I Will Stand By You: The Essential Collection The Judds
Curb

Author:
Kyle Forrest

If you really like the Judds, you probably already own at least one of the numerous Greatest Hits comps that have tugged at fans heartstrings over the years but ended up offering little more than a convenient way to replace a few of the favorite tracks after the last time some asshole broke your passanger-side window and made off with your wallet of discs.

With "I Will Stand By You: The Essential Collection," Curb Records does, indeed, offer that sort of convenience, with tidily re-mastered tape of an even dozen true hits by the mother / daughter duo. But, to my surprise, it also goes beyond convenient packaging by serving up two new tracks that give a teaser of what fans can expect from the upcoming Judds nationwide tour.

Of those two tracks, by far the best is the closer, "Back Home," which succeeds in demonstrating the endurance of that classic intermingling of voices, and also pulls in the rootsy tones of Alison Krauss, who is featured on the track. This being the first new material that Naomi and Wynonna have released together in over a decade makes it sure to sell some copies; the fact that it is actualy quite lovely is the real treat.

Editor's Note: Their music combines elements of traditional country harmony singning, bluegrass and Appalachian folk with pop, rock and polished production. Moreover, Wynonna's powerful, blusey, often sexy lead vocals established her as one of the finest country singers of her era. What a glorious treat to see them together again.

Single of the Week: "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)"

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

The Wax Still Drips Stackabones
Independent

Author:
KF

Stackabones has been serving up stoney, cosmic jams for over two decades now, first in Austin, Tx, and more recently in the home of all things stoney and cosmic (the home, also, of this critic) in Santa Cruz, Ca. They have long found fans in that subset of Deadheads that prefer simple, sincere songwriting to pyrotechnical guitar solos. Of late that has increasingly included all manner of folks who admire the ethos and the esthetics that transformed a trippy little bluegrass band from the Height into a permanently traveling gypsy caravan but can't bring themselves to enjoy the hard-rock and hip-hop inflected sounds of Phish et al and will never feel truly at home in the sea of cowboy hats at Roots / Americana festivals.

If that, admittedly narrow gamut, seems to describe you, then you will surely find a lot to like on "The Wax Still Drips." Lead guitarist Jim Brighton is the driving force of Stackabones these days, though you will quickly notice that many of the song credits are shared with former front man Butch Zito. That's because a number of the tracks on are new takes on songs that date back to Stackabones's early days in Austin. Among these is the crowd-pleasing "Tall Grass," which has, here, been stretched to 13 minutes of twinkling lackadaisical jam session a la mid '70s live takes on "Dark Star," but overlain with playfully produced spoken word excerpts and snippets of conversation. The effect hints at what it might feel like to listen to Stackabones knock this one out at a party: maybe somewhere in Marin County or the Sierra foothills, hauled out on a picnic blanket, stoned, the band is wailing away, but all the people keep milling about, chatting, not disrespectfully. The music played, in such a scene, sets the tone for conviviality and enjoyment, but it's just part of the bigger picture. Maybe that's what I find so charming about Stackabones: they're talented as all get up, but they're really here to be a part of the party, not above it.

Editor's Note: Excellent album with knockout lead guitar tracks.

Single of the Week: "Golden Coconut"


Sing it Loud k.d. lang & the Siss Boom Bang
Nonesuch / Warner Bros

Author:
KF

Alright, I was never a fan. When I'd hear kd lang on the radio stations in my rednecked home town I was always impressed that an out of the closet lesbian could get airplay on the country stations, but that's about where the impression stopped. And it pretty much continued that way until a couple years back, on a road trip to the South West, my buddy put on a mix that included lang's take on the Leonard Cohen great, "Bird on A Wire." It's a pretty obvious song to cover, of course, and was absolutely requisite on "Hymms of the 49th Parallel," (the concept album from which it comes—in which lang covers a swath of the great Canadian singer-songwriters). But there was something else going on there, something that made me want to hear more and more from her.

