Aphrodite Kylie
Astralwerks / EMI

Author:
SAS

She is trying to seduce you. It’s kind of obvious, but that doesn’t mean she’s not hot. This music is designed to make you dance, to give you that ominous, beautiful dream-like vibe that you get when you walk away from the bar and onto the dance floor and the strobes are flashing and the beautiful people are pressing against you and you are sure that this really is going to be a fun night at the club.

OONsa-OONsa-OONsa goes the house music. “All the lovers/
That have gone before/
They don't compare to you,” go the lyrics. And it’s really nothing more than that. The synths are quality, and the timing of the vocals is intuitive. But other than that, it’s your usual dance musician getting her 15 minutes of fame. Still, you might as well enjoy it. So drink up.

Editor’s Note: As long as there are pretty girls, lonely boys, songs to sing… and money to be made, there will be careers like Kylie Minogue’s. A true hero of zesty dance music that has come to the USA from Great Britian, she has always recorded in a mature vein, and now has done it again.

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Recovery Eminem
Shady / Goliath / Aftermath / Interscope / Universal

Author:
SAS

Oh, Eminem. You have grown too old to smooth over your faults with your puppy-dog eyes. You made some hot stuff back in the day, when it still seemed like you had good reason to be angry, and your flow still sounded fresh. But this album is just more of the same with an extra helping of sexism that you spit just to prove that you can. It’s annoying. Your effusively offensive lyrics can no longer be balanced by your image as the poor, charming writer with a lot on his mind. Even some good beats can’t make this tripe worthwhile.

This album declares war against women. No, it simply exposes the fact that so many men attack women everyday, in the form of domestic violence, sexual assault and emotional abuse. It seems like every song involves some kind of violence against women. To hell with you, Eminem. It’s smart of you to make a rap-dance song that acknowledges “white trash” culture. But the interesting part of your music has become so surrounded by sexist bull that it’s impossible to listen to it.

Editor’s Note: Eminem has worked up a psychotic rant that strings together threats against everyone. This time he truly has gone over the edge, showcasing everything that’s great and horrible about Eminem.

Best Album of the Week

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Something for Everybody Devo
Warner Bros.

Author:
SAS

Weird. Weird and lovely. And Devo achieves it just by being so straightforward. This is the technique used by comedians – just tell it how it is, and people will love it. They say it beautifully in “What We Do”: “What we do/Is what we do/It’s all the same/There’s nothing new…Gaming, praying, believing, maintaining/Texting, electing, rejecting, infecting.” The irony is that they may be speaking also of their same old freak-music sound. As always, they are hilarious, narrative and very Devo.

In spite of all the sameness, however, there is a subtle part of this album that is changed. It’s updated from the their 1980s style, like they got modern effects and incorporated some modern musical trends. But they are still from outer space, still clever and still trying their hardest to get you to “whip it good” out on the dance floor.

Editor’s Note: Devo is still a highly elaborate and excellent joke, embarking on a furious, mystic mission to redeem rock of signature “excesses” – passion, rhythm, tunefulness and aspirations.

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Feast of the Hunters’ Moon Black Prairie
Sugar Hill

Author:
SAS

We are all lucky to be living during a time when the folk movement includes a lot of old-time and gypsy music because the sound of it is so darned pleasing and fun to listen too. Black Prairie includes some members from the Decemberists, as well as other musicians from Portland, Oregon. The instruments: accordion, dobro, Weissenborn, bazouki, archtop guitar, acoustic bass, cello and violin. The songs: almost all original. The result: beautiful and haunting, minor-keyed and gyroscopic, moody yet often danceable.

Listening to this mostly instrumental album allows you to completely appreciate the traditional threads Black Prairie skillfully weave into music that can tell a story through melody and harmony alone. When there are vocals, they are subtle, and fit in to the sound of the band like a shining pearl into a bowl of colorful seashells. If you are the type who listens to the music of a band before the lyrics, or if you like burlesque, typewriters, cool felt hats and other things old-timey, you need to check out Feast of the Hunter’s Moon.

Artist to Watch

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Burrrprint 2HD DJ Holiday + Gucci Mane
1017 Brick Squad / Asylum / Warner Bros.

Author:
SAS

This is the hot music coming out in pop rap right now. Hailing from Atlanta, Gucci Mane sounds laid back on the mix-tape, reeling through his lyrics with ease and setting up a chill vibe. Sure, he gets upset or angry here and there, but he always sounds in control. He raps about his life, about the people around him, and his observations acutely tell us about the world that he lives in. Gucci has been in and out of prison, and he uses much of this album to process his prison experiences. In fact, his voice was recorded from jail, a cappella, over the telephone lines.

