Brian Wilson Smile
Beach Boys fans have been waiting over forty years for Brian Wilson's lost record, Smile. Now we can finally hear those abandoned recordings from 1967 on the Smile Sessions. But as Jim explains, a lost album usually deserves to stay that way. He doesn‘t hear any of the emotion that made Wilson’s masterpiece Pet Sounds so wonderful. And the studio experimentation is more mess than art. The Smile Sessions detract from the Beach Boys legacy, according to Jim, so he says Trash It. Greg would‘ve expected different from a Syd Barrett fan. He hears a lot of idiosyncratic whimsy. Sure, it’s not as emotional as Pet Sounds, but it's a“fascinating curio”and successful song cycle. Greg says Buy It.
Noel Gallagher High Flying Birds
Oasis made a big splash in the '90s with hits like "Champagne Supernova" and "Wonderwall," and while Liam Gallagher was the voice, it was his brother Noel who crafted the songs (remarkably, they shared controversy equally). So when Jim and Greg heard that he was releasing his first solo effort, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, they expected big things. No such luck, says Greg. This is merely another 2nd rate Oasis record. Gallagher's voice is more vulnerable and melancholic than his brother's and would've been well-served by an intimate production style. Instead what we get is overblown bombast with choirs and horns, according to Jim. Both hosts say Trash It.
Kate Bush 50 Words for Snow
The always unique Kate Bush is back with a new album called 50 Words for Snow. Bush has been making music since she was discovered by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour as a teen, and she's always enchanted fans with her gorgeous voice and avant-garde aesthetic. According to Jim and Greg, Bush has done it again on this album, which is admittedly“weird,”but also beautiful, childlike and chilling. Greg doesn't understand the presence of guests Elton John or Stephen Fry, but both he and Jim say Buy It.
Drake Take Care
Is the new album by rapper Drake another contender for the Turkey Shoot? According to Jim, yes. He really enjoyed the former Degrassi star's debut in 2010. But on Take Care, Jim just hears a young man whining about his wealth and fame. And worse, that whining stays in the same tempo for 17 tracks. Jim says Trash It. Greg had a completely different reaction. He thinks this sophomore effort is an improvement and doesn't hear whining as much as an honest depiction of what happens when fame shatters your moral compass. Greg also appreciates the way Drake blurs the lines between hip-hop and R&B. This host would encourage you to Buy It.
Lou Reed & Metallica Lulu
In the list of rock collaborations we never thought we'd witness, Lou Reed and Metallica are right at the top. A pioneer of punk has joined forces with pioneers of thrash metal for Lulu, an album inspired by the writing of German expressionist playwright Frank Wedekind. Yep it's as strange as it sounds, though Jim reminds us that Reed has gone metal in the past, and well. But here, he is just talking his way through the vocals. And Metallica isn‘t doing him any favors. Jim compares their virtuosity to the kind you’ll hear at Guitar Center. To Greg the album is so dashed off and improvised, its sound like raw demos with no actual songs to be discerned. And he's especially critical of singer James Hetfield's backing vocals. Greg calls Lulu one big raised middle digit to fans; Metallica and Lou Reed get a double Trash It.
Coldplay Mylo Xyloto
One band that has been working with Brian Eno in recent years is Coldplay. They first linked up for Viva La Vida in 2008. And now Eno has co-written songs for their 5th album Mylo Xyloto. It has already shot to #1, but does it deserve it? Jim compares the band to rice pudding. It's never phenomenal, but sometimes exactly what you want and need. But rice pudding should never be deconstructed or overcomplicated, and perhaps that's where the band went wrong with this release. Eno's presence alone doesn‘t make them any more experimental. And he didn’t do much to improve the inauthentic and melodramatic lyrics. Jim says Trash It. Greg agrees, but admits the Coldplay lyrics game is quite a fun one. He is disappointed by the stale arena rock formula and accuses them of cribbing notes from Bruce Springsteen, or worse The Killers imitating Springsteen. Mylo Xyloto gets a double Trash It.
Tom Waits Bad As Me
Whenever we solicit nominations for Halloween songs, one name comes up time and time again: Tom Waits. The boozy saloon crooner has a creepy voice, and dark, edgy narratives to match. His latest is called Bad As Me, and yes, Jim says, that about sums it up. He hasn't been a fan of Waits since his Swordfishtrombones days, calling the singer/songwriter shticky and grating. This album is no different, and he says Trash It. Greg is a little surprised, considering this is Waits' most accessible, hook-laden effort in years. What Jim calls shtick, he calls theatricality. And he admits that sometimes the theatricality obscures the plain good songwriting, rooted in old blues. Greg especially likes the collaboration with keyboardist Augie Myers. He says Bad As Me is a Buy It.