Saddly, kd lang doesn't put records out very often. And her last one, "Watershed," didn't entirely do it for me. But here, accompanied by her touring band The Siss Boom Bang, lang kicks out the jams in her characteristically cool, subdued manner. Much less "country" than it is some absorbtion and redistribution of popular american music more generally, "Sing it Loud," is marked by soothing vibratto, resonant spacey guitar sounds and snappy rhythms.

Favorites include "Sugar Buzz," which picks at the late Beatles playbook while retaining a focus on lang's pipes, and "Heaven," a smart, slow and sassy cover of the classic Talking Heads number.

Editor's Note: She posesses one of the finest voices in pop music and is also blessed with the sort of stylistic range most singers can only dream of attaining.

Best Album of the Week!

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Putumayo Presents Jazz Various Artists
Putumayo

Author:
KE

Putumayo’s collection of classic Jazz brings you no-fail jazz greats, mostly from the fifties period.  Some of these recordings have never been recorded with such high quality sound, so this will be attractive even if you already own some of these songs on different albums.  

The album starts with a favorite “My Baby Just Cares for Me” by the inimitably expressive low tenor of  Nina Simone.   This tune was her most popular (sadly, she sold the rights for $3,000, missing out on hundreds of thousands).  Still, the show must go on! Next up is Nat King Cole’s  “Deed I Do,: an early hit he performed with the King Cole Trio.  Soon after we get the distinctive deep, gravelly, tuneful signature voice of Louis Armstrong accompanied with technical brilliance and melodic inventiveness by Oscar Peterson, “the Maharaja of the keyboard,” as Duke Ellington called him on “I Was Doing Alright.” 

Next the classic “Someone to Watch Over Me by George and Ira Gershwin is played by  tenor” saxophonist Zoot Sims, one of the strongest swingers of his time.  (Sidenote cool trivia, Zoot has played on some of Jack Kerouac’s recordings and his name was appropriated by the sax playing Muppet.)  Then coolness itself,  Chet Baker delivers a  dreamy version of “There Will Never be Another You.”   

 The debauched cool continues with ultimate hep jazz vocalist Anita O’ Day , “the jezebel of jazz,” who comes in sultry and strong with her rhythmic, dynamic version of “It Don’t Mean a  Thing” (More cool trivia: the name  O’Day was chosen because its pig latin for “dough” slang for money).  Next up, we hear autodidactic gospel swing pianist Hampton Hawes expressive version of “Sermon” (Not so cool trivia: the last three performers have in common heroine addiction.   “Sermon” was originally recorded between Hawes trial and sentencing for heroine possession, for which he got 5 years before being pardoned by John F. Kennedy!) 

But after winter “They Say its Spring,” and Blossom Dearie’s airy refreshing  phrasing confirms this change of season  (Sort of cool trivia:  her voice is so refreshing that an advertisement jingle she sang for Hires Root Beer became a hit that could be ordered for a dollar and a proof of purchase and so innocent that she become a regular singer for Schoolhouse Rock!, performing such lessons as "Mother Necessity","Figure Eight"and "Unpack Your Adjectives.”)  There’s more to this album but I think I need to say no more to show just how classic this album is.  Just buy this thing!

Editor's Note: Putumayo, my favorite label, has done it again. Some day they will hire me.

Single of the Week: Billie Holiday "Lover Come Back To Me"

Purchase from Amazon

Follow Me Down Sarah Jarosz
Sugar Hill

Author:
KF

When the debut full length "Song Up In Her Head" came out a couple years back, Jarosz seemed perfectly positioned to capture the hearts of the many different stripes of folks that make up the motley crew who we refer to, shorthand, as a "bluegrass community." She has plenty of Texan authenticity to appease the codgers, plenty of spunk to appease the punks, and a truly healthy dose of that high and lonely shit to put smiles on the faces of all those aging hippies. NPR and Rolling Stone both referred to her as "a contemporary bluegrass prodigy" the week that she graduated high school.

Now she's back, and though still not old enough to get into the bars where a lot of her competition got their starts, Jarosz's sophomore effort is characterized by substantive maturity. A dose of that maturity is due to a predictable effort to outgrow her teeny bopper image, but more of it, much more if it, grows out of sophisticated songwriting and worldly narratives of love, philosophy, weariness and the old weird America.

