Recess (Owsla/Big Beat/Atlantic)
Skrillex is this generation's rave king, a sultan of sub-bass EDM whose singular look (shaved sides, long locks, thick glasses) and double sound (dub-step's room-shaking wub, techno's deep drops) made him a hero to fans, remix clients and fellow producer/DJs alike.
He recently released Recess, his first solo album, first as an Android and iPhone app called Alien Ride, and now it's out as a CD. Recess plays with the electro-music form, both revelling in and toying with his personal musical signatures. The hard-line All Is Fair in Love and Brostep both plays up and deflates the boot-stomping machismo of dub-step. Coast Is Clear, with guest Chicago sensation Chance the Rapper, injects a delectable, dance-hop feel into the proceedings, while bringing in buoyant brass and lush vocal harmonies for something fleshly and real.
Speaking of fleshly and real, we really get both when Skrillex calls upon Diplo, whose grungy Dirty Vibe is aptly titled.
Even when catchy, some of Recess can sometimes sound samey. Still, as far as samey goes, it's a good samey. 3-1/2 stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: Coast is Clear
-- A.D. Amorosi, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey
Going Back Home (Chess)
What do you get when you combine the talents of one semi-obscure pub rock guitarist/songwriter stricken with terminal cancer with arguably one of the best-known rock vocalists of all time? One mediocre album, that's what.
Don't get us wrong. Wilko Johnson, after a career in the trenches of U.K. rock under-stardom deserves the notoriety he will no doubt gain for working with the Who frontman Daltrey on an album that contains mostly Johnson originals. The guitarist's chop 'n' bend technique is as good as ever on tracks like Ice On the Motorway and Some Kind of Hero. Daltrey, on the other hand, doesn't add anything beyond the required vocalizations. His voice frogs out continuously as he attempts to reach by now unattainable notes, and while he seems genuinely on board with helping Johnson in his waning days on earth, Daltrey's star power is really only added window dressing on Going Back Home.
There are times where marketing and artistry actually merge successfully, unfortunately this isn't one of them. 3 stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: All Through the City
-- Jeff Monk
Take Out a Twenty and Live Life to the Fullest (Six Shooter)
Harlan Pepper (named after Christopher Guest's character in the film Best in Show) is a young quartet from Hamilton who recorded their first album when they were 17-years-old. Now in their 20s and releasing their sophomore disc, the band has become less rootsy, more rocky... and trippy.
Obviously they've spent many a rainy afternoon dropping needles on their parents' (and grandparents') record collections as influences range from CCR (Love Takes a Lot) to the Band (Risky Business) to the Yardbirds (House Special). They also do pretty quite beautifully as shown on tracks like Allison and I Can't Swim (featuring fiddler/vocalist Kendal Carson of Belle Starr).
Having a famous father in the family doesn't hurt either. Bassist/vocalist Thompson Wilson's dad, Tom Wilson (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Junkhouse), plays on a couple of tracks. Fellow BARK mate Colin Linden not only plays on the disc, but also produced the project in Nashville at Ben Folds' studio.
Three of the four band members contribute vocals, but it's the incredibly unique and totally engaging voice of Dan Edmonds that really sets this band apart from their contemporaries. 4-1/2 stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: House Special
-- Bruce Leperre
It's True (Independent)
Winnipeggers of a certain vintage will remember Load and its magnetic frontwoman, Carrie Luce Forsythe, from a pair of '90s albums -- Delicates (1996) and Encoded and Dirty (1998).
Some 16 years since its last recorded output, Load is back with It's True, a 12-song collection that picks up right where Luce and co. left off.
The album opens with Slow Train, a cut from Encoded and Dirty, which is perhaps an acknowledgment that the new Load, comprised of Luce, bassist Avi-G and guitarist Johnny Stewart (Red Fisher, Black Halos), is no different from past incarnations. Through the next 11 songs, Load's core three-piece (with help from drummer Darren Achorn and programming by James Barr of Portishead) explores pop, trip hop, atmospheric rock and even some dub snippets -- all of which are held together by the clarity of Luce's voice. Whether purring the catchy, melodic chorus of Bruce Lee or almost chanting the echoey, faraway vocal line of Inside My Heart, Luce is clearly what holds this Load together.
It's True is available on the iTunes store. 3-1/2 stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: Bruce Lee, Great Great Day
-- John Kendle
THIS WEEK'S SINGLES
Dare (La La La) (RCA/Sony)
Shakira had a huge hit with 2010's World Cup theme song Waka Waka (This Time For Africa), so why not get her to do it again for the 2014 World Cup in Rio De Janeiro? Dare is a lot clubbier than Waka Waka (thanks to the Afrojack production), but all the crowd-pleasing elements are very much intact, including plenty of chanting and some absolutely thunderous drums, perfect for getting an entire stadium on its feet. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
ENRIQUE IGLESIAS FEAT. FLO RIDA
There Goes My Baby (Universal)
Following up the over-the-top obnoxiousness of I'm a Freak, this latest single from Enrique's new Sex and Love album is a lot easier to take, although he walks the line between pop brilliance and total cheese pretty tightly. The chorus is insanely memorable, and the jaunty, reggae-lite beat has summertime fun written all over it. 'Ö'Ö'Ö
Recess (Big Beat/Atlantic)
The title track of Skrillex's new album is a little all-over-the-map. Pitched-up, chipmunk vocals, Fatman Scoop bellowing, and a reggaeton beat to start before erupting into the in-your-face, womp-womp electro he's so well known for. It's one of those club tracks that sounds cool as you're listening to it, but once it's done, it's immediately forgotten. 'Ö'Ö'Ö
-- reviewed by Steve Adams