Patrick ParkEveryone's in Everyone
Essential: "Nothing's Lost"
Soundtrack of your life
Though we may never understand the full cultural significance of television's "The O.C.," we do know that the show is responsible for single-handedly creating the genre of indie montage-rock. Some songs were simply written to accompany images of freckled faces at sunset and flaming, totaled Range Rovers.
Patrick Park rules this genre. His near-perfect "Something Pretty" anchored "The O.C. Mix 2," and "Life Is a Song" played over the last scene of the (OMG) last episode. That track now leads off "Everyone's in Everyone," which, much like Park's excellent debut, is an enjoyable, if melodramatic, call to arms for everyone's inner pariah.
It's perfect for the night before graduation, a long plane flight, or a breakup from a summer fling. This is not to say that Park should be tossed in the post-prom laundry hamper with the likes of Vitamin C. His open embrace of melody is refreshing in this James Blunt era, and his rich but occasionally ragged tenor gives his songs a veneer of timelessness. This man is not afraid to use cello if necessary to snap your heartstrings in two ("Nothing's Lost").
Of course, there are limits to how far an artist can go with lyrics about saints and pawns and soldiers -- truly one of Dylan's unfortunate legacies -- and there are fewer homeruns on this album than before. Still, as a result of his quiet merit and/or numbing consistency, it's rarely a mistake to pop in a Patrick Park CD when the silence is otherwise deafening. [Judy Coleman]
Essential: "International Players' Anthem"
Underground Kingz (Jive) In the four years that Chad "Pimp C" Butler served time in prison on assault, Bernard "Bun B" Freeman, the other half of the Houston rap group UGK (short for Underground Kingz), was ubiquitous, jumping in on tracks with everybody from T.I. and Slim Thug to Little Brother. But when you heard him chanting "Free Pimp C, Free Pimp C" on every song, you realized he was just half of the equation. After a five-year gap between albums, the duo reunited on this self-titled double LP, and with Pimp C making his signature crotch-grabbing boasts from play to stop, this album is dripping with that swagger. "Underground Kingz" is full of guitar twangs and head-nodding drum kicks with cool bass strums holding everything together. "Chrome Plated Woman" is a throwback to the sound of UGKs classic album, "Ridin' Dirty." Bun B is incapable of spitting a garbage verse, constantly riding the fine line between predictability and reliability. But this album makes it more than obvious how critical Pimp C's personality is. To call UGK underground at this point would be false; they are the kings of country rap. And for many reasons, the return of Pimp C chief among them, this is a grandiose reintroduction. [Julian Benbow]
Luciana SouzaThe New Bossa Nova
Essential: "Waters of March"
Picture the blandest bossa nova you could imagine. Got it? Well, unfortunately, I've got it, too, and it's the new album by Brazilian-born singer Luciana Souza. Now, first: When you name your album "The New Bossa Nova," there had better be something new about it. The only newness I could detect here is the choice of songs -- milquetoast bossa nova covers of tunes by the predictable batch of songwriters such as Sting ("When We Dance"), Brian Wilson ("God Only Knows"), and Joni Mitchell ("Down to You"). Souza -- who, yes, has a pleasant voice and a boatload of talent -- has one setting here: drowsy. She's backed by a superb band that includes saxophonist Chris Potter, guitarist Romero Lubambo, pianist Edward Simon, bassist Scott Colley, vibraphonist Matt Moran, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. But they never get off the ground. There's no variety, so the collection is a one-note samba, even when James Taylor (not that he could ever perk up a party) duets with Souza on "Never Die Young." "The New Bossa Nova"? Bebel Gilberto is the new bossa nova. This is your grandpa's bossa nova. Grandpa, you there? Grandpa, wake up. [Steve Greenlee]
Essential: "Wrecking Ball"
As likely as not, the Twinemen's third studio release will continue to induce comparisons to Morphine, the extraordinary, trailblazing band whose remaining members, Dana Colley and Billy Conway, reunited (with singer/guitarist Laurie Sargent) as the Twinemen after the death of Morphine's outsized centerpiece, Mark Sandman. And as with their previous releases, there is much on the group's latest to evoke such comparisons: eerie, smoky sounds that are inevitably labeled "noirish," the prominence of Colley's baritone sax, allusive wordplay, and perhaps most of all, the ability to create a musical mood. But the Twinemen's own musical stamp is also very much in evidence here, maybe more so than previously. At its best -- on the languid, soulful vibe of "Summer Box" and the swirling caterwaul of sound that wraps itself around Sargent's vocals on "Wrecking Ball" -- the music on "Twinetime" combines, even entwines, the distinctive with homage. [Stuart Munro]
The Twinemen play at Atwood's Tavern tonight at 10.
