Like most music fans, I too was captivated by what may have been this week's biggest music story! "Rihanna shares racy topless photos," blared the headlines, accompanied by a helpful "Go To Video" button--which I surely would have pressed, if my mother hadn't been calling at that very minute to thank me for the beautiful flower assortment I'd sent her for Mother's Day!
As you might imagine, clicking that button and seeing Rihanna's racy topless photos just didn't seem appropriate after speaking with my mom!
Instead, I cleaned my room, prepared myself a healthy meal of a small chicken breast and string beans, poured a ginger ale, and sat down to watch the probing and inquisitive TV show 60 Minutes!
Later that night I spent a few hours stalking a few old acquaintances on Spokeo, seeing how long I could hold my breath, checking out that whole Britney Spears/Demi Lovato X Factor thing, and just staring at pictures of Rihanna! It's hard to explain, but after a half-hour, I felt strangely alive...in a way I'd never felt before...so I went and opened up a can of peanut brittle!
"I better not mention this when I write my next blog," I told myself. "what if Mom reads it?"
Adam Lambert: Trespassing (19 Recordings) One of the drawbacks/benefits of working with one of this country's biggest American Idol experts is that, whether I want to or not, I know more about the show than any sane human would ever want! Of course, I don't know what any of the dopey contestants actually look like, but I know their names, I know what they all sound like, and I know that most of them are all so boring they give popular music a bad name! And the only exception to the rule appears to be Adam Lambert, the controversial glam-rock dude who apparently "lost" during the show's eighth season but is likely to rank up there with Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson as the only contestants that will have any long-term relevance whatsoever. The new album is slickly produced--almost annoyingly so--but filled with hooky, catchy pop tunes that are commercial but not pandering and, as such, seems an actual piece of art rather than a by-product of a dreary television show. If he'd not spent an entire season singing other people's songs--other people's well-known songs--I might be more inclined to view the tunes here as revealing more about his personality than his vocal adeptness, but I'm not sure that means much in the overall scheme of things. This is polished, respectable work, and I'm happy to say I like it. He sure is a snappy dresser!
Willie Nelson: Heroes (Legacy) Like Adam Lambert--well, not really, except he probably breathes oxygen, too--Willie Nelson has a loyal fan base and has just released a new album! This one is quite good, too, as it features the country legend in top form, singing with guests like Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Snoop Dogg, Sheryl Crow, Ray Price, Billy Joe Shaver, and his sons Lukas and Micah, among others, and concludes with the memorable cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist" from that weird Chipotle commercial. For any other artist, a guest list like that--not to mention a Chipotle commercial--would constitute some kind of disturbing sell-out, but for Nelson, it's one further indication that the man has an extraordinary talent that appeals to generations and people more diverse than any other artist out there. An excellent work, of which he--and his sons--should be proud.
Lisa Marie Presley: Storm & Grace (Universal Republic) Aside from having one of the most interesting personal lives of any human being on the planet--imagine if your father was Elvis Presley, and that's just the tip of the iceberg--Ms. Presley has already proven herself a talented singer with more than a little of her father's own innate charisma. Her prior records were fine, but this new one--produced by T Bone Burnett--is close to remarkable: Atmospheric, steamy, at times even haunting, it seems the work of a mature and distinguished artist and would likely be well-received regardless of the genetic lineage behind it. And that she doesn't really have to do this sort of thing to support herself may be even more interesting. Recommended.
Rye Rye: Go! Pop! Bang! (N.E.E.T.) An engaging hip-hop album by a young Baltimore woman who's worked with DJ Blaqstarr and M.I.A. (whose label she's signed to), the former Pumpernickel Pumpernickel--really, who could blame her for the name change?--debuts here with a strong record certain to amass fans in delicatessens worldwide! Featuring strong tracks like "Holla Holla" and "Boom Boom," Rye Rye's album tells it like it is is and more more! Anyone who writes songs with titles like "Drop," "Dance," and "Shake Twist Drop" will likely come over to your house and hit you if you don't like her, so let's all play nice! Her only flaw? An over-reliance on the exclamation point!
Beach House: Bloom (Sub Pop) Always an interesting duo, Baltimore-based (like Rye Rye!) Beach House return here with an exceptionally fine album--surely one of the year's best--that is wistful, melodic, powerful and soothing all at once, and as mature a work as any pop music album I've heard in years. Layered sound, deep booming percussion, echoed vocals: They've got everything right, they don't really sound like anyone else, and they're getting better with every album. I'd suggest you buy this!
Cherri Bomb: This Is The End Of Control (Hollywood) A perky gaggle of teen girls--boy, did I like typing that!--Cherri Bomb are an attractive teen quartet of rockers who in more than one way recall the Runaways, which is not a bad thing to recall at all! They've got friends in high places, they've proven their worth on the live stage, and as albums go, This Is The End Of Control is respectable indeed! Additionally, some review I just read on Amazon--"sassy grunge-pop gets the packed crowd jumping"--sounds poetic as heck! I'm completely into them--but sadly must enjoy them in the privacy of my own home for fear of being misunderstood! Now I know how Kim Fowley felt!
NRBQ: We Travel The Spaceways (Clang!) Longtime fans of beloved band NRBQ--a band some contend to be the very best on the planet--will be thrilled not just with this new Q album, a recent live set, but by its guest appearance by former drummer Tom Ardolino, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The band may have significantly changed personnel over the years, but their devotion to all forms of music hasn't shifted in the slightest: Their first album featured Sun Ra's "Rocket #9" back in 1969, and this new one takes its title from the celebrated jazz composer as well. We're so lucky to have them around.
Hundred Waters: Hundred Waters (Porter Records) A startlingly good record here from a Gainesville, Florida group on the rise, this debut set arrives fully formed, highly musical, and not overly derivative--and not the sort of thing you'd expect from people apparently so young. Artful and melodic, the album is impeccably arranged and, after a few listenings, deeply rewarding. Added bonus: A song titled in Morse Code! Find out more here.
Best Coast: The Only Place (Mexican Summer) They caused quite a stir with their last album, which evoked the best of '60s pop in many ways, and here Best Coast return with talented producer/writer Jon Brion--who's polished up their sound somewhat and helped craft a solid and consistent record. That said, I am taken by--and tend to agree with--the Amazon reviewer who noted that after listening to the group's prior album, "it was hard to get over the feeling that the music was made by someone whose hair was perpetually unwashed." Hey, Amazon reviewers don't get paid, so it's cool!
Tenacious D: Rise Of The Fenix (Epic) Hah! They spelled "Phoenix" wrong! Dopes!