Yours, Mine and Ours

Ever since the mid-90s demise of his acclaimed alt-country group the Scud Mountain Boys, Joe Pernice has been working steadily toward a more classic pop sound, now fully realized on the Pernice Brothers' third release, Yours, Mine and Ours. This album is all-purpose music, the kind that suits windows-down summer driving as much as past and future breakups. That's because within each sumptuous melody is a somber, hard-won truth, easily obscured by Pernice's unassumingly brilliant voice and his band's graceful song structures. More so than on previous efforts (including 2001's The World Won't End), Pernice accentuates the guitar hooks and harmonies, recalling early Elvis Costello or Bread, and thereby setting a new, if not impossibly high, standard for current singer/songwriters. Yours, Mine and Ours is catchy enough to fit the pop category, but lyric-wise it's entirely too weird and intelligent for such simplifications. The songs involve heartbreaks, intended and otherwise, and the (sometimes false) hopes of redemption. Pernice sings with such conviction that, by the end of the album, it is damn near impossible to remain unaffected. The Pernice Brothers are meticulous craftsmen, with instrumentation that cascades and builds but is never burdensome. At times it's hard to believe this is a classic guitar/bass/drums combo playing. Yours, Mine and Ours has just enough balance to satisfy everybody — it's intellectual yet accessible, consistent yet unpredictable, polished yet blue-collar — and is without fail one of the best albums released this year. 1/2 —MARK SANDERS

Passing Ships
Blue Note

The Blue Note vaults have been mined so thoroughly that it's rare for an entire album of previously unreleased material to find its way to release. And that the storied label would discover such a terrific recording by an artist as important as Andrew Hill is all the more exciting. Recorded in 1969, Passing Ships languished in the Blue Note vaults until 2001, the victim of a lousy stereo mix. Composer/pianist Hill has long been a master of straddling the traditional and the avant-garde. His melodies remain accessible but take odd and unique twists. He uses dissonance for artful effect rather than mere cacophony. On these sessions, Hill worked with a nine-piece band ("nonet" in jazz parlance) — six horn players and a rhythm section. This enabled him to outfit these spellbinding tunes with crafty horn arrangements that were at once lush and lean. Joe Farrell (soloing mostly on tenor sax) and trumpeters Dizzy Reece and Woody Shaw supply various improvisational feels, and Hill's idiosyncratic piano work both beguiles and confounds. Parts of Passing Ships have an unfinished feel, but that doesn't prevent the disc from being a vital find. 1/2 —ERIC SNIDER

What's Wrong with This Picture
Blue Note

What's Wrong With This Picture marks venerable curmudgeon Van Morrison's debut on Blue Note, a vaunted jazz label that has been spreading its stylistic wings in recent years. Like many of his efforts in the last dozen years (save for 1999's excellent Back On Top), this is a decidedly mixed bag. There are instant classics: "Little Village" is an acoustic delight; the soulful jazz of "Evening in June" and "Once in a Blue Moon" lifts the CD to heights Van the Man hasn't seen in some time; while the title track revels in Nelson Riddle-like arrangements. There is the instantly forgettable: "Fame" and "Goldfish Bowl" tread the anti-celebrity path Morrison crossed much better years before. One thing, though, remains in focus on Picture: Morrison's pipes. The 58-year-old still has one of the best voice's in pop music and sounds as good as he did 20 years ago. —SCOTT DEITCHE

Monk in Paris: Live at the Olympia

Monk-o-philes, here's another mother lode. The late pianist/composer's son, T.S. Monk, has formed a label to release his family's cache of unreleased material, high-quality bootlegs and other rarities. Monk in Paris captures the master in a March 1965 show with his regular quartet, whose other members include tenor man Charlie Rouse (sounding more muscular and aggressive than usual), drummer Ben Riley and bassist Larry Gales. The program is pretty standard — "Rhythm-A-Ning," "Well You Needn't," "Epistrophy" and more — the performances are robust, the sound exceedingly crisp. First-rate live Monk. Here's the bonus: Monk in Paris contains a DVD of the same group playing on Norwegian TV in April 1966. The three songs ("Lulu's Back in Town," "Blue Monk" and "'Round Midnight") exceed 40 minutes. Monk footage is rare, so it's a special treat to watch the eccentric genius disappear into his music, his face expressionless, his right leg in constant motion, his hands attacking the keys with heavy stabs — all in moody black-and-white. (www.hyenarecords.com) —ERIC SNIDER

Sweet Fuck All
Newest Industry

At first listen, there's nothing screamingly original about this debut CDEP from L.A.'s The Enablers, an outfit that features former South Florida scenesters Rob Coe (Fay Wray, Cell 63) and Dan Bonebrake (Dashboard Confessional, Seville). That said, you'd have to go back at least a year or two to think of another collection of hooky, rough-hewn American rock 'n' roll that provides as much timelessly visceral impact. Like any seriously compelling rock act — Leatherface, Slobberbone, pick your favorite Minneapolis icons — The Enablers could nominally be considered a punk band, but incorporate all manner of quality songwriting influences, from country to pop, and deliver the result with attitude and an inimitably personal charisma. The latter presents itself as a gravelly, whiskey-soaked earnestness that favors simplicity and emphasis over innovation or cleverness, and it works amazingly well. At six songs, Sweet Fuck All is a nearly perfect showcase for The Enablers; it includes all of the band's elements (three-chord fast, three-chord slow, Coe's too-many-cigarettes voice and too-many-mistakes wordplay) without devolving into sameness. References to everything from The Replacements to pre-stardom Goo Goo Dolls to Jawbreaker are all fairly apt, though The Enablers sound exactly like none of those bands. They do, however, share a major characteristic: by filtering familiar sounds and songwriting traditions through their own experience, they've created a whole that's far greater than the sum of its parts. (www.the newestindustry.com) —Scott Harrell

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