If You Have Ghost
Who loves a Swedish band that sounds as if their heroes are Night Ranger and Foreigner? Dave Grohl, that’s who. The Grohl-produced If You Have Ghost is the latest triumph for the Swedes, who have released two albums to fawning critical praise and high fives from Metallica, among others. If You Have Ghost features covers of “If You Have Ghosts” (originally recorded By Roky Erickson), “I Am A Marionette” (ABBA), and “Waiting For The Night” (Depeche Mode). Perhaps in their original form these songs thrill, but Ghost B.C.’s versions are so melodramatic and rawk, they’re simply silly. Final track “Secular Haze” rescues Ghost B.C. from oblivion with a metal doomfest that is both carnival-spooky and soothingly melodic.
Millsap grew up in the Pentacostal Church, and themes of religion and redemption permeate his gorgeous, gritty, emotional album. His great gifts as a writer and singer— with a voice like Paul Simon meets Steve Forbert, if you can imagine—are revealed beautifully with the help of producer Wes Sharon. Judicious use of strings and horns expand the world of a singer/songwriter/ guitarist whose work, by rights, should reach far beyond the Americana genre.
Close to the Glass
The first album since 2008 from melancholic glitch-pop quartet The Notwist, Close to the Glass exhibits a less fragile, more digital tenor. Whereas 2008’s The Devil, You + Me still felt like a band fraying at the edges from electronic processing, this album features far more resolute and meticulously sequenced furrows. Where the Notwist succeeds is never letting in-the-box production sound more theoretical than corporeal. Postrock and shoegazer slurries reverberate among tense, haunted motifs.
Gravity the Seducer Remixed
That this Liverpudlian quartet has not only survived but thrived since their inception in 1999 is testament to Ladytron’s electronic pop wizardry. White Elephant’s “Strange Fruit” remix sounds like Stereolab lost in a black hole; White Gold’s “Tarsius” is all house groove and Bowie-inflected vocals; Melting Ice’s “Chaotic Good” is a study in sample chaos, dubstep trippy glissandos, and Vocoder-treated vocal. But it’s Ladytron’s songs you’ll remember most.
Too Much Information
Tense, barely contained, trapped energy is Maximo Park’s calling card. Too Much Information retains that manic, pulsating-veins vibe, but has many moments of clarity. The sadly reflective “Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry” and “Is It True” are close to being ballads, and in a dramatic change of tone, “Leave This Island” sounds like an Erasure tribute with its smooth synths and even smoother vocal delivery. The deluxe version includes five covers, including songs by Leonard Cohen and Mazzy Star.
Hard Working Americans
Hard Working Americans
Brilliant singer/ songwriter/ storyteller Todd Snider fronts this hippie rock ’n’ roll supergroup that also includes Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, Ryan Adams’ guitarist Neal Casal, Great American Taxi keyboardist Chad Staehly, and drummer Butch Trucks. The album comprises covers of essential, powerful songs (by Lucinda Williams, Randy Newman, and others) about the life of blue-collar workers in America. Every track is dark, bluesy, spacey, smart, and heartfelt.
Skaters are simultaneously coordinated, flailing, pious, irreverent … they’re dying to live, devoted masochists. Musicians can embody similarly adrenalized tension sonically, though refinished for more populist ends. New York City trio Skaters is a prime example. The modrockers combine The Strokes’ ragged LES melodies, hints of 2 Tone’s checkerboard tempo swings and Britpop’s hooligan smirk, plus New Wave’s baritone strut and hardcore’s sprint; the result reverberates with 2001’s unbridled energy. TONY WARE