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CD Reviews:
Sound Check: Bon Iver, LMFAO and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, June 20, 2011

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Bon Iver

“Bon Iver”



Bon Iver is a great mass of contradictions. It’s the province of one man (singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Justin Vernon) yet is inextricably stamped by those who play with him — including, on his second album, well-credentialed hands such as Greg Leisz, Colin Stetson and C.J. Camerieri. It’s rootsy and folksy at its core but at the same time makes use of high-tech crutches such as Auto-Tune. There’s clearly deep meanings in his poetic lyrics, but it’s pretty hard to make out what they are — unless you can make immediate sense out of a line like “armour let it through, borne the arboretic truth you kept posing.” And while Vernon seems like the last guy on Earth you’d expect to collaborate with Kanye West, he was all over the rapper’s lauded “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” last year. All of this, of course — and the fact that songs sound so uniquely rich and inventive — is what makes Bon Iver so fascinating (not to mention hip) and brings us back for those repeat listens that are so key to really appreciating the beauty Vernon and company are able to achieve. “Bon Iver” is certainly more spacious and expansive than 2008’s “For Emma, Forever Ago,” marked by more sound, greater volume and more carefully woven textures and dynamics. “Towers,” which is about the falsetto-flaunting Vernon losing his virginity during college, is the most straightforward of these 10, its ringing guitars maintaining a folky melodicism throughout the tune. “Minnesota, WI” and “Hinnom, TX” are effectively accented with horns, while “Beth/Rest” boasts an anthemtic but restrained energy built from piano and a long outro spotlighting Leisz’s pedal steel. “I knew I was not magnificent,” Vernon sings early in the album, but those who spend the necessary time with “Bon Iver” will wind up knowing something he doesn’t.


LMFAO,“Sorry For Party Rocking" (Interscope) **

The title of its sophomore album notwithstanding, rest assured that this duo hardly regrets a single note of the thumping, dance floor-focused sound it’s dubbed Party Rock. In fact, if you drank a shot each time the word “party” pops up in the lyrics, a Breathalyzer test will surely not be in your best interest. The son and grandson of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. don’t stray too far from the Party Rock path on these 10 tracks (14 on the deluxe edition) — contemporary disco beats topped with electro and techno synthesizer riffs — and they get help from the likes of the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, Busta Rhymes and Calvin Harris, the latter of whom produced the swirling “Reminds Me of You.” “Everybody just have a good time” is LMFAO’s raison d’etre, which should resonate well for anyone with an appetite for big, dumb fun.

New & Noteworthy

Dave Alvin, “Eleven Eleven” (Yep Roc): The California roots rocker cranks up the volume for his hardest rocking set in some time, reuniting with Blasters bandmate Gene Taylor and dueting with his brother and Blasters frontman Phil Alvin.

August Burns Red, “Leveler” (Solid State): The Pennsylvania quintet puts a few new spins on its metalcore sound for its third studio album.

Black Dahlia Murder, “Ritual” (Metal Blade): The Detroit death metal band’s fifth album incorporates string arrangements as well as a thematic lyrical unity different from previous releases.

The Bo-Keys, “Got to Get Back!” (Electraphonic): The veteran Memphis soul troupe’s first new album in seven years features guest vocals by William Bell, Otis Clay, Percy Wiggins and Charlie Musselwhite.

Michael Bolton, “Gems: The Duets Collection” (Columbia/Legacy): Bolton delivers some favorite pop songs and standards alongside duet partners such as Rascal Flatts, A.R. Rahman, Seal, the late Eva Cassidy and more.

Cody Canada & Departed, “This is Indian Land” (self-released): The Cross Canadian Ragweed frontman goes solo with his tribute to fellow Oklahoma songwriters.

Vanessa Carlton, “Rabbits on the Run” (Razor & Tie): The singer-songwriter recorded her fourth studio album, and first in four years, at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in England.

Crossfade, “We All Bleed” (Eleven Seven): Frontman Ed Sloan had to blast out of a disillusionment with the music industry before making the South Carolina hard rockers’ third album.

Dayton Family, “Charges of Indictment” (Psychopathic): The eighth album by the Flint hip-hop quartet follows the “Psycho” EP released earlier this year.

