Future Sounds of Buenos Aires
A collaboration between U.S. label Waxploitation and Argentine label ZZK, "Future Sounds of Buenos Aires" winningly combines traditional tango and other South American elements with electronic beats. The rhythmic mash-ups by artists such as Mati Zundel, whose "Senor Montecostez" utilizes bandoneon along with a bubbling bass groove, are neither overly folkloric nor so aggressively techno-driven that they overwhelm the idiosyncrasies of the indigenous styles that distinguish FSOBA from garden-variety dance-music compilations. This 12-song set isn't as sample-mad or brash as, say, the Brazilian baile-funk mixes that Diplo helped bring to the world out of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. But celebratory thumpers such as Fauna's "Hongo x Hongo" and Super Gauchin's gurgling "Se Pixelo el Vinito" expertly create trance-y club grooves that manage the neat trick of making the tried-and-true sound up-to-the-minute.
DAN DELUCA, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Last time out, on her 2008 album "My One and Only Thrill," Philadelphia chanteuse Melody Gardot cast a subtle torch-singer spell, working with former Joni Mitchell producer Larry Klein. That album worked a gray-day Billie Holiday mood, and "The Absence," a collaboration with Brazilian-born producer and guitarist Hector Pereira, maintains a gauzy, low-key vibe. Instead of evoking a smoky Parisian melancholy, however, "The Absence" finds its source of sadness and longing through the yearning concept of saudade in the fado music of Portugal, where Gardot lived for a time, before moving on to Buenos Aires, as she was writing songs. That, along with the sunnier rhythms of Brazilian bossa nova, which come to the fore in the lead single, "Mire," and the bluesy "Goodbye," in which she growls like Louis Armstrong, suffuses "The Absence" with a sophisticated, worldly melancholy, with which Gardot always seems entirely at home.
DAN DELUCA, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
"While I Shovel Snow," one of the best tracks on the Walkmen's last album, 2010's "Lisbon," was its most understated, and it seems to have suggested the direction for "Heaven," the New York/Philly quintet's sixth full-length (not including their song-by-song cover of Harry Nilsson's "Pussy Cats"). The album does occasionally unleash the band's unhinged rock 'n' roll side, but the overall mood is restrained, nuanced and spacious. This is a pretty album, in the way that albums from the National can be pretty. "I was the Duke of Earl, but it couldn't last," Hamilton Leithauser croons introspectively on album-opener "We Can't Be Beat," and there's an element of doo-wop to what the Walkmen do there, and on "No One Ever Sleeps," a track that also features Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold. Fans of "The Rat," the band's signature anthem, may be disappointed, but "Heaven" offers plenty of rarefied pleasures.
STEVE KLINGE, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Since the '90s and their early and handsome Luaka Bop-label albums, Cornershop has made Brit-popping trip-hop ripe with the flavors of traditional Indian music. It's been a tightly knit family affair that singer/lyricist Tjinder Singh, brother/bassist Avtar Singh, and pal Ben Ayres (keyboards, tamboura) have brewed to a musical stew that Cornershop called "turban" pop. Things have changed for the Anglo-Indian ensemble, growing smaller in ranks (Tjinder and Ben remain) yet opening themselves up, beyond their Punjabi whir, to include elements of folk, soul and electro, as well as welcoming collaborators into their musky mix. While 2011 found them releasing "Cornershop and the Double 'O' Groove of ..." with singer Bubbley Kaur, their new album, "Urban Turban," expands to include outside vocalists and duet partners. Singh hands the mike to, among other guests, SoKo for the metronomic, Lou Reed-like skronk of "Something Makes You Feel Like" and French chanteuse Izzy Lindqwister for the sturdily sweaty funk of "Who's Gonna Lite It Up?" But it's the sunshiny, school-choir-backed "What Did the Hippie Have in His Bag?," a characteristically Cornershop track starring Singh alone, that makes "Urban Turban" a truly torrid treat.
A.D. AMOROSI, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Not Your Kind of People
For a band that's been around for almost two decades, Garbage has released surprisingly few studio albums. Their fifth, "Not Your Kind of People," comes on the heels of a seven-year hiatus, which makes it all the more anticipated.
Fans who have missed Shirley Manson's powerful vocals and scenic presence will revel in this blast-from-the-past album, released on their own label for the first time. This artistic freedom allowed them to make just the kind of album they want - bold, honest and accessible to those not of rock sensibilities. The 11 songs on "Not Your Kind of People" - all written and produced by all four Garbage members - cohabit wonderfully, each bringing to the mix something the others don't have.
"Man on A Wire" is the petulant, self-destructive one of the group, whose drum-and-bass sets the rhythm for the argument. "Battle in Me" is its twin in tone but not in temperament; together they work the crowd, like a bad cop, good cop routine trying to get a confession of love out of the listener. "Blood for Poppies" is the cool, trendy one who's nonchalantly talking up strangers, while "Sugar" is the incurably romantic, the perpetually lovesick one whose plaintive whispers haunt you.
The volcanic red-haired, high-priestess of alternative rock shows off her range with gusto throughout an album with a sound and lyrics that don't disappoint. There's good reason to celebrate that Manson, Duke Erikson, Butch Vig and Steve Marker are back.
"Not Your Kind of People" echoes a languorous swinging 1960s vibe that is vaguely reminiscent of the band's big James Bond soundtrack hit, "The World Is Not Enough."
CRISTINA JALERU, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Joyful Noise
There is no one like the punkish Beth Ditto, and thus there is nothing like Gossip and their fifth and finest studio album "A Joyful Noise." It's electronic, bombastic, self-assured and a righteous floor-rocker thanks to one of the best voices in the business.
"Perfect World" gives us an early taste of what Ditto can do with her voice - namely, anything she wants. She delivers soothing undertones followed soaring refrains while maintaining a thread of urgency on this rock-based track with a growling dance beat.
On "Get A Job," drummer Hannah Blilie holds down a perfectly funky pace in spots where it's needed. "I'd love to stay and party but I've got to go to work," Ditto sings over an almost 8-bit backbeat that should thrill lo-fi fans, at least until the raucous hook comes around.
Even when things slow down, as on "In The Wild," Ditto delivers it so sweet it's a welcome respite from the rump-shakers that provide the fire on most of the songs. One track later Ditto urges us to "Get Lost" and shed the baggage of past emotions in favor of freeing the soul - to the beat.
Coincidental plus-size body politics aside, Beth Ditto is the singer I keep hoping Adele will be - more varied and carefree and never missing a note and an opportunity to both shock and shine. Adele does some of that. Ditto does it all.
RON HARRIS, ASSOCIATED PRESS