Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Interscope)
From the opening seconds of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fourth album, you’ll wonder how you have lived without the dulcet tones of Karen O for the four years since the release of their third album, “It’s Blitz.” No one else has a voice quite like hers.
But the indie rock trio’s new album is different from their Grammy-nominated 2009 effort: Every track on “Mosquito” could be a single.
The album opens with “Sacrilege,” which is brilliantly constructed with pounding drums, leading into layered, screeching background vocals. The title track buzzes with a hypnotic rhythm, reminding you how integral drums are to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ sound. The lyrics are almost comical, but add to the feverish frenzy with lines like, “Suck your blood, they’re gonna suck your blood.”
Beauty emerges in the album’s quieter moments, too: “Subway” uses the lulling rhythm of a train travelling down the tracks, as Karen O sings softly and quietly, “I lost you in the subway car, got caught without my Metro card.” The softness is reminiscent of “Maps” on the band’s 2003 debut, “Fever to Tell.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah — they still got it.
— SIAN WATSON, Associated Press
THE LOW HIGHWAY
Steve Earle (New West)
On “The Low Highway,” Steve Earle surveys the landscape, sings about a world of hurt and still musters optimism.
Earle has been writing about the places he has been and how he fits in ever since his 1986 breakthrough debut, “Guitar Town.” He crafted “Low Highway” as his road album, recorded with his crack stage band, and you can almost hear the tour bus tires sing.
“Roll over Kerouac, tell Woody Guthrie the news,” Earle warbles on “Down the Road Part II.”
“Low Highway” covers a lot of ground. Earle’s marble mouth sometimes makes it tough to tell, but he laments homelessness on “Invisible,” makes peace with loneliness on “After Mardi Gras,” riffs on rednecks on “Calico County” and contemplates torching a Wal-Mart on “Burnin’ It Down.”
The tunes are sturdy, and there’s a ramshackle charm to the performances, which have a first-take vibe. Even so, this is coffeehouse country rather than Earle at his edgiest. By the end, on the shamelessly sentimental “Remember Me,” he contemplates his legacy singing to his 4-year-old son.
The 58-year-old troubadour clearly is enjoying the ride and wants to keep rolling.
— STEVEN WINE, Associated Press
TWELVE REASONS TO DIE
Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge (Soul Temple/RED Distribution)
“Twelve Reasons to Die” unites Wu-Tang Clan vet Ghostface Killah with Adrian Younge, one of music’s brightest young composers. The album’s 12 cinematic tracks trace the trials of a masked Mafioso who is resurrected after his remains are pressed into a dozen vinyl LPs.
Playing like a graphic novel, the Ghostface persona jumps off the page. But aside from the requisite gear gloating (lion skin Wallabees, Black Panther hoodie made of panther skin), his signature impromptu patois is all but absent. Instead, Ghost is in the type of pure storyteller mode last heard on the breakneck hood-noir of his song “Shakey Dog.”
Ghost’s controlled and committed wordplay is the ideal accommodation for Younge’s lush accompaniments. Probably best known for composing the score of the classic Blaxploitation spoof “Black Dynamite,” an emphasis on stuttering organs and bleating brass carries over here, along with tight breaks and operatic hood nymphs who float in and out the story.
At times the arrangements approximate RZA conducting live musicians (he executive produces and narrates), but Younge also appears versed in the back catalogs of titans like David Axelrod and Ennio Morricone.
— JAKE O'CONNELL, Associated Press