Björk is always ambitious. And on her latest release Biophilia, she releases her iPad compositions as a full-blown multimedia project with apps and animation. You have to admire it, but the music is something else for Jim and Greg. She employs custom instruments and unconventional rhythms and time-signatures, but nothing comes out very coherent or melodic. It's robotic and lacks emotion, and Jim and Greg say Trash It.
Van Hunt What Were You Hoping For
After being cut loose from his major-label deal, singer/songwriter Van Hunt has a new independently released album out called What Were You Hoping For. Jim and Greg received exactly what they were hoping for - a musically inventive album that doesn't fit into one particular genre. Van Hunt is finally free to let his freak flag fly, and fly it does. Jim and Greg compare him to George Clinton and Prince and encourage you to Buy It.
Mastodon The Hunter
Some call Mastodon the saviors of metal. Others…hipster sellouts. But Jim and Greg just think they make terrific music. Combining a little Black Sabbath with a little Melvins, they are experimental and hard rocking without losing their sense of melody and harmony. Their new album The Hunter marks five successful releases in a row. Jim and Greg say Buy It.
Wilco The Whole Love
Wilco has a new album out called The Whole Love, and it comes at a time of consistency for the band, which formed out of the ashes of Uncle Tupelo in 1994. Its current lineup is the longest running in the band's history. But for the first time in a couple of albums, Jim says the music has gone from beyond good to extraordinary. He notes the comparison to former label mate R.E.M., and suggests Wilco took the smart route by going completely independent. Greg is reminded of the days when Wilco really took chances. There's a sense of surprise, and bass player John Stirratt and drummer Glenn Kotche's playing is phenomenal. The Whole Love gets a double Buy It.
Das Racist Relax
Wesleyan University seems an unlikely springboard for a hip hop act, but Das Racist are anything but usual. The group gained a following after releasing some free mixtapes and appearing at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival. Now their full length debut is here. It's called Relax, and Greg explains that it's a fitting title. The two rappers, Heems and Kool A.D, appear to be very easy-going to those that aren't paying attention. But their songs are much more complicated. They combine humor with fantastic, dadaist references. Jim compares them to the Beastie Boys, or the Bomb Squad on drugs. Both hosts give Relax a Buy It rating.
St. Vincent Strange Mercy
St. Vincent has a new album out called Strange Mercy. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, also known as Annie Clark, visited Sound Opinions upon the release of her second album Actor. That ended up Greg's top album of 2009. He's equally impressed with this effort, noting that she's blowing out the dynamics mix to a greater degree. The same goes for her guitar playing, which is at times unrecognizable. He loves the layers and the complicated storytelling and gives the record a Buy It. Jim couldn‘t disagree more. He admits St. Vincent is unique and talented, but totally doesn’t buy“the schtick.”He finds her characters inauthentic and pretentious and says Trash It.
Lindsey Buckingham Seeds We Sow
'70s rock act Fleetwood Mac continues to tour today, but longtime member Lindsey Buckingham still makes room to record on his own. And that can be taken literally-Seeds We Sow is essentially a one-man-band record full of lush orchestrations, guitar and percussion. But, in contrast to the beautiful songs are the dark and weird lyrics. Greg hears that not all is right with Buckingham, but plenty is right with Seeds We Sow. He says Buy It. Jim is the first to admit he is not a Fleetwood Mac fan. For him there was too much rock excess. But he loves that Buckingham lets his freak flag fly solo, and is a convert on this album. He agrees, double Buy It.
Wild Flag Wild Flag
Ever since seeing them perform at this year's SXSW conference, Jim and Greg have been eagerly awaiting the self-titled debut from indie supergroup Wild Flag. And now that it's here, they aren't disappointed. The band is comprised of Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony formerly of Helium and a number of solo projects, and Rebecca Cole formerly of The Minders. Greg describes the songs as intense as Sleater-Kinney, but with more joy and a sense of abandonment. He's especially in awe of Weiss' drumming. Jim also loves Wild Flag, but for different reasons. For him Sleater-Kinney was lacking in melodies, something these songs have in spades thanks to Timony, who he calls an indie rock Stevie Nicks. Wild Flag gets a double Buy It rating.
