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Listening Room: Tim McGraw, Twilight Saga and more...
A bit of drama preceded Tim McGraw’s first new studio album in an uncommonly long two and a half years. McGraw was ready to put something out last year, but his record company curbed that by instead issuing his third greatest hits set — a move to prolong McGraw’s soon-to-end association with the label that angered him to the point of issuing a public apology. That may well have something to do with the dark tone of “Southern Voice,” in which McGraw sings about mortality (“If I Died Today,” “Ghost Town Train”), the changing tenor of relationships (“Didn’t Know It At the Time,” “You Had to Be There,” “I Love You Goodbye”), loneliness (“Mr. Whoever You Are”) and cheatin’ — with a deadly twist — in the album’s best track, “Good Girls.” It’s not all a downer, however. The single “It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You” is a tongue-in-cheek romp about a high-maintenance mate, while the title track name checks a slew of folks (including Detroiters Aretha sa Parks) who its writers credit with significant contributions to the cultural fabric. And “Still” is a gentle ode to peace of mind. It’s a solid song selection that lets McGraw — who’s doubling up with a new film, “The Blind Side,” next month — stretch himself at times, and he sounds committed as ever to his craft even if there’s some residual frustration on the business side of his music life.
Various Artists, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon Original Soundtrack” (Chop Shop/Atlantic) **1/2
Death Cab For Cutie contends that “everything ends” in “Meet Me On the Equinox,” its contribution to and the first single from this companion piece to the second “Twilight” film. But fans of author Stephenie Meyer’s creation certainly hope that’s never the case for the wildly popular vampire series, which has not only sold millions of books but also more than 3.5 million copies worldwide to the soundtrack from last year’s first “Twilight” film. The sequel’s soundtrack, which snuck into stores on Friday, offe the same — a cadre of modern rock favorites from established artists and newcomers, with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s lengthy tone poem “Hearing Damage” and the Killers’ Beatlesque “A White Demon Love Song” rubbing elbows with Band of Skulls’ chunky “Friends” and Sea Wolf’s hooky “The Violet Hour.” OK Go, Grizzly Bear, Editors, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Lykke Liu are among other notables sinking their teeth into “Twilight,” and while the album does tend to wear a bit long, the ratio leans well towards hits more than misses.
New & Noteworthy:
The Aliens, “Luna” (Birdman): The second album by the British psychedelic rock troupe formed by refugees from the Beta Band.
Apse, “Climb Up” (ATP): A move from Brooklyn to Cape Cod and a dramatic lineup shift preceded this sophomore release.
Bowling For Soup, “Sorry For Partyin’ “ (Jive): The punk rock veterans put so much energy into their 10th studio album that no apologies are necessary.
Cartel, “Cycles” (Wind-Up): The Atlanta rockers bounced between their home town, New York and Los Angeles to record their third full-length album.
Sean Chambers, “Ten Til Midnight” (Blue Heat): The veteran blues-rock guitarist’s latest album includes covers of songs by Luther Allison, ZZ Top and Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones.
Electric Six, “Kill” (Metropolis): The Detroit dance rockers’ sixth album was again produced by guitarist Zach “The Colonel” Shipps.
Flight of the Conchords, “I Told You I Was Freaky” (Sub Pop): The second full-length from the Grammy-nominated HBO comic from New Zealand.
Keb’ Mo’, Live & Mo’ (Yolabelle International): The singer-songwriter-guitarist launches his own label with this mix of six live and four new studio recordings.
Little Dragon, “Machine Dreams” (Peacefrog): The sophomore outing from the electronic pop group from Gothenburg, Sweden.
Lyle Lovett, “Natural Forces” (Curb/Lost Highway): Lovett employs his Large Band on this mix of originals and covers of songs by favorite writers such as Townes Van Zandt, Vince Bell and Eric Taylor, among others.
My Cousin, The Emperor, “A Long Way From Home” (self-released): The debut album from the New York rock quartet led by North Carolina expatriate and onetime solo artist Jason Reischel.
Nouvelle Vague, “3” (Peacefrog): The French group’s third album includes collaborations with members of Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen, Funboy Three, the Saints and others on covers of their group’s songs.
Darrell Nulisch, “Just For You” (Severen): The soulful Texas bluesman delivers songs by Slim Harpo, J.J. Malone and Otis Clay on his latest set.
Old Canes, “Feral Harmonic” (Saddle Creek): The Appleseed Cast’s Chris Crisci is till the primary creative force — and, for that matter, musician — on this acoustic-flavored entity’s second album.
Timothy B. Schmit, “Expando” (List Highway): Kid Rock, Dwight Yoakam, Graham Nash, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb’ Mo’ and Van Dyke Parks are among the guests on the Eagles bassist’s first solo album in eight years.
Sufjan Stevens, “The BQE” (Asthmatic Kitty): The idiosyncratic singer-songwriter releases a CD/DVD project inspired by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Joss Stone, “Colour Me Free” (Virgin): The British soul singer’s fourth album — a Target exclusive — features guest appearances by Jeff Beck, Sheila E., Nas, David Sanborn and Raphael Saadiq.
Tiesto, “Kaleidoscope” (Ultra): Members of Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, Metric and Tegan & Sera helped the Dutch-born sound stylist on his fourth artist album.
Tiny Tim, “I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana” (Collector’s Choice): A surprisingly entertaining musical history lesson from the late Herbert Khaury that was recorded by the Bongos’ Richard Barone 33 years ago.
White Denim, “Fits” (Downtown): The Austin, Texas trio didn’t waste much time following up its 2008 breakthrough album “Workout Holiday.”
From The Vaults
Leonard Cohen, “Live at the Isle of Wight 1970” (Columbia/CMV/Legacy); Julian Lennon, “The Secret Value of Daydreaming,” “Mr. Jordan” and “Help Yourself” (Collectors’ Choice)
New Music DVDs
Eminem, “Live From New York City” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray); Roxy Music, “More Than This — The Story of Roxy Music” (Eagle Rock); Toto, “Falling In Between Live” (Eagle Rock Blu-ray); Various Artists, “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live” (Time Life); ZZ Top, “Double Down Live” (Eagle Rock)
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