DJ Holiday holds it down with quality, thumpy beats, portentous strings and scattered well-chosen samples. “Burrrprint 2HD” brings several guests on board throughout the mix-tape, including Ludacris. It’s nice to hear the guest voices, but this thing really is mostly about Holiday and Gucci, so enjoy their intensity and style throughout.

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The Last Concert Roy Orbison
NooN / Eagle Rock

Author:
SAS

Roy Orbison’s work didn’t just span from the 1950s to the 1980s, it musically defined these decades. The peaks of his career were clustered in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and then in the late ‘80s with his joining the Traveling Wilburys and releasing a new solo album. It was just before his death that this album was recorded, in 1988, during a live concert, hence the album’s name, The Last Concert.

His strong, warm, one-of-a-kind hollers will never go out of style. Released on CD for the first time, The Last Concert proves his amazing abilities and music sense. He kept his adored ‘50s and ‘60s sounds alive even while navigating the sometimes grating 1980s’ musical era. Doo-wop, blues and rock hold us entranced through the entire concert, and make us wonder where he would have gone with his music next if he’d had more of a chance to explore the renewed interest, in 1987 and 1988, in his timeless talent.

Editor’s Note: Death is always untimely, but rarely more so than in the case of Roy Orbison, who succumbed to a heart attack in 1988 as his career was moving into high gear for the first time since his glory days in the 1960s. You must, must, and must again, check out the incredible works of Roy Orbison.

Late but Great

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LP4 Ratatat
XL / Matador

Author:
SAS

Brooklyn has produced some amazing artists, including Walt Whitman and the Wu-Tang. And now there is Ratatat. When you hear the music, you fall in love with the music. Not the boys behind the music, not the image of the music, but the audio delirium of the tracks themselves.

LP4 is loveable. It’s no certainly no Classics, but it may grow is size exponentially the more it is listened to. Ratatat’s albums tend to function that way. But until then, enjoy the worldly sounds, trippiness and diversity of this album, which hovers about social commentary without expressing anything concretely. LP4 is sort of like a mellower, less compact LP3. May their string of albums without lyrics continue to baffle and delight us as we forego intellect for a while in favor of visceral engagement.

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W.ants. W.orld. W.omen (W.W.W.) Dwele
RTMG / E1

Author:
SAS

Dwele, our favorite Detroit darling, is doing it again. That is, charming the hell out of us with smart lyrics, a cohesively themed album, and original beats that he primarily produced. He’s positive without letting go of his sharp, heady edge. He’s sexual and political. And his voice is thrilling. What more could you want?

Put this one in your seduction collection, but don’t think that’s all your going to get from Dwele. The lyrics from “My People”: “Homicide: as if we don’t lose enough from the battles going on overseas/Tonight my eyes will burn with the prayer that we will learn to love our people.” And from the self-conscious track “I Wish”: “I wish I made music that appealed to the masses instead of writing lyrics that required poetic classes.” How did Detroit produce such different people as Dwele and Eminem (see Eminem’s Recovery review)?

Mighty Mighty!

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Shoulders of Giants Shoulders of Giants
Independent

Author:
SAS

Moody and wide, Shoulders of Giants are not giants themselves, sounding a bit more humble in demeanor, singing and calling and strumming longingly through each track, focusing on minor keys, allowing drums to edge in on their acoustic style. Shoulders of Giants focuses on Brad Hammonds, the main songwriter on the album. His fingers deftly turn tones from every fret of the guitar, and this forms the core sound on the self-titled album. Band-mate Tom Crowley breaths the vocals warmly into life.

These two guys and the rest of their band will inspire and impress everyone from high-school hipsters to older hippies. Their stuff is benign yet edgy. It’s easy on the ear, dark but melodic. Basically, it meets a common denominator of listening taste without sacrificing quality.

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Sound of the Police Cut Chemist
Independent

Author:
SAS

Cut Chemist of Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli. Cut Chemist of the funk and soul. Cut Chemist, the beat scientist, is now proving his acuity of taste and unfaltering talent with his 41.4 minutes of African- and South American-inspired awesomeness. This is the kind of music that, when heard on the radio, will inspire you to make a desperate call to the station to find out who is playing, even if you’re in the middle of driving across the Bay Bridge at rush hour.

A DJ will not succeed without good samples, and this recording shows that Cut Chemist has them – some well known by the public, others little heard – and that he knows how to use them. You swing around the world from country to country on the ridges of his grooves. This is not a highly groomed album. It wasn’t tweaked endlessly in the recording studio because it was recorded live on the radio. It has that college station feel, full and live. You know it was bumping in the radio booth as the Chemist laid it down, and it will be bumping as your ears lick it up, too.

