» Contact Us
» Advertise With Us
» Newspaper Ads
Listening Room: Ciara, Conor Oberst and more...
Ciara, “Fantasy Ride” (LaFace) **
Ciara Harris portrays herself as a superhero alter ego — Super C — on the cover of her third album, but the “Fantasy Ride” she’s singing about on these 13 songs isn’t of the faster than a speeding bullet variety. Three years after her platinum “Ciara: The Evolution,” the singer/model/ actress is as horny as the Tijuana Brass and letting the world know it in a big way, from the opening double entendres of “Ciara to the Stage” to the forthright comeons in “Love Sex Magic,” her playful hit duet with Justin Timberlake, and “Keep Dancin’ on Me” to the unsubtle metaphors in “Turntables” (with Chris Brown) and “Like a Surgeon.” It’s not quite as between the sheets as, say, R. Kelly, but it’s definitely in the bedroom with him. We kind of get the idea early on, so it’s up to the songs to make the difference, which they do only intermittently. “Love Sex Magic” has a loose and bouncy club feel, while “G is For Girl (A-Z),” co-written by Timberlake and helmed by his production team The Y’s, has a big, bumpy beat and a slinky guitar hook. Ciara (who’s name-checked in almost every track) works up some sweat with Missy Elliott on in “Work,” and her parallel dialogue with The Dream in “Lover’s Thing” is a clever and creative bit of songwriting by the LOS Da Mystro team. Rappers such as Young Jeezy (“Never Ever”) and Ludacris (“High Price”) certainly step up for their features, but Ciara hasn’t yet developed a voice distinctive, and powerful, enough to make her as much of a star as the songs — though on the album-closing “I Don’t Remember” she gets a torchy moment that indicates the potential is there. For now, however, the “Ride” is a bit too smooth.
Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, “Outer South” (Merge) ***1/2
Yes, it’s yet another band for the busy Omaha auteur Conor Oberst — and a welcome one, every bit as exciting as the Bright Eyes collective that’s still his best-known endeavor. The Mystic Valley Band is comprised of the musicians who backed Oberst on his self-titled 2008 solo album, a hushed affair that’s turned on its ear by the eclectic ramble of these 16 songs. A countryish twang is at the heart of most of “Outer South,” including tracks such as “Slowly (Oh So Slowly),” “Big Black Nothing,” “Bloodline” and “Snake Hill,” but the writing and singing contributions of the other band members and forays into soul (“Difference is Time”), jam band country rock (“Nikorette”), folk (“To All the Lights in the Windows,” “Ten Women”), New Wave (“Air Matress”), gritty hard rock on the politically charged “Roosevelt Room” and the intimate balladry of “White Shoes” play like a varied but focused mix tape that never stays in one place too long.
New & Noteworthy
Akron/Family, “Set ‘em Wild, Set ‘em Free” (Dead Oceans): The adventurous East Coast troupe stirs in a new set of psychedelic and Afrobeat influences into its sound on its fifth album, the first the group has selfproduced.
Carl Allen and Rodney Whitaker, “Work to Do” (Mack Avenue): The jazz rhythm section and its cohorts take on the Isley Brothers’ title track and the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” on its second album.
Ryan Bingham, “Roadhouse Sun” (Lost Highway): The Texas singer-songwriter sings about “Country Roads,” “Rollin’ Highway Blues” and “Dylan’s Hard Rain” on his sophomore set.
Paul Carrack, “I Know That Name” (429): The 14th release from the singer-keyboardist from Ace, Squeeze and Mike & the Mechanics features the Eagles’ Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit on one track.
Cracker, “Sunrise in the Land of Milk & Honey” (429): The alt-rock veterans bring in pals John Doe (X), Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) and Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers) on its politically minded new album.
Omar Kent Dykes, “Big Town Playboy” (New Ruf): The Austin, Texas blues rocker, onetime leader of the Dukes, gets help from Jimmie Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton, James Cotton and Lazy Lester on his latest batch of songs.
El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez, “Crytomnesia” (RLP): The first of three albums recorded by the side project led by the Mars Volta guitarist still features bandmate Cedric Bixler Zavala’s vocals on eight of its 11 tracks.
Electric Owls, “Ain’t Too Bright” (Vagrant): Comas singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andy Herod formed his new band with help from friends in Band of Horses, ARchers of Loaf and the Gutter Twins.
Iglu & Hartly, “And Then Boom” (Universal Republic): The debut album from the sun and sand loving Los Angeles quintet that fashions itself a “hip hop Beach Boys.”
Jewel, “Lullaby” (Fisher-Price/ Somerset): A year after going country, the singer-songwriter goes for the kid set with 10 of her own songs and versions of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Doyle Lawson, “Lonely Street” (Rounder): The bluegrass veteran celebrates 30 years of pickin’ and grinnin’ with his band, Quicksilver.
Joe Lovano, “Folk Art” (Blue Note): The saxophonist debuts a new ensemble, Us Five, on his 21st album for the famed Blue Note label.
Ziggy Marley, “Family Time” (Tuff Gong Worldwide): This family-friendly album (i.e. no ganja references) by Bob’s most famous progeny features guests Paul Simon, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson and actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
My Favorite Highway, “Call a Bluff ” (Virgin): The debut album from the Virginia modern pop quartet tagged as one to watch by several tastemaking publications.
New York Dolls, “ ‘Cause I Sez So” (Atco): David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain and their current compatriots reunite with Todd Rundgren, who produced the Dolls’ 1973 debut album, for just its third studio outing since then.
Original Cast Album, “The Toxic Avenger” (Time Life): Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan wrote the score for this stage adaptation of the tongue-in-cheek 1985 horror film.
Peaches, “I Feel Cream” (XL):
The confrontational, and controversial, electroclash artist worked with Yo! Majesty’s Shunda K, Soulwax and Simian Mobil Disco’s James Ford on her fifth album.
Psychostick, “Sandwich” (Rock Ridge): The Phoenix modern rockers’ new album features a track with “373 Thank Yous” to fans who donated $50 or more to help pay for studio time and equipment.
Faryl Smith, “Faryl” (Decca/ Universal): The 13-year-old “Britian’s Got Talent” winner’s bow became the fastest-selling solo classical debut ever in her U.K. homeland when it was released there in March.
The Smithereens, “The Smithereens Play Tommy” (Koch):
The New Jersey rockers commemorate the Who’s famous rock opera with this 40th anniversary re-recording.
From the Vaults:
Incubus, “Monuments & Melodies” (Epic); The Kills, “Keep On Your Mean Side” (expanded) (Domino); Frank Sinatra, “My Way: 40th Anniversary Edition” and “Live at the Meadowlands” (FSE/Concord); The Vaselines, “Enter the Vaselines” (Sub Pop)
Send your thoughts and comments to