The BrunettesStructure & Cosmetics
Essential: "Her Hairagami Set"
New Zealand husband-and-wife duo the Brunettes (Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield) must have lamented "always the bridesmaids, never the brides." They've opened for an impressive roster of indie bands, including the Shins, Rilo Kiley, and the Postal Service. But since the group's inception in 1998, it has always played second fiddle to more mainstream acts, at least stateside. "Structure & Cosmetics," the Brunettes' Sub Pop debut, changes all that. The disc starts promisingly enough, with a Polyphonic Spree choir giving way to chunky British guitars, handclaps, and a catchy singalong chorus. There's a brief drop-off during "Stereo (Mono Mono)," full of gimmicky headphone interplay between Bree and Mansfield, but "Her Hairagami Set" redeems things nicely. It's a mix of electro undercurrent and '80s-style reverb swirling about what seems to be an Asian-themed fashion show. Vocals are thinly recorded, especially Bree's, and the melodies are often imitative. (The outro of "Credit Card Mail Order" comes directly from "Crimson and Clover.") It looks like the Brunettes may have finally caught that bouquet, but they're probably best off staying supporting bachelorettes. [Jeremy Adams]
Essential: "Da F**ery"
If anger is indeed an energy, Long Island-born MC Keith Murray must be feeling pretty alive these days. On his first record in more than four years, the rapper delivers a furious, pointed attack on the state of hip-hop and his place in the pantheon. Murray is an A-game talent, and he has watched a group of B-level MCs churn out hip-pop hits while his career has been stuck in neutral. Almost this entire disc is dedicated to calling out lame, vodka-swilling rappers masquerading as gangsters and offering unconvincing street fairy tales. From the opening salvo, "Da F**ery," to the blistering "Don't (expletive) With Em" and "U Ain't Nobody," the gruff-voiced MC drops witty, barbed rhymes and he's augmented by a group of East Coast veterans including Method Man, Redman, and Erick Sermon, who also produces. That explains why it's a decidedly New York-sounding record with bruising basslines, thwacking percussion, and hard-headed verse. Murray may never get the acclaim he thinks he deserves, but with records like this, people will eventually pay attention. [Ken Capobianco]
We didn't think it was possible to improve upon Rihanna's brain-melting smash "Umbrella" -- and we were right. Moore runs the sexy hip-hop come-on through the milquetoast filter and somehow comes up with a commercial, country-radio ballad. Even still, so hot.
Listen at: youtube.com (search for "Umbrella" and Mandy Moore). [Luke O'Neil]
Meet your new favorite bands
If you love free music, but don't love the idea of stealing it from your favorite, underappreciated musicians, Daytrotter.com is a small miracle. The site lures some big names in indie rock (Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Of Montreal, Grizzly Bear, Jolie Holland) and smaller-but-interesting acts (Whispertown 2000, Harlem Shakes, Jana Hunter) into a studio in Rock Island, Ill., to record "exclusive, reworked, alternate versions of old songs and unreleased tracks." They then release eight of those songs every week for free.
But don't be fooled by Daytrotter's altruism or by the folky, hand-drawn art that the site's illustrators pack onto every page. The Daytrotter Sessions aren't some lo-fi scraps from a basement four-track -- they're high-quality recordings of intimate, impromptu performances that you can download to MP3, stream individually, or -- if you're in an exploratory mood -- play in a randomized radio-station format.
Highlights abound, from three unreleased Phosphorescent (above) tracks (including the great "Cocaine Lights") to a set from Cambridge's own the Dead Trees (formerly Furvis). Band members chime in for other weird and interesting features, such as recitations of book excerpts and, in the "Lasso'd" section, short lists of their favorite music, activities, and miscellany.
The site also carries a slew of interviews, album reviews, and, as of deadline, at least one live video performance by Architecture in Helsinki, which hopefully won't be the last of its kind. All that related content is fun, but the music is what's putting Daytrotter on the map, and likely, on your list of bookmarks. [David Kieley]