Devotion to duty now sees me writing this week's blog--even though today has been the first day of my vacation, and my satellite television provider the Dish Network has just graciously sent me six gift certificates to view any movie of my choice!
But to be frank, when it comes down to either watching Machete, My Soul To Take, and Resident Evil: Afterlife or spending time discussing pop star Avril Lavigne...well, let's just say I know which side my bread is buttered on!
Besides, movies come and go...but the Season Two, Vol. 5 Glee soundtrack will last forever!
Avril Lavigne: Goodbye Lullaby (RCA) If, like me, you're a big fan of Hilary Duff and you buy most of your music from Amazon, you've probably already been notified this album was coming! And boy, has it ever come! Bearing juicy songs with titles like "Black Star," "What The Hell," "Not Enough" and "Goodbye," and featuring a cover photo depicting the well-groomed Avril splayed atop a grand piano, Goodbye Lullaby has all the hallmarks of a one-time teen star realizing a significant number of her biggest fans have the attention spans of a flea so she better get on with this singing career thing while she still has a chance! Yep, it's that good! But let's give her the benefit of the doubt and point out she looks absolutely smashing in that gown--and as I read in yesterday's Parade magazine, designing clothes now plays a big part in Avril's life! Heck, mine too, babe! Great album!
Glee: The Music, Season Two, Vol. 5 (Columbia) Who could have imagined a mildly successful television franchise would produce a non-stop flow of exciting pop records that album for album may be giving the much-loved Kidz Bop Kidz series a serious run for its money? Give up? A balding accountant from NY named Larry! Thanks to him, we've been blessed with new versions of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls," and--best of all--a long-awaited remake of the Zombies' classic, but until now sadly dated, "She's Not There"! Given that these tracks have bettered all the originals--I don't know, something about the mix is more exciting--what can these guys pull out of their hat next? I'm betting they've got their very own Sgt. Pepper's in there! We'll just have to wait and see!
Wye Oak: Civilian (Merge) Puzzlingly, this week's very best new record may be by a band that for the life of me I can't recall seeing a video of! What's up with that? A fab duo from the Baltimore area, Wye Oak consist of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, and this--their third album--mixes up some nice melodic, shoegazey guitar, nifty female vocals, and actual songs with hooks and occasionally significant lyrics! Most surprising may be the cover pic, featuring the one-time baby from the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind, now fully clothed and emerging from the swimming pool in hopes of finally being able to catch an episode of that American Idol thing before everyone's electricity goes off forever! As planned!
Keren Ann: 101 (EMI) Here's another of this week's highlights--a completely fabulous return by exotic singer Keren Ann, whose fascinating lineage (born in Israel to a Japanese-Dutch mother and Russian-Israeli father but raised in Paris--hey, just like Obama!) is always good for any album review's lead sentence! Four years away from the marketplace, and she's made an album that's deep, moody, and in an odd way atmospherically similar to Leonard Cohen's Various Positions period! So it's great! I suggest buying this, donning a beret, listening to it on your iPod, getting coffee, and checking out other people's shoes! That always works for me!
Bo Diddley: Bo Diddley's Beach Party (Hip-O Select) A rock-rollin' live affair that in the words of distinguished liner note writer Chris Morris "bristles with almost punk-like energy," this long-in-coming reissue is an eye-opener in many ways! And not just its cover! A fascinating character and showman, Diddley here offers up a few covers and several of the tunes that have made him so unique: "Bo Diddley's A Gunslinger," "Bo Diddley's Dog," "Hey Bo Diddley," and--for a change of pace--"Bo's Waltz"! (Bo often forgot his name, so stuff like that helped!) A great listen, and a great candidate for reissue--much praise to those who gave this one the thumbs up!
Exene Cervenka: The Excitement Of Maybe (Bloodshot) Speaking of Chris Morris--and who isn't?--I should point out the release of this new album by the former vocalist of X, about whom the aforementioned writer once wrote a book and, on occasion, still speaks of it! Cervanka's new album is fine, featuring some strong new material, worthy backing by the likes of LA-fixture buddy and former bandmate Dave Alvin, and the sort of lyrics for which she is renowned! Like Avril Lavigne, Exene is a human female!
Neil Diamond: Neil Diamond The Bang Years 1966-1968 (Columbia/Legacy) Now that he's about to be admitted into the exotic Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame, it's appropriate that this great collection of Neil Diamond's early, rockin' material sees present-day exposure--especially since pains have been taken to issue the material in its original mono-mix form, no small matter according to those in the know! Included within are "Solitary Man," "Cherry Cherry," "Thank The Lord For The Night Time," and "You Got To Me"--brilliant songs all--though sadly absent is the chair about which Diamond would emote so brilliantly in "I Am I Said" years later! Life is kind of like that, huh?
Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die: Deluxe Edition (Island) Don't want to spend too much time walking down memory lane, but would like to mention that this very fine Traffic album--issued in 1970, and now newly remastered and paired with an additional disc of live tracks and alternate mixes--evokes that very memorable period in pop music when artists were creating adventurous, rewarding music and giving comparative short shrift to the notion of whether they were creating a "hit" or not. The result: this stuff still sounds great, and timely, and ambitious, and, if you haven't heard it in a while, better than you likely remembered. Highly recommended.
Sara Evans: Stronger (Sony Nashville) She's great looking, she's popular, she's sold lots of records, she's co-written a couple of books, she was a big hit on Dancing With The Stars!, and it looks like she posed for her new album cover in a wind tunnel! Plus, I dig the title font! She was on the Country Strong soundtrack, and this album will probably sell oodles! If only her name was an anagram for "A Sears Van"! No, wait!
Buffalo Tom: Skins (Scrawny) A stunningly strong return by a much-loved Boston band, an actual trained bison fully capable of recording, or a sentimental ode to a fateful high school football game in which the Shirts cheated and the Skins had to miss the prom? Informed sources simply don't know!