New Release Sampler 7/29/2014
Welcome to another week of new and exciting releases. Classic-rock fans have two releases to look forward to this week, including one from Eric Clapton, who put together an all-star tribute to JJ Cale, and a brand-new set of originals from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Speaking of classic, the release of the movie Get On Up: The James Brown Story is as good an occasion as any to compile some of J.B.'s greatest hits, like "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Meanwhile, indie chanteuse Jenny Lewis' new album, The Voyager, was produced by Ryan Adams and Beck and hits a Laurel Canyon-inspired sweet spot that's particularly great in the summer sunshine. Speaking of Beck, fans will want to check out Song Reader, which features artists as diverse as Norah Jones, former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell, Latin heartthrob Juanes and fun. interpreting the songs Beck wrote in sheet music form back in 2012.
Those looking for something a little more hard-hitting should give new albums from Theory of a Deadman and Deaf Havana a spin, while dance and hip-hop enthusiasts might want to give Diplo's Random White Dude Be Everywhere and Shabazz Palaces' Lese Majesty a listen. We also have new singles from Maroon 5, Bebel Gilberto, The Dream Academy (remember their big '80s hit "Life in a Northern Town?"), K-OS, Porter Robinson and more. Hit play to hear more, and keep reading to check out our thoughts on the week's top five new releases.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Hypnotic Eye
After releasing several albums heavily informed by vintage blues, R&B and folk, Tom Petty returns with a record that is 100% rock 'n' roll. It's super-political, too. Over grungy guitars and deliciously retro-freakbeat grooves (think Crazy Horse meets The Black Keys), Petty spits venom about money-hungry power brokers, neo-cons hell-bent on destroying the middle class, small-town political corruption and the need to keep fighting for that strange thing known as the American Dream. But maybe the most potent rocker is "Fault Lines," in which Petty eviscerates his own insecurities and failings. -- Justin Farrar
Jenny Lewis, The Voyager
Former Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis has released her finest solo album to date. The Voyager one-ups other contemporary indie pop smashes with even better songwriting, all under an '80s pop sheen that makes "Head Underwater" and "She's Not Me" sound like Stevie Nicks, Heart and Tom Petty (you can even hum "Free Fallin'" over the latter). The sing-along-worthy "Just One of the Guys" lands every line on a killer "whoa-oh-oh" hook, while "Love U Forever" finds a new way to make that uber-cliché title shimmer with lines like, "When you kissed me/ I was so annoyed." -- Dan Weiss
Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty
With Lese Majesty the collective turns its ethos for sonic inscrutability into a provocation. Tracks are broken into short fragments. "Solemn Swears" and "Harem Aria" drown in ambient stargazing, while "Noetic Noiromantics" is sequenced like skipping vinyl. A missing element is Palaceer Lazaro's fanciful wordplay, which appears briefly on "Motion Sickness" and "#CAKE," the latter shimmying like a bounce track. But words are secondary in this abstract art piece where mood and vibes trump rap aesthetics. As Lazaro says on "They Come in Gold," "One picture's worth a thousand swerves." -- Mosi Reeves
On his first record since 2013's Lift Me Up EP, Rusko continues to explore a variety of styles and tempos. The bouncy "Like a Boss" sounds like a cartoon rendition of trap, while the strafing arpeggios of "Sunshower" recall the crystal architectures of Rustie and Hudson Mohawke. With the sax-like bleats of "My Style," he hits upon a fusion of Miami bass and "Calabria," and the self-explanatorily titled "Happy Chords" is all about upbeat tone color. Finally, the jazzy "Rusko's Theme" might be mistaken for one of Squarepusher's winking drill 'n' bass jams. -- Philip Sherburne
Various Artists, Beck's Song Reader
One of Beck's best album in years isn't performed by Beck at all, except for the doleful, McCartney-esque "Heaven's Ladder." Instead, artists like Jack White, fun. and Norah Jones interpret tracks from Beck's original sheet music collection. Highlights include David Johansen's "Rough on Rats," Loudon Wainwright III's "Do We? We Do," White's "I'm Down" and Jones' excellent "Just Noise." The focus on live instruments grounds the chord progressions without letting samples or technology gloss over melody, while the lyrics are much more lighthearted than Beck's earlier 2014 release, Morning Phase. -- D.W.