Every Tuesday, Dan Weiss runs down the week’s new full-length music releases, from charting hits to more obscure depths, the underrated and the overrated, from a critical pop fan’s perspective.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel – Hey Hey It’s…the Jeffrey Lewis and Peter Stampfel Band (self-released)
On the first track, two generations of fringe-folk legends rightfully claim to “have so much fun it isn’t fair.” They more than make good on this claim by the time we reach “Do You Know Who I Am? I’m %$&in’ Snooki!!” (“4’8 and cute as hell, I’m Snooki/ I’m the reason that Rome fell, I’m Snooki,” etc.) and well before the informative “Indie Bands on Tour” (“See the mattress on the floor/ See the tip jar on the floor/ All day on the phone with NPR”). Stampfel’s actually old enough to claim that he taught Allen Ginsberg how to write a poem, and despite his always-hilarious voice, “All the Time in the World” is beauteous enough to remind us to appreciate the 74-year-old while he’s still alive.
Selena Gomez – Stars Dance (Hollywood)
There’s blessedly little to invest in Ms. Justin Bieber, and unless she wields a hit as big as “Love You Like a Love Song”, she is taking a musical hiatus after dropping this solo effort to continue where Spring Breaks left off: being taken seriously. But lest you hold her idiot boyfriend’s overrated music or her acting debut on Barney and Friends against her, this gets much better after the horribly annoying “Birthday” opener. “Slow Down,” “Nobody Does It Like You” and “Music Feels Better” are as good as lite-EDM gets; they’re at least as club-worthy and ear-tickling as anything by Avicii. But nothing here tops her version of “Cruella De Vil”.
Gogol Bordello – Pure Vida Conspiracy (ATO)
Having exhausted the aural limitations of leading the world’s most intense live act, Eugene Hutz turns out his most lyrical album ever, with nuggets from “You taught your parrot to stutter/ Now you repeat his own chatter” to “When your enemy get cornered/ Let him down don’t break him down.” While addressing tunes to “prin-chi-pesa” and “Mama Sutra,” they inveigh against the nightmare of Putin with their signature rhetoric: accordions, violins, reggae, Latin polkas, and on the hidden track—yes, hidden track—hardcore punk. Hutz commands the greatest “ya heys” this side of Vampire Weekend, but their major label reign struggles to find their ease; nothing here is so simple or powerful as 2005’s credo, “In the old time/ It was not a crime.”
F**k Buttons – Slow Focus (ATP)
Hearing their music at the Olympics was Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power’s Three 6 Mafia Oscar moment, validation that disproved the limits of their noise-electronic appeal. But then you have to respect their commitment to inscrutability, turning in the opposite direction right after you’ve pegged one of the many, many sounds they stick to the wall. Although like wad after wad of chewed-up gum, said wall starts to get a little gray after a while. “The Red Wing” tricks you into thinking its guitar-like textures are some species of rock, while “Sentinents” supports the claim they’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop. If they discover country next time out they can surprise us for real.
Triángulo de Amor Bizarro – Victoria Mística (Mushroom Pillow)
This Spanish quartet’s 2010 masterpiece Año Santo combined the hardest-rocking, industrial aspects of My Bloody Valentine and A Place to Bury Strangers with the occasional perfectly realized indie-pop anthem; start with opener “De la Monarquía a la Criptocracia” immediately and get mad at The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Their first album in three years is ever so slightly less of a riff juggernaut, with the guitars sanded down to say, Wire range, with the songs no less catchy for it, in part because they’ve discovered how synthesized strings can spread hooks out over a fast tune, a la Arcade Fire’s “No Cars Go” or prime Springsteen. Fans of mbv could still stand to visit the decidedly poppy “Estrellas Místicas” and “Enemigos del Espíritu.” And lest the noise junkies protest, opener “Robo tu Tiempo” brings the chainsaw.
Serj Tankian – Jazz-Iz Christ (Serjical Strike)
A Tale Of Two Prog Rock Frontmen In Denial
by Daniel A. Weiss
With his recent EP as Sons of the Sea, Incubus’ Brandon Boyd is actually grounded by producer legend Brendan O’Brien and makes good on his Prince influences for a couple of tunes with a hint of Billy Preston piano and some fashionable R&B. So I’m somewhat aggrieved to say that Serj Tankian of the sorely missed System of a Down is as ridiculous as ever, leading a jazz band through this horrible, flute-and-trumpet-loaded instrumental album with the occasional crooned one like “Song of Sand” or “Miso Soup”: “Swirling and twirling into each other/ We’re all like miso soup.” Jesus Christ, this is the worst of times.