We're ready to Foster The People, feel the Byrne (David's) and share the gospel truth with Patti Austin in this week's new releases.
TALKING IN TONGUES: "Stop Making Sense" was one of the best concert films ever.
Now, I'd argue that talking head David Byrne has topped himself with "Ride, Rise, Roar" (Eagle Vision Blu-ray/DVD, A), a marriage of music and movement that should send every contemporary song-and-dance popster back to the drawing boards (especially you, yawn, Gaga).
There's no fake blood, no gratuitous explosions, no recycled Madonna.
Just Byrne, band, backing singers and highly caffeinated dancers, all in white and perpetually in motion, jumping over and around each other in twitchy/scary/ridiculously amusing fashion as our boy brings to life the eccentric "Songs of David Byrne & Brian Eno" from the 2008/'09 tour of the same name.
One of the show's four inventive choreographers makes the joke that she doesn't have a clue what D.B.'s lyrics are about. Still the edgy dance moves clearly get at the paranoid, existential, outside-looking-in nature of Byrne songs "Once in a Lifetime," "Road To Nowhere," "My Big Nurse," "Burning Down the House" and "Life During Wartime." And the stage work's been brilliantly captured by director David Hillman Curtis and cinematographer Ben Wolf from multiple performances and angles.
There's such kinetic energy in the cut that some who've seen both concert and film versions declare the latter far better.
Documentary inserts, captured in black and white, prove equally arty and vivid in the high-definition video transfer.
BELA, BELA!: While their turns to buzzier new-bluegrass and funky space noodling have been ear-grabbers, I didn't realize how much I'd missed the subtler, jazz and classically-inflected acoustic swing of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones in their youth. Back when Howard Levy was blowing away on harmonica, that is. The flashback came with the new Flecktones album, "Rocket Science" (E-One, A-), which finally returns Levy to the band alongside the banjo master, bassist Victor Wooten and percussion innovator Future Man. Try on the fusion title track or breezy waltz "Falling Forward" and you'll come back for more. (The group performs at the ArtsQuest Center, in Bethlehem, tomorrow.)
FOSTER THE SUMMER: Cleveland-born, California-transplanted Mark Foster is the brains behind Foster The People and their "Pumped Up Kicks," an infectiously sung 'n' whistled homage to cool kids and their snazzy footwear. Listen closely, though, and you'll hear that this dark "soled" song is being delivered by a perp ready to steal those kicks if the wearers can't "outrun my gun." A major Internet hit, already proclaimed "the sing-along song of summer 2011," "Pumped U.K." suggests the Beach Boys on a very bad day, and is now also yours to enjoy on FTP's "Torches" (Star Time/Columbia, B) album. For sure, there's more perky, percussive pop where that came from, including the instant "answer" song "Don't Stop (Color of the Walls)," though none others seem quite so, um, pumped.
SEEING GREEN: Jaunty Celtic punk-rock tones might get you all jiggy for Flogging Molly's new themed set, "Speed of Darkness" (Borstal Beat, B-), and upcoming show (July 30) at Penn's Landing. But here, Dublin, Ireland-born lead singer Dave King is all stressed out over the economic turmoil, he's experienced living in Detroit, and "it's a long way home when you're in hell." Yeah, no punches pulled.
GIRLS ON FIRE: Death don't have no mercy for Ruth Gerson on her themed set "Deceived" (www.ruthgerson.com, B). Think a burnished, bluesy singer rejuvenating classic folk sagas about women on their way to the grave - from "Deliah's Gone" to the "Knoxville Girl" and "Ode to Billie Joe." Former Philly guy Rick Chertoff (producer of Cyndi Lauper's and Joan Osborne's big hits) and William Wittman produced the set in fresh, stripped-down fashion.
Damsel in a pretty dress Yael Naim came out of nowhere in 2009 with "New Soul," a giddy ditty embraced by Apple as scoring for a long played MacBook Air commercial. Now her flighty tune sense and exotic French-Israeli accented vocals are serving Naim well on "She Was a Boy" (Tot ou Tard, B+), a new collaboration with David Donatien. Naim's bitterblue ballads and Euro/cabaret chanteuse nature are somewhat evocative of Madeleine Peyroux. But with her frothy, English-as-third-language up-tempo stuff, Naim seems more the wild child charmer, doing her own sweet thing.
Best known for jazz/pop crossover collaborations with Quincy Jones, Patti Austin remains one of the most tasteful, convincing singers in the biz. So, no surprise, her themed collection of spirit pop "Sound Advice" (Shanachie, A-) is the stuff that could make a believer out of even a die-hard atheist. Working with top shelf arrangers/players, Patti finds a new moral/spiritual imperative in the Rolling Stones' rockin' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and Frank Sinatra signature song, "My Way" (slowed to a prayerful pace), as well as Paul and Linda McCartney's "Let 'Em In," Bill Withers' "Lean On Me" and Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody." And Austin makes a worthy addition to the canon with her original "By The Grace of God."