nolead begins (Virgin/EMI **1/2)
nolead ends For its eighth album - no, it's not eponymous; no, it's not called Untitled - Jonathan Davis, James Shaffer and Reggie Arvizu return not so much to Korn's nattering nu-metal roots as to its very core. There's a sludgy industrial wind howling through Korn's dense arrangements that's in tune with the Bakersfield band's NIN roots. Pained vocalist Davis, though still the master of the "korn-jabber," uses the deep ire-filled croon of Korn's start when he isn't drumming (his original calling) alongside session rhythmatist Terry Bozzio. But after Davis expresses his disgust over the departure of original guitarist Brian "Head" Welch on "Love and Luxury" and the grand "Ever Be," Korn opens up a whole new can of worms. Sometimes the new Korn noise is wormy, as when "Starting Over" finds Davis detailing his recent bout with a deathly blood disease to the sound of gospelish keyboards. Sometimes, Korn's just slimy as they go "green" on the earth-hugging "Evolution."
No; bad Korn. Stick to making ugly dance music. Do what you do best.
- A.D. Amorosi
nolead begins Art Brut
nolead ends nolead begins It's A Bit Complicated
nolead ends nolead begins (Downtown ***)
nolead ends Eddie Argos may seem silly, but really, he's smart. The leader of British punkish rockers Art Brut is expert at writing pop songs that are about consuming and being consumed by pop songs. "I know I shouldn't, and it's possibly wrong, to break from your kiss to turn up a pop song," he talk-sings on the opening "Pump Up the Volume," feeling sort of bad about thinking about music more than anything else. Art Brut's sophomore effort is a bit complicated in a way that's less perfectly marvelous than their debut, Bang Bang Rock 'n' Roll. The songs are a little more sophisticated musically and a little less immediately grabby, and Argos' arch delivery isn't quite so fresh the second time out of the box. Still, the guy gets off more than his share of good lines, like the one he reassures an ex with: "People in love lie around and get fat/I didn't want us to end up like that."
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Okkervil River
nolead ends nolead begins The Stage Names
nolead ends nolead begins (Jagjaguwar ***1/2)
nolead ends The credentials of Okkervil River songwriter Will Sheff as a sad-voiced, seriously literate indie troubadour are well established. This is a guy who named his Austin, Texas, band after a Tatyana Tolstaya short story and dots songs with references to Marcel Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. (See it at the Philadelphia Museum of Art). But what makes The Stage Names such a kick is that it retains the erudition while upping the pop quotient considerably from 2005's also excellent Black Sheep Boy. The bopping "A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene" pushes forward like a wordier version of fellow Austin-ites Spoon, and "You Can't Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man" delivers handclaps and sing-along verse along with joyful barroom swagger.
nolead begins Tegan and Sara
nolead ends nolead begins The Con
nolead ends nolead begins (Vapor/Sire ***)
nolead ends While no track leaps out with the immediacy of "Walking With a Ghost," the standout single from Tegan and Sara's 2004 album So Jealous that was also covered by the White Stripes, The Con is the Canadian twins' best yet. Their fifth album bristles with bitter power pop, with songs full of breaking and broken relationships that burst with joyful energy and reassuring harmonies. Produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, The Con features distinct echoes of early '80s new wave, especially in the keyboards, and a much fuller sound than T&S's past work. Tegan's songs, such as the Clash-like "Hop a Plane," tend to rock more than Sara's darker and more conflicted writing, such as the choral "I Was Married." But like the sisters' trebly, edgy voices, their songwriting styles complement each other perfectly.
- Steve Klinge
In Stores Tuesday
Billie Holiday, Remixed and Reimagined;
Constantine Maroulis, Constantine
Jonas Brothers, Jonas Brothers;
Flight of the Conchords, The Distant Future EP
World Full of Blues
(Stony Plain ***1/2)
nolead ends "I know all you people need a shot of red-hot blues guitar," Duke Robillard explains by way of introduction on "Jump the Blues for You," the swinging opener to this expansive two-disc set.
Robillard is indeed one hot guitarist, but he's also one who has always prized feeling over flash. That holds true here as the Roomful of Blues founder surveys the various blues styles he has assayed so masterfully over the years. The performances, from solo country blues to horn-blaring big-band romps, are models of class and economy, even when they stretch beyond six and seven minutes. It's one treat after another as Robillard serves up solid originals and fresh, Duke-ified takes on songs by Dylan, Bo Diddley, Tom Waits and Jimmy Reed, among others.
- Nick Cristiano
nolead begins Peter Karp
nolead ends nolead begins Shadows and Cracks
nolead ends nolead begins (Blind Pig ***)
nolead ends Peter Karp has been around for a while, but Shadows and Cracks is his first nationally distributed album. It's easy to see what drew the attention of former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor (who joined Karp on one of his earlier albums and tours) and songwriting great John Prine's Oh Boy label (which lauded Karp's two previous studio sets and sold them through the company store. Both are worth seeking out.)
