BAT FOR LASHES - "The Haunted Man": A picture might be worth a thousand words, but the stark NSFW cover of Bat for Lashes' "The Haunted Man" says much more than that about the music contained in the album. While any written description of the artwork can't quite capture what's going on in it, suffice it to say that the black-and-white photo of Natasha Khan, "au naturale," with a naked male body draped over her shoulders, is as exposed and intimate as the songs on "The Haunted Man" are. More than anything else, the photo makes a strong impression that signals there's a change in tone and approach to Khan's latest effort, as she tamps down the hippy-dippy elements of her earlier discs and goes for something more immediate and gripping. - Arnold Pan
GARY CLARK JR. - "Blak & Blu": Gary Clark Jr.'s "Blak & Blu" might just be the single most anticipated rock release of 2012. Actually, it may also be the most talked-about major label debut since his recent pal, Alicia Keys, burst on the scene in 2001 with "Songs in A Minor," save for the always-exaggerated hype that usually surrounds releases from the hip-hop world (here's lookin' at you, Drake). Is "Blak & Blu" a colossal failure and is Gary Clark Jr. truly the One Who Will Save the Blues? The simple answers, of course, are no and maybe. Though if you look a little harder, you might find chinks in a once invincible armor seemingly constructed to help launch the career of what many already call a legend. As it stands, "Blak & Blu" certainly isn't legendary. But it's a pretty good start. - Colin McGuire
KENDRICK LAMAR - "Good Kid: M.A.A.D City": With a little digging, "good kid" reveals itself to be a remarkably personal release for Lamar, with stories like his accidental smoking of a cocaine-laced blunt and the death of his Uncle Tony lending not only narrative heft but a very real gravitas to Lamar's presence. Generally, this would be enough for a hip-hop album: we love to believe
TITUS ANDRONICUS - "Local Business": Titus Andronicus has a theatrical streak that works because it never drifts from the pure pleasures and volatile energy of rock music. The band's new album, "Local Business," tries to move away from the larger narratives of "The Monitor" towards something more contained. Its best parts retains the band's taut energy, but aside from lacking the interstitial speeches of its predecessor, the band hasn't really pared back much here. "Local Business" has lots of fascinating things to say about control but sometimes it gets lost in its own unruly order. It doesn't repeat, necessarily, and actually argues for Titus Andronicus's records not as separate parts but more as connected chapters in the band's story. - Matthew Fiander
Other notable releases this week:
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - "Lost Songs"
Paul Banks - "Banks"
Peter Broderick - "These Walls of Mine"
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson - "Wreck and Ruin"
Neil Davidge - "Halo 4: Original Soundtrack"
Diamond Rings - "Free Dimensional"
Peter Gabriel - "So (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)"
of Montreal - "Daughter of Cloud"
P.O.S. - "We Don't Even Live Here"
RZA - "The Man With The Iron Fists"
Swedish House Mafia - "Until Now"
The Sword - "Apocryphon"
Taylor Swift - "Red"
U.S. Girls - "GEM"
NOW HEAR THIS
Daniel Pearson - "Factory Floor"
Britain's Daniel Pearson drew wide praise in the UK for his debut, "Satellites," being hailed as ""Britain's best new singer-songwriter" by Allgigs, while Uncut celebrated the album as ""Route 66 meets the M1 bittersweet and contemplative." Now this fine new talent has a new album on tap, "Mercury State," set to release a year from his debut. "Factory Floor" is the first single and it's a powerful and gut-wrenching song addressing the plight of unemployed factory workers who have been robbed of their youth doing back-busting work and who now must face chronic unemployment. The visuals address it from the UK labor perspective, but this could be anywhere in the world and resonates equally for white- and blue-collar workers. Timely and important music. - Sarah Zupko
Martin Rossiter (Gene) - "Drop Anchor"
Remember Gene, a fine melodic Britpop band with a Smiths feel to them? They are sadly missed and their career was far too short. Now Gene frontman Martin Rossiter is stepping forth with a new solo album, "The Defenestration of St Martin," which will be released Nov. 26. His exquisite voice is in fine form on the gorgeous "Drop Anchor," a subtle and tender new ballad.
Pantha du Prince + The Bell Laboratory - "Photon"
Pantha du Prince is teaming up with the Scandinavian Bell Laboratory for a new album, "Elements of Light," releasing Jan. 15. Here's one of the five new tracks that are composed around the carillon, a massive Chinese instrument.
-The Prodigy to release 15th anniversary edition of "The Fat of the Land"
Remember "Firestarter" (single, 1996), "Breathe" and the controversial "Smack My Bitch Up"? Yep, 1997... the year electronic music - electronica as they called it then - was supposed to break massive into the mainstream. Big beat was leading the charge with groups like Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, and Fluke. Well, the Prodigy's "The Fat of the Land" did as advertised, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 and selling 10 million albums after 18 months.
But then everything just kinda died when Radiohead came along and stole the show with a little record called "OK Computer." So things moved on and popular music became littered with a landscape of Radiohead wannabes instead of flame-headed punky vocalists dancing to a massive beat. Couldn't we have had both? Might've been fun for a few year.
Now, XL is preparing to release the 15th anniversary edition of this classic "electronica" (ahem) album. Dec. 4 will see the release of the original double LP, deluxe double CD and deluxe digital edition. Meanwhile, the deluxe edition release will feature additional remixes from Noisia, Alvin Risk, Zeds Dead, Major Lazer, Bauuer and the Glitch Mob.
Bon Iver - "Beth/Rest"
Bon Iver releases the fourth video from 2011's stunning "Bon Iver, Bon Iver" and the visual treatment was penned by none other than Justin Vernon himself, as well as filmed in the woods near his home studio.
PopMatters is an international magazine of arts and culture. Find more PopMatters content at www.popmatters.com.
© 2012, PopMatters.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services