GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR - "'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!": The 10-year wait for "!Allelujah" probably raised a lot of questions. Would there be any substantial changes to Godspeed's core sound? Would the band still have "the edge?" The latter is of considerable importance given they began their hiatus in 2003 after "Yanqui," which while not bad was the weakest of their career at that time. Fortunately, "!Allelujah!" is a solid example of a band that hasn't lost any of its compositional uniqueness. Godspeed requires patience, as the songs burn slow into bombastic climaxes, but once the music has picked up, it's relentless. "!Allelujah" captures the greatness that made the band such a force back at the turn of the century in a new and invigorating way. - Brice Ezell
BENJAMIN GIBBARD - "Former Lives": The Death Cab for Cutie frontman steps out with a solo effort that works best when he falls back on the high-concept lyrical daring of his earlier work. Songs like "Teardrop Windows," "Broken Yolk in Western Sky," and "Bigger Than Love," an F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald-inspired duet with Aimee Mann, hint at how good "Former Lives" could have been had Gibbard simply indulged his storyteller side. It's on these songs that the distinctive, high-concept Benjamin (or "Ben," as we used to call him) Gibbard of the past - the one who wouldn't blink at spending a whole verse pontificating on a tear in a dress or, as it turns out, writing an entire song about a building's hurt feelings - makes himself known. - David Bloom
PINBACK - "Information Retrieved": Pinback is either the quietest rock band working, or the loudest pristine pop band working. Whichever it is, the fact that Rob Crow and Zach Smith derive so much muscle and power from so little reliance on volume has always been remarkable, and that amazing restraint has reached an impressive new peak on "Information Retrieved." As the band's albums become more ornate, or rather more glossy in their texturing, it'd be easy for them to fall into either toothless sheen or blaring day-glo decibels. On the new album, they do neither. Instead, they continue the slow growth of their sound, but this time it's just a little different. - Matthew Fiander
DONALD FAGEN - "Sunken Condos": Maybe this was a fun album to make, with no need for metaphysical weightiness or pondering. That would make this record one that straddles the line between pleasure and perfection. All in all, the end result may not be the sheer sonic thrill that we would come to expect from someone who had the brains behind "Aja," but is actually quite groovy to listen to: to crib a message from one of the song titles, "Sunken Condos" might not be prime Donald Fagen-related material, but it's still "Good Stuff," even "Very Good Stuff." At this point, that's probably all we can ask for. - Zachary Houle
Other notable releases this week:
A Fine Frenzy - "Pines"
Jason Aldean - "Night Train"
Trey Anastasio - "Traveler"
Brandy - "Two Eleven"
Dethklok - "Dethalbum III"
Ben Harper - "By My Side"
Jamey Johnson - "Living for a Song: Tribute to Hank Cochran"
K'Naan - "Country God Or the Girl"
Jason Lytle - "Dept. of Disappearance"
Mika - "Origin of Love"
Martha Wainwright - "Come Home to Mama"
ZZ Ward - "Til the Casket Drops"
Widespread Panic - "Wood"
NOW HEAR THIS
No Sinner - "Love is a Madness" (video)
The concerned efforts of singer Colleen Rennison, guitarist Eric Campbell, drummer Ian Browne, and bassist Matt Camirand may be collected under the banner of No Sinner, but from the looks of the Vancouver-based quartet's new video for "Love is a Madness" (from their "Boo Hoo Hoo" EP), there may be a sense of irony involved in that choice of band name. Framed by Brass Tacks Films to appear like an early '70s exploitation film, care of its swoopy yellow title font, vintage clothing choices, and warm hues, the video expression of love's inconsistencies matches the no holds barred blues-rock R&B musings that Rennison and company produce in the single. In fact, they're so inconsistent that the song and the video apparently end up in different places. After all, love is madness, and madness is rarely logical. That's why it can be so exciting, on that slide of delirium and surrender, and that's what No Sinner taps into, here. - Alan Ranta
Stereophonics - "Violins and Tambourines" (video)
Wales' Stereophonics have had a long career going back to the tail end of the '90s Britpop era. That the band has survived when so many of that era's groups have faded is a testament to their talents as performers and songwriters. Stereophonics will release their eighth album "Violins and Tambourines" next year, but you can get a preview now with their new song, also titled "Violins and Tambourines." It's worlds away from their early best-known tunes like "Local Boy in a Photograph." "Violins and Tambourines" shows the band playing with dynamics and string sections to build a tune that pushes to greater heights as the verses flow by.
Clinic - "Miss You" (video)
Clinic's latest video just hit the web and "Miss You" is the first single from the British band's upcoming seventh album "Free Reign." The album was produced in the band's Liverpool hometown, while The 3 Sisters (Andy Knowles, Josh McCartney & James Hicks) directed this video.
I Am Kloot - "Hold Back the Night" (video)
Manchester's I Am Kloot are releasing their impressive new single "Hold Back the Night" in the UK on Nov. 5 in advance of their new album "Let It All In," coming in January. "Hold Back the Night" is a masterfully composed song that begins spare and builds to a gorgeous string-laden crescendo. This band's sophisticated rock is always worth checking out, especially for fans of Elbow.
The Vaccines - "I Always Knew" (video)
The Vaccines' latest single is the uber-catchy pop gem "I Always Knew." The video has released well ahead of the Nov. 11 street date. In the UK, the physical single will be backed by "Make You Mine."
Lana Del Rey - "Ride" (video)
Lana Del Rey is re-releasing her double-platinum album "Born to Die" on Nov. 13 and she's tagging it a "Paradise" edition as it will include eight new songs. The "Deluxe" version also includes a remix CD, a video DVD, 7-inch vinyl of "Blue Velvet" and four art prints. And here is her latest single "Ride" that appears on the new set.
Egyptian Project - "Anta Ana" (MP3)
French producer Jérôme Ettinger has long dedicated himself to exploring the sounds of Egypt and the debut of his Egyptian Project is the culmination of years of learning the music and culture, including studying the arghul, a clarinet-like, double-pipe, single-reed woodwind instrument in Cairo. "Ya Amar" releases Oct. 30 via Six Degrees and features the blend of Egyptian melodies, voice and rhythms with European electronic beats and textures. It's heady stuff, full of swirling patterns perfect for the dancefloor. "My idea was to mix electronic, acoustic and Egyptian traditional music," Ettinger says. "I chose one string instrument player, one singer, a percussionist and rababa player. They are all my family now - I manage and organize everything for all of them."
PopMatters is an international magazine of arts and culture. Find more PopMatters content at www.popmatters.com.
Distributed by MCT Information Services