Music Reviews

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posted: February 26, 2014

English Oceans

ATO LP, CD

In his excellent new book I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway, veteran critic Greg Kot discusses the harmonic blend of styles that distinguished the late 1960s/early 1970s era Muscle Shoals sound from every other locale in America. Read More


posted: February 25, 2009

AC/DC – Black Ice Black Ice

Columbia CD and LP
AC/DC – Black Ice

I love this band, but the last couple of records were kind of weak. The subject of the songs on Black Ice are pretty much about the same things you would expect on an AC/DC record; cars, chicks, fighting and of course, rock. (four of the fifteen tracks on Black Ice have rock in the title)

At first I thought that I’ve just outgrown AC/DC, but going back to Highway to Hell, Dirty Deeds and Back in Black still make me want to bang my head. Read More


posted: April 7, 2014

Afghan Whigs Latest!

“You know me by now” softly repeats Greg Dulli in the midst of the Afghan Whigs’ new noir showpiece “Lost In the Woods,” his tone taunting, threatening, haunting, reminding.

Seeing the statement comes from one of the most charismatic and polarizing singers of the past two decades—a proud frontman whose vices and outspokenness continually inspire hyperbolic descriptions that ignore the subtlety and complexities of his persona—it does indeed seem audiences should be familiar with his moves, to the extent he’s expected to live up to a mythologized Lothario status onstage and on record. Read More


posted: September 18, 2012

Aimee Mann and Corin Tucker’s Latest…

There’s plenty of trouble in these two records.

It’s there on Corin Tucker Band’s “Neskowin,” where the dressed-to-impressed teenage girls brag that they enjoy “other toys, other faculties,” and it shows up again on Aimee Mann’s “Gumby,” via a father with questionable intentions who gets chastised by Mann. Read More


posted: April 6, 2012

Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls

Among the many assets of the Alabama Shakes is to leave the listener wanting more. At 11 songs and 36 minutes, the Northern Alabama group’s debut album Boys & Girls isn’t exactly a svelte little rhythm & blues morsel. But its songs, only two of which breach the four-minute barrier, are designed for the sneak attack. Read More


posted: March 18, 2009

Alela Diane’s Latest

Alela Diane Menig got her start in the psych-folk scene playing with fellow Nevada City resident Joanna Newsom, but her songs are more rooted in traditional Americana than her harp-playing confederate. On To Be Still, her second full-length album, she sings of simple themes that are grounded in tradition such as the gentle sounds in the forest (“The Alder Trees”) and collecting shells and beach glass in the sand (“The Ocean”). Read More


posted: June 24, 2017

Algiers The Underside of Power

Matador, 2LP or CD
Algiers

America, 1971. Soul singer Marvin Gaye released What’s Going On, the pop-music equivalent of a breaking news alert. Racism, poverty, war: Gaye brought a personal and groove-laden touch to monumental topics, creating a work that decades later still feels urgent. Two years prior, and seemingly a musical universe away, the MC5 issued what served as a rock n’ roll call to a revolution with Kick Out the Jams. Read More


posted: April 4, 2010

Alice Cooper- Billion Dollar Babies

Rhino not only continues to press splendid LPs but remains far and away the vinyl leader among major labels due to its analog-based reissuing of rock titles that have long deserved such treatment. No musty warhorses here, thank you.

Alice Cooper’s hard-rock classic Billion Dollar Babies blends cabaret, pop, and horror themes to spectacular effect. Read More


posted: February 28, 2012

Andrew Bird Break It Yourself

Mom + Pop CD, 2LP
Andrew Bird

Onstage, Andrew Bird is the musical equivalent of a magician that keeps audiences second-guessing the tricks of the trade. Bird conjures notes to seemingly appear from nowhere, juggles multiple loops, remembers the orders in which passages get stitched together, and plays with a casual looseness that gives no whiff of the complexities associated with the tasks. Read More


posted: July 10, 2009

Anthony Wilson’s Jack of Hearts Jack of Hearts

Groove Note Records Hybrid SACD
Anthony Wilson’s Jack of Hearts

Sometimes the postman brings cool surprises.  I looked at the quilted envelope marked “Groove Note Records” and figured with a name like that, something good had to be inside and I was not disappointed.

Though I’m not terribly familiar with Anthony Wilson, my ears perked up when I saw Jim Keltner listed as one of the musicians, and popped this SACD in the drawer of the new Marantz Pearl SA-K1 SACD player I’ve been reviewing. Read More


posted: May 2, 2014

Archie Powell & The Exports Latest

Archie Powell doesn’t have an easy go with relationships on he and the Exports’ terrific Back In Black. Candid, funny, and disarmingly personal, the Milwaukee quintet’s third album serves a vital compendium of frustrations, repressions, infatuations, and decisions associated with dating in the 21st century. Read More


posted: June 8, 2017

Arto Lindsay

Northern Spy LP or CD
Arto Lindsay

Arto Lindsay believes, for the most part, we’re pretty damn good at multitasking. So when his Ambitious Lovers outfit began fusing shards of dissonance with comely melodies on its somewhat neglected trio of albums Envy, Greed, and Lust in the 80s, the unholy blend made sense to those who could not only process—but enjoy—opposing elements bound by a cosmopolitan pop sensibility. Read More


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