Albums of the Week

March 15-March 21

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In this edition: This Town Needs Guns, Atoms For Peace, Lisa Germano, Jimi Hendrix, Bad Religion, and Johnny Marr.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
This Town Needs Guns (TTNG): 13.0.0.0.0 (Sargent House)

AOTW0315_TTNG There is greatness here. The cumulative effect of TTNG’s 13.0.0.0.0 (released January 22) – a title that references the Mayan calendar’s counting sequence covering the beginning and end of creation – is mounting impressiveness. Weaving seamlessly between exposed delicacy and tough, technical musicianship with impactful oomph, the album charms and charms, and the more one revisits it the better it gets. There are some surface similarities to ursine alternative rock darlings Grizzly Bear, Bear In Heaven and Minus the Bear but Oxford, England’s TTNG are more robust instrumentalists capable of the kind of finger-knotting complexity within melodic frameworks worthy of Rush and Tortoise. Add in the curving, unexpectedly enticing voice of lead singer Henry Tremain, whose pipes and phrasing recall the wild bird flap of Smiths-era Morrissey and Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Somerville, and you’ve got a unique combination of primary elements. The captivating clawhammer picking of guitarist Tim Collis and controlled ferocity of drummer Chris Collis weave together so well with Tremain’s swooping vocals and whomp-heavy bass, and it’s only at the end of this set that one realizes the wide range of moods and subject matter that’s been covered. A humanist thread emerges early on opener Cat Fantastic, which notes, “You feel less satisfied the more you acquire…You’ll be happy when you’re willing to share.” But these aren’t tambourine whacking hippies by any stretch of the imagination. There is something big, bold and beautiful gestating in this trio, and 13.0.0.0.0 is the sound of that multitudinous thing kicking and squirming, ready to burst into the world. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Atoms For Peace: Amok (XL Recordings)

AOTW0315_Atoms This is sexy but in an almost entirely inhuman way, as if one were listening in on the lovemaking of androids or super computers – not an entirely bad thing given that Skynet will eventually be crafting our porn. This side project from Radiohead lead vocalist Thom Yorke is a touch livelier than his recent work with his day job but just as elusive, if not more so. Parts of this steady cascading stream of beats and bleeps recalls Eno & Byrne’s Afrocentric experiments as well as bassist Flea’s own throwbacks to the Motherland with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tony Allen, but ultimately this still a distinctly Yorke-ian affair, building on his 2006 solo debut The Eraser with less insular, solitary design. As top flight as the players are here – in addition to Flea there’s Nigel Goodrich (production & programming), Joey Waronker (drums) and Mauro Refosco (percussion) – it’s Yorke’s personality that glows dark-bright, his voice as much an instrument as his keyboard, programming and guitar contributions. There are plenty of lingering lyrical nuggets – “I laugh now but later’s not so easy” being a favorite – but he makes one work for them, burying them in the torrents of crackling effects, undulating rhythms, and general click-clack. Like Radiohead, one cannot turn away or escape the sense that they’re imbibing music from the not-so-distant future. As Mr. Spock was fond of saying, “Fascinating.” (DC)

Dennis’ Bonus Review:
Lisa Germano: no elephants (Badman)

AOTW0315_Germano Curiouser and curiouser is the path Germano’s musical journey has traveled. Once loosely connected to mainstream through her work with John Mellencamp’s band, Germano’s new offering, no elephants (released February 12), is an intimate, removed from modern hustle bustle affair, where the artist invites us into pastoral, eerily beautiful spaces that hum with poetry and natural wonder. An inscription from Germano states, “I don’t know…except my communication with myself, the earth and its beings is getting weirder everyday…it seems as if I could replace all the shit in my head, my troubles relating to humans back to the earth and its beings’ troubles relating back to me. I think that’s what this record is about.” Using an array of instruments including some lovely piano, “some bees, cell phones, a bunch of animals,” Sebastian Steinberg’s acoustic bass, and drum loops and “unearthly sounds” from producer-engineer Jamie Candiloro. no elephants speaks its own language, but listen well and once picks up something of the earth and its many denizens chattering away, the hum of things without need for normal cognitive discourse. It’s a rare skill to hear these things and then transmogrify them into music. Germano and her light-handed collaborators accomplish the task handily, and Germano’s voice has never been more vulnerable, a distinctly human sound used as a divining rod to get at what’s flowing below things. This album firmly establishes her as a fellow traveler to Jane Siberry, Veda Hille and Syd Barrett – translators of the greater musical spheres not confined to tradition or contemporary mores. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Jimi Hendrix: People, Hell and Angels (Experience Hendrix-Legacy)

AOTW0315_Hendrix I just discovered that my newborn son Benjamin shares a birthday with Jimi Hendrix, and what better way to celebrate this cosmic duality than with what adds up to a brand new album from the late Seattle icon. People, Hell and Angels (released March 5) is the posthumous Jimi album fans truly deserved in the wake of his tragic death on September 18, 1970, offering up original versions of material that would later be massacred by anonymous session musicians in 1975 via such controversial records as Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning. Also included in this outstanding set are tracks that have never been available to the public before, such as a recently discovered collaboration with Buddy Miles and Stephen Stills on bass called Somewhere from March 1968, a killer studio version of Izabella recorded shortly after Woodstock with his Gypsy Sun & Rainbows collective, the full take of the instrumental Easy Blues originally featured on the underrated and out-of-print 1981 compilation Nine to the Universe, and Let Me Move You, a March ’69 earth mover with his former Chitlin Circuit runnin’ buddy Lonnie Youngblood on saxophone that showcases the promise of Jimi’s slow stroll towards R&B that I’m sure would have defined his 70s output had he lived to see the decade. For fans of Hendrix’s post-life discography, People, Hell and Angels is the Holy Grail we’ve been waiting on! (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Bad Religion: True North (Epitaph)

AOTW0315_BadReligion If there’s one good thing we could attribute to the 2012 Mitt Romney Presidential campaign its that it whipped Bad Religion back into fighting form and in a way fans really haven’t seen since their classic trifecta of No Control, Against the Grain and Generator back in the late 80s/early 90s. “Here is the church/ Here is the steeple/ Open the door, corporations are people…what the fuck did he say?” exclaims frontman Greg Graffin on Robin Hood in Reverse, just one of the 16 hard charging sound bombs on this 35-minute LP, easily the group’s best since Recipe for Hate (1993). True North (released January 22) is intellectual punk at its finest, made by men who are old enough to be grandfathers. Maybe that’s why they are so pissed Paul Ryan’s trying to take away their Medicare! (RH)

Ron’s Bonus Review:
Johnny Marr: The Messenger (Sire)

AOTW0315_Marr The Smiths could have totally survived without Morrissey had guitarist Johnny Marr took over the reigns as lead singer. It was he who wanted to see the most celebrated British band of the 1980s embrace a more adventurous sonic scope, which led to the Mozzer to run crying out of the studio. But while any hope of a Smiths reunion, with or without its frontman, remains as unlikely as the original lineup of KISS getting together, Marr’s first proper solo endeavor gives a keen indication on what the group would have sounded like had he kept the quartet going as a trio, pulling elements from every aspect of his 30 years in college/alternative pop, be it the early 90s synth work of his Electronic project with New Order’s Bernard Sumner to the scrappy indie rock of his stints in such groups as The Cribs and Modest Mouse, to deliver an extraordinary collection that stands tall with anything he’s done since The Queen is Dead. (RH)