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‘Between Daylight and Dark’
In stores Sept. 18
Nope, Lucinda Williams didn’t undergo a name change. Though playing Mary Gauthier’s latest, “Between Daylight and Dark,” could lead some to believe Williams has a pseudonym – there’s a definite parallel between Gauthier’s smoky, scarred chops and the time-honored country-folk musician – don’t be fooled. Gauthier’s intimate fifth album, released by the same label as Williams, weaves hauntingly sparse melodies with raw vocals. Her unique vignettes (like the metaphoric use of an acrobat to describe a search for solace on “Soft Place to Land”) reveal universal American tales of loss and despair, but even during the darkest moments – and there are plenty – Gauthier offers a glimmer of daybreak. Sometimes. The Louisiana-bred lesbian folkie gets lost in Hurricane Katrina-inspired “Can’t Find the Way” and leaves a lover on “Same Road,” where she proclaims, “When you flirt with the shadows, darkness snakes under your skin” and then follows it up with: “The only way back home is to let the light of truth come in.” Its chorus is instantly memorable, and remarkably dreary. But, then again, Gauthier always does sound more at home when she’s basking in the dark. Not in the daylight.
‘Things Happen for a Reason’
In stores Sept. 25
Something about Che’Nelle is reminiscent of Rihanna. Actually, some things. There’s the spicy dance-floor fodder. Their exotic sex appeal. But underneath all the obvious comparisons, Rihanna can’t trump Che’Nelle in a singing contest. Just listen to “When Will We Meet Again,” where the Australian native’s voice reaches peaks and valleys that would likely take the wind outta Rihanna. It’s a satisfying slow jam that displays Che’Nelle’s range, but the real meat on “Things Happen For A Reason” rests in the shake-da-booty musical-magic she spins, with the help of newcomer Marcus Bell, on “I Fell in Love with the DJ” – a destined rug cutter that gives us a reason to fall for the new pop princess on the block.
LABEL: Bitchin’ Bet
Tegan & Sara
When the angsty sounds of lesbian twins Tegan & Sara beam through the speakers, there’s not much else to do but ear-inhale them. Every single guitar strum. Every thumping drum beat. Every broken-hearted note. “The Con,” the duo’s career opus so far, triumphs with all of those elements, yielding an experimental project that sheds some pop sheen, but exudes a mature sensibility on brilliantly penned ditties like more acoustic-sounding “Call it Off” and nostalgic “Nineteen,” a drum-driven ditty emotionally flourished by Tegan’s heartbreaking repetition of one simple word: “Bye.” The former, which easily boasts the best-written line on the album when Tegan regretfully declares, “Maybe you would’ve been something I’d be good at,” closes a breezy album brimming with catchy choruses, like on the harder-edged title track. The woe-is-me electro-infused jam is like a sonic orgasm painted with Tegan’s upper register, making it all the more raw as she pleads, “I need to be taken down.” Concerning “The Con,” nothing needs to be taken down.
‘Hey Hey My My Yo Yo’
Caution: Spinning Junior Senior’s “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo” could cause fire from friction between dance shoes and floor. Seriously – the delish Danish duo’s sophomore set is a gleeful romp brimming with rad rhymes, raps and catchy handclaps. Set standout “Can I Get Get Get,” a playful kiss-off with a sassy chorus (“I don’t do that kind of thing”), employs a zany sound-effect over a be-boppin’ drum beat. “We R the Handclaps” channels old school R&B Jackson 5-style, with electronic sounds filtering through the girly background vocals of Le Tigre. With the ’80s electronic sizzle on “Hip Hop a Lula,” a skittish midsection, and stuttered lyrics that take us to the “parallel city where the music is loud and the boys are pretty,” the equally straight (Junior, aka Jesper Mortensen) and gay (Senior, aka Jeppe Laursen) guys launch into their fabulously funky disc without ever sounding totally ridiculous. It’s like riding through the sky on a disco ball.
‘Lost and Found’
Ledisi’s funky grooves never cook longer than they should. But, then again, they’re like a chicken that’s still a little pink. There’s a nuanced quality to the soul singer’s slinky sound, an inconsistent blend of jazz, R&B and blues. Though the overlong “Lost and Found” makes for a pleasurable spin, the basic melodies never swell into something that’ll stick, leaving the soul singer’s first major-label debut to be nothing more than delightful dinner party music. The primo “Alrite” is a smooth lesson in staying positive. Too bad not much of the mellowness on “Lost and Found” is better than just all right.
Even when Shoe’s self-titled sophomore disc seems to slow down, something swoops in. Smashing drums. Electronic flourishes. Blazing electric guitar. The Detroit-based band’s all-out rocking album tinkers with unpredictable magical touches, weaving a multi-layered sound that’s mostly creatively appealing. At other times, though, it’s just clunky. Like on “Small Talk,” which feeds an electronic, hypnotic sound that descends into a mellow, quirky tune that never achieves melodic glory. However, the penultimate “Dreaming of a Dream” teases with a whimsical intro before launching into a shining rocker, topped with a sweet closing electric guitar riff. And on the charming “When the World Gets in the Way,” the quartet employs a simple clapping effect that eventually surges with a full sonic burst. Shoe’s second go doesn’t always feel comfy, but most of the time, it fits.