Red Hot Chili Peppers I'm With You
Once fresh faces in the frat punk world, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a heritage act at this point. Their 10th album I'm With You is one of many collaborations with superproducer Rick Rubin. And it's the first with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis considers this a reboot, but Greg's having a hard time buying their new identity as a stadium ballad band. He misses the guitar virtuosity of John Frusciante, who quit in 2009. Flea remains an all-star bass player, but he can‘t save I’m With You. Greg says Trash It. Jim agrees with that sentiment, pointing to the lousy, mush-mouthed lyrics of Kiedis as his primary hurdle. This is not a sensitive band, and he would welcome a return to funk rock. Until then…Trash It.
Lil Wayne Tha Carter IV
Lil Wayne is fresh out of Rikers with the 4th album in his Tha Carter series. But curiously, he doesn‘t give much time to his jail experience. For the past decade, he’s been one of the most successful rappers in the business, both with his releases and mixtapes, but also as an ever-present cameo fixture. Jim describes Weezy as an interesting producer, but he can't get over the hip-hop clich'es. Tell us about prison, he pleads. Without those insights, this is a Trash Italbum. Greg was surprised to find that the most interesting rapping on Tha Carter IV was not by Lil Wayne himself. Rather, guests like Andre 3000, Tech 9 and Busta Rhymes take the prize. So for those tracks alone, Greg says Burn It.
Stephen Malkmus Mirror Traffic
Pavement fans eagerly awaited the band's 2010 reunion. And Jim and Greg think they'll be happy to hear Stephen Malkmus' new solo effort Mirror Traffic, as well. It's a return to form in many ways. You'll hear that signature smirk, the short, bursting pop songs and the quizzical lyrics. It was produced by fellow alt-rock idol Beck, and despite Malkmus‘“slacker”rep, there’s a great deal of pop craftsmenship on the album. Both hosts say Buy It.
John Hiatt Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns
Veteran singer/songwriter John Hiatt has a new album out called Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. And like your favorite jeans, there's something comfortable about Hiatt. But, Jim adds, there's also great depth and poignancy. Just look at the variety of artists who choose to cover Hiatt. He says Buy It. Greg describes Hiatt as amazingly consistent over the years. You can count on a handful of Americana classics sung with a wolfish drawl. But Dirty Jeans is neither great nor terrible. He wishes Hiatt had pushed it further and would recommend you Burn It.
Jay-Z & Kanye West Watch the Throne
And speaking of collaborations, Jim and Greg review this year's most anticipated one: Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. Do these guys even need an introduction? If Jay-Z's highly lucrative past collaborations with R. Kellyare any indication, Jim bets the Throne album and tour will hurt neither artist's bottom line. But what about the music? While Greg admits nothing could have lived up to the hype, he's disappointed by how Jay-Z and Kanye have misread the tenor of the times. In a summer of high unemployment, economic turmoil, and foreign revolutions, they're still rapping about their wealth. Kanye's recent albums may be among the best of the past decade, and Jay-Z might be the greatest MC living, but Greg and Jim agree - this is a Trash It record.
Jimmie Vaughn Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites
Guitarist Jimmie Vaughn's new album is Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites, and as the title suggests, the concept is pretty simple. This record has the former Thunderbird playing the songs he grew up with - deep cuts of blues, R&B and country - with accompaniment by guest vocalists like Lou Ann Barton. In fact, Jim wishes Barton was more than just a guest. He finds the strongest tracks are the ones where she is singing, not Vaughn. So he gives the record a Burn It rating. Greg really appreciates his guitar style-it's more terse and incisive than that of brother Stevie Ray. Kind of a“say it and get out”approach. Also, he appreciates the deep cuts on Plays More. Greg says Buy It.
The Cool Kids The Bake Sale
Jim and Greg have been taking about the fall of MySpace's popularity in recent weeks, but one of the bands to have used it as a launch pad is The Cool Kids. They released The Bake Sale and hits like "Gold and a Pager" in 2008. Now they've switched labels and are working under an interesting new business model. Jim calls the new release When Fish Ride Bicycles a wonderful summer treat. He admits they aren't reinventing the wheel, but Antoine“Sir Michael Rocks”Reed and Evan“Chuck Inglish”Ingersoll are talented lyricists. Jim says Buy It. Greg thought The Cool Kids was a breath of fresh air in the beginning. Now things are smelling a bit stale. He misses their down-to-earth approach and wishes they had passed on some of the fancy guest artists. Greg says clear out the clutter and Burn It.
