The song titles betray a common theme — “Absence,” “The Big Mistake,” “Can’t Cry Enough.” Somebody bitch-slapped Carrie Rodriguez’s heart and probably right before she hit the recording studio. The snot-nose jab in the title track sounds like that email you regret when you’ve sobered up, and it’s a good indication she’s still in the whiny phase of breakup recovery. Rodriguez does better when she moves on to phase two — blaming God. Opener “Infinite Night” describes earth as a dull flash in a giant vacuous pan — depressing, until the album’s other pouty tracks render it one more tear-soaked diary entry. The gorgeous blend of her voice and electric mandolin on the guileless “Grace” should buy her forgiveness, however.
The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust
More unbelievable than the album’s Bowie-referencing title is Trent Reznor’s work as hip-hop producer. Against all odds, he only ruins one track (“Convict Colony”) by making it sound like a Nine Inch Nails reject. The rest of the album is hit-or-miss, but blame Williams’s Lenny Kravitz crooning for the weak spots. Williams, a poet first, is an inspired rapper, though. The excellent “Black History Month” plays like ODB reincarnated with an actual message, and the title track’s warning, “Don’t you call him by his name, white people. Call him Curtis.” is the probably the most pithy analysis of American race relations since Sly Stone’s “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey.”
For all of two minutes, the dudes in Abe Vigoda (it’s a band, not a golden-years career switch for Barney Miller’s Fish) sound like Vampire Weekend. Guitars chime in full Mutantes tropicália while cracking college-radio vocals seduce your ears on opening track “Dead City/Waste Wilderness.” But it’s a trap — the track eventually lives up to its name, descending into staccato riffs and rambling shouts, from which it never really returns. The rest of the record is less divided, ultimately achieving a nearly unthinkable goal — noise punk via pleasant, sun-kissed guitar falsetto. Hard to love, but too unique to miss.