Monday, April 14, 2008

Earvolution's CD Reviews: The Catch-Up Edition

By: David Schultz

Just because Earvolution hasn't gotten around to writing about some of this year's notable releases doesn't mean we haven't been listening.

The Black Crowes: Warpaint
A fine comeback for the Robinson brothers, nonetheless Warpaint fails to recapture the genius of the Crowes’ early days. Longtime fans won't be disappointed and would be hard-pressed to dispute the contention that the addition of Luther Dickinson is one of the best things to have happened to the Crowes in years. “Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution,” “Wounded Bird” and “Oh Josephine” have that inimical Crowes swagger but the magic isn’t sustained for the entire album. Even though it’s better than 2 ½ stars, Maxim could have justified its rating had they actually listened to the album beforehand.

Lenny Kravitz: It Is Time For A Love Revolution
Lenny’s “love revolution” seems to involve celibacy. Given how women get a little weak in the knees over Mr. Kravitz, this is slightly offensive to those of us who don’t have the benefit of his je ne se quois. Getting beyond the concept, Love Revolution is a return to the heartfelt hippie-rock that marked the best moments of Kravitz’ prior efforts. He unleashes his moody side on “I Love The Rain,” channels his inner guitar God on “Love, Love, Love” and “Bring It On” and “If You Want It” and “I Want To Go Home” are Kravitz at his inimitable best. This album, his first in four years, is his best effort in quite some time.

Donna Jean & The Tricksters: Donna Jean & The Tricksters
Even though she’s in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead, it’s easy to forget that Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay a member of the seminal jamband for most of the Seventies. After listening to Donna Jean & The Tricksters recent self-titled effort, any fading memories will quickly come flooding back. Deadheads who whine and moan about music going downhill since Jerry Garcia passed away will be rushing to take their bongs off the shelf after hearing Donna Jean & The Tricksters latest. “Travelin’ Light” could be a kissin’ cousin of “Tennessee Jed” and “Me And Kettle Joe” is an old-school, Dead-Style thirteen minute jam.

Drive-By Truckers: Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
The Truckers’ latest, the second of their post-Jason Isbell incarnation, is a prolific creative outburst that could have benefited from some prudent editing. Missing a unifying theme, the 19 tracks crackle with Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s acutely poignant insights even if the impact is diluted by the sheer volume. In tilling familiar thematic soil, Creation’s Dark is their most contemplative album to date. Even if the album fails to produce a defining anthem, “That Man I Shot” and “The Righteous Path” come close.

Big Head Todd & The Monsters: All The Love You Need
Long before Radio became the poster boys for the concept, Big Head Todd & The Monsters have been exploring the implications of giving away new music through the Internet. All The Love You Need, BHT’s first full-length, fully-free release, puts together definitive versions of many of the tracks they have floated out amongst their fans. It marks a fine return to form for Todd Park Mohr, whose brand of laid-back, Colorado-crunchy rock and roll, percolating with bluesy guitar riffs, never grows old. “Silvery Moon,” “Blue Sky” and “Fortune Teller” are open-air anthems in need of a festival and the horns Mohr breaks out on “Her Own Kinda Woman” are simply sublime.

Atlas Sound: Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Deerhunter’s Bradford James Cox offers an interesting change of pace on this solo effort, a collection of sparse, haunting tracks that offers more mood than riffs. The album unfolds at a leisurely, nearly psychedelic pace, drawing an assured strength from the slowly unfolding melodies. In line with Grizzly Bear’s calmly lilting style, Let The Blind Lead is an engaging effort that warrants repeated listens.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Little Tae Rides Again
The one constant about Brian Haas, Reed Mathis and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is their unflinching nerve and desire to do something different which each new album. For Little Tae, the JFJO logged in considerable studio time (at least by their standards) and the ambient rock and cerebral rhythms that resulted feel like they’ve been handled with care. With new drummer Josh Raymer manning the kit for the majority of the album, Jacob Fred experiments with an eclectic electric sound that may run counter to many people’s expectations of the band.

The Dodos: Visiter
More immediately accessible than Animal Collective, The Dodos’ Visiter is one of the more off-kilter releases in recent memory. The duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber aren’t lazy about their songcraft and the album floats deliberately on hypnotically seductive guitar riffs and intricate drum beats. A cerebral collection, The Dodos ethereal spin on the minimalist formula of guitars and drums bears a serious listen.

The Whigs: Mission Control
The Whigs’ full-length debut is a raucous affair, full of in-your-face songs that waste little time getting to the point. Julian Doro’s precisely crisp drumming starts everything off right and “Right Hand On My Heart” pulses with energy thanks to a wonderful Parker Gispert guitar riff. In a perfect world, this would be the song that helps them crossover into the mainstream. Sounding like a younger, less patient version of Social Distortion, this Athens, Georgia based trio have produced one of 2008’s most exciting debut releases.

The Magnetic Fields: Distortion
Nothing like a little truth in labeling. Stephen Merritt ratchets up the fuzz on The Magnetic Fields’ eighth album, drenching lullabies like “To Drunk To Dream” in feedback or washing anti-California sentiment like “California Girls” in enough reverb to make it sound somewhat comforting. A modern day album with a completely throwback feel.

Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago
A re-release of the Wisconsin native’s much talked about debut, Jagjaguwar is making sure Bon Iver’s endearing For Emma, Forever Ago gets a proper audience. A soundtrack for the snowy, winter evening lurking within one’s soul, Justin Vernon doesn’t need anything more than his ethereal voice and an acoustic guitar to draw you in. The album evolves like a dream, “Flume,” “Skinny Love” and “For Emma” floating along peacefully on Iver’s calming melodies. It’s no mistake that NPR had Iver on the bill of their much vaunted SXSW showcase that had people lining up fruitlessly outside of The Parish.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!