[23 June 2009]
PopMatters Editor & Publisher
Where last week was a major drought, save for some stellar Americana from Ha Ha Tonka, this week is an embarrassment of riches. Even records that wind up being a disappointment like Mars Volta’s latest are still worth a listen or two. The week is packed with the sort of stuff that makes indie fans salivate (Sunset Rubdown, Dinosaur Jr., Tortoise), while still offering solid choices for middle of the road rock fans with new platters from Pete Yorn, the Gossip (digital only until October), the Lemonheads and Cheap Trick.
Dinosaur Jr. - Farm: J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph resurrected the original band line-up in 2007 for the critically acclaimed Beyond and they have stuck with it. Leaving the majors behind for a respected indie label, Jagjaguwar, the group continues their anthemic sound, underpinned by J Mascis’ guitar hero riffs.
The Mars Volta - Octahedron: The former members of At the Drive-In continue their prog rock explorations, albeit at a lower volume and slower pace. Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have both labeled the album their “acoustic” effort that, while not entirely accurate, does hint at the intent here.
The Gossip - Music for Men (digital release): Famed producer Rick Rubin takes the helm on for the politically active band’s first major label studio effort, Music for Men. Frontwoman Beth Ditto is surely more well-known in the UK, a nude cover on the NME having more than a little bit to do with it. Columbia Records is clearly banking on the band breaking through big here too, by putting them into Rubin’s trusted hands. The album released in the UK Monday, but is only getting a US digital release until October.
Patterson Hood - Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs): The Drive-By Trucker continues his lyrical obsessions on his second solo album. Exploring Southern lives and identity has been Hood’s modus operandi since the earliest Truckers recordings and he hasn’t lost his touch here.
The Lemonheads - Varshons: Evan Dando and company pile into the studio to play some of their favorite tunes in countryish, jangle pop fashion, offering up a cover album highlighting a diverse range of artists, including Gram Parsons, Wire, Townes Van Zandt and G.G. Allin. Kate Moss pops up on Dirty Robot and Liv Tyler guests on a reading of Leonard Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.
God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl: Scottish pop god Stuart Murdoch, who has a day job fronting Belle and Sebastian, is a nascent filmmaker, planning his debut in 2010 with a flick called God Help the Girl. He’s got a jump start on the music, putting the soundtrack to wax this week. These are jazzy pop tunes, including two remakes of Belle and Sebastian ditties, with a ‘60s girl pop spin.
Pete Yorn - Back and Fourth: Pete Yorn pens catchy alterna-pop that seems tailor made for the touchy feely evening TV soap opera of the moment. His fourth full-length album features hook-filled numbers filled with orchestral swells, the occasional country touch, and the ever-present singer-songwritery acoustic guitar.
Spinnerette - Spinnerette: Brody Dalle formerly of the Distillers teams with former members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queens of the Stone Age for a poppy punk record.
Other notable releases this week:
Amazing Baby - Rewild
Tom Brosseau - Posthumous Success
Cheap Trick - The Latest
Shawn Colvin - Live
Deastro - Moondagger
Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day
Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Foreign Born - Person to Person
Future of the Left - Travels with Myself and Others
Ginuwine - A Man’s Thoughts
John Mellencamp - Life Death Live & Freedom
Tift Merritt - Buckingham Solo
R.E.M. - Reckoning (Deluxe Edition)
Royal City - Royal City
Regina Spektor - Far
Serengeti and Polyphonic - Terradactyl
Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship