New This Week: El-P, The Gossip, & More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 05.23.12 in Spotlights

Here’s what’s new this week:

El-P, Cancer 4 Cure: Just one week after a spectacular collaboration with Killer Mike, El-P returns with his own dystopic masterpiece. Guess what? Highly Recommended. Nate Patrin has more:

El-P’s music has always been a mix of sci-fi futurist grandiosity and old-school rap grime, like watching a chromed-out chromed-out, mile-long spaceship reenact the Licensed to Ill cover. He’s rarely sounded this full-throttle start to finish — the sounds aren’t just pushed to the red but knifepoint immediate. And for all the hints of space-age debris on the margins, El recognizes that 2012 NYC is its own kind of Ridley Scott future. So he stays a master of reality, from the domestic-victim solidarity story of “For My Upstairs Neighbor” (the indelible sing-song chorus: “if you kill him I won’t tell”) to the police-state-ducking “Drones Over BKLYN” to the con-artist psyche-out “The Jig Is Up.”

Gossip, A Joyful Noise: Beth Ditto has one of the best voices in pop music; this is her latest collection of club bangers. Barry Walters says:

At the beginning of the last decade, the Gossip were a garage band similar to pre-stardom White Stripes, if they were from Searcy, Arkansas, by way of Olympia, Washington, and led by an out, proud and queer fat advocate. Not anyone’s recipe for mainstream success. Fast-forward to the present: Gossip have massive European hits behind them; they’ve recorded with Rick Rubin and Simian Mobile Disco alike, and on A Joyful Noise, the threesome team with Xenomania’s Brian Higgins, the U.K. production whiz behind dance-pop hits from Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Danni Minogue, Pet Shop Boys and Cher. It’s a journey that would defy all logic except for the fact that frontwoman Beth Ditto possesses an utterly arresting voice, one that conveys extreme levels of intensity while squarely hitting the notes, and that along the way, she and her bandmates learned how to write proper songs.

Apache Dropout, Apache Dropout (Deluxe Edition — eMusic Exclusive): Our eMusic-only version of Apache Dropout’s 2011 debut, this time with extra live tracks. Evan Minsker says:

The major draw is the inclusion of nine live tracks, which do the band an incredible service. The harmonies have more bark, their guitars are louder and more fuzzed out, and every song feels a little bit bolder. Though the bulk of the material comes from Apache Dropout, boisterous songs like “It’s a Nightmare” and “White Out Man” become more powerful and listenable in a live setting, which keeps things from feeling repetitive. Meanwhile, a poppier track like “Teenager” gets a bit more bite. The deluxe Apache Dropout shows both sides of the band’s personality: slightly more reserved in the studio and slightly more unhinged live. So listen for the hooks, but stay for the screaming.

Garbage, Not Your Kind of People: They’re back! And not a moment too soon! Shirley Manson & Co sneer and stomp through another batch of doomy electro-rock songs. There’s more than a little ’90s nostalgia in the air right now, but Garbage are a band I am glad to have back.

JEFF the Brotherhood, Hypnotic Knights: Warner Bros debut (!) of these scuzz-rock superstars. This band radiates energy and charm, and it sounds like they haven’t cleaned up even the tiniest bit for their major label debut. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Soulsavers, the Light the Dead See: Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode takes lead vocals on this new one from Soulsavers, for an album that is — you guessed it! — moody and dark and emotional. Fans of DM will love.

Royal Thunder, CVI: This record is great. Imagine ’70s Heart covering Master of Reality and you’re on the right track. Bludgeoning riffs, humongous hooks and pour-your-heart-out vocals make for one of the year’s best hard rock records. Highly Recommended

Kimbra, Vows: The woman who gave Gotye what-for in “Somebody That I Used to Know” is back with an album of her own. Kimbra is an unconventional, off-kilter songwriter and Vows is full of a lot of add percussion, weird bursts of sound and Kimbra’s curious voice. Pretty fun, fascinating stuff.

Admiral Fallow, Tree Bursts in Snow: Rowdy Scots are back with more deeply-felt alt rock.

John Mayer, Born and Raised: John Mayer is back after a public meltdown a few years ago that left his career on somewhat shaky ground. This sounds like a batch of mostly dialed back, folky/acoustic songs that combine tastefully restrained playing with earnest singing.

Slash (ft. Myles Kennedy), Apocalyptic Love: Huh. Ex-G’N’R dude teams with the singer fromAlterBridge(!) for a batch of careening ’70s-style rock songs.

Joey Ramone, …ya know?: Another posthumous outing from the late, great Joey Ramone, this one assembled from demos he record before he passed away.

Sonnymoon, Sonnymoon: Glitchy, spacey, bleepy and bloopy.

Exitmusic, Passage: Moody and evocative songs in this band fronted by Jimmy’s wife on Boardwalk Empire. This is pretty high drama, moody, spooky stuff — lots of empty space, echo and chilling vocal delivery.

Dan Sartain, Too Tough to Live: Dan Sartain returns! More great, scuzzy garage rock with greased-back hair, popped collars and sneer-along choruses, as revved-up as a racecar in the summer sun. Recommended

Sissy Spacek, Contratemps: EVERYBODY GET NOISY. Really nasty, gnarly, filthy, noisy split-second songs.

