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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: LCD Soundsystem, Janelle Monae and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

ROCK

LCD Soundsystem

“This is Happening”

DFA/Virgin

***

“It’s not fun to be predictably lame,” LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy admonishes in the middle of his collective’s third — and, he says, final — album, but that’s something he’s never had to worry about. Informed by both dance club culture and classic pop conventions, Murphy and his cohorts have yet to miss the mark and, on “This is Happening,” roll out their most ambitious set of songs and sonic concepts yet and a worthy follow-up to 2007’s lauded “Sound of Silver.” Many of these nine tracks are big, sweeping compositions that weight in at eight or nine minutes, but it’s not just length for length’s sake; rather, Murphy lets the songs breathe and evolve or even just wind into finely constructed trances, only hewing to more conventional standards on the joyfully punky “Drunk Girls.” Then again, this is the guy who tt we do.” “...Happening” hits plenty of high points, though, from the vintage synthesizer squiggles on the opening “Dance Yrself [cq] Clean” to the liguidy gurgles of “ONe Touch,” the Strokes-meet-David Bowie’s “Heroes” groove of “All I Want” to the funky gang vocals on “Pow Pow.” “Somebody’s Calling Me” is electro blues while “All I Want” mixes dark humor into a sinewy dance track, and “Home” sounds like Talking Heads reincarnate, albeit with a really cool DJ supervising the arrangement. If Murphy is indeed ending LCD Soundsystem, he’s going out dancing -- and we’re right next to him on the floor.

R&B

Janelle Monae, “The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)” (Wondaland/Bad Boy/Atlantic) **1/2

This Kansas City-bred singer, songwriter and conceptualist piqued our ears with the future club flavor EP “Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase” in 2007, and three years later we’re still listening as Monae rolls out its long-awaited followup. The science fiction plot line gets a bit arcane, but “The ArchAndroid” packs plenty of scope, with guest appearances by OutKast’s Big Boi, Of Montreal and Saul Williams and running a gamut that seldom settles into one style even within individual songs. “Dance or Die,” for instance, rides a funky bass line into a track driven by both club and hip-hop beats, with a Caribbean-flavored melody and a rock guitar solo. “Sir Greendown” has a retro ‘60s feel that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Duffy album, while “Locked Inside” mines disco, “Wondaland” apes vintage New Wave and “Mushrooms and Roses” boasts a trippy, prog-styled ambience. Unfortunately, we’re exhausted by the time we get to “Say You’ll Go” and “BabopbyeYa,” two long suites that seem superfluous given the aural roller coaster ride that came before.

New & Noteworthy:

Alex Band, “We’ve All Been There” (AMB): The solo debut from the frontman of The Calling.

Band of Horses, “Infinite Arms” (Brown/Fat Possum/Columbia): The Seattle indie rockers move to a major label for their third album -- and first of new material in three years.

Black Francis, “NonStopErotik” (Cooking Vinyl): The Pixies’ Frank Black (aka Charles Thompson) covers the Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Wheels” on his latest solo outing.

Black Keys, “Brothers” (Nonesuch): The Akron duo shoots stylistically wide on this exceptional set, tapping helpers such as Danger Mouse and covering soul singer Jerry Butler’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Bo Bice, “3” (Sugar Money/Saguaro Road): The “American Idol” runner-up originally planned to make this an EP but had enough material for a full-length affair.

Bizarre, “Friday Nights at St. Andrews” (AVJ): The D12 heavyweight’s third solo set gets a bump from Detroit homeboys Kuniva, King Gordy and Royce Da 5 9, among others.

Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, “Distant Relatives” (Universal Republic): As if having these two join forces isn’t already enough, they brought Lil Wayne, Joss Stone, Dennis Brown and K’Naan along for the ride.

Regina Carter, “Reverse Thread” (E1): The Detroit-born violinist delves into African folk music on her latest album, taking inspiration from indigenous field recordings and story songs.

Susan Cowsill, “Lighthouse” Threadbead): Jackson Browne, the Bangles Vicki Peterson and other former Cowsills are on board for the singer’s second solo release.

Danko Jones, “Below the Belt” (Bad Taste/Caroline): The hard rocking Toronto trio releases its latest batch of new material after rolling out a series of compilations and live packages.

Mary Gauthier, “The Foundling” (Razor & Tie): Cowboy Junkies’ Michael Timmins produced this Gauthier’s autobiographical song cycle about her adoptive past.

The Jayhawks, “The Jayhawks (aka The Bunkhouse Album)” (Lost Highway): The Americana fave’s 1986 debut album gets a CD release for the first time ever.

Debi Nova, “Luna Nueva” (Decca): The Costa Rican-born singer and songwriter’s previous work has garnered six Grammy Award nominations as well as collaborations with the Black Eyed Peas and Ricky Martin.

Petree, “Weakness Makes You Beautiful” (Dream): The first album from Shiny Toy Guns’ Stephen Petree’s other band.

Styles P, “The Ghost Dub-Dime” (E1): The Lox MC’s new mixtape features a guest appearance by singer Tyler Woods.

Tracy Thorn, “Love and Its Opposite” (Strange Feeling): The second solo album from the voice of Everything But the Girl.”

Various Artists, “Friday Night Lights Vol. 2: Original Television Soundtrack (Arrival/Scion): Jakob Dylan, John Doe, the Avett Brothers, White Rabbits and Band of Horses are among those contributing tracks for the popular football-themed show.

Various Artists, “Glee: The Music, Volume 3 -- Showstoppers” (Columbia): The McKinley High singers follow their successful Madonna EP with songs by the Beatles, Aerosmith, Lionel Richie, Men Without Hats and more.

Various Artists, “Shrek Forever After: Music From the Motion Picture” (DGC/Interscope): The fourth entry in the “Shrek” series includes new songs by Weezer and the Scissor Sisters.

Lenny White, “Anomaly” (Abstract Logix): The Return To Forever drummer’s formidable cast on his new solo album includes Stanley Clarke, Victor Bailey, Jimmy Herring, David Bendeth, Donald Blackman and others.

From The Vaults: Bing Crosby, “So Fare: Treasures from the Crosby Archive,” “Bing on Broadway,” “Seasons (Deluxe Edition)” (Collector’s Choice); Devo, “New Traditionalists (Remastered)” (Warner Bros.); India.Arie, “Voyage to India -- Special Edition” (Motown/UMe); Otis Redding, “Live on the Sunset Strip” (Stax); Rolling Stones, “Exile on Main Street”; Triumph, “Greatest Hits Remixed” (Metal Works)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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