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Listening Room: Hole, B.o.B. and more...
The debate, of course, is whether this is really the first Hole album in 12 years or merely Courtney Love’s second solo album, following 2004’s tepid “America’s Sweetheart,” with a more saleable name. In either case, it represents a comeback, perhaps not to the group’s ’90s highs but certainly of Love as a potent singing and songwriting force equally adept at angsty bile and mewling self-pity. On “Nobody’s Daughter” Love works with Michael Beinhorn, who produced Hole’s 1998’s release “Celebrity Skin,” as well as former boyfriend Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and hitmaker-for-hire Linda Perry, while Larrikin Love’s Micko Larkin, Hole’s current lead guitarist in place of Eric Erlandson, is in place as her chief creative foil. The attitude here is defiant, with references to phoenixes rising and a declaration that “Out of it all/I have survived/From the fires of hell/I am alight.” She does generate punky fire on diss tracks such as “Skinny Little Bitch” and “Loser Dust” and opens a confessional vein on “How Dirty Girls Get Clean,” but most of these 11 tracks are more carefully crafted, sounding more like the snotty stepsister of Fleetwood Mac than the queen of alt-rock — and that’s not a bad thing. “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Samantha” — written with Corgan and Perry — are both highlights, driven by ringing electric-acoustic guitar blends and richly melodic choruses. “Someone Else’s Bed” is a moody kiss-off, while “Never Go Hungry” draws from the well of ’70s California country-rock. Buying into Love’s pleas for, well, love and understanding on “For Once in Your Life” and “Letter to God” comes down to personal attitudes towards her, but this time out she certainly sounds more engaged and present than she has since the last time she used the Hole name.
B.o.B., “B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray” (Rebel Rock/Grand Hustle/Atlantic) ***1/2
B.o.B., aka Bobby Ray (real name Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr.), was tipped as a hip-hop comer in late 2008, and his debut album — which was delayed from a slated release last fall — has been well worth the wait. The Atlanta-based artists singles as well as he raps and offers up a diverse set of sonic “Adventures” that manage to flow together without sounding like too much of a random jukebox. The chart-topping single “Nothin’ On You” blends a Fray-like pop melody and Bruno Mars’ sharp rhymes into a jubilant, if backhanded, love song, while “Magic,” with Rivers Cuomo, has a frenetic, OutKast kind of flavor. B.o.B. also works deftly through reggae (“The Kids,” with Janelle Monae), Afro-Carribean (“Lovelier Than You”) and gangsta (“Fame,” “Bet I” with T.I. and Playboy Tre) styles, while the two versions of “Airplane” — both with Paramore’s Hayley Williams, the second with Eminem — are smooth pastiches whose hooks stay in your ears well after the album has ended. Intensely musical and effortlessly clever, consider this the likely beginning of the next great rap reign.
New and Noteworthy:
AC/DC, “Iron Man 2” (Columbia): The hard rock vets deliver a veritable greatest hits set to accompany the spring’s hot superhero sequel.
Aqualung, “Magnetic North” (Verve): Matt Hales’ (aka Aqualung) first set of new material in three years is also his first since moving from England to Los Angeles last year.
Balkan Beat Box, “Blue Eyed Black Boy” (Nat Geo): The East-meets-West dance specialists recorded their groovalicious new album in Tel Aviv and Belgrade.
Jim Brickman, “Never Alone” (Savory): The adult-contemporary crooner capitalizes on Lady Antebellum’s success by packaging the title track, which he recorded with the trio in 2007, with other material, including collaborations with Gerald Levert and Carnie Wilson.
Bullet For My Valentine, “Fever” (Jive): The Welsh headbangers get a sheen on their heavyweight rock for their third album.
Mary Chapin Carpenter, “The Age of Miracles” (Zoe/Rounder): Alison Krauss and Vince Gill turn up to help singer-songwriter Carpenter on her first release since the 2008 holiday set “Come Darkness, Come Light.”
Daddy Yankee, “Daddy Yankee Mundial” (El Cartel/Sony Music Latin): “Mundial” means “worldwide” on the Puerto Rican rapper’s ninth album, which finally surfaces after an original fall 2009 release date was delayed.
Drowning Pool, “Drowning Pool” (Eleven Seven): A divorce and the death of his father were key inspirations for frontman Ryan McCombs’ lyrics on the headbangers’ fourth studio album.
Melissa Etheridge, “Fearless Love” (Island): Etheridge’s hardest-rocking set in years includes her commentary on her home state’s recent gay marriage repeal, “Miss California.”
Peter Frampton, “Thank You Mr. Churchill” (A&M/New Door/UMe): The “Face of ’68) turns the big 6-0 with this rocking follow-up to his Grammy Award-winning “Fingerprints,” featuring Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron and some of Motown’s famed Funk Brothers.
Gogol Bordello, “Trans-Continental Hustle” (Columbia): Grammy Award-winning producer Rick Rubin helped the gypsy punk troupe reflect frontman Eugene Hutz’s experiences in Brazil on its fifth studio set.
Merle Haggard, “I Am What I Am” (Vanguard): As the title indicates, more plainspoken sentiments from the California-based country renegade.
Hot Club of Detroit, “It’s About That Time” (Mack Ave.): The Detroit gypsy jazz group takes on songs by Charles Mingus, Joe Zawinul and Nino Rota among the originals on its latest release.
Lonestar, “Party Heard Around the World” (Saguaro Road): The country quartet’s first new album in four years introduces new frontman Cody Collins.
Jesse Malin & St. Marks Social, “Love It to Life” (SideOneDummy): The rockin’ New York singer-songwriter lets things get a bit more raw on this release, recorded in Brooklyn and Hoboken, N.J.
Jana Mashonee, “New Moon Born” (Miss Molly): The Native American singer delivers a blend of indigenous, R&B, pop and world sounds, plus an appropriate cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”
Joe Dee Messina, “Unmistakable Love” (Curb): The first of three EPs the country singer plans to release this year includes seven new songs and a pair of live acoustic performances.
Anders Osborne, “American Patchwork” (Alligator): Pushed back from April 13, 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.
Soundtrack, “Why Did I Get Married Too?” (Malaco): Tyler Perry’s latest slice-of-life movie is accompanied by songs from Ziggy Marley, the Weather Girls, Michigan’s Mayer Hawthorne and film co-star Janet Jackson.
Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, “Pardon Me” (F-Stop/Atlantic): Tyler and company dish up slam-bam, old school rock ’n roll energy on their debut, which was recorded in Nashville.
From The Vaults: Big Audio Dynamite, “This is Big Audio Dynamite” (Columbia/Legacy); Carole King, “The Essential Carole King” (Epic/Legacy); Bob Marley, “Legend: Rarities Edition” (Island/UMe); Something Corporate, “Played in Space: The Best of Something Corporate” (Geffen/UMe)
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