Sound Bites

Brief reviews of recent releases

Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True (Hip-O). This is the fifth separate release of essentially the same music recorded by Costello in a 24-hour rush thirty years back using somebody else's band. Despite "bonus" tracks, the continued enticing of consumers to repurchase foreshadows the final squeal of the corporate-label pig. Surely savvy 21st-century consumers won't be gullible enough to buy this. — Mark Bliesener

Iron and Wine, The Shepherd's Dog (Sub Pop). Although Iron and Wine main man Sam Beam's early acoustic albums earned plenty of acclaim, the hushed airs he fashioned were too often interchangeably monochromatic. His latest recording solves this problem via full-band presentations that bring out additional colors in the compositions without shattering the intimacy of his best work. This Dog can hunt. — Roberts

Patty Scialfa, Play It As It Lays (Columbia). Whether referencing the Staples Singers on "Town Called Heartbreak" or venturing into Bonnie Raitt territory with "Looking for Elvis," Scialfa's third disc in fourteen years sees this Jersey girl taking an abrupt left turn toward Memphis. Given the lag time between releases and the subsequent mediocre sales, it's a wonder she's kept her deal with Sony. — Bliesener

Travels, Travels (Self-released). Travels is a homemade Bedhead record that's bold enough to create a moving richness out of skeletal guitar slur, somber drum-machine kicks, and harmonies as naked as any Galaxie 500 classic. Great indie-rock records don't need huge budgets, just some raw feeling and a space to catch it in. — Terry Sawyer

McCoy Tyner, Quartet (McCoy Tyner Music). The debut disc on Tyner's new imprint, this live recording finds the pianist delving into some of his earlier material, namely three cuts from his phenomenal 1967 album The Real McCoy. While Tyner, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts are all in fine form here, Joe Lovano's tenor sax sounds a tad stuffier than usual. — Jon Solomon

Various Artists, Across the Universe: Music From the Motion Picture (Interscope). At least George Burns's rendition of "Fixing a Hole" was memorably horrible. In contrast, the original cast recordings for Julie Taymor's misbegotten Fab Four tie-in — even those featuring Bono — are merely tepid and unnecessary. But the disc does include the year's most terrifying song credit: "'Happiness Is a Warm Gun,' performed by Joe Anderson, featuring Salma Hayek." Get back. — Roberts

 
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