Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New-Release Tuesday

Arguably my favorite all-time artist returns to his roots today. Elvis Costello changes genres like I change socks. Like my footwear, he occasionally has holes (see opera and some of his classical music). Lifelong fans will tell you ever since the 'My Aim Is True' demos back in 1977 the Renaissance man has had a streak of flawless country. That was especially apparent with the releases of 'Almost Blue' in 1981 and 'King of America' in 1986. Depending on the time of day, I may place 'King of America' as my favorite album in the entire Costello canon. Upon my first listens to 'Secret, Profane & Sugarcane', I'm happy to report this boot scoot also has the loot.

This one is infused with more bluegrass than Costello's previous moseying, but the results are still worth corralling. T-Bone Burnett's production is as good as his work on 'King of America', and the handful of covers mix well with Costello's originals. In much the same way Jenny Lewis' harmonies were welcome on his last record, Emmylou Harris' vocals are a perfect fit for this genre. It's not surprising since these songs sound like something right out of the Gram Parsons songbook. Stream the entire record here. You may recognize 'Complicated Shadows' and the one below, 'Hidden Shame', from Costello's 1996 album 'All This Useless Beauty'. Then again, these songs have gone through such a twangy transformation you may not recognize them at all. Like Sir Paul, Costello has gone the Starbucks music imprint for this release. That's a rant for another day.

Elvis Costello - Hidden Shame (mp3)

While I'm waxing western, this is a good time to let you know Concord Records reissued Ray Charles' 'Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music' today. Volumes 1 and 2 appear on one disc (that's 24 tracks, kids!), or you can download from Amazon ($9.49), iTunes ($9.99) or straight from Concord ($8.98). In my humble opinion, this is his best post-Atlantic record.

I'm a sucker for the Swedes. I probably wouldn't put The Sounds among my favorite Scandinavian rockers, but I enjoyed the single 'Song With a Mission' on their last record. Talk about a car-stereo cranker. Speaking of the last record, 'Dying to Say This to You' has the sexiest album cover of all time. Period. I have to admit it lost a little luster after I found out (months after I first saw it) the girls pictured weren't in the band. Wah-wah. The first thing you notice about the band's latest, 'Crossing the Rubicon', is that the cover isn't sexy at all. I give the album a marginal passing grade. Here's my favorite.

The Sounds - Dorchester Hotel (mp3)

I haven't heard these yet, but just a heads up that Franz Ferdinand and Eels have new ones today. I'm sort of over Franz Ferdinand at this point, but I thought Eels' last one, 'Blinking Lights and Other Revelations', was terrific. Tom Waits helped on the record, and it showed. You can stream the new one, 'Homebre Lobo,' at the band's Web site. The Franz Ferdinand record, 'Blood', is a dub mix of 'Tonight,' the band's third record that was released earlier this year. Yawn.

Eels - That Look You Give That Guy (mp3)

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