It gets harder and harder as the weeks count down to Christmas to determine what is a priority release and what can wait. Something has to wait, as there are simply too many great things popping up to hold off on for the next couple months. Here’s my selection of difficult choices this week:
Dethklok – Dethalbum: Admit it, you’re a little intrigued. Brendon Small, creator of the brilliant and hilarious Home Movies and the series from which this album is inspired, Metalocolypse, about a fictional death metal band, went all the way here and, instead of just using some short pieces from the show, actually re-recording the “band’s” music so it would actually come out as songs. Surpisingly, the music comes off fairly legit – what I’ve heard here and there is a bit too melodic and sensible to be real death metal, but it’s actually decent music, which is a lot more than can be said about many death metal bands’ music. Be on the look out for a “deluxe” two disc version of this album that includes a bunch more music on the second disc. It’s sure to be a rarity someday, as this won’t likely be a big seller even in its one-disc incarnation. I have to admit that I don’t really have too much interest in owning this, but it’s such a unique thing that I know someone else will. It just deserves attention.
Foo Fighters – Echoes Silence Patience & Grace: Honestly, what can be said about the Fighters of Foo? They do good, simple, fun rock that happily isn’t also stupid. And they do more of it here, this time with The Colour and the Shape producer Gil Norton back behind the boards once again.
Jose Gonzalez – In Our Nature: Gonzalez won over a small contingent of listeners with last year’s Veneer, a satisfying listen of Nick Drake-inspired acoustic pop. Can he maintain the charm that Veneer hooked listeners with last year? I guess we’ll find out.
Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog: I have to give it to Sam Beam. The man is working in a genre that should paint him into a corner pretty quick – lo-fi acoustic indie rock – but he’s managed to add just enough twists with each album to keep things fresh and interesting. This album carries on in the vein of last year’s brilliant, beautiful collaborative EP with Calexico, In the Reins, with more emphasis on “band” songs rather than the more stripped down template, which he easily could have kept working with for a few more albums before anyone would complain too much. But don’t fear – nothing much has changed. The Shepherd’s Dog still possesses that haunted, hushed quality that sucked you in before. There’s just a bit more flesh in the surroundings, and that’s a good thing.
Manu Katche – Playground: I have to admit that I noticed this one because of Mark Saleski’s list. Regardless, I missed out on the previous album, Neighborhood, despite having it in the back of my mind for the longest time. I won’t miss out on this one – Katche is one of my favorite drummers, having mesmerized me with his skills in Peter Gabriel’s live video, Secret World Live, and I’ve long lamented that he only pops up here and there on other artists’ offerings, despite his incredible skills and tasteful delivery.
matt pond PA – Last Light: Like Iron and Wine, matt pond PA doesn’t change so much as just develop forward, but maybe at a slower pace. With the recent If You Want Blood EP, the band added a bit of an edge to their songs, but nothing that should be shockingly different for the casual fan.
As much as I hate to do so, if you didn’t buy that previous EP, I’m going to have to recommend heading to the Itunes store for this one – for less than the price of the CD, you get the album, that EP, and three additional songs. You can also buy those extra songs (“Curves in the Road,” “First Light,” and “Sunlight (Clean Version)”) seperately, if you already committed to the CDs and just have to have them.
Pat Metheny – Secret Story Deluxe Edition: The Metheny remaster campaign carries on with this now two-disc set, adding 5 additional, previously unreleased tracks to the run-time. I wish I had more to offer, but since I haven’t actually heard this album in either this version or its previous, shorter incarnation. It’s Pat Metheny, and it seems that once a Metheny fan, always a Metheny fan. You either buy into him or you don’t. I didn’t used to, but now I’m counted among the converts.
Pearl Jam – Immagine in Cornice: Picture in a Frame DVD: In September, 2006, Pearl Jam undertook a short tour of Italy and asked friend of the band, Danny Clinch, to record the shows for later release. From what I gather, the result is less a concert than a film about the band in Italy – music and their activities between shows. You know, it’s more a documentary than straight concert film – if you didn’t like Radiohead’s Meeting People is Easy, you likely won’t like this either. It’s about the band and not just the music.