The New Pornographers, Wynton Marsalis, Lakota, Tom Brosseau, Frank Zappa

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Twin Cinema

The New Pornographers


It’s a valid question, and one that many a music lover has asked: At what point did/will indie rock become certifiably mainstream? Could’ve been when the last Bright Eyes album carpet-bombed the Billboard charts; could’ve been when Death Cab for Cutie signed with Atlantic. Thing is, until these or any of the genre’s other semi-popular groups begin to crank out hit singles, they’ll be critical darlings first, and marketable successes a distant second.

Enter the New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema. Front-loaded with three songs that could reduce Wings-era Paul McCartney/Robin Zander/Warren Zevon (and their axes of influence) to envious little crybabies, this album brings together everything good, and unapologetically white, about pop music.

The primary ingredients are still here — A.C. Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar, Kurt Dahle and Nora O’Connor (plus a few other guys that no one outside their native Vancouver’s ever heard of) — so it should come as no surprise that this album builds off the previous experimentation that made 2003’s Electric Version such a success. It should also come as no surprise that, with Newman manning the helm, Twin Cinema is an exercise in controlled chaos, stretching the boundaries of the sunny ’70s rock that’s so obviously an influence, while constantly reining in the troops. The album twists and turns unexpectedly, with the only common link being the Art of the Hook — standout tracks “Use It” and “Three or Four” come off as effortless, unforgettable, upbeat little treasures, while even the slower numbers (“Bones of an Idol,” “These Are the Fables”) house enough momentum to carry listeners between songs without slowing the album down. The New Pornographers are one band whose name is truth in advertising, and it’s nowhere more apparent than on Twin Cinema; this is the best Sunday-afternoon-lying-in-bed-sex-dream you’ve ever had, multiplied infinitely and committed to tape for repeated pleasure.****


Live at the House of Tribes

Wynton Marsalis

Blue Note

For all the complaints about Wynton Marsalis’ purism — how his influence over the last two decades has imbued jazz with a dangerous conservatism — no one claims that he’s other than a superb trumpet player. Live at the House of Tribes, recorded at a small NYC club, puts that prowess on ample display in a program that finds his quintet having a grand, hard-swinging time with five standard tunes. Best of the lot is a scorching turn at Charlie Parker’s bebop mainstay “Donna Lee,” where Marsalis sets aside the thinky decorum of his high-concept work in favor of some flat-out burnin’. The same can be said for his principal improv sidekicks, alto saxophonist Wessell Anderson and pianist Eric Lewis. On other occasions, though (especially Monk’s “Green Chimneys”), the trumpeter and his crew seem bent on riding the blues shtick a bit too hard, repeating licks and phrases as if to say, “Hey, I’m not all about chops.” The House of Tribes package apes classic Blue Note cover art of the past, cementing the notion that Marsalis is still very much the jazz reactionary. But this one’s about playing, and it’s hard to argue with that.***


Hope for the Haunted


This New York quartet’s solid, compelling and mostly upbeat hook-rock instantly recalls at least two more famous names, but when those two names are Foo Fighters and Bob Mould, well, who can complain? Lakota combines the exuberant execution and clever, catchy rock of the first two Foo albums with a moody vocal delivery extremely reminiscent of Mould’s yearning melodic style, adding enough originality via its indie/punk riffs and dynamic arrangements to build a worthwhile listen. This is definitely no-frills pop-rock that leans a bit too heavily on its influences, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pretty fine album. Release date: Sept. 20. (www.popuprecords.com) *** 1/2


What I Mean to Say is Goodbye

Tom Brosseau


Singer-songwriter Brosseau marries pocket-sized poetry to rural strumming, with mixed results. The acoustic-guitar picking and occasional sparse accompaniment by violin, drums or female harmonies are all fine and good, but Brosseau’s clear, high, extremely self-conscious vocal style sometimes rubs wrongly against it — it’s like listening to Jeff Buckley try to pass himself off as on Okie dustbowl troubadour. In addition, the preciousness of the lyrics occasionally grates by telegraphing a cloying sense of self-satisfaction, the conspicuous cleverness of the kid who’s sure he’s the best writer in the class. (www.lovelessrecords.com) ** 1/2


You Are What You Is

Frank Zappa

Not a hallmark effort in the Zappa canon, You Are What You Is nevertheless remains one of his funniest, acerbic and ultimately most listenable albums of all — and a two-disc set, to boot. Although the LP contains a few serpentine instrumental passages, it’s mostly devoted to songs — hilarious, hooky stuff like “Goblin Girl,” “Mudd Club,” “Harder Than Your Husband” (“to get along with”), the title tune and several others.


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