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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Lily Allen, India.Arie and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

POP

Lily Allen, “It’s Not Me, It’s You” (Capitol) ***1/2

Since the release of her 2006 debut “Alright, Still,” we’ve come to know British singer Lily Allen as unrepentantly forthright and outspoken, ready to dis (Sir Bob Geldof, Kylie Minogue, Amy Winehouse, Katy Perry), filled with personal drama (including a January 2008 miscarriage and subsequent breakup with boyfriend Ed Simons of the Chemical Brothers) and reveling in her ability to stir up controversy. All of that has nearly eclipsed her music, though “Alright, Still” went gold on these shores, but “It’s Not Me, It’s You” shows that Allen has been doing much more than flapping her jaws in the interim. Holed up in a Los Angeles studio with producer Greg Kurstin of The Bird and The Bee, Allen has crafted a 12-song sophomore set that’s personal and confessional, roiling with attitude and, in spots, social commentary (“22” and the Bush-bashing “F*** You”) while remaining richly melodic within a newfound embrace of electro-flavored pop that often hearkens back to ’80s commercial club music. “I want to be rich and I want lots of money,” she declares on the first single, “The Fear,” but with more than a hint of ironic uncertainty over what it will take to achieve that. “Everyone’s At It” and “Back to the Start” blast forth with full-on dance-floor energy, while “Not Fair” mixes in countrywestern clip-clop, complete with a banjo as Allen disses a lover’s lacking bedroom skills. Her inner romantic peeks through in “Who’d Have Known” and “Chinese,” and the God-pondering “Him” updates of Joan Osborne’s “One of Us,” wondering if “he’s skint or financially secure” and guessing that “I don’t imagine he’s ever been suicidal/His favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival.” The frankness is certainly in character, and the audaciousness is attention-getting, but the bigger story on “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” is Allen’s artistic growth and creative boldness, a thumbed-nose at the sophomore slump that puts the focus back on what Allen sings rather than what she says.



R&B

India.Arie, “Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics” (Universal Republic): ***

There’s a lot more love than politics on this contemporary soul singer’s second round of “Testimony” — and the fact that she’s obviously in love makes for a buoyant listening experience. Save for the bittersweet “Long Goodbye,” we find the daughter of Detroit native and Michigan State basketball star Ralph Simpson getting some love “Therapy” with Jamaican roots singer Gramps Morgan, enjoying a “Chocolate High” with Musiq Soulchild and working into a spiritual fervor on “River Rise.” The topical fare cuts a bit heavier; “Better Way” is a snaky funk number about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and “Psalm 23” blends hip-hop flow with soaring gospel passion. She works her way, ultimately and not surprisingly, to the conclusion that “The worse disease in the world is hate/And the cure for hate is love” — an idea that’s as easy to buy into as the engaging voice that delivers it.



NEW & NOTEWORTHY:

An Horse, “Rearrange Beds” (Mom & Pop): Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quin championed this New York indie rock trio, whose singer-guitarist Kate Cooper was studying law before signing a record deal.

Architects (UK), “Hollow Crown” (Century Media):

The third release by the buzzedabout British (can you tell by the name?) quintet of metal virtuosos.

Dan Auerbach, “Keep It Hid” (Nonesuch): The singer, guitarist and songwriter steps out of the Black Keys for his first solo outing.

BeauSoleil, “Alligator Purse” (Yep Roc): The welltraveled Louisiana sextet continues to dig beyond its Cajun corner of the world with another wide-ranging, style-blending set.

Lindsey Brier, “Waiting For the Sun” (Golden Thread Music): The musical prodigy trips through the Great American Songbook, accompanied by a 40-piece orchestra, on her debut album.

Glen Campbell, “Greatest Hits” (Capitol/EMI): Just like the title says — 16 gems from the “Wichita Lineman’s” career, right up to last year’s “Meet Glen Campbell.”

Case, “The Rose Experience” (Indigo Blue):

The fourth album from the R&B singer known for contributions to films such as “Rush Hour,” “The Best Man” and “The Nutty Professor.”

Guy Davis, “Sweetheart Like You” (Red House): The New York-raised rural blues singer-songwriter covers Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters and Lead Belly alongside his original compositions on his new album.

Darren Emerson, “Global Underground: Bogata” (Global Underground): The British DJ and producer heads to Romania for the latest of his global sonic explorations.

Jorma Kaukonen, “River of Time” (Red House): The former Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna guitarist incorporates the adventurousness of those bands on this set, with assistance from The Band’s Levon Helm and producer Larry Campbell.

Ben Lee, “The Rebirth of Venus” (New West): The Australian modern rocker return to producer Brad Wood, who helmed two of his previous releases, for his latest outing.

Ryan Leslie, “Ryan

Leslie” (Next Selection/ Atlantic): The producer and songwriter, whose credits include Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, Britney Spears and more, makes a case for his performing chops on his debut album.

The Lonely Island, “Incredibad” (Universal Republic): A CD/DVD combo of comedic pop songs — many that you already know and love — by “Saturday Night Live’s” Andy Samberg and partners Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer.

The Modern Society, “The Beat Goes On” (Original Signal): The Atlanta rock quartet fires through its sophomore album in a brisk 35 minutes.

Owl, “Owl” (Overit): The first effort by the Los Angeles alternative rock troupe led by Chris Wyse, who does double duty in The Cult.

RED, “Innocence & Instinct” (Via Essential): The sophomore outing from the Nashville-based Christian hard rock quartet.

Miranda Lee Richards, “Light of X” (Nettwerk): The sophomore full-length from the California singer, songwriter and former ad hoc member of the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Bobby Valentino, “The Rebirth” (Blue Kolla Dreams/EMI): The R&B singer-songwriter’s third album features collaborations with Yung Joc, Raphael Saadiq and Dottie Peoples.

The Vox Jaguars, “The Vox Jaguars” (Anodyne):

The northern California modern rock quartet bows with this debut EP that nods to garage rock and New Wave.



Hot New Music DVDs: Joni Mitchell, “Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and the Drum” (Koch Vision); Various Artists, “The Secret Policeman’s Balls” (Shout! Factory).



Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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