A lot of heavyweights released new albums this week. Lil Wayne finally dropped Tha Carter IV, teaching children everywhere about Roman numerals. Red Hot Chili Peppers put out I’m With You, their first without John Frusciante. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello released his third album under his Nightwatchman name while the ever-present Lenny Kravitz explored Black and White America for his latest release.
John Doe – Keeper
“John Doe’s punk days might be long behind him, but there’s only so much mellowing out that he’s capable of. He might not be mired in drugs and desperation like he was when he sang for L.A. punks X, but he makes adult life and grown-up relations sound like worthy struggles on Keeper. Even when he’s embracing open-chord strumming, sighing steel guitar and pledges of dedication that bring to mind Jackson Browne on opener “Don’t Forget How Much I Love You,” he still sings it with the gusto he once used to sneer at LA scenesters.” Read the rest of Michael Tedder’s review here.
Beirut – The Rip Tide
“Zach Condon’s Beirut is in a funny position. He’s cut his teeth on staunchly outsider Balkan folk, but he’s also one of the premier indie-Billboard crossover successes. His band spans 11 members, but he primarily composes lighthearted, three-minute pop songs. He’s got all the trappings of a critic’s darling, but his pedigree has yet to position itself in the auteur company of singular songwriters like Justin Vernon and Will Oldham. With that propulsive buzz (and the fact that the third full-length in a career forms something of an arc) you might expectThe Rip Tide to be a towering statement, but that isn’t the case. Not only is it the shortest item in the Beirut catalog, it’s also the breeziest; sounding confidently assure in its identity—which unsurprisingly makes it Condon’s most immediately enjoyable record to date..” Check out the rest of Luke Winkie’s review here.
Tha Carter IV
“These words marked the beginning of 2011. Tumbling from the mouth of a newly-freed, utterly unhinged, blacked-out savant incarnation of the man born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. on an absolutely monstrous advance-single, it was a roar of immortal relevance – something that effortlessly transcended prison bars. The line was perfect for hashtags, pretty much encapsulating the vocab-addict, mesmerizingly idiosyncratic wordplay it seems only Lil Wayne can wield, reminding us exactlywhat we’ve been missing the last year. “Six Foot Seven Foot” remains the best moment on Tha CarterIV – potentially one of the most anticipated hip-hop LPs of all time. Emerging months after legal troubles, shoddy mixtapes, clearinghouse releases, and one particularly bizarre bum-rock divergence, its reputation precedes any copy you could generate.” Stay tuned for Luke Winkie’s review
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You
“It was only a matter of time. John Frusciante—arguably the most versatile, talented guitarist in “mainstream” rock ‘n’ roll—left the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2009 after 15 on-and-off years and five studio albums. For many fans and observers, the writing was basically plastered all over the wall: While his main act continued to sell out arenas and top the Billboard charts as funk-pop gods, Frusciante spent his non-Chili hours crafting homemade psychedelic solo albums and laying down session work for pal Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s experimental prog band The Mars Volta. While Red Hot Chili Peppers continued down their relatively conventional sonic path, crafting and re-adjusting the sound they blueprinted decades in the past, Frusciante longed to scratch weirder, wilder creative itches.” Be on the look out for Ryan Reed’s full review.
Lenny Kravitz – Black and White America
“Pop music chameleon Lenny Kravitz, being a half-white/half-black American, has plenty of justification for titling his ninth album Black and White America. There aren’t too many biracial rock stars in the U.S., after all. But as a musician, producer and songwriter, Kravitz has always been a tough nut to crack—he’s been a spaced-out guitar hero-hippie (“Are You Gonna Go My Way”), a falsetto-sporting soul man (“It Aint Over ‘Til It’s Over”), a fist-pumping, riff-driven modern rocker (“Fly Away”) and a piano balladeer (“I’ll Be Waiting”), among other titles.” Stay tuned for Ryan Reed’s review.
Jonny Corndawg – Down on Bikini Line
Armed with classic country guitars, Johnny Corndawg puts a twist on the genre with clever lyrics.Fans of country will feel at home, while outsiders will hear more alt-country. Corndawg has the ability to fuse non-traditional country lyrics onto a square-dancing medley.
The Nightwatchman – World Wide Rebel Songs
“Tom Morello has always been defined by social consciousness, but when he rasps, “I’ll whisper words of freedom, I’ll swing hard as I can/ Save the hammer for the man,” his conviction sizzles. Joined by Ben Harper’s sweet baritone on “Save The Hammer,” there is a co-mingling of cultures, people coming together in the name of recognition.” Go here for more of Holly Gleason’s review of Word Wide Rebel Songs.
Tinariwen – Tassili
“Tinariwen are revolutionaries in both senses of the word. The band members are former soldiers who during the early 1990s fought in the Tuareg uprisings in Niger and Mali. Even during that time, they performed at clubs and social gatherings in various countries, circulating cassette tapes of songs melding North African traditions with electrified blues and rock.” Be on the look for the full review from Stephen M. Deusner.
Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix
On their third album in as many years, these Londoners continue to switch up their sound. Their first release was straight, fun indie-pop. The second moved towards a folky sound. Now they have broken both molds to make a mixture of many styles that is definitely worth a listen.
Jacuzzi Boys – Glazin’
“If any old photo is worth a thousand words, the promo shots accompanying Jacuzzi Boys’ sophomore album, Glazin’, are worth double. One depicts the Miami trio— drummer Diego Monasterios in a ball-cap, and pouty frontman Gabriel Alcala in a letter jacket—leaning against an air-hockey table. Another—the most telling of the set—features the band against a yearbook photographer’s gray-sheet backdrop.” Check out Bryan C. Reed’s full review here.
Robert Earl Keen – Ready for Confetti
“Somewhere in the gulf between Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell and Lyle Lovett and next wave Lone Stars Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Stoney LaRue, Randy Rogers and Hayes Carll, Robert Earl Keen put down roots—and was slightly less visible for the lack of a scene. But the journeyman troubadour, a Lone Star fixture for more than three decades, took his energy and applied it to his craft. Instead of bitching about not being famous, he crafted 16 albums that stand as a measure of what a split rail songwriter/artist can be. Check out the rest of Holly Gleason’s review here.
Male Bonding – Endless Now
These British punk rockers follow up their debut album with fuzzy guitars, catchy choruses, and expand on the sound they started with on last year’s Nothing Hurts. They zeroed in on their lo-fi sound and produced energetic and polished tracks like “Tame the Sun” and “Seems to Notice.”
Juliana Hatfield – There’s Always Another Girl
“For Juliana Hatfield fans, the release ofThere’s Always Another Girl should feel like an accomplishment. The songwriter’s been in a near-daily conversation with them about the album’s recording process through her PledgeMusic website and raised money by selling unique items and experiences on the site. Things fans could “pledge” for through the site ranged from a personal Skype session with the singer to the downright-weird “certified” lock of hair. These die-hards got the VIPtreatment right up until the album’s completion, hearing There’s Always Another Girl a month early, and now Hatfield will see what the rest of the world thinks of it this week.” Read more of Tyler Kane’s review here.