Music

New CDs This Week: Dinosaur Jr., The Mars Volta...

Sarah Zupko

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

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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