New album releases by old-timers like Peter Gabriel and John Hiatt battle it out with newcomers like Jason Derülo and Danny Gokey this week--and one thing is clear!
Because these releases are either inanimate objects or data files, it's unlikely either side will be able to do much of anything, let alone fight!
So let's simply be arbitrary! Peter Gabriel and John Hiatt are dependable artists! And this Derülo guy has umlauts in his name! Look out, databases! And to be frank, Danny Gokey lost when he was on American Idol! Talk about double jeopardy!
Eventually I plan to be a lawyer!
Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back (Virgin) Out of the public eye for several years now, former lead singer of Genesis Peter Gabriel returns with an album of cover songs from a variety of artists, including Lou Reed, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Paul Simon, David Bowie, and other respected writers! Yet the absence of Slim Harpo, whose classic "Scratch My Back" would birth an entire counterculture in mid-1966, leads some to suspect that in this instance, Gabriel's use of the album title therefore implies that OK, now that he's covered all these people's songs on his new album--which should provide them plenty of royalties--they're expected to return the favor! How distasteful! Luckily the album's pretty good, Gabriel's interpretations are fairly creative, and these songs are little easier to take than ones featuring a billion drums, a drone, and a guy with a shaved head yelling "Eeeyaagh"! Yep, not bad at all!
Jason Derülo: Jason Derülo (Beluga Heights) The music biz has certainly changed, when you consider that this dude's success with singles at radio guarantees that his actual debut album will sell at huge levels in its very first week! Like, there's no need to even try anymore! His hits "Whatcha Say" and "In My Head" are here, he's got an especially well-groomed beard, he's quite talented, and apparently he's on the road with Lady Gaga or something! "Derülo thumb is that I will succeed," he quips!
Danny Gokey: My Best Days (19 Recordings) Danny Gokey has a lot of things going for him! He was on American Idol, he wears glasses, his last name rhymes with the guy who created Gumby's, and best of all, he's playing country music! That said, recording a concept album about the various incidents that shaped his life might be questionable! From the very opening of "At Last I Am A Wolf Scout" through "Taking My Driver's Test," it becomes apparent that Danny's "best" days are more or less like anyone else's! Maybe "This Year's First McRib" and "Dude, I Gave You A Twenty" reveals more about Gokey than he'd prefer, but what do you expect? He wears glasses!
John Hiatt: The Open Road (New West) John Hiatt has never been less than dependable, and this, his new album, is one of his better ones. A mostly uptempo, rocking affair, played energetically by Hiatt and his touring band, the best song here is probably "Haulin'." Hiatt's one of America's most consistent songwriters, and one of his most notable assets is his flexibility; if you haven't heard him in a while, you'll enjoy his rocking side on The Open Road. So buy it!
Lifehouse: Smoke & Mirrors (Interscope) While I'm not exactly this band's biggest fan, I'm always surprised how agreeable their records sound upon first listen. "All In," this set's opening track, for instance, oddly continues the band's unexpected flirtation with the sound of New Order; unlike other bands who get lumped in with the faceless masses that are Nickelback, 3 Doors Down and other fab collectives, these guys appear to have some semblance of taste, which is an unexpected surprise! If you're looking for completely commercial, hook-filled rock, you could do much worse than Lifehouse! Like, you could unexpectedly die or something!
Jamie Cullum: The Pursuit (Verve) Though the jazz singer on this album's cover may bear a passing resemblance to a younger Michael J. Fox, and the music within often recall the snazzy slickness of your standard singing guest on the Merv Griffin Show, the exploding piano behind him puts this album squarely in the 21st century! Cullum's a bright and accessible singer, and this album a worthy gift purchase for those in your household into that whole Michael Bublé/Josh Groban thing who might be looking to expand their music collection in a tasteful and good-looking manner! Hey, maybe your mom would like it too!
Guitar Shorty: Bare Knuckle (Alligator) If you're looking for a well-played, biting contemporary blues album, look no further than this superb new album by Guitar Shorty. Check out these opening lyrics: "Please Mr. President/Lay some stimulus on me/Please Mr. President/Lay some stimulus on me/ 'Cause I'm just a working man trying to feed my family." An exceptional soloist, this man has a solid tradition behind him but is looking determinedly forward--I could swear I hear a vocoder on "Too Hard To Love You"! One of the year's best.
Rogue Wave: Permalight (Brushfire) They've been around for a bit, but stale they are not: Rogue Wave are surprisingly good at what they do, which is make great and intelligent pop records. The latest is a rich batch of tunes that occasionally sound like the sort of thing Paul Simon's cousin might've made in his bedroom studio; check out "Good Morning" and see. Rich textures, acoustic and synth mixed, and a surprising number of very good songs. Recommended!
Emma Pollock: The Law Of Large Numbers (Chemical Underground) A fascinating second album from Emma Pollock, once of Scotland's excellent Delgados, The Law Of Large Numbers--literally named after a mathematical theorem!--is a diverse set of well-written, lyrically rich tunes that are sometimes dense but always enjoyable! Sort of like this blog's reader base! When talented and intelligent people start making really good records, maybe it's time to call it a day!
Shooter Jennings & Hierophant: Black Ribbons (Rocket Science / RED) Word is that this new album by former country boy Shooter Jennings recalls both the work of Nine Inch Nails and Roger Waters circa The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking! And it features narration by semi-recurring New This Week character Stephen King! As my mom might say, "Oh, David--that sounds like heaven in a pair of wooden shoes!"