Happy endings

By MATT ASHARE  |  September 12, 2007

That same week, in the UK at least, PJ HARVEY’s first disc in three years drops. (The US date has yet to be settled on but will likely be September 25.) No surprises among her supporting cast: she worked with producers Flood and multi-instrumental engineer John Parrish on the disc, as well as with Dirty Three violinist Jim White and ubiquitous bassist/keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman. However, early reports (as well as a posting on Harvey’s MySpace site) suggest that she’s once again extricated her distinctive guitar playing from this mix, only this time she’s substituted her piano playing. So it’ll be a different musical side of PJ Harvey. Which is pretty much what we’ve come to expect.

Neo-folkie DEVENDRA BANHART appears to have embraced the California singer-songwriter legacy that runs thick through the Santa Monica Mountains and the canyons that dot an area folkies have used as an inspirational refuge from smog-infested LA. Recording in Topanga — the same canyon that Neil Young called home in the After the Gold Rush days, and the one where Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris have resided — Banhart has abandond the “freak” part of the “folk” tag he earned on his early albums. And his September 25 release, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (Beggars), promises to be him most accessible, buttoned-down disc to date.

The Finnish dark-metal band H.I.M. are also looking to appeal to a wider audience. Their first US album, Dark Light (Sire), reveled in gothic textures and heavy lyrics that weren’t exactly prime TRL fodder. So the band have done their best to lighten up (as light, I suppose, as you can get when your name is an acronym for His Infernal Majesty) on their new Venus Doom (Sire), also due September 25. Meanwhile, producer/cameo man WILL.I.AM has truly broken the most with his September 25 album Songs About Girls (Interscope). Not only did the Black Eyed Peas leader not invite Fergie or any of his other bandmates to take guest spots, but he pared the list of extras down to just one: Snoop Dogg. That might be a record for a hip-hop/R&B album in this day and age.

October 2 marks the resurrection of three big British acts. The CULT have been toying with making a move since 2001, when they made a furtive attempt at a comeback with Beyond Good and Evil (Atlantic). This time, lead singer Ian Astbury joined the cool club by guesting on the first single from the new U.N.K.L.E. album War Stories. Then the band retained producer Youth to bring his juju to the sessions for their new Born into This (Roadrunner). Best of luck, boys. And who remembers IAN BROWN? Do the Stone Roses ring a bell? Well, the ex-frontman of one of those Brit bands who should have been king is back with The World Is Yours (Universal), a UK import but one that should be easy enough to find on-line. It’s his fifth solo disc, if you can believe that. And ex-Eurythmics singer ANNIE LENNOX has pulled out all the stops for her Songs of Mass Destruction (Arista): along with grabbing master song doctor Glen Ballard to produce the disc, she also coaxed cameos out of Madonna, Sarah McLachlan, Dido, Celine Dion, Faith Hill, Shakira, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, Pink, Fergie, Melissa Etheridge, and (am I forgetting anyone?) KT Tunstall. Sort of like a duets album.

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