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Listening Room: Thom Yorke, Rhymefest, more
Thom Yorke “The Eraser” XL ***
We haven’t had a new Radiohead album to kick around for three years, and while this isn’t it, it’s at least part of one. Strip the guitars, bass and live drums from the celebrated British band’s last three efforts, particularly 2000’s “Kid A” and 2001’s “Amnesiac,” and you have a sense of what frontman Thom Yorke’s first solo effort is like — a collection of songs that are spare, murky and tech-heavy, but ultimately engaging. It’s not necessarily the kind of album you’ll put on a lot, but when you do, it won’t likely recede into the background. Instead, it’ll capture your full attention with sonic details and melodic nuances all laid bare within the airy, claustrophobic, laptop-style arrangements Yorke and Radiohead cohort Nigel Godrich fashion on each of the nine tracks. You can certainly hear these as potential band songs, perhaps even demo sketches for the other players to fi ll up. But they don’t sound unfi nished as Yorke musically wrings his hands over a crumbling relationship (“Time is running out for us/But you just move the hands upon the clock,” he laments in the lightly Middle Eastern-fl avored “The Clock”) along with an oblique but pointed political commentary in “Harrowdown Hill.” The songs are built on electronic drum tattoos and jagged, sometimes jazzy, piano samples; bass lines are injected into “And It Rained All Night,” “Black Swan” and “Atoms for Peace” for more energetic grooves, while subtle guitar licks lend a funkier feel to “Harrowdown Hall.” “Cymbal Rush” delves deeper into the prevailing paranoia that fuels the album, but it’s the self-duet of “Skip Divided” that underscores the emotional despair and fragility that gives the album its intriguing character. Radiohead may well blow us away on its next album, but Yorke has given us something that’s more than a mere timefiller to that eventuality.
Rhymefest “Blue Collar” Allido/J ***
Rhymefest (Che Smith) already has a Grammy for cowriting pal Kanye West’s hit “Jesus Walks,” but he doesn’t tred much God-fearing ground on his debut album. Assisted by West — as well as Mario, Citizen Cope and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard — Rhymefest bows as a skilled and multifaceted MC, honed in battle and capable of being playa, thug, gangsta and socially conscious philosopher all on the same disc. “Bullet,” “Get Down,” “Sister” and “More” are standouts on a generally strong set marked by plenty of live instrumentation, and tracks built from pop gems such as “One” and “Build Me Up, Buttercup” are hallmarks of a distinctive and individual musical sensibility.
New and noteworthy
All That Remains, “Fall of Ideas” (Razor & Tie) — Sophomore album from the headbanging OZZFest second stagers.
Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, “Turntable Matinee” (Yep Roc) — The other Big man’s 11th outing features Western swing, traditional country, Stax-style soul and some old time rock ’n’ roll.
Cut Chemist, “Audience’s Listening”
(Warner Bros.) — The debut solo album by the former Jurassic 5 DJ.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, “I Stand Alone” (Anti-) — The 75-year-old folk legend is joined by members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Los Lobos, Wilco, Sleater-Kinney and X on his new album.
Greg Graffi n, “Cold as the Clay” (Anti-) — The Bad Religion frontman and punk icon picks up an acoustic guitar for this folky solo set.
The Lordz, “The Brooklyn Way” (Perfect Game) — A rock ’n’ hip-hop mash-up between New York MCs Mr. Kaves and ADM.
The Living End, “State of Emergency” (Adeline) — The Australian trio’s fourth album comes out Stateside fi ve months after topping the charts Down Under.
Muse, “Black Holes and Revelations” (Warner Bros.) — The British group’s fourth album takes listeners to a “Supermassive Black Hole,” among other sonic locales.
Peaches, “Impeach My Bush” (XL/Beggars) — Suffi ce to say the forthright modern rocker has no plans to play any Republican fund-raisers this year.
Phish, “Live in Brooklyn” (Rhino) — Separate CD and DVD packages from the band’s final tour in 2004.
Seether, “One Cold Night” (Wind-Up) — A live acoustic show from earlier this year, with a bonus DVD included.
Some Girls, “Crushing Love” (Koch) — The second album from the trio formed by former Blake Babies Juliana Hatfield and Freda Love.
Soul Asylum, “The Silver Lining” (Legacy) — The first new album in eight years from the veteran Minneapolis rockers.
Sufjan Stevens, “Avalanche” (Asthmatic Kitty) — Outtakes and extra tracks from Stevens’ “Illinois,” a favorite of the terminally hip crowd in ’05.
Butch Walker, “Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let’s Go” (Power ballad/ Epic) — Walker steps out from behind the production scenes (Avril Lavigne, Simple Plan, the Donnas) and gets glam on his latest solo album
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