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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Dashboard Confessional, India.Arie and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 25, 2006

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Dashboard Confessional “Dusk and Summer” Vagrant


Chris Carrabba declares that “Heaven is here” on the closing track of Dash board Confessional’s fourth album — and indeed it is for fans of the “emo” powerhouse that’s spun heart-wringing angst into gold and platinum during the past fi ve years.

“Dusk and Summer” will seem particularly divine to those who signed onto 2003’s “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar,” on which Carrabba and company cranked up the electric guitars and put a little more muscle behind the moping than on their more acoustic-oriented earlier work. “Dusk and Summer” continues on that path and is even better, with more punch and texture provided by producers Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan) and Don Gilmore, who worked with Dashboard on “Vindicated,” its contribution to the “Spider-Man 2” soundtrack.

Echoes of U2 and the Cure track throughout “Dusk and Summer’s” 10 tracks, from the full-bodied, anthemy drone of the opening “Don’t Wait” to the shimmering electro-pop feel of “Heaven Here.” Dashboard puts a harder rock bite into “Reason to Believe” and the “Rooftops and Invitations,” while there’s some actual funk in the bass line that starts “Slow Decay,” Carrabba’s affecting look at a contemporary soldier’s return home.

“So Long, So Long,” “Currents” and the title track, meanwhile, maintain Dashboard’s mandatory melancholy quotient, as Carrabba laments in the latter that “You’ve already lost/When you only had/Barely enough to hang on.” But where this was once cloying, it’s now cloaked in a more engaging and, at times, even robust kind of sonic attack.


India.Arie “Testimony Vol. 1: Life and Relationships” Motown ***

It’s been four years since the last album from India.Arie — the daughter of former Piston Ralph Simpson — though she made noise last year collaborating with Stevie Wonder on the title track of his “A Time to Love.” From all the evidence on “Testimony,” Arie has spent the time healing from a broken romance, as she informs us that “my bank account is doing just fi ne/but my emotions are bankrupt.” On “Testimony’s” 12 songs and four interludes, she heals herself with laments (“These Eyes,” “Good Mourning” and a cover of Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter”) and affi rmations (“Private Party,” “There’s Hope”) along a bit of more global consciousness on “I Choose” and “Better People” — all delivered in Arie’s particular blend of earthy soul, R&B and hip-hop flavors. It’s a strong and welcome return.

New and noteworthy

Boris Garcia, “Mother’s Finest” (Porchwerk) — It’s a band, not a person, playing jam band mix of folk, bluegrass and rock.

Billy Talent, “II”

(Atlantic) — The Toronto rock troupe recorded its imaginatively titled sophomore album at Bryan Adams’ Vancouver studio facility.

DJ Spooky, “In Fine Style: 50,000 Volts of Trojan Records” (Trojan) — The turntable wizard visits the famed reggae label’s treasure trove for this two-disc conceptual work.

Tha Dogg Pound, “Tha Dogg Pound” (Koch) — Snoop Dogg protégés Kurupt and Daz Dilinger reunite after a four-year break to pursue separate activities.

Danielle Evin, “Danielle Evin” (Red/ SonyBMG) — Veteran rock hitmaker Jack Douglas produced the long-delayed debut set by this Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter.

Michael Franks, “Rendezvous in Rio” (Koch) — The jazz mainstay gets help from friends Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip, Chuck Loeb and others on his latest release.

John Lee Hooker Jr., “Cold as Ice” (Telarc) — The son of the late Crawling King Snake continues to “Do Daddy,” as the song on his new album proclaims.

lostprophets, “Liberation Transmission”

(Columbia) — Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe) produced album No. 2 from these Welsh rock warriors.

Ronnie Milsap, “My Life” (RCA Nashville) — Country music’s piano man teams with Alan Jackson producer Keith Stegall on his latest outing.

Tim O’Reagan, “Tim O’Reagan” (Lost Highway) — The multi-instrumentalist makes his solo debut with help from some of his former bandmates in the Jayhawks.

Original Cast, “Tarzan: The Broadway Musical”

(Disney) — The King of the Jungle goes to the Great White Way, with nine new songs by Phil Collins.

Pet Shop Boys, “Fundamental” (Rhino) — The long-lived British electronic pop duo reunites with producer Trevor Horn on its ninth album

Grant Lee Phillips, “Nineteeneighties” (Zoe) — The former Grant Lee Buffalo leader gets all ’80s on us with these covers of songs by the Cure, Pixies, R.E.M. and others.

Julie Roberts, “Men & Mascara” (Mercury Nashville) — The anxiously awaited follow-up to the country singer’s successful 2004 debut.

The Wiggles, “Splish, Splash, The Big Red Boat!”

(Koch) — Laugh if you want, my friends, but this one’ll probably outsell all but a couple of the other albums on this list.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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