If you're like me, good new albums this week by the Chemical Brothers, Suzanne Vega, and the superbly named Editors are just what the doctor ordered! Cultural critics from here to Timbuktu are always ragging on artists who fill their albums with "one good song and the rest is junk," and if you ask me--and by definition you are--that consistency thing is a bogus argument that presupposes lots of crummy songs are good in the first place! Get my drift? Consistency is great, most of the time! And sometimes it isn't! Stop trying to frame my perception of the music business, dude!
The Chemical Brothers: We Are The Night (Astralwerks) Back and better than ever, England's lovable Chemical Brothers return with a danceable "sonic collage" featuring guest appearances by the Klaxons, Willy Mason, some guy from Midlake and mysterious rapper Fatlip, who appears courtesy of himself! Long a fixture in the UK dance/electronica scene, it's time the Chemical Brothers were individually singled out for their consistency and charisma. So let's hear it for Sodium Chloride--not to be confused with that chick from Salt-N-Pepa--and Hydrochloric Acid, better known as Larry! Between you and me, I doubt they're related!
Suzanne Vega: Beauty And Crime (Blue Note) Sometimes it's embarrassing that people were kind of famous once--like now we know they're no good or something--but this is definitively not the case with Miss Vega, who was good way back when she was singing about being Luka and living on the second floor, and sounds even better now. Speaking as a guy who's hip to the record label scene, I'd point out that her shift over to the classy Blue Note label--the same folks who helped Norah Jones become Norah Jones-like--was a wise move that will appeal to those in the "upper demographic" who occasionally buy CDs when not downloading stuff for free!
Yellowcard: Paper Walls (Capitol) Uh-oh! Here's a band who seemed like they were going to be the next big thing but then, suddenly, mysteriously...they weren't! Is it because their lead singer has that same whiney sound that the lead singer from Blink-182 introduced and that we're all now completely sick of? Is it because the whole world now plays soccer and finds the notion of an actual "yellow card" distasteful? Or is it because just when every CD buyer in America was about to plop down close to 20 bucks to buy their last CD, someone convinced them to buy a pizza instead? Boy, that last one would really be a drag!
Rooney: Calling The World (Geffen) Here's a band that humans I respect really like, mostly because they sort of play a 21st Century version of power pop and were on some famous TV show or something. Not to sound like a defeatist sort of guy, but I suspect naming their new album Calling The World will only set them up for future heartbreak--because, like, dudes, most of the world has call-waiting! With a great ear for rhythmic pop, these guys are just one hit away from superstardom! Sadly, its name may be "Mickey."
Minnie Driver: Seastories (Zoe/Rounder) As a rule, actresses-turned-singers are like singers-turned-actresses, but backwards! Minnie is not bad at all, frankly, as her new album features a great batch of LA-based musicians and has a name almost identical to great cult Australian band Sea Stories! Additionally, many people in the States not only drive Minis but enjoy them! Furthermore--and not that this should in any way reflect on one's judgement of the music within--she looks especially good in that photo behind the CD casing! Heck, no two ways about it--this is great!
The Magic Numbers: Those The Brokes (Astralwerks) One of the fabbest new bands to emerge from the UK since Hector was a pup, the Magic Numbers are back with a second album that will either be universally acclaimed a masterpiece or tragically ignored! And, to be honest, I find this sort of drama unnerving! Perhaps we should just accept the fact that their debut album was really, really good--and that if this new one simply doesn't measure up, the music business as we know it will be completely over and we can all go home and watch a DVD or something! I mean, like, I'd be into that!
A Fine Frenzy: One Cell In The Sea (Capitol) Incredibly not a band but an actual individual, a Fine Frenzy is really a young red-headed girl named Alison Sudol who debut album is "causing a stir" and whose MySpace page--and, I mean, not like I spend much time over there--offers only this bit of biographical information: "We are the rabbits." Huh? If I were a big meanie I'd simply say, "Speak for yourself, Tori Amos junior!"--but since I'm a really mellow guy, I'll instead grab a Diet Coke and keep ripping Mica Paris CDs!
Colbie Caillat: Coco (Universal Republic) Speaking of young music-making babes, this debut album--by a young woman whose dad has something or other to do with making Fleetwood Mac records--is pretty good stuff! Kind of pop, kind of sophisticated--kind of something that a new generation of serious music-making pre-teen women might embrace and make their own! Yeah, you can quote me! Plus, you've got to love her hat!
The Editors: An End Has A Start (Epic) The second album by England's fab Editors is not bad at all, sounding vaguely like John Cale and some other guy I can't recall at the moment! Sadly, though, first single "Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors" is not the pro-smoking anthem most of us were hoping for, but instead some sort of misdirected anti-Big Tobacco diatribe. "The saddest thing that I'd ever seen," sing the Editors, "was smokers outside the hospital doors." Hey, come to think of it, when I interviewed these guys, I was smoking! Sit these guys down in a theater and make them watch Bambi and Old Yeller, that's what I say!
The Cribs: Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever (Warner Brothers) Last time I heard these guys, they were three brothers named Jarman and they were high-level UK rockin' dudes. This new album, their major-label debut, is produced by none other than Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand--and with any luck will answer the single biggest question facing them: Did they name themselves after that thing a baby sleeps in or...you know, a guy's house or something? I think we all have a right to know!