Sons and Daughters Mirror Mirror
Next up is a review of the latest by the Scottish quartet Sons and Daughters. The band has always had a rougher, more“American”sound than its peers. They reference everyone from Johnny Cash to X, but Jim wondered if they were just a one-trick pony. On this album, Mirror Mirror, there's a considerable mood shift. Jim hears a witchy, Celtic vibe courtesy of the addition of synths. Greg agrees that this terrific band might have overstayed what people thought would be a short career, but they‘ve continued to grow. He calls Sons and Daughters one of the strongest bands of the last decade, and says it’s about time people started paying attention in the US. Mirror Mirror gets a double Buy It rating.
Brian Eno Drums Between the Bells
And now it's time for everyone's favorite Sound Opinions drinking game: How many times can Jim name-drop Brian Eno? But let it be known that these mentions are entirely warranted. Jim's favorite“Super Genius”is out with a new record, Drums Between the Bells, a collaboration with the British poet Rick Holland. Eno has a been a major influence in the music world since the early seventies, first as a member of Roxy Music, then as a solo artist and ambient music innovator, and most recently as a producer for industry powerhouses like U2 and Coldplay. First to the plate to review Drums Between the Bells is Jim, who wants to set the record straight. He's no slavish Eno devotee, though he's championed the artist at his best. Unfortunately Eno's best isn‘t what Jim gets on“Drums.”The album is part ambient music - perfectly fine for what it is, but Jim misses the vocal gravitas that Eno himself might have brought to Holland’s poetry (instead, Eno has regular folks - non-actors and singers - speaking Holland's lines). Jim gives Drums a Burn it. Greg agrees, calling the album's vocals a little too dry. But he was intrigued enough by all the interesting rhythmic work on Drums to give the album a Burn it.
Beyoncé's got her fourth album and her fourth number one…aptly named 4. With this record, she's earned her stripes, so rumors swirled that she was indulging her whims production-wise by collaborating with Diplo and Fela Kuti and recording upwards of seventy songs. But,rumors were just that, and of those seventy tracks, Beyoncé picked some doozies. Greg hears more soul on the ballads, but otherwise is disappointed by the hodge podge of bad choices. Jim can't even get behind the ballads and calls 4 the epitomy of factory-made pop product. 4 = 2 Trash Its.
Jill Scott The Light of the Sun
Is Jill Scott a contender for the next round of lists? Her new release The Light of the Sun is the number one album in the country, a first for Scott. The R&B singer started as a poet in Philadelphia and has gone on to have a successful career in both music and acting. Since her last release in 2007, Scott has gone through tough breakups of the romantic and professional variety. And that's provided much of the subtext for the songs on The Light of the Sun. Jim doesn‘t think the level of self-pity is warranted though, especially when the music is so upbeat. He’s not used to this tough lady feeling sorry for herself. And more disappointing is her singing. Jim says Trash It. Greg can‘t believe what he’s hearing. This isn't a return to form, in his opinion, but a whole new territory. The record sounds loose and fun, and despite the massive life changes, Scott sounds remarkably resilient. He says Buy It.
Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
There's been a whole lotta commentary about the new album by Bon Iver–some good, some bad. Justin Vernon first made a splash in 2008 with For Emma, Forever Ago. Even Kanye West is a fan. But the mythology precedes the record according to Greg. Bon Iver, Bon Iver is much more lushly orchestrated, but it really starts to sag in the middle. By the last track Greg was having bad visions of Steve Winwood and Bruce Hornsby. He says Burn It. Jim hears Mike + The Mechanics and thinks Greg is being kind. The production is grating, the lyrics nonsensical and the vibe drippy and snoozy. In other words: Trash It.
Battles Gloss Drop
Battles really wowed indie rock audiences with their 2007 release Mirrored. Now the experimental rock group is back with Gloss Drop. They are down a lead singer, Tyondai Braxton, but up a few guest vocalists. Greg notes that a lot of the terms used to describe Battles don't do the band any justice. "Math Rock," "New Prog Rock," and others don't indicate the sense of joy and play infused in their sound. He thought that the loss of Braxton would be a heavy blow, but now they are using vocals as just another layer and texture and it really works. Greg says Buy It. Jim, however, does miss Braxton. Nothing on Gloss Drop is as good as "Atlas." The instrumental tracks are quite strong, but the songs featuring vocal cameos by the likes of Gary Numan don't work for Jim. He says Burn It.
