Body Count, Murder 4 Hire (Escapi Music). Fourteen years after infuriating law enforcement by releasing "Cop Killer" -- ironic, considering that Ice-T wound up playing a cop on Law and Order: SVU -- Body Count is back. The musical formula is the same, but this time war, rather than the police, is the target. -- Brandon Daviet
Los Lonely Boys, Sacred (Epic/Or Music/One Haven). "I don't care what you say/I'm gonna do it my way," Henry Garza sings on Sacred's first cut. Too bad his version of defiantly personal self-expression is so familiar. Despite the addition of occasional horns and organ, the new material is thoroughly unsurprising -- a well-played rehash of other people's take on rockin' blues. His way, indeed. -- Roberts
Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union). Midlake has broken decisively with its lo-fi past. Trials, a song cycle about a seemingly ageless character who watches the decades flicker past, is musically ornate, with flute, violin and bassoon all part of the mix. Add idiosyncratic lyrics, evocative melodies and sweeping harmonies, and the result is pop music that's as odd as it is lovely. -- Roberts
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Small Sins, Small Sins (Astralwerks). This CD's jacket is dominated by photos of vintage keyboards. But the most important contributor to Small Sins' debut is singer-songwriter Thomas D'Arcy, who uses synthesizers (and the occasional guitar) to his advantage rather than letting them take advantage of him. This merger of man and machine produces charming, low-key pop that's as futuristic as yesterday. -- Roberts
Soul Asylum, The Silver Lining (Legacy). The good news (or The Silver Lining, if you will) is that this disc doesn't suck half as bad as you'd think. Everything sounds vaguely familiar in a retro alterna-rock sorta way. Which, coming from a band that has about the same cultural relevance these days as Loverboy, is about all you can expect. -- Dave Herrera
Vienna Teng, Dreaming Through the Noise (Ze/Rounder). A sophisticated combination of chamber pop and jazz, Dreaming Through the Noise finds pianist Vienna Teng creating a sauntering, ethereal musical landscape -- due predominantly to her angelic, whispery soprano. Concerned with the trials and tribulations of love, Noise borders on cliche at times, but manages to maintain originality and depth. -- Tracy M. Rogers
Paul Weller, Catch Flame: Live at the Alexandra Palace (Yep Roc). A guitar-driven mixture of Traffic, Curtis Mayfield and post-punk, Catch Flame serves as a live testament to Paul Weller's kinetic, fifteen-year solo career. Neo-psychedelic rocker "Porcelain Gods/I Walk on Gilded Splinters" and the philosophical piano ballad "Pebble and the Boy" demonstrate the range of Weller's musical prowess. -- Rogers