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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • These new albums are right on target

  • To these ears, 2010 has been a superb year for new music, with the release of a slew of highly recommendable albums. Here’s another batch of recent CDs (and a concert DVD), each worth checking out.

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  • To these ears, 2010 has been a superb year for new music, with the release of a slew of highly recommendable albums: “This is Happening” by LCD Soundsystem, “Brothers” by the Black Keys, “Transference” by Spoon, “Black Light” by Groove Armada, “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Gang and “Distant Relatives” by Nas and Damian Marley.
    Here’s another batch of recent CDs (and a concert DVD), each worth checking out.
    THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM: “AMERICAN SLANG.” The level of bristling passion in these guys’ music is off the scale. Their songs aim for the epic levels of Springsteen, U2 and the Killers — and sometimes hit the target — while at the same time, Gaslight Anthem remains very much a rock ’n’ roll bar band. Vocalist Brian Fallon sounds utterly committed singing lyrics like, “I seem to be coming out of my skin, the bandages just don’t keep me in” in a powerful rasp.
    SCISSOR SISTERS: “NIGHT WORK.” The third and best disc yet from these Manhattan mischief makers is tuneful, cheeky, cohesive, danceable and utterly addictive. Songs like “Any Which Way,” “Running Out” and “Something Like This” are playfully sexy. “Hard to Get” rocks hard, “Skin Tight” is a superb pop single, and “Night Work” and “Fire to Fire” offer respective nods to the Sisters’ lingering Bee Gees and Elton John influences.
    JOHN BUTLER TRIO: “APRIL UPRISING.” Why this band is not hugely popular and all over the radio is just one of those mysteries. Butler is a skilled Australian guitarist, vocalist and songwriter whose songs are loaded with hooks, vocal harmonies, propulsive rhythms and provocative but nonpreachy lyrics about social injustice and other issues. With a new bassist and drummer in tow, Butler has released a collection whose 15 songs run the gamut from somber and earthy (”Revolution,” “Ragged Mile”) to almost giddily danceable (”One Way Road,” “C’Mon Now”).
    FREE ENERGY: “STEP ON NOTHING.” I checked out Free Energy after I read that LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy had produced the Philadelphia-based band’s debut album. Now I can’t stop playing this CD, which is ultra-catchy, good-time, summer-radio rock ’n’ roll with flavorings of glam, new wave and ’70s classic rock (and cowbell).
    BAND OF HORSES, “INFINITE ARMS.” I’m not loving this quite as much as the band’s 2007 disc “Cease to Begin.” It feels more produced and pretty, and less atmospheric and haunting. Nonetheless, Ben Bridwell’s throaty vocals are utterly distinctive, and songs like “Laredo,” “NW Apt.” and “Compliments” certainly hold their own. 
    MADONNA: “STICKY & SWEET TOUR.” This expertly filmed and edited DVD/CD souvenir of Madonna’s last international concert tour is invigoratingly entertaining. Shot at a vast soccer stadium in Buenos Aires jammed with adoring, jumping fans, the stage show is eye-poppingly inventive, with loads of costumes, dancers, projections and surprises, and many of the 25 songs are dance-remixed. Madonna, now 52, looks terrific, dances athletically while singing strongly, plays lowdown electric guitar, jumps rope double dutch-style, and smiles often. Try to see this on a big-screen TV with theater sound.
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