Raphael Saadiq Stone Rollin'
Raphael Saadiq is a music veteran at age 44. He was a member of the successful R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! and then Lucy Pearl. Now he's released his fourth solo album called Stone Rollin'. Jim loves the vibe of it, even Robert Randolph's pedal steel guitar. You could accuse Saadiq of living in the past–he makes no bones about his roots–but he has the songwriting chops to put behind it. Jim gives this“great party record”a Buy It. Greg has always respected and liked Saadiq, but on this album he falls in love. He calls this album the singer/songwriter's crowning achievement, adding that Saadiq falls on the right side of the divide between retro and classic. Stone Rollin' gets a double Buy It.
My Morning Jacket Circuital
My Morning Jacket's new album is Circuital, a nod to the band's desire to return to its roots. The Louisville quintet has a huge touring fan base these days, but their experimentation has sometimes taken them away from their original Neil Young-influenced sound. Greg appreciates their attempt to make a more cohesive album, and he really thought they got it…until he got to side two. Things totally fall apart there, so Greg can only recommend that people Burn It. Jim thinks even that rating is kind. He wonders how cartoonish music has to be to get passed up by the makers of the new Muppet movie. Jim says Trash It.
Lady Gaga Born This Way
There's a new hit pop album with Euro-pop dance beats and controversial lyrics designed to tweak the Catholic Church. Sound familiar? No, it's not Madonna, but Lady Gaga and her new album Born This Way. She might be the biggest star in the world right now, but she still has some surprises in her–including a fondness for '80s hair metal bombast. Jim was disappointed to hear Clarence Clemons on sax and Mutt Lange on production. He was further disappointed to hear the amount of over-singing. Jim wanted to love Born This Way, but it's a Trash It. Greg agrees that the record is totally overblown. It's like Gaga on steroids, and unfortunately, never lets up. A few standout tracks will work pounding in a stadium or club, but as an album, he'd just say Burn It.
Death Cab for Cutie Narrow Stairs
Death Cab for Cutie also has a new album out called Codes and Keys. It's been only three years since Narrow Stairs in 2008, but lead singer Ben Gibbard has a whole new outlook on life. He's become Mr. Zooey Deschanel, and he's become sober. But Greg insists that the lyrics still express a lot of anxiety, mostly about the idea of“home.”Greg also notes the wonderful sonic experimentation courtesy of band member and producer Chris Walla. In fact, this was their Eno-inspired album, much to Jim's delight. He hears a much happier Gibbard, nothing like the emo-sap that repelled Summer from The O.C. Both critics give Codes and Keys a Buy It.
Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi
Rome is the newest release from Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi.Go to episode 286
The Cars Move Like This
This next review should take you back. '80s hit makers The Cars have a new album out called Move Like This. It's their first in nearly three decades. Jim describes the band as successful synthesists-they took avant garde ideas and paired them with tuneful pop sensibilities. It made arty sounds safe on classic rock radio. But he thinks a little of lead singer Ric Ocasek goes a long way. He misses the balance of bassist/vocalist Ben Orr who died in 2000. Jim also wishes they had pushed the sound to someplace new. Of Move Like This, he says Trash It. Greg never thought The Cars made great albums, just great singles. And there are a handful of uptempo winners here, so he says Burn It.
Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
The Fleet Foxes said they wanted this second album to be their version of Astral Weeks. It's hard to say if they did it, but easy for Jim and Greg to give Helplessness Blues a double Buy It rating. The Seattle sextet's 2008 debut was more immediate in terms of melody. This one takes longer to settle into, but the lyrics are more direct, personal and full of anxiety. The layering of sounds, instruments and harmonies sound effortless. Our critics say go out and get it.
The Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
The Beastie Boys started out as snotty punks fighting for their right to party. But now they have more in common with vets like R.E.M. and U2. Their 8th album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, was much delayed, in part, because of Adam“MCA”Yauch's battle with cancer. But now it's here, and they haven't skipped a beat. The Beastie Boys are hardly boys anymore, but they make no attempt to be up to date. What they lack in edge they make up for in humor. Jim and Greg give this a joyful Buy It rating.