Let the Good Times Roll

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The Best of Ernie Smith: Original Masters Ernie Smith
Wild Flower / 17 North Parade / VP

Author:
SAS

Reggae/easy listening artist Ernie Smith was active mostly during the 1960s and 1970s, during which time he was a defining element in Jamaican music. As this album takes tracks from different parts of his career, it catches him in the element of soul as well as the whirlwind of reggae.

The entire album will take you back to times when reggae was a unique formulation of acoustic music molded by electric tools, such as the turntable. You may not be too familiar with Smith, but when you hear his stuff, you’ll go “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard him before.” Because his music is so integrated into our idea of what reggae is supposed to be like, we often overlook him. But don’t. He certainly deserves your attention.

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The Liberty Tree: A Celebration of the Life and Writings of Thomas Paine Leon Rosselson & Robb Johnson
PM PressHearth

Author:
SAS

Thomas Paine is the one founding father of the U.S. to truly admire. He was a radical in his day, proposing the abolition of slavery and challenging the concept of institutionalized religion. Today, his writings are still highly relevant. Tom Paine’s words and ideas are thoroughly explored on The Liberty Tree, made accessible and entertaining by leftie British folk artists Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson.

About half of the tracks on this recording are passionate readings of Paine’s works. They are read as if spoken by Paine himself (the British accents help U.S. listeners attain that olden-day feel). The other half of the tracks are songs were written and performed by Rosselson and Johnson. They consist of vocals and simple folk guitar. The result is a not-unpleasant folk sound backing up songs with lyrics sometimes modern, sometimes faux-historic, and always political. The greatness of this album is in the concept, the lyrics and the readings; the folk playing is just a nice bonus to soften the intellectual stimulation.

Political Album of the Week

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Kitty, Daisy & Lewis Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
DH / Mercer Street

Author:
SAS

This Hawaiian family band rocks out, armed with their love for the sounds of the 1940s and 1950s, a multitude of instruments, naturally beautiful vocals and recording equipment selected to mimic that of historic Sun Studios in Memphis and Chess Studios in Chicago. The sound is vintage, simple and danceable. Harmonica and guitar and bangin’ drums interlace with the voices of all three siblings.

But most important is the image radiated from the album. Though the release is an over-dramatized version of real ’40s and ’50s music, it’s a delightful listen that takes you to the rock and roll lore you day dream about. It will make you wish you were young again, ready to follow your romantic nostalgia where it leads you. Rockabilly is truly the new thing for many of today’s rock and rolling youth, and combined with a genuine scratchy record sound and a touch of Hawaii, young Kitty, Daisy & Lewis have found a highly palatable rock equation.

Single of the Week: “Swinging Hawaii”

New Album of the Week

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Timeless Bobby Charles
Rice 'N' Gravy

Author:
SAS

Surrounded by piano, organ, harmonica, drums, guitar and various brass instruments, Bobby Charles and his friends bring us a bluesy, soulful treat that nods its head toward New Orleans’ Fats Domino, a famed rock and roll pianist and a good friend of Charles’s. Since Timeless was recorded, however, Bobby Charles has passed on, and is now survived by his dear friend.

It’s packed with quality songs, some written by Charles, others traditional tunes and still others written by other artists. Some of his songs, such as “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” were written by Charles, but clearly inspired by traditional blues lyrics and styles. Charles and his buddies were seasoned and experienced musicians at the time they recorded Timeless. They are traditional New Orleans R&B with a political consciousness. They are not experimenting. They are sticking with what they know, and doing it exceedingly well.

Single of the Week: “Happy Birthday Fats Domino”

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Casita de Campo Puerto Plata
iASO

Author:
SAS

“Casita de Campo” captures the sounds of the Dominican Republic as Puerto Plata croons in Spanish through 11 songs written during the hard times that prevailed under the rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo (1930 – 1960). However, the songs give us a feeling of hope, of sunshine in a storm. They refuse to back down to power, instead pulling on an air of integrity and, darn it, having fun at the same time.

The several guitars on the album shimmer. These are backed by bass, guira, tambora and bongos. The rhythms are steady and gently danceable. The vocals in the foreground seem to chase longingly after the racing Latin guitar. The entire scene in tropical and present. This would be a great album someone who’s looking to dig into genuine music made by regular people around the world.

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The Mathematics of Love Peter Parcek 3
Vizz Tone / Red Star / Red Eye

Author:
SAS

It’s a relief to finally hear a modern blues guy with some sex in his voice and sick in his guitar. Peter Parcek is fast-paced like Chicago blues, but without any cheese. He is well-produced, but it sounds accidental. He’s sharp as a glass of icy bourbon, and warm as a glass of icy bourbon.

His voice is magnetic. But it must be the band as a whole that makes his new album work so well, because the melodies and coordinated playing are what really do the trick. Riffs that seem to hit you just right are echoed and coddled. Fuzz is turned up just so, drums are hollow and hungry and the bass is steady. The concepts in the songs are not too complex if the lyrics are taken alone. But with implications laid down heavily in the tone of the singing and the twists of the music, the Peter Parcek 3 create something truly deep, dark and lovely.

