THIS WEEK'S SINGLES
Stray Heart (Reprise)
Billie Joe Armstrong very clearly stated he wanted to get back to the band's beginnings for its new trilogy of albums. Picking up where áUno! left off, the first single from the upcoming áDos! is a frolicking Lust for Life-ish piece of bubblegum punk, and might very well be the poppiest thing they've ever done. 'Ö'Ö'Ö
T.I. FEAT. LIL' WAYNE
Apparently after being released from prison last year, T.I. really wanted to make up for lost time and recorded upwards of 80 tracks for his forthcoming Trouble Man record. You can definitely feel Weezy's influence on this one, as it veers more than slightly into ridiculousness, complete with references to "killin' hoes like Ted Bundy" and a persistent xylophone that sounds like a cartoon skeleton playing his own ribcage. 'Ö'Ö'Ö
Pyramid (Photek Productions)
Aside from last year's brief Avalanche EP, the drum 'n bass legend hasn't put out a proper full-length since 2007. This first single from the newly released Ku:Palm is a trippy, paranoid excursion, loaded with shuffling percussion that recalls the late-'90s works of The Herbaliser and DJ Shadow. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
-- reviewed by Steve Adams
With Crazy Horse
Psychedelic Pill (Warner)
The new Neil Young album is a weighty opus that takes a while to get through but in the end proves that these aging rockers still have something to offer. Neil weighs in on the poor sonic quality of MP3 music files, his experience with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the cost of Neil's personal mantra, his new book Waging Heavy Peace and a real or imagined hairstyle Young labels a "hip-hop haircut." And that's all in the first song.
That initial track, Driftin' Back, literally drifts for nearly 28 minutes as well. After that Neil and The Horse ply their trade in semi-usual fashion. Second guitarist Pancho Sampedro and old Shakey trade their usual heroic, sustained riffs back and forth while the well-weathered rhythm section of Billy Talbot and Frank Molina lumber on righteously.
It's a listenable set of songs that is closer in overall mood to 1994's terrific Sleeps With Angels than their peculiar cover songs release from earlier this year, Americana. This pill is an easy one to swallow. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
Born In Ontario, Driftin' Back
-- Jeff Monk
The Skeptic & the Cynic
On his debut recording, Winnipeg drummer Curtis Nowosad leads a powerhouse band on two originals and six instrumental jazz covers of pop tunes by the likes of Michael Jackson (The Way You Make Me Feel), Joni Mitchell (My Old Man), Pink Floyd (Welcome to the Machine) and 2pac (California Love).
Nowosad's title tune stands out among a strong selection of performances and arrangements, followed closely by the opening track, the Jackson tune, with a punchy front line.
The young drummer is an effective leader, driving the music without turning the album into an extended drum solo. The band is tight; local musicians who Nowosad has performed with countless times such as contemporaries pianist Will Bonness and bassist Julian Bradford, and mentors like bassist Steve Kirby, trumpeter Derrick Gardner and saxophonist Jimmy Greene.
Nowosad is a bright young musician, and this debut disc is a very good jazz album. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
The Skeptic & the Cynic
-- Chris Smith
Heart On My Sleeve (Independent)
Winnipeg singer/songwriter Don Amero is proof positive that hard work and the right choices and chances can propel an artist to success. At four full-length albums (not including a seasonal album) into his career Amero has established his integrity as a powerful stylist with plenty of room to expand his repertoire.
Amero's wheelhouse is pretty much centred on his sweet-as-maple-syrup vocals and earnest, laid-back way with a song. It works, to a point, on Heart. After the initial warm glow initiated by the first few tracks, the sameness of the delivery plows through.
It's one thing to wear your heart on your sleeve track after track, but after a while you need something to catch the blood. The album features a pair of songs twice, yet the versions offer no noticeable difference from their twin.
As a stage memento it works, and Amero's busy schedule should get this into a lot of happy hands. 'Ö'Ö 1/2
Sound of Us Going Down
-- Jeff Monk
Swedish House Mafia
Until Now (Astralwerks/Virgin)
Swedish House Mafia, a trio of electronic DJs and producers, have ruled mega-concert dance floors for a few years now. But a quandary has risen out of years of success: deliver more of the same or break new creative ground? Until Now opts for the former.
What Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell have delivered is not bad house music, per se. If you like your beats fast and loud and mostly devoid of the funky Chicago/Detroit framework that gave birth to the genre, the album will suit you fine. It is, however, underneath the flat mixing and uninventive tempo builds, a touch simplistic.
Songs like Don't You Worry Child and In My Mind, the latter an Axwell remix of an Ivan Gough and Feenixpawl tune, are achingly basic in approach and delivery. If you've ever heard any electronica, you'll know every note that is about to come and every drumroll that looms around each corner.
Slightly better is Lights, which dives deep into a matrix of percussion. The track sizzles with urgency and is a better crafted mix than most others on Until Now.
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-- Ron Harris, The Associated Press