Friday, December 02, 2005

2005 albums, continued

The New Pornographers: Twin Cinema (Matador, 2005). Here’s where all the supergroup comparisons come home to roost. Like Led Zeppelin before them they lay claim to their rightful place as the preeminent rock band of this century. But where the former used blues as their main drive engine, A.C. Newman and company rely on ‘60s power pop formula. Call them the Shins, but with extra octane, the album is relentless in its energy from start to finish. And everyone gets to play this time, which is nice. Neko Case is joined by newcomer Nora O’Connor on vocals. Even Newman’s niece gets to play the keybs. Staying power will be their biggest test; after all we all know what happened to Zeppelin after IV, and this is their third album. A

Ani DiFranco: Knuckle Down (Righteous Babe, 2005). Maturity has not dulled her gifting. With 15 years and 17 albums behind her, the not pretty enough little girl who lashed out brilliantly at the world for all her troubles has grown into a fairly even-tempered young woman. She still has a chip on her shoulder, and good for her. But, unlike her earlier efforts, here she focuses her anger and her pen too. The result is as well rounded an album as she as ever recorded. Lyrics like “But a lesson must be lived / in order to be learned / and the clarity to see and stop this now / that is what I’ve earned,” reveal an artist wise beyond her 34 years of life, and far more accomplished than most women ten years her senior. A

The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan (V2, 2005). Sure My Doorbell signals a desire on the part of Jack White to go pop as it were. So what? Since when has commercial success been a crime? Not even Meg's rather average drum playing can hide the fact that despite all the hoopla over their supposed ground-breaking, indie cult following, what they really are is a pretty damn good rock and roll band. And Jack, for all his rather predictable emoting (do I hear a trace of Robert Plant?) is following in a grand tradition of rock stars that went before him. Did I also forget to mention he writes good lyrics? A

Loudon Wainwright III: Here Come the Choppers (Sovereign Arts, 2005). Never one to mince words or cover up the fact that he’s been a pretty deplorable father (Hello Martha, Hello Rufus), Loudon this time goes macro. His angst over Bush is genuine as is his mourning over 9/11 (No Sure Way). If he sounds less, well, funnier than usual, maybe it’s because at this stage of his life the jokes don’t come as frequently as they used to. Or maybe it’s because he’s stopped running long enough to know that humor was always his number one narcotic. A-

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