PLAY > SKIP: New Music for the Week of August 30, 2011
Beyonce's baby bump is speaking louder than any of the new releases this month. So while we wait for the flood of fall albums to descend next week, I want to spend this week playing five records that got by me earlier in the year. Have you already picked up new music by k.d. lang, Ralph Stanley, the Dears, the Submarines, and the Low Anthem? How come no one told me until now? Oh well, better late than never.
PLAY: k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Sing It Loud
I'll admit that I got off the k.d. lang train a long time ago. Starting with 1997's "Drag," lang's albums got a little too precious (and borderline schmaltzy) for my taste. "Sing It Loud" (released in April) has made me a believer again. Thanks to former Guster multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia, k.d. lang has left the lounge for the bar. This album grooves, swings, and rocks without a net or a note of self-consciousness. Listen to the Stones-drenched "Sugar Buzz" -- it will make the hair on your neck stand up and make you want to raise your lighter.
WATCH k.d. lang perform "Sugar Buzz" live at New York's Le Poisson Rouge.
PLAY: Ralph Stanley, A Mother's Prayer
Bluegrass pioneer Ralph Stanley is closing in on 90 years and as he says, "Nobody sings like I do." That's an understatement. Known to latecomers as the signature voice behind the 2000 film soundtrack "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," Stanley's singing and banjo-picking have defined American bluegrass since the 1940s. His April 2011 album, "A Mother's Prayer," is a collection of old-time gospel music straight from the mountains. It'll make you a believer and will make you wonder who on earth will ever keep this music alive as much a Dr. Ralph Stanley has.
PLAY: The Dears, Degeneration Street
Maybe I was just burned out on experimentalism when "Degeneration Street" was released in February. Now I'm ready. The Montreal band, fronted by the crazily charismatic singer Murray Lightburn, is full of grandiosity and dark themes. In the hands of amateurs, the 14 songs would be insufferable. Played by the Dears, this album is a glimpse into the future fueled by hazy dreams of a psychedelic past. Play it in your Bon Iver and TV on the Radio shuffle mix.
PLAY: The Submarines, Love Notes/Letter Bombs
I'm a sucker for husband-wife duos (I keep trying persuade my wife to start a band with me), so I'm mortified that the Submarines' 2011 release got by me. Along with fellow Nettwerk label-mates The Weepies, the Submarines make infectious pop music that's super-smart without being super-smug. Singer-songwriter Blake Hazard is apparently the great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald. That's gotta be good for songwriter cred. With "Love Notes/Letter Bombs," they have their eye on the commercial prize more than with their 2008 release, "Honeysuckle Rose." The Submarines may have lost some quaintness, but they're a welcome addition to the Hit Parade.
PLAY: The Low Anthem, Smart Flesh
The Rhode Island band continues their Americana journey with this February release. Recorded in an abandoned pasta sauce factory (you heard me), "Smart Flesh" occupies the same space as the Avett Brothers and their manic English cousins Mumford & Sons, but the Low Anthem keep the floorboards turned up in the mix. The pasta sauce factory sounds more like Big Pink, and the arrangements hang together by a wool thread. "Smart Flesh" is beautifully naked music.
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