On the record

On the record

Spoon

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Merge

Grade: B

The title of Austin quartet Spoon’s latest refers to the monotonous piano chord that drives the second song on this record, “The Ghost of You Lingers.” The song sounds simple, even boring at first, but it develops well, with blurts of electronica, echo effects and a yearning cry to a lost lover, sung in an unexpected falsetto. That is the nature of this tight little band: they stick to a dance beat, with few solos, but the guitars sound hot, and lead singer Britt Daniel’s hoarse voice lingers appealingly in your mind. It’s a short record, only 36 minutes long, but includes two or three potential hits, especially the sexy “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb.”

Download: “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”, “The Underdog”

—KS

Bryan Ferry

Dylanesque

Virgin

Grade: a

An entire album of covers of Bob Dylan songs. Is this trip really necessary? It’s got plenty of really great people on it — well-traveled session guitarist Chris Spedding, Brian Eno, Robin Trower, etc. — but when you want to see Rodan, you see Rodan, not the works of Rodin. This album is sort of like the “Toronto Miracle”: an Airbus A340 overshoots the runway at Toronto Pearson and explodes; all 309 people survive, but it’s still a fucking wreck! Every one of these tracks makes me feel embarrassed and kind of sick, like if I were to find a picture of me in that rented toast-colored tux I wore to high school prom. Sort of like the truly hideous artwork on the cover, actually.

Download: “Gates of Eden”

—DC

Various Artists

Healing the Divide:

A Concert for Peace and Reconciliation

Anti-

Grade: B

What do Tom Waits, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, Foday Musa Suso, Anoushka Shankar and Richard Gere have in common? Why, an admiration for the Dalai Lama and a desire to help the monks and nuns of Tibet, of course. This mind-opening live record offers gifted artists from around the world, from Philip Glass and the gorgeous kota of Foday Musa Suso to Tom Waits playing with, in some ways, his best band ever, Kronos Quartet. Records of benefit concerts tend to freature heartfelt but sloppy renditions of hits. This has no hits, but many surprises and much beauty.

Download: “Diamond in Your Mind” (Tom Waits & Kronos Quartet)

—KS

on the record

on the	record

The Polyphonic Spree
The Fragile Army
IWI Records/
Good Records
Grade: B+

The Polyphonic Spree is a strange bird of a band. The roughly 30-person strong collective was first seen about five years ago wearing robes and singing happy symphonic songs. For The Fragile Army, they have mothballed the robes for black military uniforms and have come out with a record that seeks to worm its way into the mainstream. It’s bookended by hook-filled rockers (“Running Away,” “The Championship”) that should appeal to mainstream fans, while the middle is filled with Bowie-esque, multilayered symphonic pop songs expounding on their peace and love mantra. It’s a love-hate thing, but leader Tim DeLaughter and cohorts do have serious musical and melodic chops.

Download: “Running Away,” “The Fragile Army,” “Younger Yesterday”

The Unseen
Internal Salvation
Hellcat
Grade: B

Boston’s the Unseen have told interviewers 18-year-olds are their favorite demographic to play for because of their anger and exuberance. If that is true, then Internal Salvation delivers. It has all the speed-demon guitars, angry call-and response vocals and just enough songcraft and melody to fire up mosh pits, which is exactly what they are doing on the Warped Tour this summer. Maybe they are happy bashing away at stuff like this, but for a band at this stage in the game it sounds dangerously close to self-parody. They have nothing to worry about now, but they should perhaps examine their creative horizons the next time around.

Download: “Right Before Your Eyes,” “Torn and Shattered,” “Talking Bombs”

Savath & Savalas
Golden Pollen
Anti-
Grade: A-

When he is not working with Prefuse 73, Savath & Savalas is the alter-ego of electronica/hip-hop dude Guillermo Scott Herren. Hip-hop fans may be disappointed in Savath and Savalas, but that’s too bad for them. Golden Pollen is fine chill-out music, and Herren does a great job avoiding the cheese factor which can befall records such as this. Between the lilting rhythms of “Paisage,” the dreamlike passage of “Te Amo…Por Que Me Odias” and the sparkling guitar of “El Solitario,” Herren makes it seem like Latin folk and ambient electronica were meant for each other. The album’s hour running time is a little long, but when it captures you in its charms, you don’t even care.

Download: “Paisage,” “El Solitario,” “Te Amo…Por Que Me Odias”

Cleaning out the promo shelf:
Selections from the first half of 2007

by Kit Stolz

Neil Young
Live at Massey Hall
Reprise/WEA
Grade: B+

Neil Young once wrote a song about a waitress, calling her an “unknown legend.” This record, the second in his long-promised archive series, is something of an unknown legend itself. It features some of his best songs, including “Old Man,” in a solo acoustic performance in Canada in l971 when the songs were just weeks old. Though not as complex as some of his later work, this is still his best live record, and it’s puzzling he kept it under wraps for decades.

Download: “Old Man,” “Bad Fog of Loneliness,” “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

Lucinda Williams
West
Lost Highway
Grade: C

“Are You Alright?” sings Lucinda Williams at the beginning of West, and fans may be excused if they ask the same question of the singer. Though it features an all-star band, including Bill Frisell, Tony Garnier, and Jim Keltner, the music is mostly forgettable, and the lyrics meander. Downright embarrassing are Williams’ finger-pointing tirades at an ex (“Come On,” “Wrap Your Head Around That”). Fortunately, the title track, in which Williams recalls her youth and her hopes, gives us the grit and the glory of this writer at her best.

Download: “West”

Wilco
Sky Blue Sky
Nonesuch
Grade: A

This record is a powerful argument for rehab. After shedding an addiction to prescription pain-killers, Wilco’s founder Jeff Tweedy hit the road with a fiery band, including Nels Cline and keyboardist Pat Sansone. Last year’s live album, Kicking Television, is considered Wilco’s best by many; the result this year is a jazzy, open-hearted outing that sounds a little like the Allman Brothers, but with Tweedy’s inimitable lyrics. “Impossible Germany,” he sings. “Unlikely Japan.” What the hell is he talking about? But with music this delightful — who cares?

Download: “Impossible Germany,” “Sky Blue Sky,” “Hate It Here”

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