"So Nice Gotta Do It Up Twice!" (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

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Shade of the Trees Storyhill
Red House

Author:
SAS

Folk duo Storyhill open up their throats to bring you emotive, relaxing songs, seemingly recorded (at least in vibe) up on the hill, under a grove of trees. Their tracks are melancholic, but they don’t fall into a pit of despair. Rather, they are hopeful, stretching out on the backs of harmonica, guitar, and vocal harmonies, and relying on these sounds to deliver them.

The feel of the album is open and acoustic. Dan Wilson produced it, the same man who produced the Dixie Chicks. They sound, well, pretty. And their words are oriented toward the out-of-doors. They have a political bent, which is a nice addition to a folk album, and adds more dimension to already poetic songs. “Shade of the Trees” would go well under the willow with a mug of hot tea.

Single of the Week: “Better Angels”

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Hard Luck Stories Ike Reilly
Rock Ridge

Author:
SAS

Ike Reilly is a slick lounge rocker from the windy streets of Chi-town, and he knows what the kids are talking about these days. That is, rhythm and dirty distortion, trust fund kids and the War on Terror, longing and getting loose. He could play to audience that’s drunk and high and dancing, or one that’s sitting back in red sparkly diner booths; both would love him.

The night life of Chicago would be nothing these days without artists like this, the one who blurt it out about class, sex and drugs, frustration with the baloney of modern society. Reilly could likely succeed in both charming the ladies and repelling the parents while still being easy to listen to and mellow enough to sound absolutely cool.

Single of the Week: “The War on the Terror and the Drugs”

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Inception: Music From the Motion Picture Hans Zimmer
Warner Bros.

Author:
SAS

This is a creepy ride through a creepy movie – but without any of the words or pictures. It’s a cinematic score, and experienced composer Hans Zimmer wrote it. He also wrote the scores for “The Dark Night,” “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Lion King.” He’s good. He presents a good feel for what the movie must have been like, and is able to play with your emotions like a seven-year-old plays with a bucket of Legos.

It’s hard to guess when or where you’d actually want to play this album. It’s not the kind of thing you’d relax to in your living room. But if you ever want to go for a drive at night and pretend you have an important task to accomplish before a time bomb goes off, give Zimmer a chance. He’ll have you lifted half out of your seat, looking for bad guys and saving day.

If You Love Music, You’ll Love This!

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Trailer II Chris Knight
Drifter's Church

Author:
SAS

A heavy country accent, a lonesome guitar and the image of a dusty road define Chris Knight’s recent release, “Trailer II.” He sings with honesty, bemoaning his lost direction and upset love schemes. However, he sounds as if he’s been around the block a few times, as if he’ll be able to prop himself back up once he finds a true love and an old automobile.

In the meantime, he’ll be writing the country blues and telling us the stories behind his woes. He’ll be okay as long as he has a guitar. He’ll lean in close to mic and close his eye before he opens his mouth. This is genuine country, and he sure does know the blues. You won’t get anything but the real thing from Mr. Knight.

Editor’s Note: After earning an agriculture degree from Western Kentucky University, Knight went to work in land reclamation, but in 1986, he heard Steve Earle on the radio and decided to try his hand at writing songs. The rest is glorious history. My friend Tony 2 Fingers, New York City’s Italian hitman, says that if you don’t check out this dude’s music, he will check you out.

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No Better Than This John Mellencamp
Rounder

Author:
Sophia A Strosberg

The texture is like sweet fresh earthen grit. The tempo is mellow, almost hazy. The words are sharp, bluesy. John Mellencamp is stepping down from his role as a polished star with pop radio fans, and moving into the delicious underbelly of American folk. “No Better Than This” was actually recorded at several historic spots, including the First African Baptist Church in Savanna, Sun Studios in Memphis and the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio.

He recorded with a vintage machine from 1955, in mono, with one mic. This, and the inspiration he drew from his recording locations, explains the fantastically rustic sound of the album. Nice choice, John Mellencamp. The aesthetics of 1940s and 1950s blues music are something special, and Mellencamp has made himself into a living, breathing olden-day musician.  

Editor’s Note: John Mellencamp has created another group of guitar-based rock and folk songs about the shattered dreams of America’s common folk. He has joined forces with Willie Nelson and Neil Young to create farm aid during the mid-1980s. Which talks about huge corporations, forcing our chickens, etc. into tight quarters, where they create unhealthy eggs. Here’s to the small farmer, and here’s to John, Willie and Neil. 

 

Single of the Week: “Clumsy Ol’ World”

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