Monthly Musical Musings
Five new CDs of note and one to avoid, with apologies to The Boss.
This list ain’t like that. Sorry. This is just six albums among the few dozen that I’ve listened to this month. So yes, I do listen to a lot of music. Five of these albums are, at the very least, pretty good. One of them is…not. So: welcome to the January 2014 entry of a new TCD feature, that offers:
Five to Feel…
- Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, “Give the People What They Want” (Daptone). Miss Sharon Jones, the once and eternal queen of the classic-soul revival, finished her fifth album with the Dap-Kings before she faced cancer diagnosis and treatment, so it would be a mistake to hear it as a survivor’s triumph. It’s simply triumphant, and perhaps the finest, sweetest, hottest thing she and her band have put to tape.
- Reverend Horton Heat, “Rev” (Victory). Jim Heath, the rowdy rockabilly “reverend” from which the RHH trio sort of gets its name, seemed, on many of his band’s 21st-century records, to be riding shotgun or, worse, in the backseat. On “Rev,” he’s back behind the wheel and his foot is on the floor as he races toward renewed punk power and greaser glory.
- Rosanne Cash, “The River & the Thread” (Capitol). Rosanne Cash could arguably never hear the song of the South as well as her father Johnny did, because she didn’t experience the hardscrabble childhood he endured. Yet her latest disc finds her surveying the South, gliding across it and eventually inhabiting its red-dirt fields, Delta swamps and gravel roads.
- The New Mendicants, “Into the Lime” (Ashmont). Joe Pernice, Norman Blake and Mike Belitsky and their respective bands—Pernice Brothers, Teenage Fanclub and the Sadies—aren’t famous enough for the New Mendicants to be a supergroup. Their debut full-length team-up eschews major statements for minor-key melodicism, including a cover of Sandy Denny’s “By the Time It Gets Dark.” Still, there are a lot of little pleasures sitting very prettily between “Nuggets”-style power pop and Simon & Garfunkel-style folk.
- Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, “Wig Out at Jagbags” (Matador). Whether fronting Pavement or leading the Jicks, Malkmus has favored sharp literary wordplay and laissez-faire musical interplay, a combination that has made him a flashpoint for indie-rock fanatics and detractors alike. That combination remains present and foregrounded throughout his latest Jicks outing, but the background looseness feels more right and natural than ever.
…And One to Shun
- Bruce Springsteen, “High Hopes” (Columbia). Strictly speaking, this isn’t a terrible album. Speaking even more strictly, it’s not an album at all: it’s just the Boss doing some covers, revisiting old material, etc. The E Street Band is in excellent form, and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello isn’t entirely unwelcome. Nevertheless, a stopgap release, whatever the intent behind it or the icon responsible for it, remains a stopgap release.