THERE are two things that will immediately strike listeners about the Dodos' latest release. The first is that guitarist Meric Long is almost exclusively playing electric guitar -- presenting a multi-layered, atmospheric sound that, while less immediate than on the San Francisco duo's Visiter or No Color albums, will reward listeners with something new each time through these 11 songs.
Similarly, drummer Logan Kroeber's percussive approach is far more understated than in the past. Whereas percussive crescendos and drum/guitar interplay have been regular signatures of the Dodos' past material, Kroeber's work is far more integral to the structure of the songs on this album.
The cumulative effect is that of well-crafted, neo-psychedelic pop/rock -- an album that conjures a suitably bittersweet mood. Even Long's singing voice seems somewhat subdued -- lower in the mix, with a dash more reverb applied. Still, fans of the group need not be concerned the Dodos have radically changed. Long and Kroeber have created an intensely rewarding listening experience on Carrier and it will be interesting to see how they blend their older material with these songs when they play the Park Theatre on Sept. 15. ***1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Substance
-- John Kendle
Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) The Bootleg Series Vol.10 (Columbia)
NOW 10 volumes deep, The Bootleg Series from Bob Dylan delivers a handsome two-disc package of "35 rarities and previously unreleased recordings" from a period in the artist's career that has often been critically slammed as a musical low point. Suffice it to say, critics mostly get stuff wrong. Also understand that while Bob Dylan offered few new songs on the original 1970 release Self Portrait, in this revised form it deserves something of a re-examination.
Another Self Portrait is chock full of revelations if only down to the fact His Bobness was contributing his versions of songs that were inspirational to him as he slipped up the musical stream, as it were. Everyone knew he was a Woody Guthrie acolyte and singer of "protest" songs, but the depth of his knowledge of the so-called public domain music was astounding. With a hankering to shed his heavy "Voice of a Generation" tag and recovering from a motorcycle accident that had shaken the bard up, Dylan gave the people what they didn't want.
In the end, of course, Dylan's plan fell flat and he really only succeeded in making fans salivate all the more, wondering what he would do next. To make a very long story short, Another Self Portrait, with its assortment of alternate takes and stripped-down arrangements, should be in your collection if you have any interest whatsoever in Dylan's oeuvre or if honestly delivered, old-time roots music in general is your bag. Diehard Bobcats will savour the differing arrangements and the remastered sound. Noteworthy... to a fault. ***1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Minstrel Boy
-- Jeff Monk
Son of Trouble (Independent)
WHEN former Winnipeg singer-songwriter Ben Sures hitchhiked off to Alberta a few years ago our local folk-blues scene lost quite a character. His new album, the varied and entertaining Son Of Trouble, is the kind of set that is as enjoyable to listen to as it is free of easy categorization. Sures himself would readily admit his light-hearted, everyman front, the guy at the bar that everyone likes to slap on the back and buy drinks, is exactly what this mensch rocker is after.
I Could Be Your Man is a cool, stop/start blues chopper with lyrics like, "I'm Benny the Jew, little Charlie Trouble, I'm a fish cutter, I'm a troubadour with a pompadour, I can toss a salad, my credentials are valid." You just have to go along with him. Sures' guitar playing has the kind of simple sophistication that world-class players pay years of dues to deliver, and with the addition of the estimable Paul Reddick on harmonica on tracks like Love Will Kick Your Ass, it really shines. Where Are They Now bubbles along to a kind of tipsy tango beat while a song each sung in Spanish and French prove the artists' willingness to play nicely outside the sandbox.
The world would be a much finer place if an artist of Sures' talent and commitment to his craft on all levels could find himself recognized by a larger segment of the music-buying public. As it stands SOT is an album worth investigating by any music fan. ***1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: I Will Be Your Man
-- Jeff Monk
Sly and the Family Stone
Higher! (Epic Legacy)
AT the beginning of 1969, Sly and the Family Stone released a 45 that paired Everyday People and Sing a Simple Song, the first an idealistic sing-along with a winning, childlike melody and irresistible pop hooks, the second a slice of pure, hard funk with an irresistible groove. Few bands have been equally adept at formalist pop and unadulterated funk as Sly and the Family Stone, the mixed-gender, mixed-race band led by Sylvester Stewart from 1966 to 1975.
The well-annotated, four-CD set Higher! contains the familiar hits, often in their mono, AM radio-friendly original mixes, as well as select album tracks, but its real value is in how the outliers, including 17 previously unreleased tracks, display the breadth of Sly's genius through early, pre-Family Stone garage-rock singles, brilliant live performances, instrumental workouts, eccentric experiments and late, post-Family disco tracks. **** 1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Everyday People
-- Steve Klinge, The Philadelphia Inquirer
NEW SINGLE REVIEWS
NINE INCH NAILS
Copy of A (Polydor)
Despite its rather generic sounding title, Trent Reznor's latest single from the recently released Hesitation Marks album is a brilliantly paced, dystopian electro-rocker, packed with an unsettling energy and synthetic sex appeal that perfectly straddles the line between vintage NIN and new-era NIN. ****
DAFT PUNK feat. Pharrell Williams
Lose Yourself to Dance (Columbia)
A definite stand-out from Random Access Memories and a natural follow-up to Get Lucky, Lose Yourself to Dance delivers more funk-drenched guitar work from Chic's Nile Rodgers, punchy handclaps, and Phrarrell's falsetto trading off with more of those delicious robot vocals we all love so very much. *** 1/2
We'll assume the upcoming Hunger Games sequel is just as intense and action-packed as the first one. Although you'd never know it, based on this sleepy, piano-driven first single from the Catching Fire soundtrack. Perhaps in the context of the film it might be more powerful, but on its own, Chris Martin and company are about as exciting as watching a turkey thaw. **
-- reviewed by Steve Adams