And here are Dave’s Jazz Picks:

Well, it wasn’t a very big drop this week, but that just accentuates the strong albums that are new to the site. A lot of recognizable names, some whose careers date way back on the jazz timeline, and a few who are vanguards of the modern scene. Let’s begin…

Guillermo Klein, Carrera: Pianist and composer Klein has established himself as one of the preeminent artists on the jazz scene. Klein’s modern approach to Latin jazz has advanced it as an artform, and contributes, individually, a unique voice to the subgenre. Nobody else approaches a melody quite like Klein, and it’s a big reason why his tunes are so recognizable no matter if he’s in a duo setting or large ensemble. For Carrera, Klein returns with his Los Guachos large ensemble, which includes major leaguers such as Miguel Zenon, Bill McHenry, Ben Monder, and Taylor Haskins, for a set of tunes that keep more to the quiet side of the room, similar in touch to his collaboration with Aaron Goldberg Bienestan. When the question is asked, who are the modern jazz giants, the new Miles Davises, the new John Coltranes, those who transcend and navigate the jazz art form, Guillermo Klein should be one of the answers to that query. Pick of the Week.

Linda Oh, Initial Here: Bassist Linda Oh achieves a momentum with this album that doesn’t let up ‘til the final note. Her conversant nature on bass reflects the characteristics of her compositions. This is engaging music. Let your guard down, and you’ll miss something. But it’s still a conversation, never becomes a lecture. Some albums are so engaging that it makes for a one-way interface; artist talking at listener. Oh finds a way to keep the interaction between musicians and listener a perpetual exchange of thoughts and ideas, which is why she’s an artist to follow and why her albums don’t sacrifice joyfulness just because they’re thought provoking. Rounding out the quartet are Rudy Royston on drums, Dayna Stephens on tenor, and Fabian Almazan on piano. Jen Shyu does nifty turn on guest vocals. Strongly Recommended.

Tom Harrell, Number Five: One of the top trumpeters on the scene, Harrell has been making modern swing in a number of formats for years now. This recording is his fifth with his current working quintet that includes Wayne Escoffery, Danny Grissett, Ugonna Okegwo and Johnathan Blake. In some ways, it sounds like more of the good stuff, but not entirely: Harrell has a talent of sounding introspective when he’s all fired up. But on Number Five, there are several tunes that have a foggy morning beauty to them that floats more serenely than past recordings might lead one to expect. Current Harrell fans will not be disappointed with the new release, and those who haven’t been induced to pull the trigger on past Harrell albums might want to spend more time lingering over this current offering.

Curtis Fuller, Down Home: Trombonist Fuller keeps on going, and showing no sign of letting up. His name appears in the liner notes of some of the classic jazz albums of all time, including John Coltrane’s Blue Trane, Art Blakey’s Free For All, and Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon!, not to mention several under his own name for Blue Note. This current album has him in a sextet, and burning it up with plenty good ol’ straight-up bop. A classic musician making classic music in the modern day. Recommended.

Larry Willis, This Time the Dream’s On Me: Like Curtis Fuller, another jazz vet who shows no inclination to stop making beautiful music in the current day. This, a solo piano set, drifts nice and easy on the water’s surface. Pianist and piano, long-time friends, working as one. Fans of Larry Willis have reason to celebrate.

Tyson Naylor Trio, Kosmonauten: A piano trio album that suffers from occasional bouts of schizophrenia. Sometimes it’s a catchy hopping bit of Vince Guaraldi, sometimes it’s a prepared piano in a sea of dissonance, sometimes it hears voices in its head that tells it to play melodica, and sometimes a voice drops in that sounds like clarinet. And, somehow, it all works. Nothing boring here, and, thankfully, it doesn’t get so complex as to render it unlistenable. Nifty stuff. Find of the Week.

Barney McAll, Graft: Pianist McAll may not be a household name, but if you have a respectable amount of jazz in your library, there’s a decent chance that his name appears in the liner notes in a few spots. This recording has him in full avant-garde territory, working with a vocal choir, electronics, keys, and compositions that have a vision on exploring the way technology has affected interaction in society. There are moments of lovely pop music buoyancy, others of electro-experimental craziness, and others that hop pleasantly along. An album that is unlikely to reveal itself fully after just a few listens.

Tilman Herpichbohm, Jilman Zilman: Interesting quartet date with drums, bass, and two alto saxes. It’s actually relatively straight-ahead, at times sounding more traditional than modern. Plenty of quirky moments that keep things fun, plenty of tuneful moments that keep things, well, also fun.

Cello4qt, Suite Para Cello y 3djazz (Claude Bolling): Cello-led quartet date, with piano, bass, and drums. And not some chamber-jazz routine either; this is a stab at jazz with cello leading the charge. And it’s pretty successful. I’m a sucker for cello, anyways, but this is a pretty album that has some bounce to it, as well.

Various Artists, The Art of Napping: Soundtrack to the documentary of same name. Peaceful stuff, variety of stringed instruments. Curious and likable.