Keeping My CD Player Warm These Days:
Portishead's third album, which arrived a full 11 years after its predecessor. Damn, alot has changed since then, hasn't it. But Portishead seemed to have been cryogenically preserved. If anything, Third is a renewed statement of purpose from this mysterious, influential and ridiculously awesome Bristol band. I've been spinning this baby a LOT.
Muscular modern metal with an eye toward the 1970s, and plenty of memorable choruses to make repeated spins consistently enjoyable. See also: The Sword.
The Futureheads' third album is a strident, breathless blast of tuneful guitar pop that continues to carry the torch for forbears like Billy Bragg, XTC and Joe Jackson, although there's nothing here quite as flawlessly catchy as "Skip to the End".
It's incredible that this band is still going, and even more impressive that their songwriting is still so good and their performances still so strong. But ya know what? King's X is simply still HUNGRY. My only complaint is Michael Wagener's production -- not so much "production" as just very nice recording. I would love to hear KX in the hands of a more visionary producer again (it's been a long time since the Sam Taylor days). Still, their fifteenth album is a fine one. What else would one expect?
I am not crazy about Hard Candy. It just sounds like ordinary post-millenial chart fodder, what with the presence of Timberlake, Timbaland and Kanye. I could definitely live without all them. The music is a bit cookie-cutter, and Maddy's parts sound phoned-in; Confessions was a much better, much tighter dance-pop record. I would love to see Madonna do something more along the lines of Bedtime Stories next time around -- the sexy-but-mature vibe of that record (and all of her 90s output, really) seems much better suited to a woman of her age. She doesn't need to compete with the half-nude celebu-tarts anymore -- she's Madonna.
Patti's brand new album unsurprisingly hits the ball out of the park on all counts: super-catchy songs, lyrical witticisms, pathos and world-class production courtesy of Freddie Katz, who also happens to be her guitarist and boyfriend. The Ramones, Bowie and Patti Smith are all channeled into the proceedings here, but Patti's milieu is its own thing, at the end of the day. Meticulously prepared yet loose, spontaneous, fun and affecting, Double Standards is a more-than-worthy follow up to Candelabra Cadabra.