Boom Bip feat. Nina Nastasia, "The Matter (of Our Discussion)" from Blue Eyed in the Red Room
Over Boom Bip's rolling desert soundscape, Nastasia sings delicately, "I don't believe in the power of love/ I don't believe in the wisdom of stone/ I don't believe in a god or the mind/ But I'm not alone." Detached contemplation never sounded so sweet. MARK BAUMGARTEN
Sam Prekop, "Dot Eye" from Who's Your New Professor
This is what you expect from Sam Prekop-breezy, feather-light vocals, jazzy guitar, popping drums and soulful bass-until a Neil Young-inspired, all-out guitar jam unsuspectingly erupts from Prekop's blissful jazz-pop facade. AMY MCCULLOUGH
Weezer, "Beverly Hills" from Make Believe
Even before the wah-wah guitar solo, you know you should have given up on 'em years ago. And that "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" riff proves once again that Weezer will co-opt other artists to no end. Rivers Cuomo, while blessed with perfect pitch, is a pathetic, hackneyed whiny-ass bitch. Goodnight, Weezer.
HAL Self-titled (Rough Trade)
[POWER POP] Ever noticed how some mainstream music media seem to hate, well, music? As in VH1's "awesomely bad" series, which wastes so much time listing negativity you'd think the show was run by laid-off guidance counselors. As in the network's metal edition, when the talking heads lambasted Autograph's "Turn Up the Radio" for grunging up airplay with its medium's self-referentiality. Hey, pot, you're looking pretty dark.
Irish foursome HAL are so not easy-target metal, and, as it debuts on the venerable indie label Rough Trade-one gathers that the band's idea of success veers more to the cred side of the profit/prestige axis. Which is why the Edwyn Collins-produced "Play the Hits," a song singing of and begging to radio DJs, is the most awesomely fantastic bit of self-promo since Dr. Hook or Dire Straits. "Take a look at those guys when they play the hits on the radio," sings Dave Allen, his words punctuated with Kokomo castanets, bouncing bass and unapologetically '70s guitar lines. He then launches into a Frankie Valli falsetto, asking, "I want it can I get it/ I want it can I have it?"
Allen and his bass-playing brother Paul don't wait, offering another instant hit on the Pink Floyd synth laser-light epic, "What a Lovely Dance," and with the alt power-pop anthem "Don't Come Running," which tambourine shimmy-shakes in all the right places. Among the contemplative songs shines "My Eyes Are Sore," a brittle, harmonica-led tribute to Brian Wilson, complete with harp wipes leading to their underwater world of endless vocal harmonies. Each track on HAL genuflects to another great moment in pop, and goes a long way toward being its own great moment. And that's something worth talking about. DAPHNE CARR
Lucinda Williams Live @ the Fillmore (Lost Highway)
[ALT COUNTRY] Fucking and getting fucked over are the two most common recurring themes in Lucinda Williams' oeuvre. Often these topics are combined into a paradoxical narrative, such as fucking before getting fucked over ("Three Days") or getting fucked over before fucking ("Are You Down"). Then there are the terminally fucked-over who would love to get fucked ("Lonely Girls") as hard as the lusty lovers in love who willingly commingle bodily fluids like tonic and gin ("Essence," "Righteously"). Or wanderlust-addled fuckers and fuckees on blacktop quests that may or may not involve a whole lot of fucking at the end of the road ("Joy," "Bus to Baton Rouge").
The sort of fuckscape that Williams and her songs evoke is not the sort where a strapping Chris Klein-type carries some chick who looks like Kate Bosworth onto a big white bed with lace curtains in a lush meadow with pink unicorns in the foreground. No, ma'am. Ms. Williams' version of fucking is the sort that's done on top of a kitchen stove at 3 in the morning. Williams' fucking ain't love-make fucking-it's bloodsport fucking, gladiator fucking. Which isn't very palatable unless it's delivered via Williams' guttural, ice-cube-on-a-nude-nipple yowls that pepper Live @ the Fillmore, her long-awaited recording of three San Francisco shows in November 2003.
This 22-track double-disc makes as strong a case as ever that Williams has the market cornered on fucking. It takes an incredibly complicated, resilient, masochistic, brilliant and hundred-proof romantic individual to mine such sordid source material time and again for lyrical gold. MIKE SEELY