Wow! As I sit here, week by week, listing the new album releases and measuring their comparative worth, it strikes me! Some weeks are completely loaded with fascinating new releases, and other weeks are just...I don't know...just plain boring!
Well, rest assured: This week isn't boring! A boatload of great new releases is hitting the stores, and it's a sure thing that something coming out this week is likely to strike your fancy!
For starters: Have you got your new iPad 2 yet? They're great! And how about some fresh and yummy Marshmallow Peeps? It's that time of year! Not only that--have you tried that brand new Dr. Pepper Ten? It's not only a taste-tempting treat--it's surprisingly manly!
And I can think of nothing more exciting than sitting in your car with your new iPad 2, washing down a few Peeps with some Dr. Pepper Ten, and waiting while someone you know goes outside to buy some new records!
Let me tell you all about them!
Foo Fighters: Wasting Light (Roswell/RCA) I have to say that while I've never been the biggest fan of the Foo Fighters--to be civil, I've always found them bland and directionless--this new album is quite a surprise! The songs are sharp, spiky, hook-filled and substantial; the guest list (Bob Mould, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear) is impressive; the production (Butch Vig, mixed by Alan Moulder) is top-notch; and the overall effect--of hearing a well-played version of early '90s post-grunge rock not unlike that produced by a raft of anonymous bands like Seven Mary Three, Bush, and Other Clownheads--is not entirely disagreeable! I'd be inclined to call this the Foos' greatest album ever, if it didn't involve making a critical commitment! Plus, why must they always fight?
Alison Krauss & Union Station: Paper Airplane (Rounder) A great return from Ms. Krauss, whose last album with Union Station won three Grammys, and whose follow-up, with Robert Plant, won six! You don't have to be a math whiz to figure out that this new album is slated to win nine, its follow-up 27, and then after that--heck, they ARE the Grammys! So get on board now, while you can! Featuring extraordinarily well-played music, substantial and creative musical arrangements, and a bizarre subplot in which members of the band are inadvertently dosed with a powerful hallucinogen and, eerily, led to believe they are a two-dimensional version of '60s San Francisco legends the Jefferson Airplane, this album now sits in shelves and awaits your purchasing it! Don't let it down!
Paul Simon: So Beautiful Or So What (Hear Music) Long in coming and at times a tad arty, Paul Simon's latest album is exquisitely recorded, long on subtle and sophisticated melody, and catchy enough to attract the interest of anyone with even a passing interest in a nice turn of lyrical phrase! Therefore it's a complete success! Still, I wouldn't call it exactly "beautiful." Nor could I fairly say I was apathetic about it! As a result, I feel as if the man actually wants to have a fistfight with me! Do you think that was his intent? I simply don't know!
TV On The Radio: Nine Types Of Light (DGC/Interscope) Certainly one of pop music's most interesting bands of the moment, TV On The Radio have made a new CD being labeled as a "lush and beautiful album," which, when you think about it, is a major achievement for a recording entirely based on discussing the relative merits of solar light, candlelight, lightbulb light, fluorescent light, ultraviolet light, infra-red light, laser light, starlight, and moonlight! Come to think of it, these guys recorded an album a few years ago called Dear Science--and word on the street is that Science never even replied! I'm thinking they should get off this whole Mr. Wizard kick, embrace the black arts, and maybe conjure up a few dozen Marshmallow Peeps to ward off that whole rejection-depression thing!
Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour '74 [DVD] (Eagle Rock) If, like me, you find yourself distracted by the moronic antics of today's biggest pop stars--whose fame often has little to do with the quality of their musical output--I invite you to kick back, watch this fantastic Blu-Ray version of a little-seen film devoted to Irish rock legend Rory Gallagher, and consider how absolutely fabulous the man was: A tremendous guitarist, a fine songwriter, a compelling singer, and someone clearly in the business of playing music rather than being a public figure. Captured here in his prime, Gallagher runs through many of the best songs in his repertoire--and the offstage moments depict a charming man whose sheer love of music, and the act of gigging, is downright refreshing in mid-2011. Highly recommended!
Jessie J.: Who You Are (Lava/Universal) Already a big deal in the UK, and with an early Saturday Night Live appearance under her belt, Ms. J has been referred to as a mixture of Rihanna, Gwen Stefani and Pink--largely, one suspects, because the more accurate description of "the evil Kiki Dee" doesn't scan as well! Featuring the already popular "Do It Like A Dude"--which sounds mildly scandalous until one actually listens to the lyrics and realizes the woman is advising us about the most efficient ways to fill your car up with gasoline--Who You Are is in many ways like a dyslexic Who album...well, no, actually...aw, who's kidding who? I can't get past that whole "with an infectious laugh, 6-inch heels and a perfectly styled bob" thing! I always thought Bob was a guy's name!
Vivian Girls: Share The Joy (Polyvinyl) It struck me a few weeks ago that ever since the glory days of England's Marine Girls, I have been abnormally attracted to indie-sounding pop groups featuring women who can barely sing, attempt to harmonize, and are often drowned out by well-intentioned and loud electric guitars! Which is why I continue to enjoy Brooklyn's Vivian Girls, though I am by no means alone in my enjoyment! Their latest album--their first for the admirable PolyVinyl label--is a fetching call to action intended for housekeepers around the world--though whether a series of odes about a popular dishwashing liquid will resonate with males in the audience remains to be seen! I don't know if they still make Lava soap, but I suspect dudes would naturally gravitate toward that!
Mazes: A Thousand Heys (FatCat) I don't know much about the Mazes, but they're from England, their guitars jangle, they write short and snappy rock'n' roll songs, and their album sounds absolutely great if you were just listening to the Looking Glass's Golden Classics! And that's high praise in my camp! Think I'll check out what the alternative rock aficionados at Pitchfork have to say!: "Mazes...embody the shambling approach to verse-chorus songwriting found in Pavement acolytes BOAT." Well that frickin' explains that--thanks, Pitchfork! ("BOAT"?) I know a guy who gets three cents every time someone uses the word "shambolic," dude! Great record, though!
Hugh Hopper: The Gift Of Purpose (Cuneiform) I'd like to make special mention here of a wonderful record featuring the work of late bassist Hugh Hopper, whose work with England's Soft Machine--and many other bands after their demise--was positively awe-inspiring. This release, featuring Hopper with one of those bands--Bone, featuring guitarist Nick Didkovsky and drummer John Roulat--was recorded live in a Baltimore studio and is quite extraordinary. Loud, throbbing, and surprisingly fluid, the performances are capped by a 15-minute bonus track by Hopper's onetime Soft Machine cohort Daevid Allen, quite personal in intent and a touching tribute to a musician who'll be sorely missed. Please note: All proceeds from the album are going to Hopper's surviving family, and the set can be purchased here. I highly recommend buying it--and the many other classic albums Hopper had a hand in.
Panda Bear: Tomboy (Paw Tracks) A fabulous new record by Panda Bear, a member of Animal Collective--and thus a skilled musician who can only play music with paws, rather than hands, and, perhaps predictably, eats an enormous amount of bamboo! Word is his last name isn't really Bear!