Fifteen years on from his raggedly brilliant debut, Todd Snider still comes across like the smart and smart-alecky charmer of his slacker anthem, "Alright Guy." On his new album, The Excitement Plan, due out Tuesday, the East Nashville troubadour-philosopher is as offhandedly and entertainingly profound as ever with his sharp-witted social commentary and shaggy-dog stories. "How do you know when it's too late to learn?" he asks on the rueful "Greencastle Blues." It's all delivered with his usual blend of talking blues, country, folk, and one roadhouse rave-up ("Don't Tempt Me," a duet with Loretta Lynn). And it figures that if Snider were going to write a song about baseball ("America's Favorite Pastime"), it would be about the 1970 day when the Pittsburgh Pirates' Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter - supposedly on LSD.
- Nick Cristiano
Don't be fooled by "Black Hearted Love," the luxurious, riff-monster first single from PJ Harvey and John Parish's
A Woman a Man Walked By
. On her most accessible of days, you wouldn't file Harvey under easy listening, and the pint-sized alt-rock powerhouse is at her most experimental when partnering with Parish. She has often worked with him, but not on an album-length collaboration like this one since 1996's
Dance Hall at Louse Point
. That means that Harvey's funereal art songs, gender expectation-upending blues explorations, and shrieking statements of negation such as "Pig Will Not" are more difficult, though no less ultimately satisfying, than on the albums released under her own name. So don't expect a career-spanning best-of show at the Troc on Sunday; instead, expect Harvey to put down her guitar and slay you with the intensity and clarity of her vision.
- Dan DeLuca