The Feelies Here Before
Going back to New Jersey, Jim and Greg next review the new album by The Feelies. As Greg explains, they don‘t rush anything. The band started in the late ’70s and has only produced five studio albums. But Here Before is worth the wait. Jim has a soft spot for The Feelies, but that actually makes him a tougher critic. He initially found this release a little sleepy, but grew to appreciate its small pleasures. Greg oddly recommends this new album as an introduction to new listeners. It's a survey of the high points of their career. Here Before gets a double Buy It.
Gorillaz The Fall
Gorillaz, the animated act fronted by Damon Albarn of Blur, has a new album out called The Fall. The title is both a reference to the band and also to the fact that this might be their last album. Albarn recorded the songs on his iPad while traveling on the last tour. Therefore, it's lower-key with fewer guest stars. Jim appreciates this quiet, ambient sound. It's a little sleepy at points, but he says Buy It. Greg admires the modest, headphone quality of the record, but defines this as a“must-own”only for hardcore fans. For the rest of you, he says, Burn It.
Foo Fighters Wasted Light
Was Butch Vig's hard work worth it on the Foo Fighters new record Wasted Light? Yes and no, say Jim and Greg. The album is excellently produced, trimmed of all fat, and will sound great on the radio. But no amount of production can make Dave Grohl's lyrics any better. The songs on Wasted Light are formulaic and clich‘e. Jim and Greg don’t deny Grohl is a tremendous drummer, and they recommend his other post-Nirvana projects like Probat and Them Crooked Vultures. But when it comes to songwriting…it's a Trash It.
Paul Simon So Beautiful or So What
Greg puts it well: When you think Paul Simon, you don‘t think“charming.”That’s why his new album So Beautiful or So What is such a surprise. Perhaps he should have swapped titles with his last release. Both Greg and Jim point to Simon's humor. He is not breaking any musical ground, but he's in fine form vocally and he wrestles with big, existential questions in a wry, down to earth way. Consider these critics charmed. So Beautiful or So What gets a double Buy It.
Britney Spears Femme Fatale
Britney Spears isn‘t a schoolgirl anymore. Seven albums in, she’s now a record industry veteran, which begs the question: is she over? Her latest album Femme Fatale debuted at #1, but with only 276,000 copies sold. That's nothing compared to artists like Taylor Swift and Eminem. And, as Jim and Greg add, where does Britney fit in these days when you have Katy Perry on one end of the pop spectrum and Lady Gaga on the other? They also wonder where she fits in on her own album, which has 28 songwriters and 13 producers. It's a well-oiled machine, and a very well-produced one, but Britney is almost incidental. Jim calls Femme Fatale soulless and gives it a Trash It rating. Greg doesn't argue with this, but recommends listeners Burn It just to hear the top notch production.
TV on the Radio Nine Types of Light
After taking a small hiatus and dabbling in film projects, TV on the Radio is back with its fourth album. The Brooklyn art rockers are one of the best bands to come out in the last decade, according to Jim and Greg. Nine Types of Light is a more optimistic, ballad-heavy album, which normally Greg wouldn‘t say is the kind of record for him. But it’s so layered and substantive that he says definitely Buy It. Jim puts them up there with Radiohead, and compares the subtle rhythms on this release to that on King of Limbs. He also praises the singing. Nine Types of Light gets two types of Buy Its.
Lykke Li Wounded Rhymes
Swedish singer Lykke Li has a new album out called Wounded Rhymes. She has again teamed up with fellow Swede Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John. The maturity is leaps and bounds above her previous effort. Greg was impressed with the“oomph”of her voice and her interesting source material. It's Phil Spector and doo-wop, but with a wicked tinge. Jim agrees, adding gospel and soul influences to that pot. Wounded Rhymes gets a double Buy It rating.
The Strokes Angles
The Strokes hit it big in 2001 by asking the question "Is This It?" And it seems that it was (couldn't resist). They released two underwhelming subsequent records and then went their separate ways. Now the group is more of a democracy, but the missteps Jim and Greg heard on Julian Casablancas' solo album Phrazes For the Young are evident on The Strokes' new album Angles. Jim calls it glossy and overproduced, and wonders where Fabrizio Moretti's terrific drumming is. But worse, the band sounds“artistically bankrupt.”He says Trash It. Greg is not so disappointed. Ultimately Angles is a failed record, but it tries new things and is more interesting for it. He is optimistic about the future and says Burn It.
