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Fall Record Reviews

Jim and Greg review some of the season's biggest new releases by U2, Interpol, Leonard Cohen and more.

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After making fans wait two decades, Pink Floyd has announced it will be releasing an album of new (mostly instrumental) material in November. The Endless River will be a tribute to Rick Wright, the band's keyboardist who died in 2008, and will be primarly made up of music that Wright, guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason put together during a session in 1993, leading to the last studio album, 1994's The Division Bell. One name you won't hear uttered…Roger Waters, who departed in the 1980's.

While digital music is taking the rest of the world by storm, CD's are…big in Japan. In fact, digital sales are plummeting in the Asian nation. We discussed this curiosity during our Japanese World Tour last year. And now the New York Times is diving further into this music industry head-scratcher. To be sure, CD sales are are falling worldwide, including in Japan. But they still account for 85% of sales in the country, compared with as little as 20% in fellow World Tour stop Sweden. Jim and Greg discuss the reasons for this including a Japanese desire to“own stuff,”and stalled efforts to bring streaming services there. they still account for about 85 percent of sales here, compared with as little as 20 percent in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.

yaremchuk Having had a tumultuous year, Ukraine has decided not to participate in next year's Eurovision contest. The Eastern European nation came in 6th at the 2014 songwriting competition, which is not too shabby, Greg notes. But the state broadcaster NTU, which finances the entry, said they don't have enough money to do something well.

reviewSongs of Innocence (Deluxe Edition)Songs of Innocence available on iTunes

U2 Songs of Innocence

Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton have certainly made headlines with their free iTunes release Songs of Innocence. It seems not all music fans want everything for free. But not as much has been said about the album content itself. So, Jim and Greg are here to give it a Buy It, Burn It or Trash It rating. Greg doesn't pull any punches. He says "This is what a dinosaur does in its last days"—trying the same old moves in an effort to survive. The soft rock album lacks originality and spirit, a fact made more galling by nods to music greats like Joey Ramone and Joe Strummer. And don't forget about all the pretension, Jim adds. U2's Songs of Innocence gets a double Trash It.

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reviewEl PintorEl Pintor available on iTunes

Interpol El Pintor

Jim and Greg didn't expect to hear anything new from icy rockers Interpol after the band essentially broke up in 2010 after the release of its forth studio album. But, only a few short months after reuniting (now minus longtime bassist Carlos Dengler), the band who made a splash back in the early 2000's alongside other New York bands like The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio, is back with a new album called El Pintor. Jim notes that the album's title is an anagram of the bands name, which he sees fitting as the record sounds like a simple shuffling of the band's familiar formula: lots of droning and moaning over updated Joy Division-like guitars. Jim's not impressed with El Pintor or any of the band's previous albums (he barely remembers them, honestly) so he says Trash It. Greg couldn't disagree more. While he admits the Joy Division comparisons are apt, Interpol has crafted their own distinct sound that's tense and atmospheric and shows real innovation - a credit he gives to the band's recent hiatus. The first essential Interpol album since their debut, El Pintor is a Buy It for Greg.

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reviewDown Where the Spirit Meets the BoneDown Where The Spirit Meets The Bone available on iTunes

Lucinda Williams Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Lucinda Williams has never been known as a prolific alternative country singer-songwriter. At 61-years old, she's always taken her time crafting her albums, and her latest in three years, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, is no exception. However, Williams surprises Jim and Greg with her newest, having not just one, but two discs full of over 100 minutes of new material. Greg thinks she should have pared the track listing down a bit, but overall, he enjoys the album's loose vibe and shaggy instrumentation. The sprawling album is worth getting lost in in order to unearth the best of William's sincere, passionate - and sometimes seething - songwriting. Greg says Buy It. Jim seconds Greg's rating, saying if you can warm up to William's slurred vocals and the album's decidedly un-cheery tone, you‘ll be rewarded with an intimate look through the life and times of one of music’s great pioneers.

