John Legend, Sparta, the Drones, and Albert Hammond, Jr.
The big news this week is Grammy-toting soulman John Legend and his new Once Again (Columbia) – as in, “once again I’d like to win lots and lots of Grammys.” Legend did some of the producing himself and also brought Black Eyed Peas Will.I.Am on board for a few Motown flavored tracks. Legend may push the envelope a little with some rock-tinged tunes. But, as with his debut, Once Again is all about his classic soul stylings and hearty voice.
Albert Hammond Jr.
Now this may be a bit hard to follow, but stick with me: first there was At the Drive In, who split to form the Mars Volta and Sparta. Easy enough, right? It all seemed to be working out jus fine until last year, when Sparta guitarist Paul Hinojos ran off and joined the Mars Volta. Meanwhile, Sparta split with Geffen, signed a deal with Hollywood, and brought Denali/Engine Down guitarist Keeley Davis on to replace Hinojos. That makes the new Threes (Hollywood), the first Sparta album of the Keeley era.
Australia’s the Drones have one of the more misleading names I’ve come across. It conjures images of swirling textures, echo-laden guitars, and maybe even a bit shoe gazing. And nothing could be further from what they deliver on the new Gala Mill (ATP), a live-wired recording that fits squarely in the raucous Aussie garage-rock tradition (anyone remember Lime Spiders?) with a little rootsy twang that brings to mind a great little Australian band from the ’80s with a totally appropriate name – the Beasts of Bourbon.
Albert Hammond Jr., one of the Strokes guitarists, may not be releasing his debut solo album here in the US. But is that really going to stop Strokes fans from snapping it up on line? Exactly. Yours To Keep (Rough Trade) features guest spots by fellow Stroke Julian Casablancas, as well as Ben Kweller, Sean Lennon, and another NYC Jr., Sammy James Jr. of the Mooney Suzuki.
And, since we’re on the subject of NYC hipsters, while Yuka Honda was busy helping out on Sean Lennon’s new disc, her former partner in the broken up Cibo Matto, singer Miho Hatori, was making her solo debut. Actually, Ecdysis (Rykodisc) came out in Japan last year. But it’s finally out here in the US and, if Hatori’s Brazilian-flavored collaborations with Beck guitarist Smokey Hormel are any indication, it’s likely to be every bit as eclectic as a Cibo Matto disc.
Oh, and Arctic Monkeys continue to strike while the iron is hot. Having already set the mark for the fastest selling debut in the UK and then winning the Mercury Prize, they’ve already got a new disc out. It’s just an EP, and it only features one new original tune, “Leave Before the Lights Come On.” But the Leave Before the Lights Comes On EP also has a couple of cool covers, the Little Flames’ “Put Your Dukes Up, John,” and Van McCoy’s “Baby I’m Yours.”
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