The Beach Boys -- "That's Why God Made the Radio": This 50th-anniversary reunion of Brian Wilson, Mike Love and the other surviving '60s-era Beach Boys is at once incredible and suspect. It seems like an improbable opportunity to right the ship for posterity, yet it could just as well send the ship sputtering to the bottom for good. "That's Why God Made the Radio" plays out not unlike the 1970s-era Beach Boys albums, such as "Friends" and "Surf's Up" that belatedly have become cult favorites. It starts off pretty strong, is nearly derailed by a couple of untenable duds, and delivers a major Brian Wilson payoff at the end.
-- John Bergstrom
Patti Smith -- "Banga": "Banga," Smith's 11th studio album serves as a glorious refresher on her talent as musician while also upholding her reputation as a writer. From opener "Amerigo," which showcases her still-alluring vocal prowess, through the 10-minute spoken-word improvisation "Constantine's Dream," to the lovely rendition of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" that serves as the album closer, "Banga" is free of any dips or lulls. We hardly needed to be reminded of Smith's faultlessness, but "Banga" is the sort of reminder one will welcome repeatedly.
-- Maria Schurr
Japandroids -- "Celebration Rock": "Celebration Rock" presents hedonism as a means to an end. There's nothing nihilistic or sneering about it. It invites everyone to the party, invites us all to have a beer and shout out lyrics to our favorite Replacements' songs together, invites us to get to know each other and realize we can all get where we're going if we, just for a minute, remember where we are. Which is lost in a thrash of guitar and drums, lost in the "thunder of a punk's guitar." Where that feeling takes us doesn't matter quite yet, not as much -- according to Japandroids -- as the belief that it will take us somewhere if we hold onto it.
-- Matthew Fiander
Liars -- "WIXIW": Liars may change their sound from album to album -- the new one is unsettling electronica -- but they are consistent at one thing: being good. "WIXIW" is a fully realized vision, quite clearly within the spectrum of Liars' experimental kaleidoscope. Liars take their music seriously as an art, taking their ideas to the limit, and it's commendable. When you listen to an album, you know that you are in good hands, reaping the benefit of hard work and excitement.
-- Scott Branson
Paul Simon -- "Graceland (25th Anniversary Edition)": With each passing year, "Graceland" seems to take on a new life. The album transcends generations. It transcends culture. It transcends genres. Hell -- it transcends an artist who has made a career out of being transcendent. With "Graceland," it was Paul Simon's turn to be thrown up the pop charts, though it's what he was able to do after making it back to the top that allows this record to age so gracefully. Containing a disc of bonus tracks, a brand new documentary and a 1987 concert, this commemorative set proves to be the definitive word on Simon's greatest work
-- Colin McGuire
Other notable releases this week:
- Big K.R.I.T -- "Live From the Underground"
- Brandi Carlile -- "Bear Creek"
- Shawn Colvin -- "All Fall Down"
- Crocodiles -- "Endless Flowers"
- Curren$y -- "The Stoned Immaculate"
- Alejandro Escovedo -- "Big Station"
- Fear Factory -- "Industrialist"
- Bela Fleck -- "Across the Imaginary Divide"
- Heart -- "Strange Euphoria"
- The Hives -- "Lex Hives"
- Kelly Hogan -- "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain"
- Alan Jackson -- "Thirty Miles West"
- Rhett Miller -- "The Dreamer"
- Teen Daze -- "All of Us, Together"
- The Temper Trap -- "The Temper Trap"
- Various Artists -- "Kin: Songs of Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell"
- Joe Walsh -- "Analog Man"
- Neil Young -- "Americana"
TUNES ON THE TUBE ... MUSIC ON TV THIS WEEK
- "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (ABC): Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (T), K'Naan (W), Dead Sara (Th), Graffiti6 (F).
- "Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS): Alan Jackson (T), Jimmy Cliff (W), The Temper Trap (Th).
- "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC): The Beach Boys (W), Kool and the Gang (F).
- "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" (NBC): The Walkmen (T), Japanroids (F).
- "Last Call With Carson Daly" (NBC): Bombay Bicycle Club (T), Dr. Dog (W), Foster the People (F).
- "Austin City Limits" (PBS): Steve Miller Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (Sa).
