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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: M.I.A., Korn and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

POP

M.I.A.

“// / Y /” (aka “MAYA”)

N.E.E.T./XL/Interscope

★★ 1/2

On “Born Free,” the first single from her anxiously awaited third album, singer-rapper-musical alchemist M.I.A. informs us that “I’ll throw this (stuff) in your face when I see you, ‘cause I got something to say.” That she does, and the artist born Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasm, British born of Sri Lankan descent, knows how to be heard. “MAYA,” the follow-up to 2007’s gold-certified “Kala” — the launch pad for her Top 20 hit “Paper Planes” — has already stirred attention via her war of words with a New York Times interviewer and the gratuitously violent video for “Born Free.” But once inside the actual 16 tracks, M.I.A. engages by making her listeners think, whether with a thoroughly unique and occasionally atonal sonic jumble that this time nods to an array of electronic and industrial influences or via an equally provocative lyrical attack brimming with socio-political perspectives. Thematically, M.I.A. spends most of “MAYA” focusing on connectivity and the impact of the Internet — and particularly social networks and search engines — on society, and, big surprise, she doesn’t think it’s a good one. Musically, meanwhile, “MAYA” doesn’t go down quite as easy as “Kala” but still boasts an audacious sweep that takes us through the jungle rhythms of the club anthem “Teqkilla,” the exotic World Music flavors of “Lovealot” and “Story Be Told,” the reggae lope of “It Takes A Muscle,” the Bollywood bounce of Illygirl,” the jagged guitar thrash of “Meds and Feds” (on which she teams with Sleigh Bells’ Derek Miller) and a selection of more chill pieces such as “Believer,” “Caps Lock” and “It Is What It Is.” “MAYA” is long on ambition and mission, and it keeps us on our toes even if it doesn’t hit her high-minded mark for all 54 minutes.



ROCK

Korn, “Korn III — Remember Who You Are” (Roadrunner)★★ 1/2

These California heavy rockers do indeed remember who they are, somewhat, on their ninth studio album by re-teaming with Ross Robinson, who produced the group’s first two albums. At the same time, however, “Korn III” (a reference to the group’s current, third incarnation) moves forward as much as it looks back, introducing some fresh dynamic sensibilities — courtesy of touring drummer Ray Luzier, now a permanent member — while revisiting some stylistic trademarks and also jettisoning the experimental excursions of 2007’s untitled album. The result is punchier and more direct, harnessing frontman Jonathan Davis’ trademark ball of rage within textured, hard-hitting tracks such as “Are You Ready to Live?,” “Let the Guilt Go,” “The Past” and the careening album opener “Oildale (Leave Me Alone).” Davis sings that “this is the time for truth and pain,” and that’s exactly the kind of mix Korn fans will be happy to hear.



New & Noteworthy

Tracy Bonham, “Masts of Manhattan” (Engine Room): The singer-songwriter of “Mother Mother” fame recorded her first new album in five years at studios in Brooklyn and Woodstock.

Brandon Boyd, “The Wild Trapeze” (Epic): The Incubus frontman’s first solo outing is a mostly one-man affair produced by Flaming Lips’ Dave Fridman.

Crowded House, “Intriguer” (Fantasy): The New Zealand quartet’s second album since reuniting was recorded in Auckland with help from frontman Neil Finn’s son (Liam) and wife (Sharon Dawn Johnson).

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, “Dark Night of the Soul” (Capitol): The team-up of Danger Mouse and the late Mark Linkous (aka Sparklehorse) surfaces after extensive Internet circulation, with guest appearances by Iggy Pop, Flaming Lips, the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, director David Lynch and others.

Down ‘n’ Outz, “My Regeneration” (Mail Boat): Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott joins the Quireboys on a set covering songs by Mott, Ian Hunter and others entities in that universe.

Great Big Sea, “Safe Upon the Shore” (Redeye): the Celtic-flavored Canadian troupe’s latest outing was produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin.

Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky, “Red Horse” (Red House): The first folk “supergroup” trio’s first album includes covers of Neil Young’s “I Am a Child” and the traditional “Wayfaring Strangers.”

Hellyeah, “Stampede” (Epic): The second headbangin’ romp by the all-star group featuring members of Mudvayne, Pantera, Damageplan and Nothingface.

