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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Foo Fighters, The Arcs, Pope Francis, Rihanna and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, November 27, 2015

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Foo Fighters

"Saint Cecilia EP"

(RCA Records)

Grade: A-

The Arcs

"Arcs vs. Inventors"


Grade: B+

The credo that good things come in small packages certainly applies to music, and certainly at a time when the digital age has brought EPs into a more mass-appeal favor. And these two titles are cases in point. Foo Fighters dashed off the five-song "St. Cecilia EP," surprise released for free earlier this week, during an October stay at the Austin, Texas, hotel of the same name, but nothing sounds rushed or slapdash. In just 18 minutes, in fact, it offers a microcosm of everything Dave Grohl and company do, and do well, from anthemic pop such as the title track, bracing, muscular rock anthems in "The Neverending Sigh" and "Sean," blazing punk like "Savior Breath" and the melodic, textured mid-tempo lane covered by "Iron Rooster." "Arcs vs. Interiors" -- a special Record Store Black Friday release -- occupies a different lane, however. The new project from the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach follows the diverse debut album "Yours Dreamily" with an ambient, trippy but fully accessible concoction that references producer Mitchell Froom's spacious style -- particularly with the Latin Playboys, whose David Hidalgo (also of Los Lobos) appears as a guest along with Dr. John and the vocal troupe Mariachi Flor de Toloache. Its six songs are a kind of sonic wonderland, driven by sharp, dry percussion and slinky guitar and piano licks. There's a palpable urgency of experimental ambition throughout, though tracks such as "Young," "Janitor" and "The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" manage to weave in a welcome melodic richness.

New & Noteworthy:

Bjork, "Vulnicura Strings" (One Little Indian/Megaforce): The multi-faceted Icelandic artiste's ninth studio album offers a rumination about her breakup with American visual artist Matthew Barney.

Circles Around the Sun, "Interludes For the Dead" (Deadnet/Rhino): Neal Casal of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood was commissioned to come up with this expansive set of instrumental music, which was used during pre-show and intermission of the Grateful Dead's Fare The Well 50th anniversary concerts.

Pope Francis, "Wake Up!" (Believe Digital): How do you follow up a U.S. tour as big as any musical artist's? With this collection of speeches and prayers from Vatican City as well as trips to Brazil, South Korea and the Phillipines.

Rihanna, "ANTI" (Westbury Road/Roc Nation): There's been a lot of guessing about when Rihanna would release her guest-filled (Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Florence + the Machine and more) seventh studio album. It comes via Tidal on Friday (Nov. 27), with a wider release on Dec. 4.

Ten Commandos, "Ten Commandos" (Monkeywrench): The collaboration Alain Johannes (Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age) began seven years ago with Soundgarden's rhythm section finally bears fruit on this 10-song set with guest appearances by Peter Frampton, Mark Lanegan and Nikka Costa.

They Might Be Giants, "Why?" (Idlewild): The quirky favorites' new family album features 18 brisk tracks, including some from the group's beloved Dial-A-Song service.

Dweezil Zappa, "Via Zammata!" (Fantom): Frank's son has spent a lot of time dissection his dad's music with Zappa Plays Zappa during the nine years between solo albums, and he manages to fuse that virtuosity into these 12 songs without sounding simply derivative.

Also Out: Danzig, "Skeletons" (Nuclear Blast America); Devon Townsend Project, "Ziltoid: Live at the Royal Albert Hall" (Inside OUt); Leftover Crack, "Constructs of the State" (Fat Wreck Chords); Mogwai, "Central Belters" (Hostess Japan); Slaves, "Routine Breathing" (Artery Recordings); Serocs, "And When the Sky Was Opened" (Comatose); Stone Sour, "Straight Outta Burbank" (Roadrunner); Chris Trapper, "Symphonies of Dirt and Dust" (self-released); Vision of Disorder, "Razed to the Ground" (Candlelight); Wage War, "Blueprints" (Fearless); We Lost the Sea, "Departure Songs" (Translation Loss); Stephen Young & the Union, "Stephen Young & the Union" (self-released)

From The Vaults: Flaming Lips, "Heavy Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallica 1994-1997" (Warner Bros.); Goo Goo Dolls, "A Boy Named Goo (20th Anniversary Edition)" (Warner Bros.); Jethro Tull, "Too Old to Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die" (Chrysalis); Love, "Reel To Real (Deluxe Edition)" (High Moon); Stormtroppers of Death, "Speak English or Die" (Megaforce); Supergrass, "I Should Coco (20th Anniversary Edition)" (Rhino/Parlophone)

Soundtracks: "Jaco: Original Soundtrack" (Legacy)

New Holiday Music: Janet Devlin, "December Daze" (MRI Associated); Greg Page, "Here Comes Christmas!" (self-released); Various Artists, "A Very Unique Christmas" (Unique Germany)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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