Wednesday, February 15, 2006

In With the New.

Some new music for the new year.

Rosanne Cash: Black Cadillac (Capitol, 2006). With the loss of her step mother and both parents all within the space of two years, this is her loving memorial, if you will. In the title track she laments, "one of us gets to go to heaven, one has to stay here in hell." While in "I Was Watching You," she looks down from heaven at her parents wedding day and then watches their marriage fall apart knowing there's nothing she can do to stop it. As the sole matriarch of a family of tragedies and triumphs she finally comes to grips with her past, and accepts the truth that long after life there's still love; the love of her husband and kids; the love of her daddy who is still watching over her. Her grief is transcended finally by her father's faith. A faith that is now hers to bare. This is her finest album since Interiors, and its courage is as undeniable as it is redemptive. A

Belle & Sebastian: The Life Pursuit (Matador, 2006). The evolution of Stuart Murdoch continues. If their fans thought Dear Catastrophe Waitress was a betrayal of their '60s signature sound, then this year's edition will only rile them further. The departure of Isobel Campbell means it's truly Murdoch's band again, not that that was ever in doubt. While "Another Sunny Day" and "Dress Up In You" are the sentimental favorites here, what sets this album apart from the rest and, maybe, brings them the notoriety they've been looking for, are the risky tunes like "The Blues Are Still Blue" and "White Collar Boy," the former exhibiting traces of '70s glam rock, the latter reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys. Equal parts diverse and divisive, they prove that those who live in the past die in the past. A-

The Strokes: First Impressions of Earth (RCA, 2006). "I've got nothing to say/I've got nothing to say/I've got nothing to say," Julian Casablancas moans over and over on "Ask Me Anything." But lyrics have never been this band's strong suit anyway; it's always been the hard-edged guitar playing that put them over. After three years they go for a slightly tighter, more rock, less grunge, sound. Contrary to the pundits who keep trying to link them with Franz Ferdinand - absurd if only because Alex Kapranos isn't the singer Casablancas is and the Strokes play harder and more consistent - this sounds strangely reminiscent of U2 circa 1984, only better. In deed on "On the Other Side," Casablancas seems determined to become a Bono clone, with the exception that unlike the former, Casablancas isn't nearly as optimistic about us humans, which means he isn't a utopian. Being the realist I am, I'll take the latter's word for it. A-

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