Entry for January 21, 2009

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Albums To Inaugurate Presidents By!

Posted Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:49am PST by Dave DiMartino in New This Week

What better way to commemorate the swearing in of a brand new president than to purchase brand new albums and give the economy the boost it sorely needs?

If you’re asking yourself that question, you’re in luck! As new release weeks go, this one’s pretty good: Up-and-coming bands have returned with solid albums, a few old-timers have returned to the party, and industry icons are seeing their classic work repackaged in fine form!

Even better: Superstars are playing at the White House, the Grammys are just around the corner, and troubled rappers being “forced to wear pink” garners major headlines! Meanwhile, Soulja Boy has made the leap and now become an actual cartoon!

All told, things absolutely couldn’t be finer!

Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino) Eight albums out, Animal Collective have risen to the occasion and released their finest, most commercial and–dare it be said–airplayable album ever! Named after a well-known Maryland live music venue, the disc represents those earlier times in which the band, in their own words, “used to go to shows there while growing up and have fond memories of times spent on the lawn.” Reports that We Like Wearing Short Pants And Beanies While Playing Croquet was already in use merely take up valuable review space! As an additional tribute, the album art depicts the upholstery pattern of the back seat band members used to lie on, nauseated, on the ride home!

Antony And The Johnsons: The Crying Light (Secretly Canadian) Sometimes you can pick up a record, look at its cover art, and instantly know you have to own that album! Other times, you can pick one up, examine it really closely, then drop it instantly, sweating, hoping no one saw you look! Guess which applies here! An intense piece of art, featuring the captivating vocals of Mr. Antony and subtle musical backing by composer Nico Muhly, The Crying Light is an excellently produced, mature art statement that doesn’t deserve the implication that the person on the cover is waiting to catch a frisbee! So let’s not imply it!

Mariah Carey: The Ballads (Columbia) I don’t know about you, but for me, there comes a time every few weeks or so when I’d like nothing better than to drive around LA, preferably with my top down, listening to Mariah Carey sing her best-known ballads! Well heck, am I in luck! This great new collection, out just in time for Valentine’s Day, offers all of her biggest–at least those recorded for the Columbia label–in one super-deluxe package! Included among them is the track that first stole our hearts years ago–“Vision Of Love”–and a whole lot more that I absolutely know were huge! And oddly, for some really strange reason, even though I know she’s one of the most popular recording artists in music history, that’s the only hit of hers with a name I can remember! I’m thinking I’m kind of out of it!

Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (Fat Possum) Some say that the career of singer-songwriter Bird has really “taken flight” these days, and indeed, with this seventh album, many are expecting to see this “wing” its way high on the charts! Available as a single or deluxe edition (the latter is titled Noble Beast/Useless Creatures and includes a second disc of unreleased material), this disc has it all, creature-wise–Bird, Beast, Possum–and should put to rest those troublesome comparisons to Budgie, the Byrds, the Eagles, and Pat Benatar!

Cash Cash: Take It To The Floor (Universal Republic) Usually I scoff at this sort of thing–I mean, wasn’t “cash” slang for money once?–but when you combine the fantastic cover graphics recalling the best of Miami’s TK label in the late ’70s, the charming album title, and the agreeably hitlike “Party In Your Bedroom,” you come up with “boisterous techno-pop,” as it has been described, that just makes you feel good all over! In an unrelated note, this album’s page on Amazon includes a consumer discussion entitled “Is music crappy lately, or am I just getting old?” Clever use of “either/or,” clownhead!

Umphrey’s McGee: Mantis (SCI Fidelity) Well known for being one of those trailblazing “jam band” thingies, this group has considerable music skill, a good grasp of melody, and enough discipline to fashion shortish songs (there’s about 10 of them here) without the expected over-reliance on instrumental dexterity one might usually find with others of their ilk! Speaking of “ilk,” would it be inappropriate for me to mention here that this may be the very worst band name I have ever heard? Yes! Instead, let’s have cake!

Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue: 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy) If any jazz album was a natural candidate for gala deluxe huzzah massive overkill reissue it would be this one–the first jazz recording most people acquire and generally not the last. Including 2 CDs, a DVD, a 12-inch blue vinyl pressing, book, poster and more, the set is a complete labor of love, and certainly worth picking up if you’re in the mood to hear Kind Of Blue all over again. True, the packaging has taken a few hits from consumers regarding the manner in which the CDs and DVD are overly exposed to scratching, and this is about 15th reissue of this thing, but I just spent this much money going to the movies a month ago and my feet got sticky! I want to buy my life over again!

Jane Monheit: The Lovers, The Dreamers And Me (Concord) Highly respected in that Netherworld where jazz and Broadway-type vocalists meet, Monheit has devoted her ninth album to the works of songwriters she admires–and has drawn from an interesting array of composers both old (Cole Porter, Jimmy Dorsey) and new (Fiona Apple, Corinne Bailey Rae). Well-played and slightly slick, this set displays technical excellence (a fine band, all produced by Matt Pierson) and is just the sort of album you’d want to give to someone who is neither a lover nor a dreamer. Ironically, Monheit already has it!

Swervedriver: Raise / Mezcal Head (both Second Motion) Right around now is a great time for everyone to slap their foreheads and realize that they got it all wrong in the early ’90s by making superstars of humans like Vanilla Ice and letting fantastic bands like Swervedriver fall by the wayside–sad, broke and ashamed! But it’s not too late! Apparently this fab Brit band’s first two albums have been reissued with bonus tracks and–frankly, like most of that stuff back then–it now sounds better than ever and worthy of everyone’s instant purchase just to make things right! If you like hard-charging melodic rock verging on excess–and hey, who doesn’t?–you’re bound to like this! If you don’t, well, it wouldn’t be appropriate to say you’re an idiot, but I could subtly imply it with this very sentence! If I wanted!

Titus Andronicus: Airing Of Grievances (Beggars/XL) According to knowledgeable Wikipedia experts, “Titus Andronicus may be Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy; it is believed to have been written sometime between 1584 and the early 1590s.” So how the hell can a play make a CD?

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