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CD reviews and more: Gorillaz, Classified, the Kills, Oh Land, Woody Guthrie, Lady Gaga

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Gorillaz' "The Fall" (2 and a half stars) album sees a physical release this week -- on 180-gram vinyl for Record Store Day, then as a CD on Tuesday. "The Fall" was streaming and offered as a download to the fan club in December. Recorded on an iPad in hotel rooms and backstage while the collective was touring North America last autumn, the 15 tracks are low-key, chilled-out, much more roomy and less claustrophobic than "Plastic Beach" (especially "Shytown" -- most tracks have geographic titles -- which sounds like Lake Michigan waves lapping the Oak Street Beach as Damon Albarn coos some falsetto ramblings). It loses itself in its own drone occasionally -- it probably sounds great in a rolling bus -- but it might be the group's most cohesive set yet.

Who's the biggest rapper in Canada? He calls himself Classified, and his latest album just went platinum up there. "Handshakes and Middle Fingers" (3 stars) racked up more plays in my iTunes this week than I expected. That's mainly due to "The Day Doesn't Die," a shuffling rhythm with scratching and acoustic guitar behind the confident-but-comfortable rapping and frosty-cool singing on the refrain's melody. I think I actually wrote this blurb just so I could listen to it again.

Others in the playlist this week ...

The Kills, "Blood Pressures" (3 stars) -- The Kills were pretty good to begin with, but after Alison Mossheart took a break to record two albums with Jack White as the Dead Weather, Alison's aim is much truer. Still soggy with White's swampy blues influence, she pours it into dark tunes like "Satellite" but also swings the dynamics much more in anxious tunes like "Future Starts Slow" and "The Last Goodbye." Sulky and slinky.

Oh Land, "Oh Land" (1 and a halfstars) -- For those who find Robyn too much of a "Fembot," who are too threatened by her shadowboxing, Scandinavia serves up the softer, gentler Nanna Øland Fabricius, thankfully abbreviated to Oh Land. A similar '80s club aesthetic informs her synthesized beats, but heaped on top of them are overly sweet, sunny string arrangements threaded with Oh Land's thin, saccharine voice. She gets a lot of Bjork comparisons, and she deserves them. But who wants an accessible Bjork?

Americana and folk music fans:
• Woody Guthrie's only known live recording, "Live Wire," gets a reissue next week. The disc, a set of Guthrie and his second wife singing songs and telling tales from 1949, won a Grammy for best historical recording in 2008.
• Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, 84, is back with a new album, "A Mother's Prayer," a collection of hymns and spirituals backed by the Clinch Mountain Boys and featuring guests, including Sara Evans and Billy Smith. That's why he's on the road -- performing at 8 p.m. tonight at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. Tickets: $20-$70, (312) 294-3000.

Ralph Stanley: A Mother's Prayer Video Preview from Rebel Records on Vimeo.

Tuesday sees the release of "Judas," the second single from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" album, due May 23. The song and its allegedly religion-baiting video, neither of which has been leaked yet, already have garnered anti-Gaga statements from certain hot-air religious groups -- none of whom I'll name here because their sole purpose for lashing out every time these silly things happen has less to do with protecting flocks and much more to do with horning in on a publicity machine.

UPDATE: But of course the song has already leaked.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on April 16, 2011 12:00 PM.

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