- "Conan" (TBS): Bahamas (T), JD McPherson (W).
NOW HEAR THIS
Mornin' Old Sport revives the Jazz Age
Old timey folk is making a big comeback in the wake of Carolina Chocolate Drops' success. Mornin' Old Sport began life in Boston, but recently relocated to the Bay Area, where there is a thriving old time music scene of jug bands and folk players. Like so many of these artists, Mornin' Old Sport's tunes incorporate early 20th century vaudeville sounds into the mix, as well as bits of traditional jazz and early country string band elements. It's a thrilling mix that is practically the version definition of Americana music as it draws from so many strands of American roots music across ethnic and racial lines.
"I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine" is a tune penned by Mack David, recorded by Patti Page in 1950, and also among Elvis Presley's first recordings. On July 10, the band will releaseits latest album, "Misery Loves Co." Scott Nanos says of the new record, "(it) is even more old-timey than the EP -- basically we just keep getting more old-timey as we keep going on,' he said. 'Whereas the EP sounds pretty '30s Jazz Age, this one also has an old Western swing and bluegrass tinge to it.'"
-- Sarah Zupko
Motion City Soundtrack's "Go" is one of the most-anticipated rock albums of the year
Motion City Soundtrack's new disc, "Go," is going to throw its fan base for a bit of a loop. Although all of the elements that have made Motion City Soundtrack so intensely beloved are still very much in place (huge choruses, sharp wit, a giddy sense of fun even when things turn toward the dramatic), there is an underlying sorrow to the album that sets this disc apart from their other work. String sections are brought in for the first time ever, and the haunting, echoing minor-key piano chords of "Happy Anniversary" show the band revealing a dark side of themselves heretofore unseen, all while Pierre's lyrics explore death from just about every angle, from the personal to the universal and back again (heck, one of their new songs is called "Everyone Will Die"). The band is still as fun and exciting as ever (just watch as "Boxelder" becomes their new concert singalong standard), but, here, the guys are showing that even after all these years, they're still growing up right before our eyes.
"The Worst Is Yet to Come" is a synth-aided rocker that wouldn't sound out of place at all on "My Dinosaur Life," built on a solid melody and some fiery bass work, as Pierre tells all about his "melting heart of major compromise." It's another wonderful highlight from "Go," due out June 12 on Epitaph/The Boombox Generation.
-- Evan Sawdey
Lindsay Fuller --"Libby" (video at http://vimeo.com/36401141)
Seattle's Lindsay Fuller was raised in Alabama, a state that births more soulful singers per capita than anyplace else in the country. So, yeah, the woman can belt a tune and make you really feel the lyrics, too, which matters a hell of a lot when you pen lines as heartfelt as "Oh Libby, you take my breath away / Lure me to my grave / But our history remains." Fuller's latest album, "You, Anniversary," was released back in March and her music has been praised by both the Indigo Girls and Dave Matthews, but her sound belongs more in the Southern Gothic camp of artists as diverse as Gillian Welch and Nick Cave. "Libby" is the record's latest single and the tune is a haunting number about the many people of Libby, Montana, suffering from lung disease as a result of asbestos poisoning from vermiculite mining in the area. The music is dark and, yes, the subject is death, but Fuller manages to infuse passion for living in every nook of the song.
-- Sarah Zupko
Laid Back -- "Cocaine Cool Extended" MP3 at http://tinyurl.com/8yueauh
Fellow Danes Tim Stahl and John Guldberg began working together back in the '70s when they met in the group the Starbox Band and quickly departed to work on their own electronic music as a duo under the moniker Laid Back. The group found success in Europe with their first No. 1 hit, "Maybe I'm Crazy," released in 1981, and 1982's "Sunshine Reggae," which has sold more than 20 million if you count all the compilation inclusions the tune has racked up over the years. Laid Back was part of the first early wave of musicians creating electro-pop, and the band's music has influenced countless others and been sampled often over the years. "Cosyland" is a mini album featuring rarities from the duo's 1981 creative sessions. The songs were improvised and created with brand-new equipment, such as a Roland TR-808 rhythm box, a SH-101, a Pro-One monophonic synthesizer and a GR-500 guitar controller-and-synth.
-- Sarah Zupko
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