Plant and Krauss resurrect some classic-rock gems, Sigur RÃs rocks, and Monster Magnet survives
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand (Rounder) An odd pairing at first blush, the Plant/Krauss team soon seems as natural and inevitable as rays of sunlight glistening on the misty remnants of a warm spring rain. Unlike so many histrionic rock vocalists whose pipes have deteriorated beyond hope of redemption after years of falsetto abuse, Plantâ’s own instrument has withered into a thing of rare and fragile beauty, an alternately warm and weird tenor/alto hybrid that serves as the perfect foil to Kraussâ’ honey-sweet Appalachian soprano croon. The duo work seamlessly and seemingly without ego through a set that encompasses nouveau bluegrass, folk, mid-tempo rockabilly, and the gentler side of classic rock.
The choice of songs, heavily influenced by ace producer T-Bone Burnett, is full of lesser-known tracks and outright obscuritiesâ"all of them good ones, from the Everleysâ’ â“Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)â” to â“Please Read the Letter,â” a gem from the under-appreciated Walking Into Clarksdale album that Plant and former Led Zep-mate Jimmy Page recorded in 1998. Kudos to Burnett, likewise, for assembling this eclectic group of supporting musicians, including guitar experimentalist Marc Ribot, virtuoso traditionalist Norman Blake, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger. Their supple and inventive backing is nearly as integral to the beauty of Raising Sand as the presence of its two marquee vocalists. â"Mike Gibson
Sigur RÃs Hvarf-Heim (XL) Sigur RÃs can be a little hard to take, and even sillyâ"the falsetto vocals, the glacial pace, the lyrics in a fake language called Hopelandic, the all-around Scandinavian seriousness with which the Icelandic band approaches its Arctic, orchestral pop music. But the band really has crafted a distinctive body of work over the last decade, flirting with psychedelia, slo-core, and post-rock but ultimately sounding like no one but themselves. Both the bandâ’s past and its present are documented on Hvarf-Heim: The two-disc set collects a handful of previously recorded songs in new acoustic arrangements with five new pieces. The first disc is essentially a side of greatest hits, a pleasant-enough reminder of the lasting impression made by songs like â“StarÃ¡lfurâ” and â“ÃgÃtis Byrjunâ”; the second disc is the stand-out, offering volume and, finally, some payoff for the bandâ’s chilly, meandering melodies, which so rarely resolve themselves. Thereâ’s always been what seemed like a principled austerity to Sigur RÃsâ’ compositions, the constant build-up of tension that never releases. But the soft verse/loud chorus on â“HijÃmalind,â” as predictable as it is, finally lets in enough room to breathe, and the organ-fueled â“I gÃrâ” is probably as close to foot-stomping boogie as Sigur RÃs will ever get. â" Matthew Everett
Monster Magnet 4-Way Diablo (SPV) Monster Magnetâ’s a fun little psychedelic comet that shows up every few years as a portent that things from beyond are coming to perform unclean acts. Their latest disc, 4-Way Diablo, is supposed to represent a turning point for the band, but the themes tackled here are so familiar by now that the differences between this and their earlier works may be too subtle to notice. Much of the album can be seen as a chronicle of Dave Wyndorfâ’s 2006 prescription-drug overdose and the introspection that follows that kind of experience, but when youâ’re talking about a band thatâ’s always woven gods and monsters into their sex, drugs, and rock â‘nâ’ roll, it takes more than just a cursory glance to see the man behind the curtain is something different this time around.
Wyndorfâ’s personal boogeymen are evident in songs like â“Little Bag of Gloomâ” and â“Iâ’m Calling You,â” if you know to look for them. But that knowledge may sit in your stomach, barely noticedâ"Wyndorf isnâ’t some rank amateur writing over-emoting power pop about how he cuts himself because some girl got him banned from MySpace. Thereâ’s nothing that explicit or overt about the way his experience influences Monster Magnetâ’s music. Instead, he layers his suffering seamlessly and quietly atop Monster Magnetâ’s previous 15 years, producing an album that gives the listener another trip to the circus and the ringmaster a spotlight for his catharsis. â" Dave Prince
All content © 2007 Metropulse .