A Fork In The Road!
One week you're on top of the world--completely plugged into the pop culture scene via exciting performances during the marvelous Super Bowl and Grammy Awards telecasts--and the next, you're wondering why you haven't seen a single movie that was nominated for an Academy Award!
And that same week, you wake up, try to put on your shoes, and realize that suddenly, strangely...they're somehow loose! It's as if you've actually physically shrunken! And when you find yourself adjusting your car seat only minutes later--a car seat in which you've been perfectly comfortable for the past three years--it strikes you again! Something has changed!
And then it hits you: Looking at your reflection, you realize you're wearing a wonderful new shirt! And my, you look good!
Who knows, you say to yourself--maybe this will be the week I listen to all the new albums before I review them!
But the man in the mirror laughs! And you find it pretty funny yourself! Later you buy gas!
Lyle Lovett: Release Me (Lost Highway) Though he tends to drift in and out of the public sphere, performer Lyle Lovett has never been less than an extraordinarily tasteful musician--and his latest set, featuring the multiple Grammy winner with guests such as k.d. lang, Kat Edmondson and Sara & Sean Watkins, offers up more of the same fine work that's been his calling card. A mixture of originals and cover songs such as "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "Release Me" makes this a compelling, highly listenable return, and the cover art--depicting the singer tied up and standing on a deserted road--would make only a select few imagine what they might do were they speeding down that same road in shiny new pick-up truck, a six-pack of Budweiser on the passenger seat, and suddenly saw him standing there, the picture of helplessness! Hah, not that I ever would!
The Cranberries: Roses (Downtown) You'd be forgiven for assuming the first studio album in 10 years by the Cranberries was no small matter--I know I was impressed--until, inevitably, you find out the album was in fact recorded by an Irish band, apparently of some repute some years back, rather than those luscious little red things mysteriously grown in "bogs" up in New England and must be consumed with sugar to be at all palatable! That said, in fact I find this album quite enjoyable, especially when listened to while eating a candy bar or cupcake and playing the television--maybe a basketball game--extraordinarily loud to drown out the high-pitched singing that oddly seems to be featured on each track! But the band has sold over 30 million records in the course of their career, and that is no small accomplishment! Considering their moderate levels of Vitamin C, dietary fiber and manganese, I--and, incidentally, many doctors--would recommend them heartily!
Pink Floyd: The Wall: Immersion Box Set (Capitol/EMI) The third of the long-awaited, multi-disc Immersion sets of Pink Floyd reissues--following Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here--this deluxe set will be an absolute joy to long-term Floyd fans. Consisting of remastered versions of both The Wall and Is There Anybody Out There: The Wall Live, two discs of Wall demos, and a feature-heavy DVD, not to mention a set of marbles, photos and other collectibles, the box is studiously assembled and a fine tribute to the best work of latter-day Floyd. In retrospect, I find it interesting that this and Dark Side, perhaps the band's two most commercially successful albums, are so heavily devoted to the notion of personality disintegration and nervous breakdowns: Talk about playing to your audience! One hopes this won't be the last of the Immersion sets, as--despite their relative expense--many more Pink Floyd album merit this extended treatment. Highly recommended.
Il Volo: Il Volo Takes Flight From The Detroit Opera House (Geffen) I have long been a proponent for truth in advertising--ever since someone sent me a crappy Busy Buzz Buzz toy in the '60s which simply didn't perform as advertised--and I'll give the young Italian trio Il Volo this: Releasing an album featuring a "flawless version of 'O Solo Mio'" among other things, followed by the deafening sound of a helicopter crashing through the roof of the Detroit Opera House and then, while the audience screeches in terror, loading the effervescent trio onboard and taking off for the nearby Detroit Metro Airport, is one heck of a bold move! Between you and me, if there's a 5.1 version of this baby, count me in! Top notch!