"I understand: doubletalk and rabble, cliche and psycho babble, the New York Times and Camus; but, Ophelia, I'll never understand you," Karp sings over the grinding R&B grooves of "I Understand." In other words, this is a sharp and colorful writer who works on several levels: He can drop literary references on you, but he makes sure to keep the songs grounded in real emotion. The same goes for the music, a roadhouse-worthy stew of blues, country, rock and soul. If "The Lament" recalls the Band, well, that's because Garth Hudson is the one adding his signature swirling organ sound to the mix.
Kids: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
(Blue Note ***1/2)
nolead ends They come from two different eras.
Pianist Hank Jones, 88, started performing in 1938 when swing was king and Benny Goodman played an important jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. His collaborator, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, 53, came of age under John Coltrane's influence and can incorporate the most modernist free jazz in a straight-ahead solo.
Their merger on this duo recording makes for a wild affair. Lovano carries a great deal of jazz history in his head. And the coolest parts of this CD occur when he meets Jones halfway, sounding like a breathy Lester Young with extra juice. Lovano, though, often takes his parts to more complicated places, ending up in the chaotic 21st century.
Jones plays sweetly and with good taste, accompanying even when he is soloing. His take of "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' " sounds eerily harplike in the beginning and comes with choice substitute chords.
The two, who also played together on Lovano's 2005 quartet CD Joyous Encounter, take up three tunes by Jones' brother, Thad Jones, whose longtime big band included Lovano. Lovano also picks up the soprano sax for "Lazy Afternoon," nicely unspooling the melody.
- Karl Stark
nolead begins Arturo Sandoval
nolead ends nolead begins Rumba Palace
nolead ends nolead begins (Telarc ***)
nolead ends Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval returns to his Cuban roots on this lavish, big-band recording. The CD, named for the trumpeter's Miami nightclub, is awash in muscular horns and flashy arrangements by saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia. The initial rush is bracing. The technically adept leader, who's often criticized for playing soullessly or by rote, gets into a classic Cuban jag here that lights up the nearest skyline. Sandoval sprays his high-pitched brass tones and even his vocals all over "El Huracan Del Caribe."
While the big approach wears out its welcome by the end, there's enough to recommend along the way, including the smooth groove of "Sexy Lady" and the ensemble horn work on "Nouveau Cha Cha."
Bruckner's Symphony No. 4
nolead begins (EMI ***1/2)
nolead ends nolead begins Haydn's Symphonies 88-92 plus Sinfonia Concertante nolead ends
nolead begins (EMI **1/2)
nolead ends The critical response to Simon Rattle's Berlin Philharmonic recordings has become so unpredictably mixed that there's rarely any consensus. His recent rescoring of Brahms' German Requiem was admired in many quarters; I thought he analyzed the music to death. Those who insist on meaty, Viennese Bruckner won't love this new recording of the Symphony No. 4, but I quite like the clean, trim approach, which works best in the symphony's slow movement. There, the music's accumulation of ambiguous, haikulike gestures forms a broad picture; Rattle brings a strong sense of meaning to how everything relates to everything else.
Even when everybody loved Rattle (back in his Birmingham years), his Haydn was called into question. Clearly, he now has a more complete sense of how the music should go, but whether you like that viewpoint is another matter. This two-disc recording has a dry acoustic that suits the intricate details of the music, but the string sound is brittle by Berlin standards and Rattle's deep probing reveals long-buried voices in the orchestral texture that don't deliver important new perspectives.
No Rattle recording can be completely dismissed, and this one has two unusual strengths: The Sinfonia Concertante, which draws its four soloists from the orchestral ranks, comes off as so charming you could almost believe this second-rate piece came from Haydn's top drawer. Also, the Symphony No. 90 has a novel idea: Rattle believes the jokey finale should be heard with live audience reaction, but if you disagree, there's a faster alternative made under studio conditions.
- David Patrick Stearns
nolead begins Joseph Kalichstein
nolead ends nolead begins Clara Schumann's Soirees Musicales Op. 6, Robert Schumann's Davidsbündler Dances. Op. 6. Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Schumann Op. 9 nolead ends nolead begins .
nolead ends nolead begins (Koch International Classics ****)
nolead ends Though most often heard as part of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, pianist Joseph Kalichstein is a major keyboard personality in his own right - even if you haven't read his album notes with their multiple exclamation points - which means his few solo recordings are major events. This disc centers on Robert Schumann's popular Davidsbündler Dances Op. 6, which benefits from Kalichstein's penetrating sense of sonority, but also from a sense of unfathomable emotional depths: At times, he simply calms the music's surface and invites us to see if we can peer to the bottom. Before the Davidsbündler Dances is a Clara Schumann work from which her husband borrowed some themes, and after is a work by the 20-year-old Brahms, who lived with the Schumann family and, similarly, wrote his inventive but slightly pained Op. 9 variations on a Robert Schumann melody. The big picture shows the many ways in which these three composer-performers influenced each other, with Clara emerging as a creative earth mother of sorts. Less brainy listeners will simply enjoy some of the best-ever recordings of these works.