Sure favorites from "Follow Me Down," include "Annabelle Lee," (a contemporary rendering that pulls from traditional English folk ballads) and "The Tourist," (an bluegrass / roots cover of, that's right, Radiohead).

Artist to Watch

Purchase from Amazon

Welding Burns Rod Picott
Magic Rat Music

Author:
KE

Maine based Rod Picott’s Welding Burns brings out the gritty struggles of the working man and is more understated and subtle than much of contemporary country music in the same vein.  This autobiographical album about blue collar experiences, such as being the son of a welder and working as a sheet rocker.  The songs feel rough and ready, tell sad stories.  Crying into your whiskey is suggested, but not in a maudlin way.  Its music for quietly and stoically crying into your whiskey. 

A highlight is “Rust Belt Fields;” this collaboration with boyhood friend Slaid Cleaves is melodically complete and lovely, making good use of  sparse guitar backing and expressive but not over-dramatic about working class hard times.  Also good are the mournful and haunting “Black T-shirt” and “Still I Want You Bad,” an intimate song with underlying intensity.  Overall, this is a restrained album with subtle but rich and warm instrumentation and arrangements.  Oh, and if you’ve ever had a fantasy of leaving the trials of the big city behind and retiring to the simple life with a big hunky country boy, you might want to insert a picture of Roy Picott into that little daydream.  Google his picture and you’ll see what I mean. 


Get Me Some Jeff Healey Band
Eagle Rock

Author:
KF

When Jeff Healy passed away a few years back he was still known best, outside a relatively small number of dedicated fans, for the part he played in the 1989 Patrick Swayze film "Road House." Healy was the blind guitarist guy... Who leads the in-house band for the bar where Swayze works? If that doesn't ring a bell, maybe the hook from his hit single of the era, "Angel Eyes," would.

Healey, who passed away at the uncommonly young age of 41, had returned to recording in 2000 after a number of years of focusing on playing gigs and on his jazz show on Canadian Public Radio. The resulting album was "Get Me Some." Though often noted for it's switch to "Jazz" from "the Blues" (as though the two could be parsed out so easily as that), "Get Me Some," is filled with tracks that blend genres into a pulsating package of groove.

Though "Get Me Some," has long been available for fans in the states as an "import" the current release of the record by Eagle Rock Entertainment marks the first official release of this beloved Healey album in the US.

Editor's Note: The enduring hymm of solice and promise has carried us through the grief of losing Jeff well before his time.


Late But Great

Purchase from Amazon

Art of the Improviser Matthew Shipp
Thirsty Ear

Author:
KE

Matthew Shipp’s two part album is an adventurous commemoration to a brilliant career of truly free jazz, harkening back to, in my view, the best period of free jazz history with the likes of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor.  This album is being released to commemorate Shipp’s 50th birthday and shows him in different contexts, first in a trio with drummer Whit Dickey and bassist Mike Bisio and then as in a solo performance. 

The first track with the trio “The New Fact”  is especially notable for an epic bass solo that connotes the work of Jimmy Garrison.  This is followed by the beautifully creepy “3 in 1” that can be likened to a crooked Thelonious Monk influenced leit motif in what would be my favorite horror movie if it existed.  The  crashing crescendo is so hard-core that I probably couldn’t watch the blood curdling finale of the movie though.  “Circular Temple”  is a pointilistic masterpiece, at once minimalist and maximalist as it thrust forth  tense aggressive arpeggios oscillating with spacey drifts, finally exploding into an ode to Billy Strayhorn’s performance of “Take the a Train.”  Shipp’s solo piano disc is more spare, architectural and ordered but just as beautiful and inventive.  Overall, this is just a tremendous album that honors one of the great jazz performers of our time. 

Purchase from Amazon

Numbers Alan Merrill
MEC

Author:
KF

"Numbers" is something of a mystery to me, even as I hold it in my hands and turn my eyes to the full streaming light of the interweb for clues. Made up equally of odd ball and major release recordings from Merrill's work in the '70s, the disc initially appears to be a sort of "greatest hits" for a guy who only really ever had one great hit.

