She & Him
This column’s wedding-dress theme was initially hatched in honor of She & Him, the M. Ward/Zooey Deschanel collaboration that isn’t a literal marriage but merits festivities nonetheless. But other Current critics beat me to that one, so I’ll instead tout the platonic same-sex bond between the Gutter Twins, which in fact is even a more convincing case of two voices becoming one: Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan and Afghan Whigs leader Greg Dulli, on the new Saturnalia (Sub Pop), craft a dark and brooding (and sometimes PC-button-pushing) partnership in which, to borrow another cliché, it can be hard telling where one begins and the other ends. No small feat, given their reputed personalities ...
Let it Be
SOMETHING OLD: After decades of wishing, fans of The Replacements can finally feast on over three dozen rare tracks drawn from the group’s early stint on the Twin/Tone label — thanks to Rhino’s reissues of their first three albums and the chaotic 1982 EP, Stink. Charting the ’Mats course from drunken punks to drunken pop craftsmen, the series winds up at the landmark Let It Be, where on tracks such as “I Will Dare,” “Androgynous,” and “Sixteen Blue,” they displayed enough heart and polish to convince the hipmakers at Sire to give them a record deal. Look for the Sire reissues later this year.
SOMETHING NEW: Another of the crop of artists to benefit greatly from music-blog buzz (or so we hear), England’s Jack Peñate has just followed up his fawned-over EP Spit at Stars with a proper record. The infectious Matinee (XL) smartly includes that EP’s title track, but not as filler — the disc suffers no shortage of friendly pop, from Style Council-derived Sunday-afternoon breeziness (“Got My Favorite”) to sensitive self-examination (“Have I been a Fool?”) to borderline ska. Some compare the upstart to Billy Bragg, but I don’t hear it — which is just fine, since that reliable Red is still making wonderful records (like the new Mr. Love & Justice) of his own.
An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music, Vol. 5
SOMETHING BORROWED: Heads up, avant-gardists — the fifth volume of An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music (Sub Rosa) digs further into the experiments and provocations that over the years have filtered into the more adventurous strains of popular music. There’s nary a household name here, unless your home is hip to Pere Ubu, but you will find fizzes, bumps, and oscillations that the uninitiated might take for random sound effects from a sci-fi movie’s evil laboratory.
You’ll also find many ways of transforming the recorded human voice into something it was never intended to be — while another pioneer in that area, Steve Reich, actually employs old-fashioned (if atonal) choral composition in his new work, Daniel Variations (Nonesuch).
Otis Blue: Otis Sings Soul
SOMETHING BLUE: Soul titan Otis Redding’s Otis Blue: Otis Sings Soul is the latest recipient of a Rhino double-disc. If, for some reason, pristine remastering of “Respect,” “Change Gonna Come,” and “Satisfaction” aren’t enough for you — what are you, an ingrate? — the package offers the original mono version on one disc, the stereo version on the second, and rounds out each CD with lots of goodies, notably a six-song set recorded live in 1966 at the Whisky A Go Go. None of it does much to explain the confusing title (doesn’t “Otis Blue” seem to promise the blues?) but it’s a treasure nonetheless. •