Given all the hoopla surrounding this week's Super U2esday, I'm a little surprised to see this many artists putting out something new this week. Maybe it has something to do with those long Irish coattails…
But lets get down to business, shall we?
U2's new No Line on the Horizon is finally out…and it's pretty damn good. While I'm not quite ready to call this their best album to date yet (as some already have), it's good to see U2 is still willing to take some risks at this stage of the game — even though they don't really have to.
As a band that has always walked a bit of a tightrope between the big anthemic rock of albums like War and All That You Can't Leave Behind, and the more experimental fare of Achtung Baby and Zooropa, U2 have struck a balance between the two that works just fine here.
No Line is produced by longtime U2 collaborators Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (who provide the atmospherics), and Steve Lillywhite (who brings the ooomph!). Best of all, the chiming guitars of Edge are front and center on tracks like "Magnificent" and "Breathe." The setup for this one has been masterful — U2 are on Letterman every night this week, and close things out on Good Morning America this Friday. Word is the big stadium tour announcement is also just days away.
In non-U2 news, England's "nu-rave" pioneers The Prodigy are back with Invaders Must Die. Midnight at the Movies is the new one from second generation alt-country dude Justin Townes Earle (Steve's kid, named after his idol Townes Van Zandt). Classic and prog-rock fans have Rush's new Retrospective, Vol. 3 and the newly discovered Still Dangerous: Live at Tower Theatre Philadelphia 1977 from Thin Lizzy waiting in stores for them.
Mark Saleski will be along shortly to confess his inner-Lilith-ness as he talks about Buddy & Julie Miller. But first, here's Tom Johnson with the lowdown on Neko Case.
You will never hear anyone accuse Neko Case of "phoning it in." She's the kind of singer about whom there's no doubt that she's passionate about her craft, belting out a modern combination of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.
The reigning alt-country chanteuse returns from a three-year break, still continuing the slow, graceful distancing of herself from those backwoods roots by experimenting a little more as she has on each release. This time around she employs a "piano orchestra" for several songs recorded in the barn on the farm she just bought, and a 30-plus minute track of ambient noise composed solely of tree frogs from her nearby pond, the same frogs that kept interrupting those piano recordings, and the track now rounds out the album. Now that just sounds nice, doesn't it?
Some people have made fun of the Lilith Fair shows put on by Sarah McLachlan, the idea being that the whole enterprise was some sort of unnecessary female music ghetto. I dunno. I think those people where just thinkin' too hard. I mean, the show I went to had a pile of highlights including an incredible set by Lucious Jackson, the always ethereal Emmylou Harris, and the surprise appearance of Golden Palominos cohort Syd Straw (performing, among other things, a cover of the Stones "Some Girls," with Harris on backing vocals).
Besides, had I not gone to that concert, I would never have learned of the American music gem named Buddy Miller. As part of Emmylou's band Spyboy, Miller played a blistering and tasty guitar, nearly blowing the hot pants off those Bioré girls during their volcanic take on Daniel Lanois' "The Maker." Miller is also a great singer & songwriter. The same can be said for his wife Julie. Written In Chalk is full of country and roots music played the way it should be, or used to be, or something.
P.S. If my chatter isn't enough to convince you, check out the roster of guest artists: Larry Campbell, Patty Griffin, Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Regina and Ann McCrary. Woo!
Here are all of this week's new album releases courtesy of All Music Guide:
Alternative Country-Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Americana, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Invaders Must Die
Electronica, Club/Dance, Funky Breaks
Retrospective, Vol. 3
Album Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock, Hard Rock, Arena Rock
Soundtrack of Our Lives
Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Rock & Roll
No Line on the Horizon
Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Pop/Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Vincenzo Bellini: La sonnambula
Blue Lights on the Runway
Indie Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock
The Company You Keep
Progressive Bluegrass, Contemporary Bluegrass, New Acoustic
Dvorák, Victor Herbert: Cello Concertos
Post-Romantic Music for Cello & Orchestra
Liz Carroll & John Doyle
Celtic Folk, Contemporary Celtic
Loudest Common Denominator
Hard Rock, Alternative Metal, Post-Grunge
Justin Townes Earle
Midnight at the Movies
Americana, Alternative Country
Experimental Rock, Kraut Rock, Experimental, Prog-Rock/Art Rock
Throw Down Your Heart, Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: Africa Sesssions
Aboriginal Folk, African Folk
When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence
Experimental Techno, Neo-Electro
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Hot City: The 1974 Unreleased Album
Glam Rock, Blues-Rock, Hard Rock, Album Rock
Club/Dance, Techno, Minimal Techno, Ambient Techno
The Long Lost
The Long Lost
Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Electronic
Sir Charles Mackerras
Janácek: Sinfonietta; Operatic Preludes; Weinberger: Schwanda the Bagpiper; Smetana: The Bartered Bride Overture
Romantic & Modern Orchestral Music
Bach: Sonates & Partitas, Vol. 1
Baroque Music for Violin
Neo-Traditionalist Country, Americana, Progressive Country
Buddy and Julie Miller
Written in Chalk
Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock
Joplin: Rag-Time Music; Previn: A Different Kind of Blues
Post-Romantic & Modern Music for Violin, Piano & Chamber Ensemble
Angus & Julia Stone
A Book Like This
Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Pop
Still Dangerous: Live at Tower Theatre Philadelphia 1977
Arena Rock, Hard Rock
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 11B: 1971
Smooth Soul, Motown, Funk, Soul