Shot Of Rhythm

[ Friday, August 18, 2006 ]


Girls rule

Here are three of the latest from three of the most powerful female voices in pop music.

-This Beyonce single, the latest to leak from her upcoming album, makes me feel a lot better about her album than did her first single, the (appropriately) derivative "Deja Vu." Great beat, powerful performance from Ms. Knowles, and the use of sirens in this song is a lot less annoying than other recent appearances by the suddenly-ubiquitous sound effect.

Beyonce - "Ring The Alarm," from B-DAY

-Kelis' new album is spotty, but the high-points match anything she's done. "I Don't Think So" is pure hip-hop spunk mixed with early-80s aggro rock; it's not a stretch to hear Joan Jett or Pat Benatar having their way with this one.

Kelis - "I Don't Think So," from KELIS WAS HERE

-The third song is from a record that's totally blindsided me. Christina Aguilera's new double album is about as good a pop album as we're likely to get this year, filled with the same kind of jazz, swing and blues inflections that mark OutKast's IDLEWILD (which I'll get to, don't worry). On a set full of great singles, "Candyman" has got to be my favorite, and a definite contender for single of the year. Pure, infectious magic, that sounds like it could've been recorded at any point in the last 50 years or so.

Christina Aguilera - "Candyman," from BACK TO BASICS

Girl power! Next post: OutKast, then some more oughta-be Hall of Famers for your debate and perusal.

On the box right now: Christina Aguilera, BACK TO BASICS.


Dove With Claws [7:30 PM]

[ Tuesday, August 15, 2006 ]


Three voices

I've been listening a lot recently to three relatively new releases from three uniquely powerful vocalists. Thought I'd give you a taste...

-First is Ron Sexsmith, who has compiled quite a nice little career of good albums featuring a few great tracks. His newest, TIME BEING, has already been released in Europe, and is scheduled to emerge in the States next month. As usual, Sexsmith hasn't recorded a consistently fine project, but a few of the tightly-crafted songs, sung by Sexsmith with his trademark breathy emotiveness, deserve mention. "Hands Of Time" is a particular monster.

Ron Sexsmith - "Hands Of Time"

Ron Sexsmith - "Cold-Hearted Wind"

-Next is Erika Wennerstrom, leader of the Ohio-based rock group Heartless Bastards. Over their first two albums, the Bastards have emerged as the likely heirs to what makes PJ Harvey's best stuff so good: namely, her (seemingly) signature combination of fire, fury, tenderness and vulnerability. Wennerstrom's voice and songwriting are, without question, the Bastards' defining characteristic, as the intensity of the vocals emerging from the diminutive Wennerstrom are matched perfectly by the no-prisoners songwriting. On their second record, ALL THIS TIME, the raging garage-punk that defined their stellar debut is replaced by a more nuanced, piano-driven sound, although the brimstone guitars still make their appearances. Of course, Wennerstrom's voice would sound powerful even unaccompanied.

Heartless Bastards - "Into The Open"

Heartless Bastards - "Brazen"

-Finally, and hopefully needing no explanation, is Roy Orbison, whose series of classic Monument albums has just been re-released. What strikes me, listening to Orbison's legendary hits in their original context, and discovering interesting album tracks in the process, is how singular Orbison's vocal approach remains: his blend of operatic, Latin, cowboy and pop-ballad influences remains rarely-approximated and never-duplicated (except maybe for Raul Malo's best moments), and there's no better way to rediscover his deeply soulful music than these new reissues. I figure I'd spotlight a track I wasn't expecting (his unsurprisingly great cover of "Great Pretender") and a song the genius of which is worth endless repitition ("In Dreams").

Roy Orbison - "The Great Pretender"

Roy Orbison - "In Dreams"

On the box right now: OutKast, IDLEWILD. Much more on this to come...


Dove With Claws [7:22 AM]