It's no secret (see prior blog entries) that my favorite CD of late is the new Spoon. But I've also been on a real Brit pop/pseudo Brit pop rampage--both in the gym and while revising Shriek. I highly recommend, in that genre, the latest releases from
The Bravery (daft lyrics, great, pumped music)
Bloc Party (get yer political mojo on)
Hot Hot Heat (fun fun pop pop, but: no bandages!)
Kaiser Chiefs (high energy, some silly songs)
Kasabian (dance-worthy but somehow more unique than some of the others listed here)
Louis XIV (like Adam Ant on speed--and about as consistent, but fun, if you can get past the misogynistic swagger)
Maximo Park (kinda early XTC mixed with your favorite quirky-jerky Brit pop--hard to pin down)
Moving Units (been listening to too much Gang of Four, but still noteworthy)
BRITISH SEA POWER - OPEN SEASON. This sophomore effort from BSP features eccentric lyrics and a perfect awareness of classic Brit pop tradition. It's still got some of the noise and distortion of their pop-mixed-with-post-punk debut, but it's more consistent and more beautiful. It's the kind of CD that you listen to once or twice and think, "pretty good," but then, before you even realize it, you're listening to it all the time. Reviewers who have panned this CD got it wrong.
TIM BOOTH - BONE. I've loved James ever since Whiplash, and have sought out everything they've ever done since then. Now lead singer Tim Booth heads out on his own with Bone. It's a somewhat psychedelic, trippy effort, with the result that a couple of the tracks sound a little silly lyrically. But other than that, this is an excellent solo CD that avoids the somewhat cloying effect of his last non-James outing--Booth and the Bad Angel. Several tracks achieve a transcendent quality, even as several songs deal frankly with sex and gender. Yeah, yeah--he's a little flaky. Deal with it.
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS - B-SIDES AND RARETIES. A three CD set. Of Cave's extra stuff. You know what? Most musicians would kill just to have created some of these B-sides. I've long wanted the Seeds rollicking version of Paul Kelly's "God's Hotel" on a compilation, as well as "Tower of Song" from the Leonard Cohen tribute CD, and "The End of the World" from the Wender flick. But it gets better. B-sides like "The Train Song" and an insane version of "O'Malley's Bar" from Murder Ballads. Not to mention a great orchestra-fueled version of "Red Right Hand" from the Scream 3 soundtrack. Basically, this is awesome and a must-buy.
DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 - YOU'RE A WOMAN I'M A MACHINE. This is like some kind of weird hybrid of punk, electronic, dance, and grunge. It's also an all-out attack in terms of the sound, and I love it. The intensity of the sound is amazing, considering it's mostly bass and drums.
THE MAINLINERS - BRING ON THE SWEET LIFE. Retro rock from Sweden, influenced by the 60s and early 70s, but conveyed with a ferocity and intensity that take the music to a new level. Songs like "Bring on the Sweet Life" and "She's an Overdose" feature searing guitar chops. A stunning musical assault from beginning to end. This is one for blasting on your car stereo.
THE NATIONAL - ALLIGATOR. World-weary, whiskey-soaked vocals, but with music of surprising energy and diversity, so that although you sometimes feel as if you're looking at the world from a Tindersticks perspective, the music itself is alive and hopeful. The lyrics on some of these songs are absolutely heart-wracking. But always specific and humane. I love this CD. It's stunning--and the best thing The National has yet done.
GRAHAM PARKER - SONGS OF NO CONSEQUENCE. The best release by Parker in more than a decade, this return to form features great songs like "Chloroform" and "Evil". Parker's Shooting Out Sparks is still one of my favorite albums of all time. While this new CD doesn't reach that high, it's consistent, solid, and often excellent. It's nice to see Parker back on top. And if his Amazon ranking is any indication, the CD is doing quite well.
ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET - TREE CITY. Many comparisons have been made between Spoon and Robbers. Except Robbers gives you the release that Spoon withholds if that makes any sense. (When I described this effect to a friend, she said, "Oh, you mean a happy ending." Well, I guess depends on how metaphorical you're being.) Spoon's music is more interesting because it's so coiled and layered, but it's true that the listener has to do more work. Robbers indulge the listener a bit more. And, luckily for Robbers, Spoon's gone off in a different direction on their latest CD. Meanwhile, Robbers' Tree City, with such stand-out tracks as "Japanese Girls" provide something I think reviewers thought they had found in other New York bands like the Strokes: energy, ingenuity, and skill.