Jack and Meg White certainly kick up a ruckus on the new White Stripes album Icky Thump. On their sixth album, the duo is louder and bolder than ever before. They try on plenty of previously unexplored American music styles, and the vast majority of it fits nicely. The best news is that it still sounds like The White Stripes.
First a brief history lesson: Joan as Police Woman is the nom de plume of Joan Wasser, a Maine-born, Connecticut-raised, Boston U.-educated singer/songwriter, guitarist and violinist. She was a member of The Dambuilders, a respected Boston band of the early 90's. After the drowning death of her friend and lover Jeff Buckley in 1997, she briefly joined Those Bastard Souls and then embarked upon a career of singing and playing behind some pretty remarkable musicians including Lou Reed, Elton John, Rufus Wainwright, Antony & The Johnsons, Sheryl Crow and others. She began performing as Joan as Police Woman in 2002.
Paul McCartney's new album Memory Almost Full may very well remind all of us of all the elements that made this guy such a talented, celebrated composer and performer in the first place. Let's face a few facts: Sir Paul has let us down in the past. Quite a bit of his solo output of late (he used to be in this band called The Beatles, ya see...) has been disappointing to say the least. Memory Almost Full (great title, by the way) will bring back fond memories of mid-70's Wings, the best parts of his solo albums, and even harkens back to the creative juggernaut that was the "Fab Four".
Bjork's new album Volta is one of the year's most innovative and exotic new releases. Ever since her days as the frontwoman for The Sugarcubes, Bjork has been one of pop music's most enigmatic and other worldly artists, and her solo career has confirmed that even more. Volta hearkens back to the sound of Bjork's earlier solo work yet still has some of the experimental verve of her albums like Vespertine and Medulla.
It's hard to believe that this is Rufus Wainwright's fifth album, but it's true - he's now a seasoned vet. He has grown up considerably on Release The Stars. After battling an array of demons (internal and external), he now sounds happier, more settled, and much more outward-looking. That being said, we still feel the sting of his wit, and the old Rufus sarcasm is still there if you turn over a couple of stones and listen closely.
Jeff Tweedy's a genius, I guess. I say that without any sarcasm intended - it's just that I feel kind of weird pinning that title on a guy who's basically a down-to-earth cat. I came to this realization while listening to the latest Wilco album Sky Blue Sky.
Leslie Feist's third album, The Reminder, is another strong outing from this prolific songstress. She may be best known for her work with Broken Social Scene or Kings Of Convenience, but not for long. This new album reinforces what we already knew... Feist is a very, very good songwriter with a memorable voice.
Helped along with some stellar guests (Joss Stone, Peter Gabriel, Branford Marsalis, Ziggy Marley, etc.) and outstanding Tony Visconti production, Angelique Kidjo's new album Djin Djin is deep and satisfying. This is the Beninise native's first new release since 2004.
Conor Oberst (a.k.a. Bright Eyes) has packed more into his 27 years than most artists accomplish in a lifetime. This new release - Cassadaga - will most certainly contiune the legacy. Named after a spiritualist camp in Florida where Oberst spent some time, Cassadaga is tuneful, bold and a further move away from his earlier work.
The very first time we heard Ryan Shaw's voice, we knew we were listening to something very, very special. He possesses an extremely emotional set of vocal chords. Fortunately for us, it is showcased in a great fashion on This Is Ryan Shaw, his debut album. It's a calling card for a gifted singer, a guy that should be around for a long time.