That song, "I Love Rock N Roll," is included here, in all its teen pop rock glory, but if you had asked me yesterday who had written it I would have been utterly unable to come up with the name Alan Merrill. Somehow I thought that Alice Cooper had recorded that one. Regardless, the song, which Merrill has described as his own "knee-jerk reaction to the Stones' song 'I know it's only Rock N Roll (but I like It),'" is irrepressible and an important part of any collection of early glam.

But the rest of the collection that Merrill has presented, all of which is thought to originate from '70s master tapes, is downright strange. Wandering funky grooves and electric blues tunes are intermixed with pop inflected hard rock and convincingly bizarre glam tracks sung in Japanese. These last are my favorites of the mammoth collection (numbering fully 20 tracks): "Automatic Pilot," would lean too heavily on Bowie's guitar tones and staccato riffs if it weren't so good, and "Sands of Time," seems to have been forgotten, somehow, when Sophia Coppola brainstormed the soundtrack for "Lost In Translation.

Single of the Week: "Helium Hag"

"Let the Good Times Roll"

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

S/T The Head and the Heart
Sub Pop

Author:
KE

First Seattle then the world.  This has happened once before in the age of grunge.  Will there be a second coming of Seattle madness with The Heart and the Head?   At this point the band is in a weird liminal zone between obscurity and fame-- they have opened for full-on famous people, David Bazan and Dave Matthews for instance.  But still, they’re not all that well known outside of Seattle.  Yet. 

But here’s the thing,  I want to protect this band from the kind of popularity they could be headed for.  As it is now, they hang on the precipice between the secular and the divine.  Will they become a very competent ,well produced indie product or will they rise to the heights of a lovely, melodic, rootsy heaven.  Songs like “Rivers and Roads”  are moving, sad and beautifully textured, a heavenly Appalachian melancholy.   And the song “Ghosts” brings back many happy hours of listening to The Kinks pop heaven.  “Honey Come Home,” pays tribute to Simon and Garfunkle in a way that is, well heavenly.  But then we leave this dreamy heaven and come back to the secular realm, where the melancholy sound becomes more rote and competent, such as in the less original song  “Lost in My Mind”  and the too-easy “Sounds Like Hallelujah.”   I’m pretty sure that Head and the Heart will become well known and well loved, but I hope that they use all of their head and heart to take the more difficult and rewarding road to popularity. 

Purchase from Amazon

Fly Down Little Bird Mike Seeger & Peggy Seeger
Appleseed

Author:
KF

Mike and Peggy Seeger don't simply come from the moment of the Folk Revival in the late '50s; in so many ways they built that moment. Along with their elder, and more famous, half-brother Pete Seeger, Mike and Peggy grew up immersed in the traditional music of the American South, watching and listening as their mother toiled to transcribe field recordings made by family friend Alan Lomax.

It's now been over 50 years since the "Folk Revival," (more than double the time that "folk" spent buried in basements and hill country or what have you) and Mike Seeger, who was always passionately obsessed with introducing popular audiences to the sounds of those traditional song, is still singing his gospel from the grave. Seeger passed away from cancer shortly after recording this last record with Peggy.

Though vibrantly funny and cuttingly political as ever, Mike Seeger's voice is notably strained and ghostly at points on the record. Peggy, however, sounds as fresh as spring flowers, and leads her brother, in this, the ninth album that the two recorded together, through the familiar twists and turns of songs that the two have sung together since childhood.

This is a touching and prescient album from two great treasures of the American folk left.

Political Allbum of the Week

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

California Kicks Fight Fair
Triple Crown

Author:
KE

Recently, my friend put a post on her Facebook page about new Hollywood films entitled “Are they Kidding?”  which asked the question are they kidding?  Meaning, are these films so bad they’re good?  This super bouncy Beach Boys meets The Ramones album throws together every cliché about California girls,  California beaches, California blonds, California girls’ butts, California surfing in sum California “fun.”  The band originates from the heart of California culture, San Diego state.  Ugh.