Innocence Mission, “My Room in the Trees” (Badman): Founding drummer Steve Brown returns for the first time since 1997 for this Pennsylvania quartet’s eighth album.

Jane Krakowski, “The Laziest Gal in Town” (DRG): The stage and screen actress takes a sexy cabaret route on her latest set of tunes.

Tony Lucca, “Rendezvous With Angels” (Rock Ridge): The sixth studio album from the Pontiac native features collaborations with Sara Bareilles and Lady Antebellum guitarist Jason “Slim” Gambill.

The Maine, “Black & White” (Action Theory/Fearless/Sire): The Phoenix modern rockers make their major label bow with hit-making producer Howard Benson’s assistance.

Morcheeba, “Blood Like Lemonade” (PIAS): Vocalist Skye Edwards returns to the fold on this British electronica group’s seventh studio set.

Newsboys, “Born Again” (Inpop): The Christian rock band’s 14th studio album is its first with dc Talk’s Michael Tait as lead vocalist.

Norma Jean, “Meridional” (Razor & Tie): The Georgia metal quintet switches to a new producer (Jeremy Griffith) and a new label for its fifth studio album.

School of Seven Bells, “Disconnect From Desire” (Vagrant/Ghostly International): A second set of dense, electronic pop-rock from the Brooklyn trio featuring refugees from Secret Machines and On!Air!Liberty!

Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants, “Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants” (Le Coq Napoleon/RCA): With the Foo Fighters on down time, guitarist Shiflett has put together an Americana-flavored side project backed by a potent group of studio all-stars.

Soilwork, “The Panic Broadcast” (Nuclear Blast): The Swedish death metal outfit welcomes founding member Peter Wichers on its eight studio album.

Sting, “Symphonicities” (CherryTree/Deutsche Grammophon): The Police man gets symphonic with these specially arranged orchestral recordings of 12 Police and solo favorites — which he’ll also be doing on Friday, July 16, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Paul Wall, “Heart of a Champion” (Swishahouse/Warner Bros.): The Houston rapper’s fifth album sports collaborates with Chamillionaire, Raekwon, Bun B, Jim Jones and blink-182’s Travis Barker, among others.



From The Vaults

Alabama, “Setlist: The Very Best of Alabama Live” (Legacy); Louis Armstrong, “Standards” (Verve); Blue Oyster Cult, “Setlist: The Very Best of Blue Oyster Cult Live” (Legacy); Kenny Burrell, “Standards” (Verve); Johnny Cash, “Setlist: The Very Best of Johnny Cash Live” (Legacy); “C-Murder, “Trapped in Crime” (Priority); Cheap Trick, “Setlist: The Very Best of Cheap Trick Live” (Legacy); Concrete Blonde, “Bloodletting (20th Anniversary Edition)” (Shout! Factory); Ice Cube, “Death Certificate” (Priority); Jefferson Airplane, “Setlist: The Very Best of Jefferson Airplane Live” (Legacy); Quincy Jones, “Standards” (Verve); Judas Priest, “Setlist: The Very Best of Judas Priest Live” (Legacy); Kansas, “Setlist: The Very Best of Kansas Live” (Legacy); Carmen McRae, “Standards” (Verve); Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66, “Plays The Hits” (Verve); Willie Nelson, “Setlist: The Very Best of Willie Nelson Live” (Legacy); Ted Nugent, “Setlist: The Very Best of Ted Nugent Live” (Legacy); Quiet Riot, “Setlist: The Very Best of Quiet Riot Live” (Legacy); R.E.M., “Fables of the Reconstruction 25th Anniversary Edition” (Capitol/I.R.S.); REO Speedwagon, “Setlist: The Very Best of REO Speedwagon Live” (Legacy); Jimmy Smith, “Plays the Hits” (Verve); Snoop Dogg, “Tha Last Meal” (Priority); Rick Springfield, “Wait For Night” (Wounded Bird); TRU, “Da Crime Family” (Priority); Various Artists, “Snoop Dogg Presents: My #1 Priority” (Priority); Dinah Washington, “Standards” (Verve); Lester Young, “Standards” (Verve)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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