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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

CD reviews: Lonely Island, Moby, Amor de Dias, Steven Tyler, more

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The Lonely Island, "Turtleneck and Chain" (3 stars) -- The second outing from "Saturday Night Live" writing trio Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone is a comedy album -- but a lot more. Featuring a bevy of guests, from Michael Bolton and John Waters to Snoop Dogg and Nicki Minaj, "Turtleneck and Chain" boasts high-quality production and songwriting that's clever and funny but also pretty tight and smart. Beck's chorus on "Attracted to Us" works on both levels: It's a groove you can move to, but it's also hilarious to hear him sing, "All you pretty girls / We know you want our bodies / but we're more the introspective type." Basically, it's a good hip-hop record -- good enough to make you reconsider the latest Beastie Boys -- that also raises the bar for comedy albums. (Full album streaming here.)

Moby, "Destroyed" (2 stars) -- Why does Moby provoke such strong reactions in people (other than Eminem)? It can't be his music, which during the last decade has thinned out into little more than wallpaper with a faint beat. "Destroyed," though, steps up a little, finally offering more to hang an ear on. The single "The Day" is an obvious but pleasant tribute to Bowie's "Heroes."

Amor de Dias, "Street of the Love of Days" (3 stars) -- Indie-rock is so low-key and incestuous, we have to come up with a better, more subdued word than "supergroup" to label these roster reshufflings. Amor de Dias is the lovely, free-time whim of the Clientele's Alasdair MacLean and Pipas' Lupe Nunez-Fernandez. "Street of the Love of Days" seesaws between the soft, pastoral haze of MacLean's band (he even reprises "Harvest Time") and the intimate, twee pop of Nunez-Fernandez's ("Bunhill Fields," the single, is definitely the latter). Pretty stuff.
In concert: They open for Damon & Naomi on May 27 at Lincoln Hall!

Steven Tyler's new single, "(It) Feels So Good" (2 and a half stars) -- Aerosmith's space-head leader utilized his new platform as a judge on "American Idol" (and amid the current publicity for his new memoir) to show off a new solo song. The oddly parenthetical title will not, he says, be part of a new solo album. In fact, he's allegedly at work on a new Aerosmith record. It doesn't exactly leap off the embed, but it's refreshing to hear him coolly swagger instead of preposterously strut. Here 'tis ...

Ha Ha Tonka, "Death of a Decade" (2 stars) -- One of Bloodshot Records' better alt-country bands, Ha Ha Tonka lightens things up on its third album but loses some steam. Like Dawes, HHT rubs out a fairly polished country-rock sound, yet "Death of a Decade" has an airless production that robs some well-written songs -- which manage to evoke the rural life of their Ozark roots without rolling in the hay of country clich├ęs -- of needed bite. Live, they have more teeth (see them this weekend downstate, Friday in Rock Island and Saturday in Springfield), and I must say -- no one since the Hooters has rocked a mandolin quite like this.

Need more alt-country? -- Tuesday sees the release of "Paint It Black: An Alt-Country Tribute to the Rolling Stones," featuring Stones covers by artists including the Great Lake Swimmers, Matthew Ryan, Cowboy Junkies, Giant Sand, Mary Gauthier, Over the Rhine, the Handsome Family and more.

Lukas Ligeti, "Pattern Time" (2 stars) -- Mingus was my doorway into jazz, and I have since tended to follow bass players, as well as bandleaders who write with their specific ensemble in mind (Ellington, etc.). This title has both advantages: a bold polyrhythmic composer, Ligeti, who hand-picked a quartet for this 1999 recording (just now surfacing, for some reason). In addition to pianist Benoit Delbecq and sax player Gianni Gebbia is one of my favorite bassists, Michael Manring, a student of fretless wunderkind Jaco Pastorius. His bass is the sanest sound here, maintaining a befuddled but human pace underneath the others' often frantic, individual time signatures. Ligeti's and Aly Keita's balafons keep the mood light, as well.

Queen fans, save your pennies. Five of the band's seminal LPs are reissued Tuesday as two-disc sets with loads of extras and rarities: "Queen" (1973, includes some of the band's earliest attempts in the studio), "Queen II" (1974, rarities and new mixes), "Sheer Heart Attack" (1974, live versions of "Now I'm Here" and "Lap of the Gods"), "A Night at the Opera" (1975, an a cappella mix of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and live tracks) and "A Day at the Races" (1976, live versions of "Somebody to Love" and "You Take My Breath Away").

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on May 13, 2011 6:00 AM.

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