The first reaction of the typical listener would be that this album is super infectious, fun, archetypal California but really plastic and vacuous.  But, here’s the thing, there is no way these guys are not kidding.  Exhibit A. The references to Inn and Out and Taco Bell.  Exhibit B:  A song called “SexyFancyMoney” Exhibit C: countless statements that girls are desirable because their clothes are designer such as this one: “Oh girl you look so good in designer jeans.” Exhibit D:  Lines like: “Oh man I love my friends and the good times that we got”    And, pretty much every other detail of the album is yet another convincing exhibit.  Having spent my formative years in Southern California, I actually think this album is pretty funny.  The thing about Southern California culture, is that it gets really boring criticizing it any kind of serious way after junior high, so you wait out the rest of your jail time  entertaining yourself with increasingly coy and obscure digs at the culture until you’re so outside that you’re inside that you’re outside, ad infinitum.  Until its time to go to Taco Bell and/or Northern California.    

Purchase from Amazon

A World with No Skies Slaine
Suburban Noize /5th

Author:
KF

With 18 full tracks of dark beats and darker rhymes, Slaine (of La Coka Nostra fame) has released a serious collection of hip-hop that should draw attention to his capacity to dominate a stage as a solo act or otherwise.

As the title suggests, "A World with No Skies" is characterized by the sort of grimy, violent, morose tone that has long been so core to the sound of the corner of the Boston rap scene that Slaine shares with Cypress Hill and Jaysaun. And though listening to "No Skies," nobody would doubt that Slaine has been through his share of the heavy shit he sings about, his recent successes (including a budding acting career) lend substantial credibility to the obligatory claims to be "the hottest / the greatest / the best."

 

Debut Album of the Week

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Volume 1 The Dunn Boys
Independent

Author:
KE

I did not guess when I woke up this morning that I would be reviewing Celtic rock by a family of hockey playing, beer drinking Candians, quelle surprise!  Two notes in you will say, these guys listen to f-ck load of Pogues.  And is this a bad thing?  You know what they say, if you can’t make it in hockey, start playing Irish music with your dad and brothers.  That’s a Canadian expression, which is why it doesn’t sound familiar but one taken to heart by Jason Dunn of punk pop band Hawk Nelson who wrote the songs and performs vocals, mandolin, guitar and piano.   

Beginning with a playful marching chant  “Mullac Abu”  pointing to the slightly parodic nature of the whole project, the album segues into “Nova Scotia,” a perfectly infectious  Pogues –a-like McPunk.   With battle ballads, boozy traveling songs, these Irish-Canadians tearily show how they miss their homeland, and they express their nostalgia with melancholy aplomb.  A highlight is the love song Rosaline that features a heart melting mandolin solo by Dunn and the party number “Norland” reminiscient of Flogging Molly.   As the Canadians say, “Lets get sloshed on Guinness and listen to The Dunn Boys, eh?”

Purchase from Amazon

Roses at the End of Time Eliza Gilkyson
Red House Records

Author:
KE

Eliza Kilkyson is passionate about the state of the world, and this album lets you know exactly where she stands.  The well-respected Austin based singer songwriter’s songs have been recorded and performed by stars like Rosanne Cash, Tom Rush and Joan Baez and this album turns its attention to the havoc wrecked by the financial crisis and the everyday struggles of people coping with it.  She is not afraid to look starkly at the world and sees it as one “poised on the edge of moral, economic and environmental bankruptcy.”   

 The songs are passionate but the album doesn’t feel didactic.  “Death in Arkansas” is a rootsy well-phrased song that shows a great sense of craft and melody.  Songs like “Belle of the Ball,” about a girl’s fragmentary memories of her mother, show an acute sense of mood and feeling.  The corrido “Vayan al Norte,” about the unjust plight of undocumented workers, has the lovely, troubadour feel of songs off of Leonard Cohen’s album Songs of Love and Hate.  I must say that while I love the message of  “Once I had a Home,” a song about the difficulties of displacement in the Middle East, it is a little heavy on the treacle for my taste.  Overall, Roses at the End of Time shows a passionate and mature performance by a thoughtful woman attuned to the key issues in her world.

Editor's Note: Eliza Gilkyson provides graceful plain-spoken faith in the power of a world, united in imagination and purpose, to repair and change itself.

