Albums of the Week

May 30-June 5

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In this edition: Anders Osborne, Antioquia, The Cult, The Dandy Warhols and Simone White.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Anders Osborne: Black Eye Galaxy (Alligator)

“I’m nervous, I’m sweaty, I hate to make amends/ Bunch of opinions, I’m always on the fence/ Pissed off and sad at the same time / Please, somebody save me from my crazy mind.” Truth – uncut, staring shocked into the mirror truth – runs rampant all over Black Eye Galaxy (released May 1). As strong and powerful as Osborne has been in the past – predecessor American Patchwork (2010) is a harrowing modern classic – his latest is a fuller, more loving but no less honest offering than anything he’s ever done. Osborne – a longtime professional songwriter and Sweden-born adopted son of New Orleans – has assembled a song cycle that shines a light on his many charms, be it the distortion addled gospel rocker of opener Send Me A Friend, the radio-ready yearning of When Will I See You Again?, the modal jam warrior of the title tune, or the unsparing chronicler of human weakness and self-delusion (especially his own) on Mind of a Junkie. There’s more besides, and throughout one is reminded in ways that need no words that they are dealing with a master musician, someone who’s found the perfect balance between skilled execution and the wilder intangibles of personality and natural inclination. Put another way, this feels real AND it’s all really good. While Osborne has long excelled at hirsute blues-rock, it’s the tender bits here that slip into one, his ache to love his family and himself, his yearning to feel God’s love, his gusto for understanding striking one to the core. Anyone who has ever felt alone in the midst of kin and comrades will understand it when he sings, “They say I’m a lonely creature, even with kids and a wife/ That I walk to the tune of alone-ment/ Yeah, I’ve done it all my life.” Given that mindset it’s all the more impressive and hope-giving that Osborne has found ways to engage, to feel without needing to numb himself with drugs and bad distraction. That he’s able to form that journey into such readily absorbing music – pulling rough won understanding from “a handmade leather bag where he kept all his childhood pains” – is further reason to regard this man as one of the greats of our time, a prayerful, pervasively honest seer of the soul. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Antioquia: Viajero (self-released)

Bursting with life, that’s how Oakland’s Antioquia opens up to the listener, like a ripe, succulent orange whose skin strains, opens and spills juice. Their latest, Viajero, is such sweet fruit, a pleasure that nourishes and makes one want to smash one’s face into their pulp. This round finds the lively young band toning down the overt politics of past efforts in favor of a more broad based humanism. To borrow their phrase, this is an invitation to shed one’s flesh disguise and cavort with other Earthlings who didn’t grow up in palaces and don’t count riches in coins. Hands reach out from all corners of this album, eager to grasp and engage, twirl and toss, and always towards a better tomorrow with a belief that people can connect and move beyond the divisive days we currently inhabit. Antioquia’s message rides inside popping, beautifully punctuated grooves, and a punk-ish energy – think Minutemen meets African strains – infuses many pieces. The whole band seems to find the drum living inside of every instrument in the mix, so even the quietest moments pulse. The natural world and the touring life ride in these tales, which befits a band so dedicated to bringing it live to the people. What was a germinal thing in earlier work has blossomed into their own sound on Viajero, which reveals its uniqueness immediately with opener Idaho, which begins herky jerky, funky in an off-kilter way, Jello Biafra-esque call-and-response vocals and then splashes of guitar hero classic rock, Afrobeat and more. And that’s one tune. A jittery exuberance informs the entire record, which marks the studio debuts of newest members Rachel Antony-Levine (vocals, keys, shekere) and Tomas Salcedo (vocals, guitar, dun dun) – both fluckin’ dynamite in this band, real presences with strong, dynamic identities within this strange framework. Antioquia is a band that inspires fascination, one’s palm drawn to dance with their flame, moving ever closer because the heat is too delightful to resist. (DC)

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Ron’s Pick of the Week:
The Cult: Choice of Weapon (Cooking Vinyl/Essential)

After waiting 21 long years for them to get their shite together, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy finally come correct with a Cult album on par with the might of their 80s heyday. Produced by the hard rock dream team of longtime associate Bob Rock and Chris Goss (Masters of Reality), Choice of Weapon (released May 22) sees the band, whose latest incarnation is rounded out by former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Chris Wyse and acclaimed heavy metal journeyman drummer John Tempesta (Testament, Rob Zombie, Helmet, Exodus), deliver a superbly intense and timely dissertation on the rapid and vapid devolution of the human condition with a sound that falls somewhere between their 1984 debut Dreamtime and their 1989 MTV breakthrough Sonic Temple. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines wearing out your beloved copy Electric waiting to finally get the bad taste of Ceremony out of your mouth, make Weapon your choice. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
The Dandy Warhols: This Machine (The End)

Following a series of strange side projects that saw its members experiment with everything from bluesy bluegrass to Kraftwerkian computer pop, The Dandy Warhols once again come down with their first set of new material since their splintered departure from the death grip of EMI. Produced by the band with longtime collaborator Jeremy Sherrer and the first Dandys record to feature songwriting from all four of its members, the group’s eighth LP and first for The End label is as raw and electric as anything they’ve put out since emerging from Portlandia in 1994, evident on such guitar-driven cuts as Every Day Is A Holiday, Enjoy Yourself and SETI vs. the Wow! Signal. If the Warhols did the right thing back in the day and signed to one of their local indies like Sub Pop or Kill Rock Stars perhaps they would have more killer records in their repertoire like this surprising gem. (RH)

Ron’s Bonus Review:
Simone White: Silver Silver (Honest Jon’s)

If you think you never heard the music of Los Angeles songwriting chanteuse Simone White, think again. Chances are if you have happened upon commercials for Audi or Omega watches while watching the latest episode of 30 Rock or CSI you’ve experienced the wispy vanilla melancholy of her distinct strain of pastoral chick folk. But on her debut for Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s label White wonderfully expands upon the spare nature of her style with the help of producer Samuel Bing (Fol Chen) and guests Andrew Bird and the great Victoria Williams, adding textural flourishes of laptop drones, glitchy twitches and ambient R&B rhythms to create something that falls between Beth Orton, Sade and Eraser-era Thom Yorke. With Silver Silver (released May 4), this talented beauty steps out from the glow of the living room flat screen and into the national spotlight on her own mersh-free merits. (RH)