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LIstening Room: MGMT, Iggy and the Stooges and more...
It was so easy to be charmed by the ebullient hits from MGMT’s 2007 debut “Oracular Spectacular” — “Kids,” “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel” — that the album’s more ambitious second half went un-, or at least under-, noticed. But that’s where the Brooklyn duo resides on its sophomore outing, a nine-track set of trippy psychedelia that boasts plenty of melodic invention but little of the dynamic impact of its predecessor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either, as Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have the chops and the imagination to make it work, even if it will leave more than a few fans scratching their heads. Emblematic of “Congratulations’ “ direction are two songs about and titled for cult heroes Brian Eno and Dean Treacy of the band Television Personalities; the former is a bit cluttered, disjointed and gimmicky, but the latter has a playful, Strokes-like energy that may actually send folks in Treacy’s direction. An experiment that does mostly work, though, is “Siberian Breaks,” a 12-minute suite whose half-dozen component parts flow through shimmering ‘70s California vocal harmonies, ‘80s and ‘90s British shoe-gazer ambience and an aggressive, Pink Floyd-style synthesizer attack. Elsewhere MGMT traipses through the air, upbeat lushness of “It’s Working,” the garage rock energy of “Flash Delerium,” economical ditties such as “Someone’s Missing” and “I Found a Whistle,” and the rootsy folk-rock leaning of the title track. The lyricless “Lady Dada’s Nightmare” is the album’s only complete misfire, and if “Congratulations” is bound to alienate some of the “Oracular Spectacular” crowd, rest assured that MGMT could do far worse than turn into another incarnation of the Flaming Lips.
Iggy and the Stooges, “Raw Power: Legacy Edition”(Columbia/Legacy) ★★★ 1/2
The Stooges’ third and final album is both a celebrated and controversial part of its catalog, which has only stoked the 1973 release’s legend. Fans were disarmed by Iggy Pop’s name being put in front of the band and by a mix by David Bowie that many considered too fluffy for the, well, raw brutality of the music — which radio in the pre-punk era had no idea how to embrace. Nevertheless, it was a landmark of hard rocking fury and these expanded editions, coming on the heels of the Stooges’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, on make it better. Bowie’s newly tweaked mix sounds right on the money, while the assorted extras — ranging from outtakes such as “Head On” and “Doojiman” and an eight-track live disc called “Georgia Peaches,” are powerful additions. The Deluxe Addition, due April 27, adds a third disc of additional rarities and a DVD documentary, both well worth the splurge.
New & Noteworthy:
Tony Allen, “Secret Agent” (World Circuit/Nonesuch): The latest solo album from Fela Anikulpao Kuti’s drummer and musical director is riding a wave of strong reviews in Europe, where it was released earlier in the year.
Jennie Arnau, “Chasing Giants” (MRI): The South Carolina-born Arnau turned to rock producer Trina Shoemacker (Sheryl Crow, Queens of the Stone Age) to add some muscle to her particular brand of Americana on her third album.
Jeff Beck, “Emotion & Commotion” (Atco): The guitar legend’s first new studio album in seven years surprises with orchestral renderings of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Elegy For Dunkirk” from the film “Atonement.”
Coheed & Cambria, “Year of the Black Rainbow” (Columbia): Frontman Claudio Sanchez has penned a 352-page companion novel to accompany the New York prog-rockers’ fifth studio album.
Foxy Shazam, “Foxy Shazam” (Sire): The debut album from the Cincinnati rock group whose single “Unstoppable” was featured during this year’s Super Bowl broadcast.
Freelance Whales, “Weathervanes” (Frenchkiss): The debut album by the homespun New York group who combine banjo, cello, glockenspiel and harmonium with electric guitars and synthesizers for a unique take on roots music.
JBM, “Not Even in July” (Partisan): Montreal-born singer, songwriter and guitarist Jesse Marchant recorded his debut album in a 19th Century church-turned-studio in Hudson, N.Y.
Kaki King, “Junior” (Rounder): The guitar experimentalist takes a dance rock turn on her fifth album via the invitingly titled song “Spit It Back in My Mouth.”
Adam Lambert, “Remixes” (19/RCA): An online-only release featuring remixed versions of the first two singles — “Time For Miracles” and “For Your Entertainment” — from the “American Idol” runner-up’s debut album.
Legendary Shack Shakers, “Agridustrial” (Colonel Knowledge): The Nashville quartet’s politically charged sixth album marks the debut of Jesus Lizard guitarist as a full-time band member.
Janiva Magness, “The Devil is an Angel Too” (Alligator): The ninth album from the blues and soul singer who won the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year trophy at the 2009 Blues Music Awards.
Natalie Merchant, “Leave Your Sleep” (Nonesuch): The former 10,000 Maniacs lead singer’s first studio album in seven years is a two-CD set featuring 26 poems about childhood turned into songs, with help from nearly 130 musicians.
Raul Midon, “Synthesis” (Decca): The blind singer, songwriter guitarist covers the Beatles’ “Blackbird” on his third album, which was produced by Joni Mitchell/Herbie Hancock cohort Larry Klein.
Stanton Moore, “Groove Alchemy” (Telarc International): The aural component of Galactic drummer Moore’s multi-media project exploring the roots and history of funk drumming.
Justin Nozuka, “You I Wind and Sea” (Glassnote): The second album from actress Kyra Sedgwick’s nephew follows 2007’s Juno Award-nominated “Holly.”
Jon Oliva’s Pain, “Festival” (AFM): The fourth full-length release by the former Savatage frontman’s solo band.
David Olney, “Dutchman’s Curve” (Deadbeet): The Rhode Island-born singer-songwriter mines his travels through Europe, and particularly the Netherlands, for his latest album.
Anders Osborne, “American Patchwork” (Alligator): The New Orleans’ stalwart works with some strange production bedfellows — Galactic’s Stanton Moore and headbanger Pepper Keenan of Down and Corrosion of Conformity — on his 10th album.
Carrie Rodriguez, “Love and Circumstances” (Ninth Street Opus): The Texas singer, songwriter and guitarist covers her heroes and influences this time out, including Buddy and Julie Mailer, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Richard Thompson, Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams, her father David Rodriguez and her great-aunt, Eva Garza.
Straight No Chaser, “With a Twist” (Atlantic): After two hit Christmas albums, the Indiana University-formed a capella troupe branches out with a set of pop songs, plus a guest appearance by Barry Manilow.
From the Vaults: Big Audio Dynamite, “This is Big Audio Dynamite: Legacy Edition” (Columbia/Legacy); Tom Lehrer, “The Tom Lehrer Collection”
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