Single of the Week: "Midnight on Raton"

Purchase from Amazon

...For We Are Many All That Remains
Razor & Tie

Author:
KF

There was a moment in the late '90s when all over the country, young men who had been brought up on hair metal and grunge rock started to realize that neither machismo nor silliness was ever going to get them laid. They needed to act more serious. More arty. More emotionally mature. In short, more emo.

The result, in small towns and big cities alike, was a profusion of emo-core. In more recent years the genre has taken up the equally silly moniker "metal-core," but it is basically the same recipe: mix equal parts chug-a-chug East Coast HC, steaming metal blast beats, and plantively poetic lyrics (both screamed and sung) and get modest looking haircuts and lots of tatoos.

All That Remains has long been the lords of the genre. And for good reason: they kick a lot of ass. On stage or on almost all of their many studio albums, ATR has a reputation for pleasing fans with axe grinding solos and making new friends with their unique blend of the core ingredients listed above. Their 2010 release "For We Are Many," returns for another helping, but has thus far failed to find the wide audience that has made ATR a stand-out in the crowded scene in recent years. Record execs will blame shifting trends or the uncompromising hardcore tone of the record for alienating potential buyers, but if there is something truly off about "For We Are Many," it resides in the marketing. Each of the two singles released, "Hold On," and "The Last Time," veer strongly to the commercial metal range of the band's repetoir. The later of these is virtually undistinguishable, in tempo, distortion and songstructure from the sort of pop-metal shlock that the industry had deformed to in the early '90s. ATR will do well to reconnect with their base—which is both huge and loyal—and recall those lessons of their youth: be serious, be art, be emotionally mature, get laid.

Single of the Week: "Dead Wrong"

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

Purchase from Amazon

Sunday School Kitten
The Control Group

Author:
KE

Blooming youth is everywhere evident in the ambitious album Sunday School, featuring the vocals of  fifteen year old Chloe Chaidez.  It is the default response to such an accomplished album by one so young to call it “mature.”  But don’t sell youth itself short, social criticFranco Moretti calls youth  “the stark double negative of the modern vice of unrest.”    Chloe’s restless dynamism is plays fecklessly with different textures and modalities in this album. 

 “Kill the Light” is a stand out track, bringing the doomy joy and eerie spatiality of Karen O. via Siouxie and the Banshies or Joy Division with some Bjork influenced brightness to the vocals.  The soulful “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny” also comes out strong, embodying this dynamism of youth, from ethereal dreaminess to an aggressive dense riffage  “Allison Day” is a sweet dream pop number textured by gritty feedback.  Sunday School is a spiritual lesson on the limits of “maturity,” in this case youth is not wasted on the young.

Purchase from Amazon

Larrymania Larry Hernandez
Fonovisa / Universal

Author:
KE

There's no mistaking the passion curled inside the discipline of this delivery; Hernandez is surely drawing on tumultuous relationships for inspiration.


Mele O Hawaii: Songs of Hawaii Various Artists
Hear / Starbucks / Sony

Author:
KF

Ever lovely, ever soothing, ever evocative of the tropical paradise from which it hails, the traditional folk music of Hawaii has held howlie American audiences enraptured for generations, wether on records or at tourist luaus on shimmering beaches. With "Mele O Hawaii" the compilation artists at Starbucks and Hear Music have continued that tradition of rapture with 15 tracks of contemporary Hawaiian folk music.

The comp kicks off, appropriately, with "White Sandy Beach," by the late guitar and vocal genius Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, whose moving intonations simultaneiously recall the history of how "Hawaiian Folk Music" has been consumed stateside while also reminding us of the unparalleled beauty that lies in that tradition. The following tracks include some suprises, including Jake Shimabukuro's virtuoso performance of the Beatles White Album classic "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" rendered in stripped down, unaccompanied, ukulele and Taj Mahal & the Hula Blues doing "Moonlight Lady" in a traditional mode with hints of Taj's signature style.

