Under Cold Blue Stars
Nashville has always fostered good music. From Patsy Cline to Willie Nelson, some of the best American artists have emerged from there. With his third album, Under Cold Blue Stars, Josh Rouse affirms his place among the ranks of Nashville’s finer songwriters. While Blue Stars is more produced than Rouse’s past efforts, none of the endearing songwriting has vanished. In fact, producer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo) handles each tune with the care of a newborn baby. A strong sense of the past anchors much of the album, conjuring Joni Mitchell and Bread on songs like the driving “Miracle” and the soothing title track. Collaborating with members from Ben Folds Five and Joseph Arthur’s band, Rouse has crafted both an intimate solo album and a rock record textured with shimmering keyboards and bright horns. A fine work.
Josh Rouse will play the Khyber on April 24.
Don’t Worry About Me
Writing about posthumous albums is always tricky. If your review is glowing, it’s assumed that’s only because the artist is recently deceased. That said, let’s look at Don’t Worry About Me not as the final work of the late NYC punk icon Joey Ramone, but as just another new release out on the racks; by any standards, it’s a damn good album. Like Joey’s output with Dee Dee, Marky and Johnny, traces of carefree ’60s rock melodies lie beneath the album’s distortion and drums: innocence amidst calamity. “Mr. Punchy” takes full advantage of a “la-la-la-la” chorus, and “Maria Bartiromo” is a head-bobbing ode to the ravishing CNBC financial reporter. The rapid-fire set flows from song to song in just over a half hour, with only a few cuts (the insistent “Like A Drug I Never Did Before”) falling short. True, some moments tug at the heartstrings; a revved-up take on Louie Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” or hearing Joey repeat “sitting in a hospital bed” in “I Get Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up).” But at their core, the songs are still boisterous, feel-good rock ‘n’ roll; once they jerk a few tears out of you, they’ll shake you into a smile.
R. Kelly & Jay-Z
Best of Both Worlds
With every new hip-hop album, one can only hope that mainstream music will reflect more than just a desire for money, cars and women.
R. Kelly and Jay-Z’s collaborative effort, The Best of Both Worlds, is not the answer. What a big surprise.
Released in the midst of R. Kelly’s sex scandal (it is alleged that he was involved with a 15-year-old girl) there’s enough crap on this album to put the oversexed crooner behind bars.
Politics aside, the album opens with a catchy introduction, cleverly titled “The Best of Both Worlds.” Unfortunately, as the song progresses its novelty is lost with shout-outs to “fallen soldiers” and proclamations that they have “the ghetto on their backs.” Other songs, such as “Shorty” and “Take You Home With Me” are merely revelations about freakin’ and pimpin’. How interesting.
The best song on this album is “Get This Money,” not so much for its lyrics but for a sexy Latin beat sure to make it a summer hit. Jay-Z’s energy also adds life to every track. But this highly anticipated album bastardizes and shortchanges two great music genres, for an ultimate disappointment.
Beat, Surf, Fun
Tullycraft wears its musical influences on its concert-T sleeves, blue jeans and Chuck Taylors — namely the myriad of obscure bands it covers (Bartlebees, The Judys and Benji Cossa) or references in song. The Washington state indie outfit is defined by its fanatic enthusiasm and pop ingenuity. Mixing a punky live band feel with a lo-fi, new wave influence, Tullycraft’s musicianship and song craft have grown proportionately to its output of damn catchy songs. From the usual insta-hits “Twee” (a fitting follow-up to the band’s infamous “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid to Know About”) and “Wild Bikini,” to the more contemplative “Glitter & Twang” and epic “Who Needs What,” Beat, Surf, Fun is the strongest set of Tullycraft songs yet.
Fans of rock that is more-wimp-than-primp and worshipers of Beat Happening and the early-’90s International Pop Underground fare should prepare to yell and air guitar along with this ferocious-kitten racket.
(Tommy Boy Records)
One thing becomes blatantly obvious when listening to Bloodsport: singer Kelli Dayton is gone from the Sneaker Pimps. This is old news to dedicated fans, as this new album is actually the second without her. Unfortunately, the States never got that one, which acted as a bridge between the Pimps earlier trip-hop sound and their modified rock sound. Therefore, Bloodsport is a bit jarring to listen to if you were a fan of “6 Underground” or “Spin Spin Sugar.”
Vocal duties have been taken over by programmer/songwriter Chris Corner. Like its title, the album is aggressive and dark; songs such as “Small Town Witch” even recall Nine Inch Nails. Still, the Pimps make things interesting with strong, emotive singing, although Corner has a tendency to repeat refrains over and over.
On that note, the group’s music isn’t as stylish without Dayton. Her frail yet poised vocals brought character to the Pimps. Sans her, the group just seems like one more rock band.