Summer Record Review Roundup

In the past weeks, Greg and Jim’s inboxes have filled up with new releases. Tune in as they review them during our Summer Record Review Roundup.

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We might say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But we don’t work for Apple. Sources within the company say iTunes, the world’s biggest music store, is scheduled for an overhaul by the end of the year. Among the proposed changes are streamlining the process for syncing content across Apple devices and making it easier to share tracks with friends. Chalk it up to Apple’s never stop improving spirit, or the need to compete with Spotify.

Nothing says Olympic spirit like overwrought strings, a male chorus, and lyrics like Life’s a race / and I’m gonna win. At least Muse lead singer Matthew Bellamy seems to think so. The band’s new single Survival was recently selected as the official track for the London Olympic games, a decision Greg calls outrageous given the breadth of talent that city has to offer. Almost any song, he says, would have been an improvement.

To the list of things you associate with Weezer and Dinosaur Jr.(teen angst, alienation, etc.) add Caribbean beaches and drinks in coconuts. The bands recently headlined the Weezer Cruise on the Carnival Destiny, and they aren’t the only rockers taking to the seas this season. Rock cruises, Billboard editor Joe Levy points out in a New York Times article, have become a profitable and growing corner of the cruise and music industries. Once the domain of legacy acts like Frankie Avalon (his Malt Shop Memories cruise is still going strong) rock cruises are now welcoming aboard hipper acts like F’ed Up, The Antlers, and Yuck. Joe talks to Jim and Greg about his experience aboard the Weezer cruise (awkward, yet awesome) and explains what’s in it for fans and artists.

Banga Patti Smith

Banga

In the past weeks Jim and Greg’s inboxes have filled up with new records. This week, they award buy it, burn it, and trash it ratings to five of them. First up, punk godmother Patti Smith. The poetess behind Horses and Radio Ethiopia is back with her eleventh studio album, Banga. Recorded off and on between gallery showings and book readings, Banga, Greg says, is a meditation on the call of art. It’s also a tour of global music styles. We were going to see the world, Smith intones in the leadoff track Amerigo, and she doesn’t let us down. Different tracks draw inspiration from free jazz, do-wop, celtic folk, and blues. Greg says Buy It. Jim agrees. This album is up there with Patti’s best work, not the least because, Jim says, she seems to really be having fun. Double Buy It.

The Bravest Man in the Universe Bobby Womack

The Bravest Man In the Universe (Expanded Edition)

Like Patti Smith, Bobby Womack’s got a storied musical history. He played with Sam Cooke in the sixties, was a session musician for Aretha Franklin and Sly Stone, and finally made a name for himself as a solo artist with classic R&B albums like Communication and The Facts of Life in the seventies. Unfortunately addiction dragged him down and by the nineties Womack was a musical nonentity. With The Bravest Man in the Universe, Womack announces his comeback. He’s cleaned up and is working with producer Damon Albarn of Blur. Womack and Albarn have played it smart, Jim says, by not living in the past. The electronic soul tracks Albarn’s created for Womack don’t sound vintage in the slightest. The themes might be familiar - Womack sings from the point of view of a man who done wrong - but the music is challenging and fresh. Greg agrees. While he wishes Albarn and Womack hadn’t turned over quite so many tracks to guests like Lana Del Rey, he’s loving Womack’s sandpapery voice. Double Buy It.

Slaughterhouse Ty Segall

Slaughterhouse

Ty Segall may have made a name for himself as a low-fi bedroom recording artist, but don’t mistake him for the moody quiet type. This California garage rocker is loud! Slaughterhouse is his first release with his own band, and both Jim and Greg agree: this is a ferocious dirty record. It’s hard, Greg says, to find artists who do both noise and melody well, but Ty is one of them. On Slaughterhouse, extreme noise and melody battle it out for half an hour. The ten-minute track of fuzzed out drone that ends the record reminds Greg of surveying a battlefield. Jim agrees. Ty might call this evil space rock, but for him, it’s masterful garage rock overlaid with Brit pop melodies. Another double Buy It.

Crazy For You Best Coast

Crazy for You

Also from California - and proudly so - is Best Coast. The band’s debut album was the much buzzed about Crazy For You, a hit fueled as much by Beach Boys pop as it was by lead singer Bethany Cosentino’s intense homesickness (she was in a band in New York for a time). Jim says that Best Coast’s sophomore album, The Only Place, might come under fire for being simply more of the same. That might be true, if by same you mean it’s another album of indelibly catchy pop. But he also points out the darkness of Beth’s lyrics this time around. She’s singing about her desire to be loved for who she is, and as Greg points out, she’s doing so sincerely and movingly. Both Jim and Greg agree this is summery pop at its best. They say Buy It.

The Cherry Thing Neneh Cherry

The Cherry Thing

For their final review, Jim and Greg turn to Neneh Cherry and her collaboration with Norwegian/Swedish jazz band The Thing. While Cherry’s best known for her hip-hop inflected single Buffalo Stance, jazz is in her musical DNA. Her stepfather, Don Cherry, was a renowned jazz trumpeter, and Neneh’s first band, Rip Rig + Panic, attempted to merge free jazz with a punk sensibility. Still Greg admits, it was hard to imagine how Cherry’s voice and Mats Gustafsson ‘s freewheeling sax could work together on her latest album, The Cherry Thing. He was pleasantly surprised. Cherry’s voice is a versatile instrument. She samples hip-hop and trip hop styles and channels everyone from Billie Holiday to Yoko Ono. Still Jim says this album is unquestionably Cherry’s, a feat even more impressive considering the material is almost all covers. This is a woman who can sing Iggy Stooge’s Dirt and make it her own. Jim and Greg both say Buy It, making this an especially feel-good episode of Sound Opinions.

Jim

It’s all aboard the rock cruise to the desert island. For this week’s Desert Island Jukebox pick, Jim was inspired by Neneh Cherry’s first band, Rip Rig + Panic. They weren’t the only post-punk band in the eighties playing at the intersection of jazz and rock. British band Blue Rondo a la Turk was a fellow traveler. Jim caught their set at the Peppermint Lounge as a kid, and their hit Me and Mr. Sanchez became a go-to party record for him. The track not only merges punk and jazz, but adds a pinch of Latin spice.

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