Music is everywhere!
And of course, only a naysayer would cast aspersions on the talent on display at the Grammys--or on the inevitable ageing of the Who, who to my mind rocked with enviable style before a massive worldwide audience!
The biggest surprise? Despite rumors to the contrary, many record companies are releasing albums this week--and thus, despite word on the street, the music industry continues to exist for yet another week!
What say we buy them all just to get their hopes up?
Sade: Soldier Of Love (Epic) It's been 10 long years since Sade's last album, but one listen to Soldier Of Love will send you right back to where you were when you heard its predecessor--unless they closed that bar! Sade--both the band and the woman who fronts it--appear more than ever a timeless proposition, an ooze of sophistication, sensuality, and simple songs of surprising depth. As first single "Soldier Of Love" revealed, there's a little more bite in some places, and the lead singer's voice has gotten deeper, but the sheen and classiness on display in some ways recalls that of Roxy Music circa Avalon--the sense that every note is in precisely the right place, without a wasted phrase or ornamentation. Go back to the very first Sade album and you'll hear the same thing. It's absolutely impeccable throughout, and you shouldn't miss it.
Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live In Las Vegas (Bama Rags/RCA) Though I don't count myself among the very biggest of Dave Matthews Band fans, I was struck by how appealing they were during their performance at the Grammys: no funny moves, no trapeze acts, no autotune and no fancy dance steps. They were simply playing music--and thus were, sadly, out of place. Those who are big Dave Matthews band fans will be delighted by this 2-CD set, which captures Matthews and his sometime sparring partner Reynolds in Las Vegas running through 26 different songs, all well played, all well sung, and all appearing right after the Grammy-nominated GrooGrux Kings, which may have been his best album to date. If slow and steady wins the race were applicable to any artist's approach to music, guess whose?
Massive Attack: Heligoland (Virgin) Considering that Massive Attack's debut album emerged 20 full years ago, one might expect they'd be sounding a little tired around now, but not so. Heligoland is a little dreamy and downbeat, true, but certainly alluring. Among the guests here are Blur's Damon Albarn, Hope Sandoval, Elbow's Guy Garvey, and Martina Topley-Bird among others, and while the songs sometimes blur together, all of it seems one slightly dark, but intriguing, piece. Very nice.
Pantha Du Prince: Black Noise (Rough Trade) Neither a panther or a prince, German electronic musician Hendrik Weber returns with his third album Black Noise--and it's dandy. Loops, repetitive beats, swaths of soothing sound, and bonus appearances by humans from Animal Collective and the enviably named !!! make this one of the year's best albums--and perfect listening fodder for long night drives.
HIM : Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice (Sire) When it comes to Finnish goth-rock bands--and typically, it always does--you can't go wrong with HIM! Some say the band's name was derived from the group's earlier name, His Infernal Majesty; others maintain it came from lead singer Ville Valo's predilection for Hungarians In Moccasins; still others suggest it's merely the word "him" capitalized! All those things might be true, but when it comes to this new album--with track titles like "Disarm Me [With Your Loneliness]" and "Shatter Me With Hope," it's obvious that English is not this Finnish goth-rock band's first language! Word is they're looking to talk to Zooey Deschanel about that silly band of hers!
Jaheim: Another Round (Atlantic) I tend to be partial to R&B singers rather than rappers, largely because the former tend to sing, often very well, about matters that mean much to mankind in general. Rappers, who don't sing, make lots of money talking about themselves and often tell everyone they want to be "the New Sinatra"! Dopes! But here's the latest from Jaheim, who can sing very well, and has absolutely no issues about being photographed in a chair ordering another round for everybody in the house! Additionally, he's recorded a song called "Whoa"! I think he wins!
Buzzcocks: Another Music In A Different Kitchen, Love Bites, A Different Kind Of Tension (all on Mute) Pioneers of the UK punk rock scene in the late '70s, the Buzzcocks may have ended up recording the most listenable--and best--tracks of that entire era, certainly surpassing the more celebrated Clash and Sex Pistols on the basis of all recorded evidence. And all that evidence is here, on these "deluxe edition" versions of their three albums, which contain all their gloriously abrasive, but always melodic, music--including personal faves "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" and "I Believe"--B-sides, radio sessions, and much more. Massively satisfying!
Josh Turner: Haywire (Deluxe Edition) (MCA Nashville) OK, now things make sense! Why wait a few months before releasing a "deluxe edition" of a popular album and soaking the fans? Simply put them both out the same day! Respectable hitmaker Mr. Turner--who according to a trusted internet source is the second youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry after Carrie Underwood--is back with a sturdy collection of songs that are sung quite well and are certain to resonate with his growing fanbase! Highlights include "Long Black Train," "As Fast As I Could," and "Friday Paycheck"! Special mention: his middle name is "Otis"! Cool!
Various Artists: Pomegranates (Finders Keepers/B-Music) A quick word here about the latest release from the fascinating B-Music label: A collection of Persian pop music from the '60s and '70s, much of it surprisingly psychedelic, nearly all of it immensely appealing--and unimaginable to many Americans, I suppose, whose notion of Iranian culture arises only from the past decade. Chances are you'll have never heard Zia, Googoosh or Soli, but you'll dig their groovy Persian scene. Check it out.
Yeasayer: Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian) Blessed with one of the year's finest album covers, Odd Blood is the record to beat if you're into fine album covers!