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reviewCrush SongsCrush Songs available on iTunes

Karen O Crush Songs

Yeah Yeah Yeah's frontwoman Karen O has always been a galvanizing perfomer with a presence that's both feisty and introspective. Recently, she's been dabbling in solo recordings, releasing songs for films like Where the Wild Things Are and Her, but she hasn't released a full solo studio album until now. Crush Songs takes its name from a time in Karen O's life when she was thinking a lot about love and would compose simple and silly songs in private. It's those bedroom recordings from years ago that now comprise the entirety of Crush Songs. However, in a baffeling move to Jim and Greg, she does not update much of anything about the songs, resulting in a poor, clumsy sound, intentional or not. Both critics feel this collection of what could be Yeah Yeah Yeahs demos should never have been released. Crush Songs gets a double Trash It.

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reviewPopular ProblemsPopular Problems available on iTunes

Leonard Cohen Popular Problems

Leonard Cohen is one of the great names and voices in music, and now at 80, the Quebec has given us even more to love: his 13th studio album called Popular Problems. Cohen is primarly known as a poet and songwriter, with "Hallelujah" being a highlight. But don't discount his performance. Jim doesn't hear anything as good as "Hallelujah" on this album, but tthere are at least 9 songs on the album that are better than anything he has done in over a decade. Jim applauds the rawness of the production and Cohen's wicked sense of humor. He says Buy It. Greg agrees that the sense of humor is as sharp as it has ever been. No one writes songs about people who are marginalized quite like Cohen, says Greg. Go Buy It.

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Jim

“Mama Getting High on Chardonnay”The Rolling Stones,The Blue Meanies

Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week features the band the Blue Meanies who broke up just as the new millennium started but reunited recently at Riot Fest in Chicago. The band took elements of ska and punk rock and fused it with an electric live show. They finally signed to a major label and in 2000 released their album, The Post Wave, and subsequently broke up. Jim loved the production and songs on that album and plays their modern cheeky take on The Rolling Stones' Mother's Little Helper, called Mama Getting High on Chardonnay.

Featured Songs

  1. Pink Floyd, Endless River, The Endless River, Parlophone, 2014
  2. Takako Matsu, Let It Go, Frozen: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Walt Disney Records, 2014
  3. U2, Every Breaking Wave, Songs of Innocence, Island, 2014
  4. U2, This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now, Songs of Innocence, Island, 2014
  5. U2, Iris (Hold Me Close), Songs of Innocence, Island, 2014
  6. U2, New Year's Day, War, Island, 1983
  7. Interpol, All the Rage Back Home, El Pintor, Matador, 2014
  8. Interpol, My Blue Supreme, El Pintor, Matador, 2014
  9. Lucinda Williams, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, Highway 20 Records, 2014
  10. Lucinda Williams, West Memphis, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, Highway 20 Records, 2014
  11. Karen O, Rapt, Crush Songs, Kobalt, 2014
  12. Karen O, King, Crush Songs, Kobalt, 2014
  13. Lucinda Williams, Protection, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, Highway 20 Records, 2014
  14. Leonard Cohen, Slow, Popular Problems, Columbia, 2014
  15. Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah, Various Positions, Columbia, 1985
  16. Leonard Cohen, Almost Like the Blues, Popular Problems, Columbia, 2014
  17. The Blue Meanies, Mama Getting High on Chardonnay, The Post Wave, MCA, 2000
  18. De La Soul, Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey), De La Soul is Dead, Tommy Boy, 1991
  19. U2, Every Breaking Wave, Songs of Innocence, Island, 2014
  20. U2, Raised by Wolves, Songs of Innocence, Island, 2014

Footnotes

latimes.com Pink Floyd is Back nytimes.com CDs are Big In Japan youtube.com Ukraine's Eurovision entry bbc.com Ukraine Says Farewell to Eurovision soundopinions.org Sound Opinions on Eurovision soundopinions.org Japan World Tour soundopinions.org Sweden World Tour interpolnyc.com Interpol chicagotribune.com Greg's Interpol review lucindawilliams.com Lucinda Williams soundopinions.org Lucinda Williams on Sound Opinions karenomusic.com Karen O vimeo.com Karen O at The Oscars leonardcohen.com Leonard Cohen youtube.com Jeff Buckley performing Hallelujah youtube.com John Cale performing Hallelujah facebook.com The Blue Meanines