PJ Harvey, Let England Shake
I wasn’t enthralled by Harvey’s White Chalk, which articulated itself in a sustained whisper. And the first time I heard Let England Shake on NPR’s preview feed, I questioned its worth. But what a difference fidelity makes. As soon as I started streaming it on MOG and its beautiful 320kbps ($5/month for 8 million tracks; Try MOG free!), I was enthralled. Layers of weirdness. An album about war that is chilling and beautiful. Standout track is “The Words That Maketh Murder:” pedaled high-tone guitar, punchy brass, a singsongy refrain, and lyrics about war’s horrors… all yielding to an (ironic? contrapuntal? pleading?) query “What if I took my problem to the United Nations?” borrowed from Eddie Cochran, “Summertime Blues.”
Surf City, Kudos
The last time we tuned into New Zealand’s Surf City, we were trying to start a continental shelf war with Australia via their “Icy Lakes”. With an album’s worth of 90s haze, New Zealand has some good ammunition. None of it measures up to the heights of “Icy Lakes,” but it’s a solid effort, and they’re at close to their best when they don their Pavement hat in “Teachers.”
The Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots
I’ve never understood the intensity of Truckers’ neo-country appeal for some (including from one of our top albums of 2010 voters), and this album, offering much of the same, does little to change my mind. But I’ve fallen a tad in love with “Used to Be a Cop,” which I think of as a kind of epilogue to Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman.”
Sure, Tune-Yards’ WhoKill doesn’t come out until April 19th, but the first single did leak this week. And “Bizness” should allay any of you worried about what happens when an artists stops recording on Audacity and has a major (indie) record label behind her. Another album to invalidate our most anticipated of 2011 list.
Mogwai, Hardcore Will Never Die, but You Will
My answer to “post-rock” has always been “Tortoise” or “Godspeed.” “Mogwai” never really did the trick for me. And neither does this album.