R.E.M. Collapse Into Now
It's hard to believe, but R.E.M. has put out its fifteenth album. The formerly indie quartet from Athens is now a major label trio, and many fans have been waiting for a“return to form.”Well, they get it with Collapse Into Now…sort of. As Jim and Greg explain, the record is full of nods to older R.E.M. material, but nothing as strong. Why not just sit back and listen to the albums from the '80s and '90s? They add that the loss of drummer Bill Berry keeps getting magnified as the years go by. Collapse Into Now gets a double Burn It.
Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor
Next up, Jim and Greg review the new album by Lupe Fiasco called Lasers. The Chicago hip-hop artist debuted in 2006 with Food and Liquor, showcasing a sensibility unique in rap. This third album was a labor, and not necessarily of love. Lupe has admitted to having real difficulties with his record company – difficulties that led to compromises on a lot of tracks. That said, Jim loves Lupe's lyrics and "1960s message." There are inflated choruses and too many guest stars, but his words trump it all. Jim says Buy It. Greg wishes he could agree, but it's too clear which tracks he was less involved in. He looks forward to the next effort, but for now says Burn It.
This week British singer Adele bumps the big names off the Billboard chart. Her new album 21 is currently at #1. The former hairdresser impressed Jim and Greg with her debut 19, and now she's amped up the production with some big names including Beyoncé, Rick Rubin and Dan Wilson. But bigger isn't always better. Greg loves Adele's powerful voice, but the quality of the singing trumps the quality of the songs. He gives 21 a Burn It rating. Jim is even more disappointed. He thinks Adele should know better than to sing some of the“nonsense”on this record. She's gone Hollywood, so he's going with a Trash It.
Lucinda Williams Blessed
Singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams also has a new album out called Blessed. Now that she is happily married she's moved on from woeful bar tales to songs about other people. Jim loves this approach, especially on songs like "Soldier's Song" that are from the point of view of a G.I. Greg agrees – Williams has reinvented herself. This goes for the singing as well, and he credits producer Don Was for pulling everything back to make way for that voice. Williams is doubly Blessed with two Buy Its.
Radiohead The King of Limbs
Whenever Radiohead releases a new album, it always makes news – sometimes more for the business than the music. 2006's The Eraser was a quiet solo effort by Thom Yorke. 2007's In Rainbows had a revolutionary“pick-your-own-price”model. And now we have The King of Limbs, which was released early, quickly and without much hype. Gone is the freebie option, back is tiered pricing. The music, to Greg, is also a bit of a step back. It's less impactful and melodic than In Rainbows. But there are a few moments of greatness, especially when the group channels the abstract funk that Greg heard on Yorke's recent Atoms for Peace tour. He would like to see Radiohead go more in that direction on the next record and gives this one a Burn It. Jim remarks that the tables have turned – he is much more impressed by The King of Limbs. It does take time to grow, but is worth owning, especially if you are a headphone listener. The interaction of Yorke's twisted vocals and the grand piano especially works. Jim says Buy It.
PJ Harvey Let England Shake
Next up, Jim and Greg review the new album by PJ Harvey called Let England Shake. The British singer, who came out in the '90s with a series of critically acclaimed albums, never repeats herself. And on this record she uses autoharp and finds inspiration in war. But sometimes change doesn't do you good. Jim wishes Polly Jean Harvey sounded like herself. He can't stand her little girl singing voice and the pretentious sound. He gives Let England Shake a big Trash It rating. Greg is not as let down, but admits the album is a disappointment. He misses her first person perspective and says the music is not at all well-defined. Some parts are just plain annoying, but a few tracks stand up. So Greg says Burn It.
Drive-By Truckers Go-Go Boots
We've gotten a number of emails and calls from listeners asking, "why no Drive-By Truckers?" Jim and Greg admit this group often gets overlooked because they are so darn consistent. They recently released their tenth album, Go-Go Boots, and it's another winner. Greg attributes this to the fact that there are two solid songwriters. They create scenes and characters that a novelist would envy. Jim agrees, and encourages Kings of Leon fans to pick up this more authentic southern rock record. Go-Go Boots gets two Buy Its.
New Pornographers fans know Dan Bejar from his collaborations with the band. But he saves his most adventurous music for his solo project Destroyer. Bejar is often all over the map with Destroyer releases, so Jim and Greg did not see his latest album coming. Kaputt has some '80s pop sheen and elements of smooth jazz – things Greg doesn't generally like. But upon further listen, Greg began to understand where Bejar was coming from. He especially picked up on the influence of Blue Nile. Greg loved the tension between the warm,“pastel”sound and the angst-ridden lyrics. He gives Kaputt a Buy It rating. Jim was also initially put off by the record. And upon further listen he was even more put off. He doesn‘t understand how after all these years, Bejar’s records could still be so mediocre and spotty. The obscurity is not worth the effort. Jim says Trash It.
