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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Rooney, Yellowcard, Suzanne Vega and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2007

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Rooney, “Calling the World” (Geffen) ***

Yellowcard, “Paper Walls” (Capitol) **1/2

This pair of modern rock Next Big Things are on markedly different trajectories on their latest releases. Los Angeles’ Rooney has made the four-year wait since its debut worth it with a tightly crafted set of songs that are both retro and modern, loaded with hooky choruses, lush harmonies and sonic touches that hew to myriad ’70s radio hits within a contemformat. “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?,” the “mini-opera” “I Should Have Been After You,” “Are You Afraid?” and the soaring “What For” are power pop delights, while “Believe in Me” and “Love Me or Leave Me” are of more New Wave vintage. All told, it’s the sound of a group on the ascent — and a steep one, at that — where “Paper Walls,” Yellowcard’s sixth release overall and third major label outing, is a retrenchment. After the disappointing, though still gold-level sales of 2006’s ambitious “Light and Sounds,” the Jacksonville, Fla., quintet hunkers back to the fast and furious adenoidal-voiced anthemry that took 2003’s “Ocean Avenue” to double-platinum heights. Yellowcard still works out some Big Ideas on tracks such as “Dear Bobbie” and “You and Me and One Spotlight,” but “Paper Walls” mostly rocks mines prototypical Warped Tour crank on “The Takedown,” “Fighting,” “Light Up the Sky,” “Five Becomes Four” and “Cut Me, Mick.” It may not win the band a trip back to the lucrative side of “Ocean Avenue,” but “Paper Walls” definitely houses a band that will make its best shot to get there.


Suzanne Vega, “Beauty & Crime” (Blue Note) ***1/2

At 34 minutes, Vega’s first studio set in six years is a compact outing but maybe her best yet. It’s trim rather than hurried, doesn’t waste a note and mixes plenty of the plaintive singer-songwriter (“As You Are Now,” “Angel’s Doorway,” “Ludlow Street”) with the buoyant pop of “Zephyr & I” and the self-assured rock of “Frank & Ava” (Sinatra and Gardner, in case you’re wondering) — both featuring K.T. Tunstall on backing vocals — the jazzy touch of “New York is a Woman” and the coffeehouse-meets-dance club synthesis of “Unbound.” Vega’s hardly the first performer to mine Manhattan for thematic inspiration, but on “Beauty & Crime” she’s managed to make more out of it than most.


Colbie Caillat, “Coco” (Universal/Republic) — A fourmonth run as MySpace’s top unsigned artist helped land a deal for the Malibu singer-songwriter.

The Chemical Brothers, “We Are the Night” (Astralwerks) — The British duo brings the Klaxons, Willy Mason, Ali Love and Fatlip into the folds on its sixth album of electronic rock.

The Cribs, “Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever”

(Warner Bros.) — The British trio’s third album (but first major U.S. release) was produced by Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos and features a guest turn by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.

Minnie Driver, “Seastories” (Zoe/Rounder) — The second album from the actress-songwriter features guest appearances by Ryan Adams (and his Cardinals) and Liz Phair.

Eastern Conference Champions, “Ameritown”

(Fontana/Geffen) — The longawaited full-length debut from the Bucks County, Pa., modern rock trio.

Editors, “End Has a Start”

(Fader Label/Epic) — The British group recorded its sophomore album in Ireland with hip producer Garrett “Jacknife” Lee (Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, R.E.M.).

Garbage, “Absolute Garbage” (Geffen) — One new song (“Tell Me Where it Hurts”) sits among the 17 hits from this Wisconsin band’s four albums.

Raul Malo, “After Hours” (New Door) — The former Mavericks frontman wraps his lauded pipes around 10 country favorites on his second consecutive covers album.

Meat Puppets, “Rise to Your Knees” (Anodyne) — The Kirkwood brothers reunite on record for the first time since 1995, rekindling one of rock’s most respected names.

MxPx, “Secret Weapon” (Tooth & Nail) — The faithminded punk trio returns to its original label for its eighth studio album.

The Rocket Summer, “Do You Feel” (Island) — Bryce Avary, the one-man-band from Fort Worth, delivers his first major label full-length after a pair of independent releases and an EP.

Sound the Alarm, “Stay Inside” (Geffen) — The debut outing by the Bangor, Pa., quintet whose members are just out of high school.

Strata, “Strata Presents the End of the World” (Wind-Up) — The California rock quartet channels its travels around the United States into the songs on its fourth album.

Teddy Thompson, “Up Front and Down Low” (Verve Forecast) — For his third album, Richard and Linda Thompson’s kid focuses on covers of country songs by George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton and more.

Various Artists, “Freeway Jam to Beck and Back” (Tone Center) — A salute to guitar great Jeff Beck from Deep Purple’s Steve Morse, Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers Band), Chris Duarte, Mike Stern and more.

Various Artists, “Now That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 25” (UMG) — The perennially popular hits collection re-emerges with new favorites from Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Fergie, Kelly Clarkson and more.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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