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Is Neil Young’s eight billionth record a worthy addition to his catalog? Sure it is. (And so is Trans, by the way.) The final installment in his LOTR-biting ‘Harvest Trilogy,’ Prairie Wind sees Uncle Neil going back to the Nashville rock sound he embraces approximately once a decade. The record’s opener, ‘The Painter,’ is a classic acoustic number, and its closer, ‘When God Made Me,’ is a nice stab at sparse organ-infused gospel. There are a few bluesy, Stax-styled tracks that call to mind 2002’s unimpressive Are You Passionate?, but on the whole Prairie Wind is a much stronger record and hopefully a hint towards the return of some of Young’s other tried and true styles. Here’s hoping we get some Crazy Horse in ’06.
The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw
Imagine if you will: you wake up disoriented, but calm. Acoustic guitars swirl quietly, subtly, like relaxing dreams in a foreign language… then someone smashes your brain with a cinder block. Such is the nature of Pelican’s crushing sophomore effort, a juggernaut of sonic grandeur that only pauses long enough for you to clean the wounds. Forsaking their more straightforward metal past, the Chicago quartet has crafted an honest-to-god epic. With hints of Hum, Maserati, and Mono, Pelican fuse waves of white noise with fuzzy melodies that will likely blow out your speakers and your mind.
The Mouse and the Mask
The Mouse and the Mask, a cross-marketing effort between Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Danger Mouse and MF Doom, contains one of the all-time great hip-hop lyrics: “My money’s green like my nickname’s celery.” In addition to that gem by guest star Ghostface Killah, the record is rife with MF Doom’s comedic genius, and it might be his wackiest flow to date. Liberated from commercial constraints, here one can experience guest spots from Adult Swim crew, cartoon string sections, cockamamie time signatures, and the abnormal, blunted samples fans of Doom and Dangermouse have come to expect. This disc is perfect for a bleary-eyed-cloudy-head Saturday morning spent with a box of bran flakes.
The Forgotten Arm
Ah, the concept album. Usually a death knell for anyone who dares attempt it. (Although I’m sure Styx thought Kilroy Was Here was a good idea at the time.) Thankfully, aside from its packaging — designed to look like a 1940s pulp novel, down to lyrics in chapter form — you wouldn’t necessarily realize that The Forgotten Arm is a concept album. The songs chronicle the strained relationship between two small-town sad sacks, but with a tenderness absent from Mann’s last few albums. The only problem? Mann can’t dumb down her trademark clever lyrics to suit her simple-minded protagonists. But I guess that’s not a bad thing.
Cass McCombs is all over the place. His songs have the feverish urgency of a drunken tryst and he always sounds somewhat off-key. He’s also literally scattered — the only bit of biographical information he lets slip is that he’s lived in cities all across America. From track to track, PREfection reflects his schizo-nomadic history. ‘Subtraction’ has a jittery Motown feel, ‘Bury Mary’ is a frenetic, southern dirge and ‘Sacred Heart’ would be at home on any Smiths album. Even on missteps like the droning ‘Multiple Suns,’ McCombs’ creates a remarkably tangible, welcoming atmosphere — like a home away from home.