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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Nickel Creek, Chiodos and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014

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Nickel Creek

"A Dotted Line"



Amidst "a dry sea of Solo cups," Nickel Creek's Chris Thile declares that it's "a great way to start the first day of the rest of my life" -- and hopefully the rest of the acoustic trio's career. Regrouping after an open-ended hiatus that began in 2007, and with its first album since 2005, Thile and siblings Sara and Sean Watkins sound as tight and fearless as ever, and perhaps a wee bit more mature for the various solo projects and affiliations (including Thile's Punch Brothers and Goat Rodeo) in between. Sublime vocal harmonies and intricate interplay between Thile's mandolin, Sara's fiddle and Sean's acoustic guitar remain Nickel Creek's hallmarks on this 10-track set, as does the daring spirit that finds the trio re-creating the playful, New Wave kinetics of Mother Mother's "Hayloft" and tromping through the shifting dynamics of the instrumental "Elephant in the Corn." The group sprints through "You Don't Know What's Going On" with hard rocking energy while building "Love of Mine" with gentle assurance and delivering "21st of May" -- Sean's sly nod to the day after 2012's supposed Ascension -- with the gospel passion of a rural congregation. It's a welcome return from a hiatus well-spent.


Chiodos, "Devil" (drk/lgt Records/Razor & Tie) ***

This is the album fans of the Davison, Mich. alt.rock troupe have been craving since 2007's reputation-staking "Bone Palace Ballet." After a momentary lapse of reason separated frontman Craig Owens and drummer Derrick Frost from the band for more than three years and one album ("Illuminaudio"), Chiodos is back as it should be and rocking with its characteristic blast-furnace, angst-fueled intensity. But amidst the trademark sonic chaos of "We're Talking About Practice," "Expensive Conversations" and the nine-minute-plus "I Am Everything Normal," the set also sports some of Chiodos' most direct material yet in "I've Been Looking for a Tornado," "Under Your Halo" and "I'm Awkward and Unusual." "We're right back where we left off/It's our time to really do things right," Owens declares towards the end of the album -- and that's exactly what Chiodos does here.

New & Noteworthy:

Band of Skulls, "Himalayan" (Electric Blues Recordings): The third album from the hard-hitting mixed-genre trio from England.

The Brothers & Sisters, "Dylan's Gospel" (Light in the Attic): Producer Lou Adler gathers some of music's top background singers -- including members of the "20 Feet From Stardom" gang -- for this trip through Bob Dylan's catalog.

Chevelle, "La Gargola" (Epic): The Chicago hard rock trio gets darker on its horror film-inspired seventh album.

Cloud Nothings, "Here & Nowhere Else" (Carpark): The fourth studio album from the much buzz-about Cleveland indie rock trio.

Combichrist, "We Love You" (Metropolis): The Norwegian aggrotech troupe keeps it loud and aggressive on its first all-new set in four years.

Robert Cray, "In My Soul" (Provogue): The blues and R&B singer-guitarist's latest release includes a cover of the late Bobby Blue Bland's "Deep in My Soul."

Dan + Shay, "Where It All Began" (Warner Bros. Nashville): The debut album from the country duo that's riding high with the hit "19 You + Me."

Charlie Daniels Band, "Off the Grid -- Doin' It Dylan" (Blue Hat/MRI): They may not be on the same political page, but country/rock veteran Daniels appreciates Bob Dylan's music enough to make a full album of it.

The Holmes Brothers, "Brotherhood" (Alligator): The aged but ageless sibling trio mixes eight originals with covers of songs by Ike Turner, Ted Hawkins, William Bell and Booker T. Jones on their 10th album.

Infamous Stringdusters, "Let It Go" (High Country): On its fifth album, the Nashville bluegrass quintet continues to push the parameters for its brand of acoustic music.

Kaiser Chiefs, "Education, Education, Educations & War" (Fiction/Universal): New drummer Vijay Mistray makes his recording debut on the outspoken British rock group's fifth studio album.

Lacuna Coil, "Broken Crown Halo" (Century Media): The Italian headbangers lost two of the group to retirement after recording this seventh studio album.

Manchester Orchestra, "Cope" (Favorite Gentlemen/Loma Vista): The hard-hitting Atlanta rockers recorded their fourth studio album in Brooklyn with longtime collaborator Dan Hannon.

Mobb Deep, "The Infamous Mobb Deep" (Infamous/Sony): The veteran New York rap duo pairs one disc of new songs with a set of unreleased material from sessions for 1995's "The Infamous."

Carrie Newcomer, "Permeable Life" (Available Light): The latest in a long line of releases from the Michigan singer-songwriter.

Christina Perri, "Head or Heart" (Atlantic): the Philadelphia singer and songwriter's sophomore album follows here debut, "Lovestrong," by a full three years.

Leon Russell, "Life Journey" (UMe): The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer follows his Grammy-nominated collaboration with Elton John, "The Union," with his new solo set.

Skrillex, (OWSLA/Big Beat/Atlantic): EDM's dubstep pioneer teams with Diplo, Big Bang's G-Dragon, Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos and more on his first full-scale artist album.

Steel Panther, "All You Can Eat" (Open-E/Kobalt): The comically minded Los Angeles heavy metal group keeps its tongue firmly in cheek on its fourth album, which is filled with titles not for the faint of heart.

Thievery Corporation, "Suadade" (ESL): The musical alchemists swing back to their bossa nova roots on their groove-filled latest album.

Josh Thompson, "Turn It Up" (Show Dog/Universal): The country singer has already courted attention for his sophomore album via the single "Cold Beer With Your Name On It."

Johnny Two Bags, "Salvation Town" (Isotone/Thirty Tigers): Social Distortion's Johnny Wickersham teams with Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and others for this rootsy solo outing.

The Used, "Imaginary Enemy" (Anger Music/Hopeless): The Utah hard rock troupe returns to producer John Feldmann for its fifth studio album.

Various Artists, "Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne" (Music Road): Luminaries such as Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen and more gather to pay homage to Browne's catalog on this two-disc salute.

Various Artists, "This Is Your Life" (Rhino): Heavy metal royalty including Metallica, Scorpions, Rob Halford, Tenacioius D and more blast through some Ronnie James Dio covers on this benefit for the last singer's Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund.

Hank Williams III, "Ramblin' Man" (Curb): The grandson and son of, yes, those Williamses teams with the Melvins on two of the eight covers on this mini-album.

From The Vaults: Blue Nile, "Peace At Last: Deluxe Edition" (EMI); Deep Purple, "Cal Jam 1974" (Eagle Rock); Cyndi Lauper, "She's So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration" (Epic/Legacy); Alan Parsons Project, "The Complete Albums Collection" (Arista/Legacy)

Soundtracks: Original Broadway Cast, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" (Ghostlight)

New Music DVDs: Deep Purple, "Cal Jam 1974" (Eagle Rock); Brian May and Kerry Ellis, "The Candlelight Concerts: Live at Montreux 2013" (Eagle Rock)

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