Robert Glasper Experiment: Black Radio (Blue Note) An ambitious, contemporary set blending jazz, hiphop and more, this new album by pianist Glasper is a joy. Featuring a giant batch of impressive guests--Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Lupe Fiasco, Lalah Hathaway, Mos Def, Chrisette Michelle, and Meshell Ndegeocello among them--the group plays originals, well-known covers ("Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Sade's "Cherish the Day") and some highly unexpected ones (David Bowie's "Letter To Hermione"? Really?), all of which seem to be seeking creative rather than commercial ends, thankfully, and most of which work wonderfully. Superb and quite, quite unique in 2012.
Suzanne Ciani: Lixiviation (B-Music) If you're like me, and at this very minute ripping CDs by Ottmar Libert and Max Lasser's Ark purely because you have them and may want to hear them again at your convenience in the next 10 years--although you sort of doubt it--you'll see Suzanne Ciani's name and likewise count her among that peculiar group of skilled musicians who cast their lot with the "New Age" movement when it seemed commercially--aesthetically?--viable but now seems, I don't know, strangely quaint. So nothing will prepare you for this adventurous set of long-ago hipster squiggle of bleeps, doots and Atari videogame music, most of which sounds nifty as heck and a damn sight more contemporary than, say, the entire recorded catalog of Narada Records. B-Music is one of the more fascinating compilers of "strange" music, so I salute them--this new set showcases Ciani in a way that I for one never imagined her. An absolute blast, frankly.
Carole King: Simple Things, Pearls: Songs Of Goffin & King, Welcome Home, Touch The Sky (all Rockingale) Back when CDs were first introduced, longtime music fans picked up "new" versions of albums they already owned on vinyl, largely to enjoy what was perceived as improved sound, and sat back and listened to old favorites once more with, er, "virgin" ears. Since Carole King's Tapestry was one of the most popular albums in history, its release was inevitable--but, as time wore on, not everything got re-released. This new batch of King reissues features the singer-songwriter well past her commercial prime--essentially the Capitol albums that would come starting with 1977's Simple Things--and, for those who haven't heard them, are respectable, solid ventures that many will find enlightening. Some fine material, some excellent musicianship, and the sort of warmth that one rarely comes by these days, King's albums here absolutely deserve a thorough rehearing. Kudos to Rockingale for bringing them back.
Beth Jeans Houghton: Yours Truly Cellophane Nose (Mute) Not to be confused with Larry Khakis Stromberg or Linda Handbags Jones, young Brit singer Houghton--who appears here with her similarly stunningly-named band the Hooves Of Destiny--is a highly enjoyable, creative soul whose music is certain to set your soul a-stirring. Word is she's one of those weird babes who wears funny stage costumes, is into theatrics, knows hipsters like Bon Iver and Devendra Banhart, and probably has a "real" middle name like Linda, Bonnie or Mary. But don't hold it against her! There's a lot of substance in this music, and I'd love to see it performed live. Check it out--one of this year's better debut albums.
Geographer: Myth (Modern Art) While I'm not 100 percent hip to all that is Geographer, I will say that one listen to this new disc convinced me that there's some interesting stuff going on here. Consisting of Michael Deni, Nathan Blaz and Brian Ostreicher, the Bay area trio have crafted a highly listenable and substantial second album that features fine songs, creative arrangements--synths, cellos, etc.--and not a single thing that sounds overtly derivative. It's almost as if--get this!--they're making music because they like it and want to pursue art rather than, I don't know, appear on the MTV Video Music Awards show or something! Dopes! Still, I'd recommend buying this, listening to it a few times, and then going about your business until you run into somebody unpleasant! Because you always do!
Chiddy Bang: Breakfast (Virgin) A lovable pair of rodents, Chiddy & Bang here run circles around their nemesis, ageing feline Mr. Jinks--who simply hasn't been the same since eating Pixie and Dixie! "They were more than my co-stars," Jinksie notes mid-album, "they were my friends!" Replacement duo Chiddy & Bang's preference for scruffy hiphop aficionado Top Cat has, clearly, had no small effect on the now haggard and lethargic Jinks! Sad!