section by: Jeb Delia


Broken Social Scene


Calling this band “unfocused” rather misses the point; and to say they’re “all over the map” actually suggests the rather spacious, adventurous enterprise that is BSS. No matter, it’s time to toss out those stale characterizations, anyway: this is their tightest, most tuneful, together, and… well, focused… album yet. “World Sick” is pure epic joy for an opener, and what would once have been Side 1 continues in that vein, with a theoretical Side 2 darkening with “Ungrateful Little Father” (aka “motherfucker,” a nice Jagger-like touch) and the ethereal “Romance to the Grave.” Just when you think that “Water in Hell” will continue the bleak tone, the track kicks up a sprightly jig on its way out, and you can then spend the next few weeks re-listening as the lyrics give up their secrets.


The Hold Steady


“Heaven is whenever we get together / sit down on your floor and listen to those records.” My first thought, when I heard that, was “people still listen to records?” And then remembered my vinyl fetishist nephews… what goes around. The departure of keyboardist Franz Nicolay maybe moves this band a half-block further off E Street, and the resulting beefed-up guitars are actually a plus. Still in place is the nostalgic romanticism that echoes predecessors like Garland Jeffreys, Willy DeVille, or David Johansen (not to mention you-know-who): heroic cityscapes, messy Catholicism, those kids in the street, and the notion that just getting that kiss is a goal, and a triumph, in itself. Their best yet? Just might be. “You can’t kiss every girl / You gotta trust me on this one.”



New Pornographers


A leadoff track that manages to evoke the sheer dizzy rock and roll joy of both early Cheap Trick AND Sparks? Must be New Pornographers time. Like Broken Social Scene, they make the most out of being a (somewhat smaller) musical collective, rather than a “rock group,” and with guests ranging from members of Okkervil River to the Dap-Kings, it’s the typical NP blend of everything that once made listening to the radio a transcendent experience: there was a time when you flipped on the dial to hear Leslie Gore rub against The Rolling Stones, Roger Miller, and The Beach Boys, and that’s what the New Pornographers evoke: they even throw Yes into the mix on “Your Hands (Together)”, only it’s a lot more fun than Yes ever was. I can’t even pick a favorite: I adore Neko’s “My Shepherd,” crack up to Dan’s sly vocal on “Silver Jenny Dollar,” and can’t get enough of the whistling chorus to “Crash Years,” but it’s aural bliss all the way.




Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim 


Forget “Ring A Ding Ding” and what you may think you know about “The Girl From Ipanema.” This intimate 1967 session is unlike anything Sinatra recorded before, or since. It’s whispered romance, a soft ocean breeze, the taste of fine liquor on the tongue, the scent of a lover close at hand, and the bittersweet tang of regret set against a golden beach sunset; in short, one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. The remastering doesn’t add much to the already gorgeous sound, but this reissue for the first time includes the additional ten tracks that Sinatra and Jobim recorded a year later. If you only know the original release, the second set is somewhat less compelling, but it does have a few classics, including “Wave,” the recording of his that Sinatra used to listen to over and over again to recapture the lowest notes he ever hit. Honestly, even if you think you hate Sinatra (and, let’s face it, the guy was something of an asshole), you owe it to yourself to experience this album at least once.

Other Noteworthy 5/04 Music Releases

Godsmack: The Oracle. I’m willing to accept that they’re just big fans of Alice in Chains, not blatant copyists, because I’m a charitable sort. You may be less generous.


Deftones: Diamond Eyes. I’ll admit that I just don’t hear anything special about this band, but people whose taste I respect tell me I’m full of shit on that, so if you’re one of those people… well, here’s the new Deftones album!


Court Yard Hounds: Court Yard Hounds. Turns out that 66% of the Dixie Chicks actually sound a lot like 100% of the Dixie Chicks.


Asia: Omega. Hmmm. I thought this was a reunion album. Turns out not only did they record their reunion album two years ago, I actually listened to it. And I can’t remember a damn thing about it, except that it was expertly played.  


Minus the Bear: Omni. I used to think that studio hacks like Toto or Michael McDonald might have been tolerable if they’d had this band’s sense of humor, but the wacky song titles seem to have disappeared this time. Which leaves the perfectly credible, and somewhat generic, indie pop.


The Flaming Lips And Stardeath and White Dwarfs With Henry Rollins And Peaches: Dark Side Of The Moon. THE album of the week I’m most curious to hear; mostly because Pink Floyd usually puts me to sleep, while Henry Rollins never has.


The Temptations: Still Here. Sonofabitch. They ARE still here. And they’ve found Autotune.


Tonic: Tonic. The chunky guitars used to make the hair-metal harmonies sound credible. Reversing that ratio isn’t the direction I’d have chosen, but I’m not the one with the platinum albums.


Mike Patton: Mondo Cane. The other new album I’m dying to hear: Popular Italian songs? With an orchestra? If this turns out to be his Scott Walker move, that would be just about the best thing ever.


Josh Ritter: So Runs the World Away. Poetical and historical in a way that Paul Simon would understand. It even rocks ever so slightly, but whenever it does, Ritter starts filtering his voice as though he’s embarrassed by such low-rent shenanigans.