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Album Reviews
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lucky (Barsuk)

In 1996, Nada Surf got lucky with “Popular,” although the song was practically designed to relegate the band to one-hit-wonder status. By the end of the ‘90s, they seemed bound for oblivion, but it turned out that they were just regrouping. 2003’s Let Go was a quietly stunning . . .
Album Reviews
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Watershed (Nonesuch)

Five years ago, Tony Bennett and k.d. lang had completed A Wonderful World, a tribute to Louis Armstrong, when an interviewer on a radio show asked Bennett about his duet partner. He said, “In my opinion, she’s the best singer since Judy Garland.” After a pause that brought surprise from the interviewer and surprised laughter from lang, he added, “Well, it’s true.” And so it is, but lang has shared with Garland, and with Bennett, an uneven artistic instinct, as though her ability to sing anything has left her helpless to make the smartest song choices. Was it necessary to turn away so completely from Patsy Cline country on 1992’s Ingnue?
Album Reviews
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Odelay Deluxe Edition (Geffen)

Until Beck Hansen released Odelay in 1996, he was a one-hit wonder: In the period when indie-rock was making its way onto the pop charts, his “Loser” was one of its iconic novelty songs. Odelay informed listeners that Beck was to be taken seriously, although he didn’t actually sound like he intended to be. Twelve years later, the double-disc deluxe version of Odelay has it the same two ways. It bulks up the original release with plenty of bonus material, but spurns reverent, meaningful liner notes in favor of consciously rambling reminiscences—at least that’s what they might be—from Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore, and variously irrelevant and intriguing opinions on the album from 15 teenagers interviewed by . . .
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

District Line (Granary Music/Anti-)

Even when Bob Mould was a young punk fronting Hüsker Dü during the 1980s, he grasped that mature intelligence and loud electric guitars could forge a near-seamless partnership. Like Pete Townshend and Richard Thompson—his closest artistic forefathers—he hasn’t turned away from the knowledge, welcome and unwelcome, that age can bring. On District Line, the unwelcome knowledge is that growing older is no guarantee, where the heart is concerned, of growing wiser. The welcome knowledge is that Mould can still crank pain through amplifiers and catalyze it into something that can feel like catharsis.
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Overcome (Smith Street Records)

For the Jones Street Boys, there surely is bluegrass and country music in them thar streets of Brooklyn. As unusual as the locale might be, the sound of Overcome is convincing enough. These 12 tracks aren’t designed for purists—Hammond organ and drums make sure of that—but the quintet’s loose-limbed down-home style works as well on original numbers like “Julia Belle” as it does on shrewd takes of The Band’s “Twilight” and Bill Monroe’s “Walls of Time.” Amid the clamor of New York City, the Jones Street Boys have staked out a place of burbling mountain creeks and honeysuckle breezes.
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Moment of Forever (Lost Highway)

Amiability forms part of Willie Nelson’s legend, but it hasn’t always served him well artistically. His willingness to work with just about anybody has resulted in a few of his finest moments (for example, 19)98’s Teatro, produced by Daniel Lanois and featuring Emmylou Harris), but it has also led to many . . .
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

(Fox Searchlight)

Most films about musicians have such overly determined narratives that they might as well be episodes of VH-1’s “Behind the Music.” And when the actual craft of making music enters the story, viewers often get the dubiously valuable experience of, say, Jamie Foxx imitating Ray Charles . . .
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008

Gram Parsons Archives Volume One: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 19

Gram Parsons has long received the posthumous-legend treatment, and the 21st century continues to see a substantial number of reissues, tributes, books and documentaries for the man who . . .
Album Reviews
Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

The Black and White Album (A&M/Octone)

The "black" and the "white" in the title of The Hives' fourth album don't just refer to the band's dichromatic sartorial style. They also acknowledge the harmonious duality of the Swedish quintet's noise