Apologies for being 24 hours late in posting this week's wrap-up of new album releases!
Just spent last night in New Haven, Connecticut, where I interviewed Willie Nelson--hey, he's quite popular!--and, after getting up at an ungodly east coast hour, spent about 10 hours flying back to Los Angeles and am now in a peculiarly vegetative state!
That's almost a joke!
So here I sit, a list of fine new albums on the left part of my computer screen, a blank Word document on the right, and completely baseless opinions aplenty!
Surely, then, all is right with the world!
Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic) When it comes to compelling, piano-playing singer-songstresses with a knack for penning tunes that scratch the very recesses of each listener's psyche, Tori Amos is great! Fiona Apple, on the other hand, is kind of silly! This long-awaited new album, originally entitled Don't I Have Nice Hair? until the singer was convinced that was dopey, features plaintive wailing, emotional soul-searching, and just about everything else you probably liked when you were 16 years old! Then one day you realized you had to start paying bills! That's when the late-night listening sessions with Etta James and single-malt scotch started! Still, to give the singer credit where it's due, I'd rather hear this album than a pilot announce over a loudspeaker, "I'm sorry, we're going to have to return to the gate for a few minutes while we have a few technicians check out this problem. Hopefully it will be minor and we'll soon be on our way!" Here's hoping Fiona finally makes the leap and calls her next album This Is A Review Of Fiona Apple's Brand New Album And It Is Absolutely So Frickin' Spectacular We Have Decided To Make The Review Itself The Actual Album Title!
Justin Bieber: Believe (Island) A new album by Justin Bieber is a hallowed event, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and something I think all of us will be talking about 30 years from now! I don't know what I like best about this new one! The title? Sure, that's cool! The cover picture? You bet! The great songs? Why not? The fact that Justin has over 43 million Facebook fans, more than 22 million Twitter followers and over 2.7 billion YouTube views? Heck, that's pretty good! But between you and me, I think I'm most taken with the fact that the deluxe version of this album includes three additional tracks! Well, maybe that and his hair! It's a toss-up!
Kenny Chesney: Welcome To the Fishbowl (Sony Music Nashville) It's difficult to throw stones at one of country music's most commercially successful artists, and here he's back with an album that will serve him very well. Featuring guest appearances by Tim McGraw and Grace Potter--two artists with whom he'll be touring this summer--it's a solid set that will be the summer soundtrack for many country fans and likely keep him smack dab in the center of the fishbowl he sings about on this set's title track.
The Smashing Pumpkins: Oceania (Martha's Music) Neither smashing nor actual pumpkins--well, in most cases--this band was of course the bee's knees back in the '90s until numerous personnel shifts and celebrated excesses conspired to gently push them out of the picture. Lead Pumpkin Bily Corgan went solo, constructed a brand new band, and frankly did nearly everything but embrace the sound that he and his fun-loving gang semi-originated way back when! Oceania seems to address that issue--it is certainly Pumpkinesque, has a fully groovy album cover, and comes at a point in time when ever-controversial Billy has taken to bad-mouthing Radiohead's guitarist at the expense of Deep Purple's! Cool! Do you think you will ever see a poem as lovely as a tree?
Can: The Lost Tapes (Mute) Certainly one of the finest and most innovative bands in pop music history, Germany's Can have left a recorded legacy--and level of influence--that borders on the staggering. This 3-disc collection of previously unreleased works, all recorded in the studio during the band's prime, is a superb addition to their legacy and the sort of unexpected pleasure that will drive the band's ravenous followers mildly nuts. Check out this interview with Can's Irmin Schmidt and his current musical Jono Podmore here for more enlightening details.
The Raconteurs: Live At Montreux (Blu-Ray) (Eagle Rock) While it would appear that I am not as big a fan of Jack White as nearly everyone I know, I would like to point out that it is in the context of the Raconteurs--alongside singer/songwriter Brendan Benson and Greenhornes Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence--that I think he especially shines. This excellent video set, recorded at Montreux in 2008, features the dudes rocking material from their first two albums and is energetic, well-played, and actually great fun. Recommended.
Ravi Coltrane: Spirit Fiction (Blue Note) He's been at it for years, and it's a heck of a legacy to live up to, but saxophonist Ravi Coltrane--son of jazz legends John and Alice Coltrane--has been consistently releasing fine albums both as a sideman and on his own. His latest, the first for the distinguished Blue Note label, is excellent throughout, featuring Coltrane with two different band line-ups with a guest appearance by fellow saxophonist Joe Lovano, who with Coltrane serves as co-producer here. Fine, forward-looking stuff that makes amply clear the Coltrane legacy continues to live on through the 21st century.
Kylie Minogue: The Best Of Kylie Minogue (CD/DVD) (EMI) If every music collection in the world needs one Kylie Minogue album--and I'm not saying every music collection does, but, hey, maybe--then this generous collection of 21 tracks and 21 accompanying music videos, the latter of which show Minogue's true talent, would clearly be the one to get. Ultimately put together by fans after thorough market research by her label, the set may offer no major surprises to Kylie fanatics, but tells her story in a thorough, completely satisfactory manner. Also: She's not ugly!
Morning Parade: Morning Parade (Astralwerks) Not exactly exceptional but still a nice showing from a Brit band who 1) play the kind of pleasing pop/indie rock that finds a home on things like The Vampire Diaries, 2) partner with Coca-Cola in the UK, 3) luck out, 4) eventually make exorbitant amounts of money, 5) ultimately feud, 6) break up, 7) hit skid row, 8) decide to get the band together one last time just for sentimental reasons, 9) give the live performance of a lifetime, and 10) then a massive meteor hits Venezuela and the entire earth is destroyed!
Richard Marx: A Night Out With Friends (TourDForce) A low-key affair featuring the always affable singer hitting a Chinese restaurant with a few buddies, strolling over to a midtown theater to catch a little bit of that Woody Allen retrospective, then back to Joe's for a few quick hands of Texas hold'em before calling it a night! Admittedly dry, but still...kind of cool!