Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1: A Tribute to Sun Records (Surfdog)
Here's the album Brain Setzer was born to make. Since his days with the Stray Cats and through his long tenure fronting a big band, Setzer has never veered too far from his roots in rockabilly. But this generous 23-song set lets him really go crazy, as he fronts a small group and rocks hard through an excellent selection of well-known (“Red Hot,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Get Rhythm”) but fairly obscure Sun Records treasures from the '50s. How can you lose with tunes like “Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford” and “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache”? Setzer's singing has just the right rough edge to handle the wildest material, and his guitar playing, as always, is raw but right.
Producers: Dave Darling, Setzer. Engineers: Jeff Peters, Neil Cappellino. Mix: Peters. Studio: The Castle (Nashville). Mastering: Adam Ayan/Gateway Mastering (Portland, Maine).
— Blair Jackson
ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS
I Am a Bird Now (Secretly Canadian)
If you saw Lou Reed's 2003 tour for The Raven, you'll remember being haunted by Antony's angelic voice and androgynous beauty as he backed Reed in several duets. The singer's cabaret-inspired rock project, Antony & The Johnsons, spent 2004 and 2005 releasing EPs and a second full-length CD, I Am a Bird Now. The new album showcases the contrast between Antony's falsetto-laced, world-weary voice and well-known contributing artists — Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Boy George and Devendra Banhart — but it's often the subtle, artful playing of The Johnsons (Julia Kent, cello; Todd Cohen, drums; Jeff Langston, bass; Joanna Wasser, violin/vocals; Maxin Moston, violin/keyboard; and Rob Moose, guitar/violin) that frames and balances Antony's experimentation. Unique and emotionally revealing music, this is an intense piece not meant for casual listening.
Tracking: Emery Dobyns and Dick Kondas at Sorcerer Sound and Dubway (New York City). Mixing and mastering: Doug Hendersen at his studio in Brooklyn.
— Breean Lingle
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE
Out-of-State Plates (Virgin Records)
Shoegazers, Brit-poppers, Emo rockers — take a pill and dose up on modern power pop heroes Fountains of Wayne's latest release, two CDs' worth of bonus tracks, live tracks, home demos and other “non-album” tracks from the band's decade-long career. The comp leads with “Maureen,” a new song (one of two) jammed with hyperspeed guitar melodies, retro keyboards and a bouncy, stuttery chorus (“d-d-d-do you know what I mean”). Old B-sides such as “Janice's Party,” “Baby I've Changed,” “I Want You Around” and the previously unreleased “The Girl I Can't Forget” make for choice leftovers, along with their ELO, Britney Spears and Gene Pitney covers. “Enjoy in moderation,” their liner notes advise; in this case, I'd much rather overindulge.
Producers: Chris Collingwood, Mike Denneen. Engineers: Collingwood and many, many others. Mix: Tom Lord-Alge. Mastering: George Marino.
— Heather Johnson
TheFuture — Embrace (Warner Bros. Records)
When I first heard that Billy Corgan was releasing a solo CD, I was a bit hesitant to give it a listen, figuring that he would use the Smashing Pumpkins' past successes (and sound) to catapult his own career. But I caved. I was amazed to hear how non-Pumpkins it sounds — full of lush, shadowy guitar lines, ambient side notes and ever-changing rhythms. The lyrics are full of emotional push and pulls; Corgan must have stolen from his recently released poetry book, Blinking With Fists. Standout tracks include “DIA” (handpicked by Courtney Love and featuring former Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin), an unlikely remake of the Bee Gees' “To Love Somebody” with The Cure's Robert Smith singing backup and numerous odes to his Chicago hometown.
Producers: Corgan, Bon Harris, Bjorn Thorsrud. Engineer: Thorsrud. Mixers: Corgan, Thorsrud, Alan Moulder. Mix Engineer: Ron Lowe. Studios: Pumpkinland, Chicago Recording Company. Mastering: Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk (New York City).
— Sarah Benzuly
THE WHITE STRIPES
Get Behind Me Satan (V2)
Nothing released by the Detroit-based duo could prepare a listener for Get Behind Me Satan, the new album from the White Stripes. Almost completely devoid of Jack White's signature guitar playing, Satan relies mainly on piano, brooding lyrics about truth, and — get this — marimbas. It gets better with every listen. Satan lacks much of the guitar-heavy rock that made White Blood Cells (2001) and Elephant (2003) work, but there's a difference between a drunken, Courtney Love stumble and a Savion Glover — inspired sashay. Satan is of the latter variety: an artful divergence from previous works that only deepens the Stripes' catalog. This is never more apparent than on the funky “My Doorbell” and the moody “I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet),” where Jack White's falsetto channels the late Janis Joplin.
Producer: Jack White. Mixers: White, John Hampton, Adam Hill. Studios: Ardent Studios (Memphis), Third Man Studios (Detroit). Mastering: Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk (New York City).
— Ryan Wilkins
Prefuse 73 Reads The Books E.P. (Warp Records)
Let's say you're sitting on the subway listening on your iPod. Let's also say that I snag your iPod and load onto it Prefuse 73 Reads the Books E.P. — a sonic collaboration between Prefuse 73 (alias Scott Herren) and experimental indie-glitch rock band The Books. Now sit back and listen — I've just given you the soundtrack to help you relax in the urban hustle and bustle.
The stringed instruments' tones are sliced, diced and then masterfully spliced together with Prefuse 73's electronic, groove-intensive samples. “Pagina Dos” takes a page straight out of the handbook of Four Tet, only it's set at a speed of 33 rpm rather than 78. It's got the glitchiness of Squarepusher blended with the mellow, ambient sounds of Boards of Canada. “Pagina Cinco” has a slow, sexy, romantic vibe infused with the smooth, stringed honesty that The Books provide. Collaboration truly is a beautiful thing.
Producer: Scott Herren. Tracking: Herren's personal studio in Spain.
— Lori Kennedy