I'm so torn! Between last weekend's great Budweiser Made In America Festival, featuring Jay-Z, Pearl Jam, and lots of beer, and this week's coming Music Video awards, from prize-winning music video channel MTV, who has time to actually listen to this week's hot new releases?
I've got to figure out what to wear!
But don't get the wrong idea! I'm not going anywhere—certainly not to the award show itself! I just like to dress up when I watch TV! In case anybody, you know, stops by to say hello!
Of course…that hasn't happened for a few months now! But with this new Matchbox Twenty album blaring through the speakers I've put up in front of my house, and these great new pants I just got at Costco, it's got to be just a matter of time!
And guests willing to stop by and discuss the week's great new albums can also enjoy a heady serving of croissants, muffins, and sheet cake, all courtesy of the fabulous Costco bakery!
I'll be the tall guy sitting in the back yard with the cat on my lap!
Matchbox Twenty: North (Atlantic) There's something intrinsically nice about Matchbox Twenty, something that's been with them since they started, that's shifted them from the morass of mid-'90s bands like Seven Mary Three, Better Than Ezra, and The Verve Pipe—you know, the sort that had one real radio hit and then simply stayed around too long—into comparative Not Bad-dom! This, their first fully new album in 10 years—and weirdly, only their fourth—is solid, tune-filled, better than the cynical among us might expect, and exactly the sort of thing you want to hear if you were a big Grass Roots fan and hadn't bought a new record in 35 years! And if you also liked the Guess Who, bingo! Frankly, my biggest concern is whether I should call them Matchbox Twenty or Matchbox 20! Well, that and each and every one of our inevitable deaths! But I bet they like croissants!
Cat Power: Sun (Matador) Far be it from me to knock the innate talents of alterna-rock babe Cat Power, whose legacy of distinguished prior recordings has made her a favorite of animal lovers worldwide! Frankly, I put this baby on and expected the usual herky-jerk, semi-poetic stuff that I'd probably like a lot if I were into drinking lots of coffee and had the hots for my history professor—you know the story!—but guess what? This is a completely commercial, adroitly written and sung pop album that would likely win the heart of any new listener who picked it up and had no idea of this woman's prior recording history! I'm thinking that the inevitable move by any artist who's spent the first decade of their career railing against "the norm" as a matter of course will be to rebel against their own history and thereby strive to release the most normal and commercial album they can muster! This is Cat Power's! I like her hair!
Melissa Etheridge: 4th Street Feeling (Island) Anyone who's a longtime fan of singer Melissa Etheridge knows she's a powerful, convincing vocalist who—as a matter of course—sings from the heart in a manner unlike most of her contemporaries! This new set, her 12th studio album, sees Etheridge either singing about the 4th street of her hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas—a town, as her bio states, known for its prison and army base—or the 4th street of Santa Monica, California, which is only one block away from the marvelous Third Street Promenade, where one can buy new shoes, eat fancy French fries, or catch the latest chick flick and eventually watch the sun gently set over the Pacific Ocean! I'd bet on the latter, but that simply doesn't make sense! Art is so cool these days!
Ian Hunter & The Rant Band: When I'm President (Slimstyle) It is somewhat astounding that this week's most purely rocking album—the one that chugga-chugs the most, that features mature and adult lyrics that are consistently wryly delivered, that seems less concerned than any other with pure commercial potential—has been delivered by 73-year-old Ian Hunter, former frontman of Mott The Hoople and one of pop music's most colorful and intelligent characters. In fine voice, and backed by a skilled band, Hunter here is sonically not that far removed from the work he regularly crafted in the early days of his solo career, and the warmth and personality that filled his best work is likewise front-and-center. Highly recommended.
Animal Collective: Centipede Hz (Domino) Certainly one of the most highly respected experimental pop groups of their era, Animal Collective return here with another set that yet again takes their band name literally and prominently features the "found sounds" that populate a typical Humane Society well after closing time. Highlights include what appears to be a massive German Shepherd in a barking dual with either a Chihuahua or Pomeranian (it's hard to tell), an abrasive screech of mewing kittens, apparently hungry for their mother's milk, and, deep in the background, the muffled sound of broken beer bottles, a chain-link fence opening, and teenagers arguing about whether AC/DC rocked harder than Van Halen! Like most of us, Animal Collective have been listening hard to the Black Eyed Peas!
Two Door Cinema Club: Beacon (Glassnote) A top-notch follow-up to the memorable debut by this skilled Irish combo, Beacon is loaded with catchy, well-played pop songs--all with hooks galore, and all likely to appeal to two separate generations of music lovers: young people with a respect for great singing and playing, and pre-boomers with an unnatural affection for Yes before they got all arty and concept-album oriented. They're a growing success Stateside—Glassnote has an uncanny knack for picking up great new artists—and this album may very likely seal the deal. Give it a listen.
Tanita Tikaram: Can't Go Back (Eagle) A welcome return here from Brit singer Tikaram, whose textured work in the late '80s brought us "Twist In My Sobriety" and brought her no small amount of international fame. A captivating and candid songwriter, Tikaram released several more equally interesting albums, took some time off, and in 2010 started recording Can't Go Back in Los Angeles with producer Paul Bryan. It's good stuff, aiming for some sort of "Americana" vibe with a dash of R&B thrown in, all highlighted by Tikaram's unmistakable and much-missed vocals. Sadly, aside from "Tiara Manta Kit," her name continues to produce no worthwhile anagrams whatsoever!
Imagine Dragons: Night Visions (Interscope) While I did not have the highest expectations for Imagine Dragons—I mean, come on, I don't like anyone telling me what to do!—the dudes impressed most of us at the Yahoo offices recently when they dropped by to play a brief acoustic set and, in a stunning twist, were able to both play their instruments and sing in tune! What next? The perfect album to listen to when you're ripping the Royal Guardsmen's Anthology!
Azure Ray: As Above So Below (Saddle Creek) A brief, six-track showing from talented duo Azure Ray—Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink—who have popped up on records by Bright Eyes and Japancakes but, secretly, are quite good all on their own! According to my fave website Radiant Woman, "A phrase like 'As above, so below' is used by writers and astrologers alike to explain why and how the world works," and here I just thought it was a Comsat Angels song! Why did I waste my life reading comic books? My new goal: rid my brain of all trivia and simply live in the now!
Judas Priest: Screaming For Vengeance- Special 30th Anniversary Edition (Legacy) Completely remastered? Featuring "You've Got Another Thing Coming" and a live DVD from the US Festival with "Diamonds And Rust," "The Green Manalishi" and "Breaking The Law"? Surely, if you must own one Judas Priest album, this is the one! And if you must eat one donut, may I suggest Dunkin' Donuts' delightful Cocoa Kreme Puffs?