Random Access Memories
nolead ends The mysterious Frenchmen of Daft Punk - Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo - are never seen without their trusty robot helmets. But while they keep their faces hidden for the expertly marketed Random Access Memories, the Gallic duo believe the pendulum has swing too far toward the faceless in modern music-making.
"Technology has made music accessible in a really philosophically interesting way," Bangalter told Pitchfork. "But when everybody has the ability to make magic, it's like there's no more magic."
Which explains why this pair of EDM (electronic dance music) avatars has made a point of putting living, breathing musicians to work on Random Access Memories. On an album that in many ways plays out as a tribute to '70s disco, that approach pays some dividends, as with the Nile Rodgers guitar licks that drive the single "Get Lucky." It's also to blame, however, for such misplayed moves as "Touch," the gooey, seven-minute, big-band centerpiece that features 1970s songwriter Paul Williams' ungainly aching for connection in a machine age. For a blockbuster album, Random Access Memories is an oddity, an up-and-down effort that includes a (surprisingly good) collaboration with Julian Casablancas
of the Strokes and a disappointing one with Panda Bear of Animal Collective. There's an overly long homage to disco king Giorgio Moroder, and also there's "Within," a winning Auto-Tuned ditty that makes its point about the impersonality of the times far more succinctly than the overblown "Touch." Daft Punk gets points for creative restlessness, but a search for deeper meaning has stripped the French dance duo of a measure of electronic pizzazz.
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins The Del-Lords
nolead ends nolead begins Elvis Club
nolead ends nolead begins (GB Music ***1/2)
nolead ends Back in the '80s, the Del-Lords made some of the most impassioned and street-smart rock-and-roll this side of Springsteen. Not that it got them very far. Now, the quartet is back with its first album
in 23 years.
Elvis Club doubles down on the Del-Lords' faith in the power and the glory of rock-and-roll and its ability to get us through tough times, whether personal or political. "I heard lies and deception, / Saw heartbreak and rejection," guitarist Scott Kempner sings on the opener, "When the Drugs Kick In," as the music provides its own rush (thanks in no small part to the crisp production by singer- guitarist Eric Ambel).
So it goes throughout, as the band's recommitment dovetails with the undeniable spirit of Kempner's songs, from the openhearted romanticism of "Everyday" to the sardonic, wiseguy humor of "Chicks, Man!" and the soul-baring musings of "Silverlake."
Elvis Club closes with Ambel singing Neil Young's "Southern Pacific." With its relentlessly chugging rhythm and keep-on- rolling determination, it points up the Del-Lords' connection to the tradition they love -
and provides the perfect punctuation to a triumphant return.
- Nick Cristiano
nolead begins The National
nolead ends nolead begins Trouble Will Find Me
nolead ends nolead begins (4AD ***1/2)
nolead ends High Violet, The National's breakout fifth album from 2010, sometimes bore the weight of a band striving. Trouble Will Find Me, on the other hand, demonstrates an easy confidence, a self- deprecating humor, and an unguarded sincerity.
Matt Berninger makes everything he sings seem portentous, although that's deceptive. His baritone sounds thoughtful and casual, whether he's addressing adult relationships (in "I Should Live in Salt," which counters mundane annoyances with a chorus of "You should know me better than that") or using his mordant wit to catalog failures (in "Demons"). The music is deeply textured, with complex layers of guitars from twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner, a consistent pulse from the rhythm section of brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf. And it's just as effective when it blossoms into a propulsive anthem on "Sea of Love" as when it dials back for the stately ballads of "Heavenfaced" or "Slipped."
- Steve Klinge
This Week Last Week
Locally Nationally* Locally
1 1 Lady Antebellum Golden -
2 2 Great Gatsby Soundtrack -
3 5 Michael Buble To Be Loved 2
4 7 Rod Stewart Time -
5 3 Various Artists Now That's What I Call Music, Vol. 46 -
6 6 Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience 3
7 8 Kenny Chesney Life On a Rock 1
8 4 Pistol Annies Annie Up -
9 11 P!nk Truth About Love 6
10 12 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist 5
SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 5/20/13 © 2013
Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, Seesaw;
Audra McDonald, Go Back Home;
Clairy Browne & the Bangin' Rackettes, Baby Caught the Bus;