I spent a good deal of time this week occupied in reading through things and reading is the one activity that I find isn't better served with musical accompaniment. That's not to say I don't partake in a little jazz music on rainy Sundays curled up with a book. But in general, I prefer to read in silence. I still made time for new music this week because I always make time for new music. However, it also gives me the chance to review a few albums that have been patiently waiting their turn for a shot at glory on the Roundup. The first five are new, the second five are the patient ones. Enjoy.
Dirty Projectors + Björk - Mount Wittenburg Orca: This is a download only collaborative A Capella album that the two have decided to release to help save the whales. If that sounds pretentious, you should hear the album. My five word review: Weird and not very good.
Dead Confederate - Sugar: This was high on my anticipated releases for the year. Their self-titled debut EP and album Wrecking Ball were two of my favorite albums that I picked up last year. Oddly, this sounds like a different band. Gone is the melancholic Southern gothic sound which made the first two releases so strong. It's hard to explain, but this sounds like a big step backward...though I have to admit it grew on me upon a second listen. Perhaps I just need to shed my expectations to hear it properly. Divorced from the previous albums, this one is a solid OK. Paired with them, it's a big disappointment for me.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Hawk: The third album pairing Isobel (Belle and Sebastian) and Mark (Soulsavers, Screaming Trees, and all around new Tom Waits) surprised me a bit. I really didn't care for their first album and skipped the second. I've also been less impressed with Mark's recent work after a five year run of amazingness. That said, there's more of dark country folk vibe to this album that really works. A nice album.
Best Coast - Crazy for You: I've reviewed this fuzz riddled indie pop band's earlier releases and felt them to be decent sunshine California noise. Then came their brilliant single "When I'm With You" (which can be found on this album) and my hopes skyrocketed. Well, that is still the best song on this album, but the album is a step up. It's a little more fun than previous albums. Definitely more surfer garage rock inspired which makes it more catchy, but still remains airy enough to qualify as a mood piece.
Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare: I'm not ashamed to say I love this band. They are one of the few bands around playing good hard rock. They get slammed from the metal crowd, but that's not really fair because that's not really their game. This one is their best since 2005's City of Evil. They continue to produce music that fits somewhere in between Appetite for Destruction and Master of Puppets and as always the dueling guitars shred. It helps that I like M. Shadow's voice. This album just plain rocks.
Roy Orbison - The Sun Years 1956-58: Young Roy finds a sound that slips somewhere between Buddy Holly's and Elvis. I really dig on the simple country rock back beat. At times, his voice, softer than either Buddy or Elvis, serves him well. On other songs, I find myself wanting that bigger Roy voice that will rear up later in his career. All in all, a fine addition to my growing '50s rock collection.
Stephen Stills & Manassas - Down the Road: Upbeat country folk led by Stills that is very much in the same vein as fellow band mates Neil Young and Crosby's solo output of the same time (1973). However, Stills decides to experiment a bit here, infusing Latin rock elements, which honestly fall a little flat. Luckily, that is limited and the overall album is a solid example of that early '70's blown out folk rock that I love and once again proves to me that Stills contends with Crosby as the second most talented member of CSNY.
The Hentchmen - Hentch-Forth.Five: Originally released in the '90s, I picked this up immediately when it was re-released in 2007. It's a Detroit garage rock band featuring Mister Jacky White on drums (one of his many pre-White Stripes outfits). If you like that revival sound that came out of the Motor City in the late '90s and early 00's, then get this one. It's not the Stripes, but it's good.
Scorpions - Animal Magnetism: This is the 1980 release from one the '70s best glam metal bands. If you only know this band's more radio popular '80s schlock, than you're missing some amazing music. This falls far short of the 1976's brilliant Virgin Killer, but still there are some great glam tracks on here. However, this is also the album where you can hear the band losing their edge a bit. The best songs though are great examples of excessive bliss.
Scarlett Johansson - anywhere I lay my head: When I read about this back in 2008 when it came out, like many I was left scratching my head. A starlet releasing an album of Tom Waits covers? Seems odd enough to be interesting. The first single wasn't bad and I remember remaining intrigued. I finally heard the whole album last week and it's not awful. On some tracks, her heavy voice completely transforms the songs into a dream pop sound that really works. Though, other tracks don't do the originals justice. But once you get past the comparison with Waits, the album is quite enjoyable. Also, seek out her cover of "Summertime" (not on this album)...it's quite beautiful.