The North Mississippi Allstars Keys to the Kingdom
The North Mississippi Allstars also have a new album out, called Keys to the Kingdom. This album was written following the death of producer Jim Dickinson, the father of bandmates and brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, and the songs are not only filled with emotion, but steeped in the sound of their youth – the blues of the North Mississippi hill country. They also collaborate with some of Dickinson's favorite musicians, including Mavis Staples. This is a great return to form for the band. Both Jim and Greg say Buy It.
Smith Westerns Dye it Blonde
Chicago trio Smith Westerns have released their second album, Dye it Blonde, and Jim and Greg are happy to hear that these relative youngsters haven't shied away from their innocence. Their sweet love songs come out of a great tradition of Midwestern power pop. Plus, adds Greg, when you factor in the guitars and keyboards, the music gets taken to a higher level. He admits there isn't a lot of drive in the rhythms, but on the basis of melody alone, he gives Dye it Blonde a Buy It rating. Jim also admires the band's songwriting chops. But while the first release was a little too lo-fi, this one is a little too polished. Jim says Buy It, but would tell the Smith Westerns to go for more grunge next time.
Wanda Jackson The Party Ain't Over
In the '50s, Wanda Jackson was the "First Lady of Rockabilly" and a girlfriend of Elvis Presley. Today she's partnered up with musician and producer Jack White. White previously collaborated with Loretta Lynn, and now he's again aiming to bring one of his idols into the 21st century. Jim explains that Jackson has still got her signature voice, but everything else about The Party Ain't Over does not work. He disagrees with the song selection and holds White to blame. Jim says Trash It. Greg agrees that this record is a disappointment. He wishes White had just let the singer be herself. The modern touches are too forced. But for one track alone, "Blue Yodel #6", Greg says Burn It.
The Decemberists The King is Dead
Since 2004, The Decemberists have evolved into full-blown theatricality. Now they scale it back with their sixth album The King is Dead. According to Jim, it's with this record that they silence critics of their prog antics and prove at their heart they're simply about great songwriting. Lead singer Colin Meloy and the band looked to American folk and roots music and enlisted R.E.M.'s Peter Buck for a track. Greg finds the results more straightforward. The King is Dead shows that less is more and gets a double Buy It.
Electric Wizard Dopethrone
Electric Wizard, the self-proclaimed“heaviest band in the universe,”has a new album out called Black Masses. Over the past decade, the British stoner metal act has undergone a lot of lineup changes. They‘ve also picked up the pace a bit on their sludgy rhythms. There’s still a lot of heaviness and distortion, according to Greg, but the new album sounds more mainstream and less distinctive. There are a handful of classic Electric Wizard tracks, so he says Burn It. Jim agrees; if you only own one record by the band, and you should, go with Dopethrone. He gives Black Masses a Burn It rating.
Corinne Bailey Rae The Love EP
Pop music is filled with great love songs, and Corinne Bailey Rae picks her favorites to cover on The Love EP. The British singer's last release, The Sea, was her first since the death of her husband. Jim empathizes with Rae, but just doesn't like her vocal performance. It lacks guts and soul. And he also questions her song choices. Jim gives The Love EP a Trash It. Greg finds this review a little harsh. He admits there's nothing dark or emotional about Corinne Bailey Rae, but he hears a new friskiness not on other releases. He loves her takes on songs by Prince, Belly and even Doris Day. Greg recommends listeners Burn It.
Nicki Minaj Pink Friday
Nicki Minaj has taken the rap world by storm. Some are comparing her to Lady Gaga, while others say Lil' Kim. But neither do justice to Minaj's flair for role-playing and rhyme skills. Jim doesn't think all of the tracks on her debut Pink Friday are successful, but when she's on, she's on. He'd also add Missy Elliott and Peter Gabriel to the list of comparisons. Jim gives the record a Burn It rating. Greg has been blown away by the rapper's cameos on other records, but the situation is reversed on Pink Friday – the guest stars outshine her. Despite the ruckus Minaj has caused in the rap world, Greg is let down. He gives Pink Friday a Trash It.