My favorite track is Justin's song "E Kailua E," which seems levitate above the record and transmit a serenity that, in all honesty, speaks of sleeping under some fruit trees with a slight buzz and not a care in the world. Sure, we can't all live in Hawaii, or even in Northern California, but records like this thankfully remind us why we'd like to.

Single of the Week: Taj Mahal & The Hula Blues "Midnight Lady"

If you Like Music, You'll Love This!

Purchase from Amazon

Beast Mode Juvenile
Entertainment 1 Group

Author:
KF

Though initially the most widely known of the solo acts to emerge from New Orleans hip hop crew Hot Boy$, Juvenile has been dramatically overshadowed—in terms of hype, swagger, and skills—in recent years by the megalith which Lil' Wayne has become.

Lil' Wayne's success does not, in and of itself, cast dispersions on Juve, whose records have continued to be marked by tight production in the tradition of NO bounce and clever, sometimes genuinely filthy rhymes. But sales have slipped off considerably since the heady days of "Back that Azz Up," in the late '90s, and "Beast Mode," was extremely unlikely to remedy the situation.

The primary reason for that is that fans want only two things: a) the freshest face with the freshest beats, or b) the hits rolling off the tongue of one of the current contenders. In such a world it is surprising that "Beast Mode," was ever noticed. Which is too bad, because once I got past the over-wrought bright pop glitz of the first single "Drop that Azz," "Beast Mode," is quite lively and convincingly dirty. Favorites include "P**** Kat," (which returns to the familiar moaning sex goddess for its hook but is backed by slow delivered boasts and a sweaty, barroom beat) and "Nothin Like Me," (one of the few tracks on the album that indulges the contemporary taste for guest Emcees by featuring Juvenile's son "Juvy Jr."). "Nothin Like Me," takes no mercy in dealing with the commonplace problematic in post-Gangsta rap of reconciling the claims of a famously debaucherous father with the desires of a father for the health of his son: Juvenile's invitation to bring his son along for the "fun" comes off as a threat against the world. It seems that when Juve's family grows, so grows his entourage.

Mighty Mighty

Purchase from Amazon

Light Me Up The Pretty Reckless
Interscope

Author:
KE

Ok, so I haven’t seen Gossip Girl, but I have gone through phases of addiction to both The O.C. and The Hills, both gossipy, quasi-indie teen soap operas.  I don’t think I’m the only one out there addicted to the guilty pleasure of spying on the impossibly shallow inner lives of the rich, dumb, young, sulky and beautiful.   And I have more guilty secrets to confess.  Not only are the plots of these cotton candy shows addictive, so are the quasi indie soundtracks.  There is something very deeply postmodern about the great pastiche of angst, anger, longing, heartbreak through a melee of grunge, rock, emo.

Listening to “Light Me Up” is disorienting and loopy.  It’s unclear whether you should be crying in your bedroom or having cocktails with some rich bimbo at a posh nightclub or in a Mercedes Benz commercial.  Your spirit guide through this strange journey is Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen, whose sexual escapades and racy statements have made her the bad girl of a gossip hungry press.  It helps that she has a strong voice that moves from gritty, raspy anger to tuneful melancholy, a sliding scale between Courtney Love and Alanis Morisette.  The songs are direct and catchy, sometimes surprisingly moving and sometimes funny and lurid, as in the line: “I’m just sixteen if you know what I mean, let me take off my dress.” Or the repeating refrain “I’ll let you into the Back Door.”  So dirty!  So addictive!  What does it all mean?  Stay tuned for the next episode.  You know you want to!

Don’t watch gossip hill but I do watch the oc and the hills, Gossip Girl Tyler Momsen and the Pretty Reckless has skyrocketed to the top o the UK rock charts, bringing the angry, grungy gloss.  It’s weird, to go through all of the angst of teenage and shock of teenage under the spotlight and that’s what we get slicked up angst.  Eye candy, ear candy, its kind of gossip, part of the spectacle, its sort of a new phase of camp.  If we like beautiful people expressing seemingly self absorbed angst on tv, why not in miusic? Fun, diery , insincere, cheap thrill laden pop record, emo cliché, riot girl.  Guilty pleasure.  Alanis Morissette, paramore

Purchase from Amazon