Wow! In the past two weeks, I've been all over! First to Austin, then to Miami, then to Las Vegas, then back to Miami, and then, finally, back home to Los Angeles!
And as a result, my critical acumen--my ability to discern which music is good and which music is bad--has never been sharper!
So as I recount this week's best and brightest new releases, realize this: At this very moment I am listening to Andras Schiff's Ludwig Van Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas Vol. V! Therefore my sensibilities are almost painfully attuned to genius!
Thus, more than ever before, what I say goes!
Flo Rida: R.O.O.T.S. (Route Of Overcoming The Struggle) (Poe Boy/Atlantic) As a special tribute to my home state, I'd like to begin by mentioning the latest album by Flo Rida, the man who's already sold so many downloads of his singles, no one ever would think to buy his actual album--because they've already got all the good stuff! Cool! As always, I think the man deserves incredible respect for offering us an album cover featuring him shirtless! Plus any record that takes its title from an actual acronym--and uses the "T" in the "the"--must by definition be metronomically precise and near-perfect! Featuring a cast of thousands--including Nelly Furtado, Ne-Yo, Wyclef Jean, Akon, and Pleasure P--this album is everything you've imagined and more! I'm glad he's in it for the art instead of the money! I predict he'll be bigger than both Boston and Chicago! Prince: LOtUSFLOW3R (Target) Since coming back to town last night, I watched a few TV shows and noticed I was hearing tracks by Lady Gaga and the Rosebuds in the background! I felt good! I like both those artists, and I'm happy their music is becoming a part of our wonderful collective culture! Then I thought about Prince, who was once famous but now is making deals with retail chains like Target--the only place you can buy this 3-CD set, two-thirds of which is by him, the last third by singer Bria Valente--and recording songs that, good or not, I can't for the life of me recall ever hearing! Is he good? Is he bad? Is he smart? Is he a genius? Is he amassing a catalog of thousands of songs that most of the world will never hear but years from now will critically dissect as absolute masterworks? I dunno, but check out this cheap AC/DC shirt! Gavin DeGraw: Free (J Records) It might be worth mentioning that this dazzling young singer has joined a worthy fraternity of critical favorites who have opted to record an album and--after careful consideration--decided to title it Free! Among them? Ornette Coleman, Rick Astley, the legendary Bacon Popper, Chico DeBarge, Concrete Blonde, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Deniece Williams, and William Hung! It might also be worth mentioning that despite its title, this album actually costs you money to buy! I plan to listen to it the second I get it! PJ Harvey & John Parish: A Woman A Man Walked By (Island) Having just seen this pair performing in Texas two weeks ago, I'm here to tell you that Ms. Harvey and Mr. Parish are a talented pair and that this album is absolutely superb! Well, strictly speaking, I'm actually here to complete this week's blog, but I'm unclear on whether that needs saying! With tracks like "Black Hearted Love," "Passionless, Pointless," and the memorable "Pig Will Not," this disc is one of Harvey's better efforts in a few years and worthy of your immediate purchase! And while you're listening, write down the title and underline the modifiers! Great music should teach you something! Keith Urban: Defying Gravity (Capitol Nashville) One of my favorite contemporary country artists, Mr. Urban is a talented musician who consistently makes excellent records! What's up with that? This, his latest album, features the radio hit "Sweet Thing" and from a pure genre standpoint straddles an interesting point between straight country music and that whole pop/rock thing that's been in the news lately! In many ways a hero, the Australian-born Urban has boldly seen fit with this new album to reveal his ability to actually fly--which, when you get right down to it, must not have been an easy decision for him to make! I'm behind him 100% and you should be as well! Thenewno2: you are here (Vagrant) Featuring Dhani Harrison--the son of former Beatle George--and musical partner Oli Hecks, this debut album is thoroughly invigorating, melodically captivating, and--even without the family ties--noteworthy in and of itself! We here at Yahoo had the dudes in the studio a while back--you can watch them here--and were all uniformly impressed! And that never happens! Though Dhani can't help but recall his father vocally at times--it's that genetics thing--this music sounds more contemporary and less derivative than that of other sons of former Beatles! But jeez--what are we supposed to call poop now? Bruce Cockburn: Slice O Life - Live Solo (Rounder) Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has held a special place in my heart since he released his first album in 1970! Why? Because it has a song on it called "Thirteenth Mountain" that--get this--was the first thing I ever said sounded like Nick Drake that wasn't Nick Drake! Shouldn't I get an award for that? But like that album, this new one--his 15th gazillionth--features Cockburn in a purely acoustic setting, with no window dressing, just playing and singing many of the better songs from his catalog. Twenty-five songs in all, including "Lovers In A Dangerous Time," "If A Tree Falls," "Wondering Where The Lions Are" and "If I Had A Rocket Launcher," and I haven't enjoyed his work so much in years! But still--imagine if Timbaland had been involved! Ian Gillan: One Eye To Morocco (Eagle Rock) I've always found it fascinating when, as years pass, I gradually decide that I may have been wrong about something. When I was a kid, I used to really like Deep Purple. And when I say Deep Purple, I mean the original band that recorded "Hush," not the so-called "Mk. II" version who hit the bigtime via "Smoke On The Water" and featured this guy--Ian Gillan--as lead singer. But as time has worn on, slowly but surely, I have come to respect and almost equally admire the music that the second, more famous version of Deep Purple systematically recorded between 1970-1974! Similarly, I have also adjusted to not being a famous movie star or a multi-millionaire, the fact that we're all getting older with each passing year, and that there will always be wars and stuff! Anyway, this is Ian Gillan's new album and it's pretty good! If you like him! Peter Bjorn And John: Living Thing (Almost Gold) It seems silly to hold this excellent Swedish trio to a peculiar "pop hit" standard--that is, is there another "Young Folks" on this album?--when song for song, this album is just as strong as its predecessor, 2006's Writer's Block. Likewise, it seems silly to believe that reindeer can fly! I'm inclined to agree with this album's product description, which rhetorically asks whether the group would attempt to repeat their past success, then answers, "In actual fact, what they have done is a bit of both--and neither--all at the same time." Hey, we're always looking for new blog writers at Yahoo! Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz (Interscope) I'm all for deep and probing moments of artistic introspection, but singer Karen O's deliberately drawing attention to a mistake she made while taking orders at a bakery in the early '90s is enough to make even me embarrassed for her! Get over it, babe!