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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Brian Wilson, Kristian Bush, Lord Huron, Umphrey's McGee,
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

Brian Wilson

"No Pier Pressure"

(Capitol)

Grade: A


Brian Wilson -- and whoever he happens to be working with at the time -- makes it sound so easy. Despite the kind of debilitating troubled times they, well, write songs about, the Beach Boys mastermind, at the age of 72, still has a deft melodic touch for composing songs that sound like they've been around forever but never sound dated, with a rare beauty and craftsmanship that holds up next to his august work of the 60s and 70s. One of three projects Wilson has reportedly been working on, "No Pier Pressure" was conceived as a follow-up to the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary reunion album "That's Why God Made the Radio;" when that didn't pan out he decided to straddle generations, cutting some of the new tracks with bandmates Al Jardine and David Marks (and Blondie Chaplin on "Sail Away") and then bringing in younger artists to sing (and write) with him on others, including She & Him for the roccoco "On The Island," Kacey Musgraves for the bouncy "Guess You Had to Be there," Sebu Simonian on the 80s-flavored dance-pop track "Runaway Dancer" and fun.'s Nate Ruess for "Saturday Night," an effervescent pop classic that makes buying the deluxe version of the album mandatory. Reunited with Joe Thomas -- a key aide in Wilson's late 90s combeack -- and with an ace group of players on board that includes Detroit native Don Was on bass, Wilson's creative surf is still clearly up, and "Pier" shows he remains nearly without peer as a pop craftsman.

New & Noteworthy:

All Time Low, "Future Hearts" (Hopeless): The Baltimore pop-punk group's sixth album features guest appearances by blink-182's Mark Hoppus and Good Charlotte's Joel Madden.

Kristian Bush, "Southern Gravity" (Streamsound): The solo debut album from the Sugarland (and former Billy Pilgrim) singer and songwriter.

Pokey LaFarge, "Something in the Water" (Rounder): The buzzed-about American roots singer-songwriter bulks up his sound a bit on his seventh album, adding a full drum kit to drive the more muscular rhythms this time out.

Lord Huron, "Strange Tales" (IAMSOUND): Frontman Ben Schneider produced the second full-length album from this transplanted Michigan folk-rock troupe.

Umphrey's McGee, "The London Session" (??): the Michigan/Indiana/Illinois jam band recorded its ninth studio album, including a cover of the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," in just 12 hours at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London.

The Waterboys, "Modern Blues" (Harlequin/Clown/Kobalt): The veteran Celtic rockers deliver their first set of all-new material in eight years, with help from legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood.

Also Out: Agnostic Front, "The American Dream Died" (Nuclear Blast America); Chris August, "The Maker" (Fervent); Jessie Baylin, "Dark Place (Blonde Rat); Blues Traveler, "Blow Up the Moon" (Loud & Proud); Callaghan, "A History of Now" (Callaghansongs); Delta Rae, "After It All" (Sire); Dirty Bourbon River Show, "Important Things Humans Should Know" (self-released); Gov't Mule, "Dub Side of the Mule" (Evil Teen); Steve Hackett, "Wolflight" (Inside Out); Lisa Hilton, "H O R I Z O N S" (Ruby Slippers); Will Hoge, "Small Town Dreams" (Cumberland); Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Ruffian's Misfortune" (Bordello); Lightning Bolt, "Fantasy Empire" (Thrill Jockey); Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas, "Live at Monterey Jazz Festival" (Capitol); Matt and Kim, "New Glow" (Harvest); Merzbow/Pandi/Gustafsson and Thurston Moore, "Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper" (RareNoise); Microtonal Blues Project, "Raoul" (RareNoise); Mountain Goats, "Beat the Champ" (Merge); Point of Grace, "Directions Home: Songs We Know, Songs We Love" (Word); Joe Pug, "Windfall" (Lightning Rod); Josh Rouse, "Embers of Time" (Yep Rock); Royal Thunder, "Crooked Doors" (Relapse); Todd Rundgren, "Global" (Cherry Red); David Sanborn, "Time & the River" (Sony Masterworks); Soilwork, "Live in the Heart of Helsinki" (Nuclear Blast America); Steve Gadd Band, "70 Strong" (Varese Sarabande); Steve Vai, "Stillness in Motion: Vai Live in L.A." (Legacy); Waxahatchee, "Ivy Tripp" (Merge); Cassandra Wilson, "Coming Forth By Day" (Legacy)

From The Vaults: Bad Company, "Bad Company (Deluxe Edition)" and "Straight Shooter (Deluxe Edition)" (Atlantic/Rhino); Linda Ronstadt, "Sausalito '73" (All Access)

Soundtracks: Disasterpeace, "It Follows" (Milan); Tim Jones and Jeffster, "Chuck" (Varese Sarabande)

New Music DVDs: Foo Fighters, "Sonic Highways" (RCA); Shania Twain, "Shania: Still the One Live From Las Vegas" (Eagle Rock); Soilwork, "Live in the Heart of Helsinki" (Nuclear Blast America); Steve Vai, "Stillness in Motion: Vai Live in L.A." (Legacy)

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