[4AD] The first album released under the Hole moniker since 1998’s Celebrity Skin is really frontwoman Courtney Love’sThough the National is often described as “world-weary,” “world-wary” may second solo album—co-founder,be more accurate. On five previous albums, the Brooklyn-based band crafted songwriter and lead guitarist Eric Erlandson isn’t involved,increasingly sophisticated songs populated by characters that live in their own nor is any other previous Hole member. So it’s Love andheads, three reluctant to engage as they parse the secret angst and uncertainty ringers on 11 new songs—10 of which Love wroteof with evolving adulthood. The group’s latest is a stunning refinement of the collaborators like Billy Corgan,form—a Linda search Perry for and self new set to elegant music from a band that is more self- guitarist Micko Larkin. (Perry gets full credit on one tune, “Letter to God.”) assured than ever. There’s an underlying melancholy in the lyrics of frontman Much of the riveting intensity of the group’s 1990s heyday appears to haveMatt left Berninger, along with her whose former mournfulDaniel Jackson baritone complements the often-powerful bandmates, but there are fl ashes here of the snarling Too often, though, the slower songs trip her up. While once fury Love deployed to sucharrangements. devastating effect Bryan back in Devendorf’s the day. they weredrumming showcases propels for harrowing “Don’t displays Swallow of naked emotion,the She spits out her vocals Cap”with vengeful and “Demons,” disdain on “Skinny while Little big guitarsLove sounds cut throughmore dispassionate “Sea of these Love.” days. On The opener production Bitch,” overdriven guitars roiling atop an elastic bassline that doesn’t help—the songs have an airless, sanded-down feel that speeds up as the song “Iraces Should toward Livea climatic in Salt,” pile-up aat littlethe musicaldoesn’t fi t withstutter her visceral accentuates persona. Courtney the lush Love’s blend tumultuous end. She shifts tempos and attitude on the more contemplative history suggests that she has a compelling story to tell, and “Pacifi c Coast Highway,”of taking guitar stock and as layers keyboards. of acoustic Elsewhere,and perhaps sheguest does. spots It’s just fromnot the she’sVincent, telling Sufjanon Nobody’s electric guitars chug along behind her. Daughter. –Eric R. Danton Stevens and help flesh out the National’s best album so

COURT YARDfar. HOUNDS –Eric R. DantonA side project of new offering suggested that its creator was a few strides closer to Dixie Chicks’ Martie crafting something truly monumental in both musical and social terms. Court Yard Hounds Maguire and Emily This cold and private set isn’t it, although that’s probably due more to [Columbia] Robison, Court Yard personal circumstances than anything related to talent. Wainwright Hounds delivers wrote All Days Are Nights while his mother, Kate McGarrigle, was much-anticipated dying of cancer, and there is a quiet, complex sadness even in its insight—both musical and personal—into the sisters who have less autobiographical material. There’s nothing here except piano for so long ceded center stage to Chicks singer Natalie Maines. and vocal, and Wainwright doesn’t project his words in the way Though steeped in familiar instrumentation, the album offers little we’ve come to expect from him. Instead of serenading the person of the barn-burning brashness that made the Chicks famous (save in the farthest corner of a packed theater, he’s singing to himself in perhaps the gutsy “Ain’t No Son”). Instead, its delicate folk-pop an otherwise empty room. –David Styburski prettiness perfectly suits Robison’s more-than-capable voice and the jumble of emotions, sunny and melancholy, that emerge in a song Ozomatli’s music has been called a collision cycle inspired by her 2008 divorce. Maguire’s weeping fi ddle and OZOMATLI of styles, a cultural mash-up, and a 20-car seamless harmonies are welcome as always, and her one turn on pileup of genres. It’s also some of the most lead vocals (“Gracefully”) is so warmly affecting that listeners may joyfully energetic music you’ll ever hear. On ‘Thewish shegroup’s stepped to latestthe mic more is often. a stunningCourt Yard Hounds refinement ably of theits fi fth album, the L.A.-based band stirs its demonstrates that, whether with their fellow Dixie Chick or without, blend of salsa, ska, samba, funk, and hip-hop these ladies’ talent runs deep. –Katie Dodd in ways few groups could conceive. Imagine form—a search for self set to elegant musicFire Away from a tossing the English Beat, Herb Alpert and the For a dozen years, the [Mercer Street/Downtown] Tijuana Brass, Caetano Veloso, and Sly and RUFUS arrangements on Rufus the Family Stone into a magical blender and band that is more self-assuredWainwright’s albums got than you getever.’ some sense of Ozomatli’s eclectic approach. High points WAINWRIGHT busier and his sometimes on their latest, Fire Away, include “Are You Ready?,” a horn-and- All Days Are Nights: Songs naughty, occasionally percussion-driven blast of salsa-fl avored ska; “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah,” for Lulu angry declarations of gay an exultant Latin pop anthem fi tted with shrieking sax; and “Gay Vatos [Decca] pride got louder. Each in Love,” a rockabilly-tinged tune with a soaring chorus. Even when


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