Saturday, March 3, 2007

Saurabh & Gaurav

Yoko Ono ó Yes, Iím A Witch

Now almost 39 years since her first commercial recording with her late husband, Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, Onoís music has been embraced by not only the dance club circuit (the 2003 remixes of her 1981 single Walking On Thin Ice by Pet Shop Boys, Danny Tenaglia and other top DJs landed her at the top of Billboardís "Dance / Club" chart that same year), but also by a multitude of Indie, alternative and pop artists and musicians. The album features a list of handpicked artists (the Flaming Lips, Cat Power and Peaches among them) who Ono asked to retool elements from her back catalogue into new songs. Peaches turns the song Kiss Kiss Kiss into an irresistible programmed dance workout, while the piano balladry of Cat Powerís version of Revelations puts more emphasis on Onoís message "Bless you for your greed, Itís a sign of great capacity." Turntable savant DJ Spooky picks up the mantle from previous collaborator Pet Shop Boys. The trip-hop The Rising gives the generally light album a chance to curl back into its darker dimensions. But the key track might be the centrepiece title cut, where The Brother Brothers set Onoís confrontational lyrical manifesto against aggressive metallic rock. Iím gonna stick around for quite a while, proclaims Ono. With her mish-mash of accents and progressive artistic flair, it is no real surprise that Onoís vocals and primal screams sit so comfortably when mixed with modern music.

Best track: Every Man Every Woman Worst track: Toy Boat

Rating: **

Lucinda Williams ó West (LH)

Lucinda Williams truly is one of the rarest of performers. Throughout her 28-year career, Lucinda Williams has been tagged an alt-country queen and a folkie. But in many ways, sheís really a Blues singer at heart. Musically her primary opiate is still the Blues, in its many hues. West is all musical mood swings: from heartbreak country to fierce revenge rock, retro pop to folk, poetry to rap, mellow soul to dark rock. The predominant theme is pain, and no one narrates pain as eloquently as Williams. She deals with her losses most movingly on the lower-key numbers Fancy Funeral, Mama You Sweet, and Everything Has Changed. Her vision peaks on songs like Rescue, which offers orchestral-folk/country-blues flavor. Words, a nice tribute to artistic expression, and the lovely title track close the album on a pleasant note, but feel out of place with the bluntly direct lyrical shots preceding them. Whether itís gutbucket blues (Wrap My Head Around That), bittersweet lilt (Learning How To Live), or tormenting confessionals (Unsuffer Me), Williams knows how to scrape the bottom of the human heart and put it into song.

Best track: Mama You Sweet Worst track: What If

Rating: ***

Apples In Stereo ó New Magnetic Wonder (Yep Roc)

More than four years after Velocity Of Sound, Apples in Stereo is back with the ambitious 24-track New Magnetic Wonder. The album juggles all sorts of feel-good influence, from the innocence of 1970s AM-radio pop and the sparkle of mildly psychedelic guitar work to pure sophisticated pop. Over a base of solidly rocking musicians and Robert Schneiderís reliable chirpy vocals, the band and their cohorts, including W. Cullen Hart, John Fernandes, Jeff Magnum and Bill Doss, create a rich soundscape that envelops the record in a warm and lush haze. Early pieces such as Can You Feel It? and Skyway may at first seem unrefined and decisively awry but repeated listens to those tunes and other, deeper ones such as Sunndal Song, Play Tough and Sunday Sounds reveal something much more thoughtful and realised. Nevertheless, the grating opener, of mention as well. Welcome back Apples!

Best track: Can You Feel It

Worst track: Vocoder Ba Ba

Rating: ***

Album of the month

Norah Jones ó Not Too Late (Blue Note)

Norah Jones returns with 13 self penned/co-written compositions that nestle into several differing genres comfortably. Not Too Late, Jonesís third release, comes again with a completely different feel. It is certainly not a complete make-over from her first two albums, as Jonesí succulent voice and elegant piano remain intact, but is a departure from her previous sound nonetheless. The darker, more roguish mood at work is perfectly complemented by arrangements that are as creative as they are ascetic. Wish I Could describes the pain of a love lost in war, while Sinkiní Soon, is a funky carnival-tinged ballad that compares the United States to a sinking ship: "In a boat thatís built of sticks and hay, we drifted from the shore," Jones sings. The Sun Doesnít Like You is a pretty track showcasing Jonesí improving lyrical skills: So tonight we can build a fire/In the open field past the razor wire/Sneak by the dogs when they go to sleep/Bring part of yourself that youíll let me keep. The politically charged My Dear Country initially suggests that "nothing is as scary as election day," then changes course and suggests that an electionís aftermath is actually scarier: Who knows? Maybe itís all a dream, Jones sings. The quality of Jonesí voice then takes centrestage through her multi-tracked, beautifully harmonised vocals in Broken. The instrumentation throughout is austere and beautiful. The bowed cello and trombone pop in perfectly, and fade into the background as part of a wonderfully planned ensemble.

Best track: Wish I Could Worst track: Little Room

Top 10 singles

  • What Goes Around Justin Timberlake (CU)

  • Run Away Love Ludacris feat. Mary J Blige (NM)

  • Not Ready To Make Nice Dixie Chicks (CU)

  • Irreplaceable Beyonce (NM)

  • Say It Right Nelly Furtado (CU)

  • I Wanna Love You Akon feat. Snoop Dogg (FD)

  • Itís Not Over Daughtry (CU)

  • Donít Matter Akon (NE)

  • We Fly High Jim Jones (FD)

  • Waiting On The World John Mayer (CU)

CU (coming up); NM (non-mover); FD (falling down); NE (new entry)