not over-do it. Honestly, there is no better word to describe this than fun. Pure, steady fun.

******Shelton's Single of the Week: "Why I'm Leaving"*************

Mark Isham + Kate Ceberano "Bittersweet," MIM

Slow, sullen jazz. Sullen, wandering vocal lines from the fabulous Kate Ceberano linger over Isham's equally emotional horn lines.

While every track entails the same characteristics, each piece is wonderful enough to make you wish the album will never end. Stellar.

The Cast of Glee Club "Glee: The Music Volume 2," Fox/Columbia/Sony

With the misery that endowed the first volume of Glee, I couldn't have imagined it could get any more painful. And while it hasn't leaped into new categories of torment such as Brokencyde, it hasn't gotten much better either.

But with a whole other disc of autotuned covers, scientifically extracting any ounce of heart put into these songs and prepackaged in "Endless Love" "Don't Stand So Close To Me," or "You Can't Always Get What You Want," this album is nothing short of a nightmare.

***************If You Like Music You're Gonna Love This******************

******Shelton's Single of the Week: "INVINCIBLE"*************


Artist: John Lennon
Song: "Power To The People"

Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on

Say we want a revolution
We better get on right away
Well you get on your feet
And on the street

Singing power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on

Oh, when your man is working for nothing
You better give 'em what they really own
We got to put you down
When we come into town

Singing power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on

I'm gonna ask you comrade and brother
How do you treat your own woman back home
She got to be herself
So she can give herself

Singing power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on

Oh well, power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on, etc.