Tim Easton, “Beat the Band” (Campfire Propaganda): Singer-songwriter Easton introduces his new band, the Freelan Barons, on his sixth album and first for his new self-run label.

Liam Finn, “FOMO” (Yep Roc): The son of Crowded House’s Neil Finn made his second full-length album alone, though assisted by producer Burke Reid.

Gomez, “Whatever’s on Your Mind” (ATO): The U.K.-formed band’s seventh studio album marks the first time the group has produced itself in a decade.

Paul Hardcastle, “Hardcastle VI” (Trippin’ & Rhythm): The trippy British smooth jazz musician mashes up his own “Rainforest” with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” on his latest release.

In Flames, “Sounds of a Playground Fading” (Century Media): The Swedish heavy metal band’s 10th studio set is its first without founding guitarist Jesper Stromblad.

Jim Lauderdale, “Reason & Rhyme” (Sugar Hill): Accomplished country and roots artist Lauderdale continues his relationship with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter on a set of new bluegrass songs.

Matt Nathanson, “Modern Love” (Vanguard): The Massachusetts-born troubadour looks to build on the momentum generated by 2007’s “Some Mad Hope” and its hit single “Come On Get Higher.”

Olivia Newton-John, “Portraits: A Tribute to Great Women of Song” (Green Hill): The Australian-born singer and award-winning producer Phil Ramone joined forces for this homage to forebears such as Judy Garland, Mary Travers, Dionne Warwick, Karen Carpenter and others.

Gary Nicholson, “Texas Songbook” (Bismeaux): Performer-songwriter Nicholson pays tribute to his home state with help from guests such as Joe Ely, Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball and members of Asleep At the Wheel.

OK Go, “180/365” (Paracadute): The cheeky pop group’s first release on its own label is a 19-song live album recorded during its latest tour.

Pitbull, “Planet Pit” (Polo Grounds/J): The Miami rapper’s sixth studio set features workouts with T-Pain, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias and more.

Jill Scott, “The Light of the Sun” (Blues Babe/Warner Bros.): The Philadelphia soul songstress starts a fresh phase of her career with a new label and collaborations with guests such as Anthony Hamilton, Doug E. Fresh, Eve and Paul Wall.

Simple Plan, “Get Your Heart On!” (Lava/Atlantic): The Canadian modern rockers do their thing with a guest list that includes Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth, Natasha Bedingfield and K’naan.

Tally Hall, “Good & Evil” (Quack): The Ann Arbor group’s second album comes six years after its debut and follows a departure from its major label deal with Atlantic Records.

Devin Townsend, “Ghost” (InsideOut) and Devin Townsend Project, “Deconstruction” (InsideOut): The Canadian headbanger and former Strapping Young Lad member is nothing if not prolific, delivering a pair of new albums to add to his burgeoning discography.

Weird Al Yankovic, “Alpocalypse” (Volcano/Jive): The master parodist takes on Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, B.o.B. and more on his first new album in five years.

WhoCares, “Out of My Mind”/“Holy Water” (Eagle Rock): Proceeds from this single project led by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan will benefit an Armenian music school still suffering the effects of the country’s 1983 earthquake.

From The Vaults: Frankie Beverly & Maze, “Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Soul” (Capitol); Bill Cosby, “Icon” (Geffen/UMe); Cream, “Icon” (Polydor/UMe); Bing Crosby, “Icon” (Geffen/UMe); Steven Curtis Chapman, “Greatest Hits 2011” (Sparrow); Buddy Guy, “Icon” (Geffen/Chess/UMe); Billie Holiday, “Icon” (Verve/UMe); Insane Clown Posse, “Icon” (Island/UMe); Peter, Paul & Mary, “Wave Me the Sunshine”; The Righteous Brothers, “Icon” (Polydor/UMe); Thin Lizzy, “Icon” (Mercury/UMe); Peter Tosh, “Equal Rights: Legacy Edition,” “Legalize It: Legacy Edition” (both Columbia/Legacy); Steve Winwood, “Icon” (Island/UMe); ZZ Top, “Live in Germany 1980” (Eagle Rock)

New Music DVDs: Miles Davis, “Highlights: Live at Montreux 1973-1991” (Eagle Rock); Ruthie Foster, “Live at Antone’s” (Blue Corn Music)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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