Paul Banks, "Banks" (Matador) -- Interpol front man Paul Banks first stepped aside for his own project in 2009, but he veiled that mostly pre-Interpol material behind a pseudonym, Julian Plenti. Now Banks turns on, well, at least some warm lamplight to illuminate himself. Thankfully, this is not just a batch of songs Interpol didn't get around to recording. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine even angular Interpol tackling the ambitious sweep of these compositions, many of which are mini-suites swinging between accessible indie-rock, pastoral pop and occasionally dissonant psychedelia.
Given that the word "detached" is applied to Banks in nearly every review, "Banks" is a surprisingly organic offering that opens with a strolling gait and some warm violins ("The Base"). The hypnotic evolution of "Arise Awake," the ambling instrumental "Lisbon" (Banks, it seems, might write a great film score someday) or the sample-driven "Another Chance" are sonic adventures that establish Banks as truly individual before his final two groove-driven tracks remind us, oh yeah, the Interpol guy.
In concert: Paul Banks performs Nov. 7 at Subterranean, 2011 W. North.
Various Artists, "Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere and Cajual Records, 1992-2012" (Strut) -- A worthy round-up of an important Chicago house music figure and those in his orbit, "Only 4 U" shows off Curtis A. Jones' clubby side (no punkish Green Velvet side-project material here). The beats didn't change much, but the dressings did. From the stark, anti-"Popcorn" thwacks of "Percolator," Jones draws the same basic beat through the years, but by "Midnight" (with Walter Phillips) and "Say U Will" (with Dajae) the skeletons support supple curves, sultry shapes and real soul. The house becomes a bit more homey -- a good thing, really. A few other artists resurface here, as well, namely two excellent and inventive twelves by Gemini ("If You Got to Believe in Something," "Le Fusion"). For club rats, this is a Numero-level compilation.
In concert: A Cajual release party is scheduled Nov. 18 at Green Dolphin Street, 2220 N. Ashland.
I'm a tennis fan and a music critic, but -- quelle surprise! -- I had no idea French tennis star Yannick Noah had switched to recording artist after retiring in 1991. After 10 albums and 10 million copies sold, his latest is "Hommage" (Red/Sony France) , a set of Bob Marley covers. It's in English, it includes his breezy, upbeat take on "Redemption Song," and it's not terrible.
In other tribute-album news: Taking a break from songwriting, and after delivering an album solely of covers ("Covered") earlier this year, R&B singer Macy Gray has recorded her own song-for-song version of Stevie Wonder's classic album "Talking Book."
The new self-titled album by the Samuel Jackson Five is probably not what you think. The SJ5 is a Norwegian instrumental rock group, and the new music is true to their usual flaccid post-rock. No catch phrases here.