It's a solid week for new album releases--as newer artists such as the Arctic Monkeys and Imogen Heap return triumphantly, old masters such as Smokey Robinson and George Benson re-emerge with solid new projects, and other people put out other stuff!
Thus, those who've been predicting bad fortune for the music industry, dismissing it as an old and tired business model that's had its day, have been proven completely wrong!
Next week: New releases by the Flying Pigs, That'll Be The Day, Don't Look Now, and We're Frickin' Doomed should bode equally as well!
Imogen Heap: Ellipse (Megaphonic/RCA) There's been a big to-do about how Ms. Heap, onetime member of Frou Frou, has invested so much personal time in the marketing of this brand new project that it's now contextualizing the future of the artist's role in the industry! Frankly, that's quite a bit of unnecessary hot air--as the real story is right there for all of us to see on her new album's cover: Imogen has befriended an otherworldly energy being that will force all of humanity to buy her album whether they want to or not! Which is fine by me! So yeah, this a really great album that sounds fresh and invigorating and--and I know I won't be the first to point this out--sort of the audio equivalent of a brand new roll of Mentos! Like her homonymic mentors Uriah Heep, Imogen is cultivating a legend that will only grow in the coming years! Buy it, file it, move on!
Arctic Monkeys: Humbug (Domino) Actual artistic growth is a rarity these days--except in the case of adolescents--but one listen to the latest album by the UK's Arctic Monkeys, and you'll get a glimmer of just how great it is when it happens! Some of the credit might be given to the singer Alex Turner's fab side project the Last Shadow Puppets--who were quite good--but the better bet is the participation of Queens Of The Stone Age's main man Josh Homme, who produced the band's recording sessions in California and gave Humbug even more oomph than the Monkeys' usual! Word is the album is named after the famous German city where the Beatles played in their early days when they all had colds!
Colbie Caillat: Breakthrough (Universal Republic) There's something so gosh-darned pleasant about Colbie Caillat--just saying her name makes me think of a wine and cheese party or a soothing and pleasant lotion--that, between you and me, anything she does I tend to like! Even sing! The maker of "Bubbly"--what a great descriptor--is now 24, back with a strong second album boasting the presence of producer John Shanks and Colbie's highly respected father, engineer and producer Ken Caillat, and sounding healthier, wealthier and wiser than ever before! Great tunes include "I Won't," "Fallin' For You," "Droplets," and "This Charming Man," and Colbie recorded three of them!
LeToya: Lady Love (Capitol) A founding member of Destiny's Child who left the group for surprising solo success--usually people who leave too early meet tragic failure, sit around bars and tell anyone who'll listen they could've been huge if only, etc.-- Ms. Luckett, who professionally goes by only her first name purely to cause Joseph Jackson grief, is back with her second album and it's not bad at all! Featuring tracks written by Ne-Yo and Chris Brown and guests such as Estelle, Mims and Ludacris, Lady Love is pretty solid stuff: rhythmic, soulful, contemporary, and filled with the letter "L"! While it remains to be seen if the otherworldly being on its cover will be as helpful as Imogen Heap's--these things aren't always predictable--I'm rooting for LeToya and you should be too!
George Benson: Songs And Stories (Concord) Guitarist George Benson has of course been making records for years--and it's hard to believe that 33 of them have transpired since he released Breezin', the album that--via "This Masquerade"--catapulted him from jazz journeyman to multi-Grammy-winning pop icon. He's never been less than interesting since then, with his only vice perhaps being that tendency toward slickness that comes from making music with musicians who are simply too good to ever play anything that isn't note-perfect and appropriate. That said, this new album sounds better than usual at the moment; it features well-known songs ("Rainy Night In Georgia," "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," "Someday We'll All Be Free"), the usual great cast of LA-based players, and a pleasant, understated album cover. So, like, what's wrong with me?
Tim Buckley: Live At The Folklore Center, NYC - March 6, 1967 (Tompkins Square) Something of an unbelievable release for most Tim Buckley fans, who assumed anything the late, legendary singer/songwriter had ever put to tape had already been released--sort of--this wonderful live set, recorded before an audience of maybe 35 people in New York, is a veritable godsend: It captures the singer playing material from his first two, comparatively "folkie" albums--a period generally not well-documented among the various Buckley bootlegs--features six original songs never previously released, and basically beats the pants off of nearly everything else released this week. Sounds like he listened to a lot of Radiohead!
Smokey Robinson: Time Flies When You're Having Fun (ROBSO) Speaking of legendary-type dudes, here's one of the all-time greats--still living!--who, though he made his major mark in the '60s, seems to be echoing here one of his finest eras, circa the mid-'70s-'80s days of Quiet Storm and his 1981 hit "Being With You," and doing it remarkably well. Well-played, well-sung, surprisingly contemporary sounding, and featuring "sympathetic" modern-day guests--like Joss Stone, India.Arie and even Carlos Santana--who fit in absolutely perfectly. Time Flies is top-notch! Urp!
Ingrid Michaelson: Everybody (Cabin 24) One of the sensitive female singer/songwriter types that Grey's Anatomy made famous--yet another reason TV is better than steak!--but who isn't entirely a fruitcake, 29-year-old Michaelson returns with a solid follow-up to her 2007 album Girls And Boys and boldly titles it with the answer to the question "How many people in the world need to buy this album to make you as much money as possible?" In the old days, actually going to business school--let alone allowing yourself to be photographed in class--would be considered unseemly! These days, if you'll pardon my French, it's de rigueur!
Queen Latifah: Persona (Verve) A few months ago I was pulling into a parking structure just as Queen Latifah herself was pulling out! Nice car! Just yesterday I was reading the Sunday paper and a saw a full-page ad promoting Parlux Fragrances' new Queen Latifah perfume! Today I'm looking at her brand new album, which features Mary J. Blige, Jadakiss, Pharrell, Busta Rhymes, Shawn Stockman, Dre from Cool & Dre and a song on it actually called "Long Ass Week"! I'm pleased to report that this new album features only one "N" in its title, thus has no commercial ties to the razor blade manufacturer! How does it sound? "I'd say it's half rap and half singing," reports the Queen herself! Hey, who the heck is the King?
Dolores O'Riordan: No Baggage (Zoe) Though the massive royalties she accrued with the Cranberries allowed Dolores to buy nearly anything her heart desired, Wonder Woman's Invisible Plane did have its downside!