NEW MUSIC THIS WEEK
Bob Dylan - "Tempest": And as we dig into Dylan's 35th studio album, "Tempest," questions and mystery roil around these songs. There are rumors this is his last record, and - if true - then this must give us some stopping point, some bookend, shouldn't it? Well, no, it doesn't. In fact, it does something all the more strange: It sounds familiar. Like his past few albums, and especially 2009's "Together Through Life," these songs are not only inspired but trade in the nearly exact tones of Chess and Sun Records classics. Dylan is once again trading in a sort of musical nostalgia his snarling younger self might have scoffed at, but this great set is more playful and expansive than some of its predecessors. - Matthew Fiander
The Avett Brothers - "The Carpenter": With "The Carpenter," The Avett Brothers and producer Rick Rubin have finished the job of sanding down the band's rough edges. That process began back on 2009's "I and Love and You," the Avetts' commercial breakthrough, major label debut, and first with Rubin. Let me be clear here. This is by no means an indictment of the album, because the record is strong from top to bottom. "The Carpenter" subtly expands their sonic palette while they continue to write strong songs that are alternately introspective and raucous. This album has the band poised to continue that slow, steady growth, but the right exposure for a song like "Live and Die" or "I Never Knew You" could find them really taking off into stardom. - Chris Conaton
The xx - "Coexist": Whereas the xx's first album brought more out of each and every song thanks to deft sequencing and a fine-tuned sense of pacing, the London trio is so intent and focused on the nuances of "Coexist" that it seems to have overlooked how all the pieces fit together in the bigger picture. So the xx may have developed and honed its meticulous craft by sweating the details here, but it comes at the expense of the vibrant, intuitive feel of its earlier triumph, as most of the offerings on "Coexist" blur together with the same downbeat production, the same deliberate electro-pop orchestration, the same slo-mo tempo, the same languorous soul-searching in the vocals. - Arnold Pan
Patterson Hood - "Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance": The Drive-By Trucker frontman's third solo album is his best sustained work in years, an immensely satisfying release woven together from relationships past and present, wrecked and whole. What makes "Heat Lightning" so satisfying is that Hood doesn't simply linger on the crunchy dramatics of break-ups, but rather integrates them into a greater examination of marriage, responsibility and family. He originally planned "Heat Lightning" to accompany an uncompleted, semi-autobiographical novel inspired by his 1992 divorce, band break-up, and subsequent suicidal depression, but he wisely decided to weave this era together with other, more bittersweet strands from his life. - David Bloom
Other notable releases this week:
Kix Brooks - "New to This Town"
David Byrne & St. Vincent - "Love This Giant"
Calexico - "Algiers"
Daddy Yankee - "Prestige"
Michael Feinberg - "The Elvin Jones Project"
Firewater - "International Orange!"
Gallon Drunk - "The Road Gets Darker From Here"
Little Big Town - "Tornado"
Kathy Mattea - "Calling Me Home"
Dave Matthews Band - "Away From the World"
Amanda Palmer - "Theatre Is Evil"
Pet Shop Boys - "Elysium"
The Presets - "Pacifica"
The Raveonettes - "Observator"
Sea Wolf - "Old World Romance"
Serpentine Path - "Serpentine Path"
The Vaccines - "Come of Age"
Woolfy Vs Projections - "The Return of Love"
ZZ Top - "La Futura"
NOW HEAR THIS
-Freakwater's Catherine Irwin returns with a new solo album and the tune "Save Our Ship"
You know how you can tell that Catherine Irwin's alt-country musings are the real deal? Yeah, her craggy, weathered, yet resonant voice has a soulful, old-timey feel, and her blues-tinged folk picking conveys a timeless Americana quality to it. But it's the fact that Irwin helped to define and build a genre before it actually existed that speaks to the authenticity of her work, as her band Freakwater was one of the acts that led the way for No Depression's breakthrough in the mid-1990s.
"Save Our Ship," from Irwin's upcoming release "Little Heater" (Thrill Jockey, Sept. 18), speaks to her gifts as a songwriter who's able to create something that's warm and reverent, while putting her own twist on a time-tested formula to keep you engaged. To hear her tell about it, the song is a bit surreal and stream-of-consciousness: "'Save Our Ship' is a pirate song. When I was writing it, I was thinking, 'Johnny Depp is from Kentucky and I am from Kentucky. Maybe he will hear this song and then we will be friends. And Keith Richards plays his father in those movies and they are probably already friends. That might also work out really well for me." The unlikely theme of "Save Our Ship" is one thing, but all the well-worn elements have a familiar richness and depth to them, whether it's in Irwin's twangy accent or her nostalgically tuneful acoustic guitars or the heart-tugging twinge of melancholy fiddle. - Arnold Pan
The Gravity Drive - "Push Your Luck" (single)
I first caught the Gravity Drive on the soundtrack to a TV show about six months back, when the chorus of their "Cherry Ripe" track got stuck in my head. After which, nifty googling revealed them to be a duo previously picked up by BBC 6 Music, that British bastion of original new music, and starting point for breaking acts these days. Coming on like the Beautiful South meets the Monkees, the Gravity Drive's latest, "Push Your Luck," is yet another infectious three-minute wonder to haunt your waking moments. Lyrically, at least, it's a sly and sarcastic, bittersweet barb about lovers pushing each other to the edge. Yet, as an overall track, "Push Your Luck" is a wonderfully loopy, up, dizzy and dancing three-minute pop joy. - Steve Jansen
Meklit Hadero and Quinn DeVeaux - "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) (Arcade Fire)"
San Francisco singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero is deeply embedded within the San Francisco arts scene and she has a strong intellectual bent as well, serving as a Senior TED Fellow. Hadero's music is known for blending elements of traditional Ethiopian folk with American folk forms and jazz. On her new album "Meklit & Quinn," she teams with Quinn DeVeaux for a series of intriguing covers, including the lead-off track, which is their interpretation of Arcade Fire's "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)." - Sarah Zupko
-Liturgy Frontman deconstructs Shellac's "Prayers to God"
Never thought you'd see "Shellac" and "a cappella" in the same sentence? Neither did we. Thanks to the magic of the A.V. Club's Undercover series, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, leader of black metal outfit Liturgy, has put his own spin on "Prayers to God," Shellac's classic scorned-lover-turned-murderer temper tantrum. The twist? Hunt-Hendrix's deconstruction is entirely a cappella, replacing Albini's homicidal vocal yelps ("Kill him already, kill him!") with an eerie, chant-like tapestry of multiplying voice loops. It's nothing like the original's piercing guitar stabs, but it's fascinating just the same. - Zach Schonfeld
Ungdomskulen - "Facemask" MP3
Bergen, Norway's Ungdomskulen blend hard-charging rock with dance beats and a twist of prog rock to produce songs that have both an experimental edge and frenetic intensity. That will be on full display when the band's new album, "Secrecy Out," releases Sept. 25. The album opener "Askefast" has already hit the web and now we present a second track from the new record, "Facemask." This tune begins all gentle and relaxed with a quiet voice and acoustic guitar before exploding into propulsive grooves of bass and drums with slashing guitar riffs propelling the music forward. It's addicting stuff. - Sarah Zupko
-Liars contribute to Adult Swim Singles Series
Liars have joined the ranks of Wye Oak, the Hives, Flying Lotus, and other acts by contributing a song to the weekly Adult Swim Single Series. Titled "Point Your Pistols to the Sigh," the band's offering is harsh, grinding techno - as cold and synth-driven as anything on "WIXIW" and as abrasive as "They Were Wrong, So We Drowned." Download it for free at Adult Swim. - Sarah Zupko
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