Every Tuesday, Dan Weiss runs down the week’s new full-length music releases, from charting hits to more obscure depths, the underrated and the overrated, from a critical pop fan’s perspective.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Tricky – False Idols (False Idols)
One of the greatest of all time—no, really—returns to the ring to defend a title long since past, comparing this new one to his classic debut unfavorably (what else is new), opening and closing with two Jesus sneers (one ripped from Patti Smith’s hands), throwing Lana Del Rey strings onto the ultra retro single “Nothing’s Changed,” and remaking an Antlers song into something far sexier and noised-up than the original snoozefest. These aren’t soundscapes; they’re as spare as Vampire Weekend and sometimes as hooky. M.I.A.’s upcoming album wishes it had a sample as twisted as “Tribal Drums,” and any number of new synthpop dorks should at least drool for the dubstep-paced “We Don’t Die.” The former Massive Attack member will try anything out; “Valentine” at once evokes Tom Waits and Thom Yorke solo, yet despite the title, neither he nor his fine duet partner du jour, Franscesa Belmonte, would be caught dead in love. Few iconoclasts so relish being the perpetual underdog.
John Fogerty – Wrote a Song for Everyone (Columbia)
Greatest hits remade as duets? John Fogerty may be the most tasteful, heartfelt rock ‘n’ roller of all time, but he’s not above that callow marketing reshuffle, which his tastefulness has elevated beyond say, Carlos Santana featuring Matchbox Twenty, to a five-star review in Rolling Stone. The songs are uniformly great, including the obscure “Someday Never Comes” which is actually elevated by softies Dawes, and they have their moments as remakes, particularly in juicy guitar leads from Brad Paisley, Tom Morello and the Zac Brown Band, in ascending order. Jennifer Hudson’s Vegas-ready “Proud Mary” is the low point, while Keith Urban justifies his presence with a rousing “Almost Saturday Night.” Though strong, the only question that remains is who will be playing this album in five years.
The-Dream – IV Play (Def Jam)
R&B’s takeover of rock’s pretensions is a wonderful thing to witness. Historically a singles-driven genre where even true album artists like Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye rarely top their charting songs, it’s been a pleasure to see the care and attention Frank Ocean and The Weeknd give to their deep cuts. Of the new crop, only Miguel seems to care about hit singles anyway, and that care shows. So watching Terius Nash, super producer of “Umbrella” and “Single Ladies” fame, become a legendary studio claustrophobe stretching his sensibilities has been exciting, and it’s finally revealing depth to compete with his singles. The long, strange meditation on being “Psycho” is his best song since his 2007 debut, a hit-hungry collection rivaled here with guest spots (Beyonce and 2 Chainz bring it, as does the always-underrated long-timer Fabolous) and dark spots (the love tribute “Yall” even sounds mournful in its ghoulish AutoTune).
Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (Virgin/EMI)
Layne Staley isn’t back from the dead, but this is the long-undervalued band’s solidest album since 1992’s Dirt, with no bad tracks and very little innovation or gut-wrenching horror. “Voices” dips into acoustic glam Van Halen could embrace, while “Hollow” adds another unsingable, layered hook to Jerry Cantrell’s long-bubbling catalogue. They’re much happier as zombies, not to mention more openhearted: the church-skewering title tune “has no problem with faith.”
Kylesa – Ultraviolet (Season of Mist)
Pretty quiet for a metal album, Savannah’s finest finally sell out and make the swamp-rock of our dreams with a strange ’80s sheen on the reverberating, melodic “Unspoken” and grease their way back to the ’70s with the Hawkwind special “Grounded.” From those two poles, their fifth and finest album pings back and forth, never neck-snapping but always hypnotic—brawnier than 2009’s honorable Static Tensions and warmer than 2010’s mucky Spiral Shadow. The Laura Peasants-sung “Steady Breakdown” is their least dissonant track to date, kind of like if Heart covered Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.” They’re the rare hard rock band to gain momentum when they’re not picking up speed. Still, we could do without ever hearing “What goes around/Comes back around” screamed again.
Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (Warp)
This London duo’s debut was playful, arched-back laptop-ica as good as anything by the acoustic/violin/samples trio the Books, who ceased to exist, and far better than James Blake, who used to play in the band. Left to carry on the collage-as-beats flame, the most playful act in non-American dubstep make their pop album too soon and it’s an improvement. Fellow young British cause celebré King Krule slurs two dubby raps. “Blood and Form” marches woozily into the mild skitter epic “Made to Stray.” Unknown vocals echo warmly throughout tracks like “Sullen Ground,” while “So Many Times, So Many Ways” sounds like a pitched-down Malian blues with more synths than your average Amadou & Mariam record. Best of all, “Break Well” unveils the best ambient pop tune since Tycho’s “Hours,” which you should also look up.