CD Reviews


Perfume Genius Learning (Matador)

Like a cross between doomed indie-folker Elliott Smith and transgression-obsessed author Dennis Cooper, Seattle’s Perfume Genius (real name: Michael Hadreas) sketches out damaged characters who make most “normal people” uncomfortable. Home-recorded with little more than a piano and vocal mike, Learning isn’t a disc you casually spin with company over or while puttering around the house. This is sit-down-and-absorb- the-craziness music, full of screaming ghosts and fractured nightmares. “Mr. Peterson” chronicles an inappropriate, distressing student-teacher relationship: “He let me smoke weed in his truck/if I could convince him I loved him enough./He made me a tape of Joy Division/He told me there was part of him missing./When I was 16/he jumped off a building.” One suspects these narratives aren’t creative writing; rather they comprise a confession. Minimalist in sound, massive in ambition, Learning has much to instruct. Album of the year so far. ★★★★★


Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Dark Night of the Soul (EMI)

A leaked but low-quality version of the much anticipated yet legally-in-limbo collab between the late Mark Linkous (he committed suicide in March) and the producer half of Broken Bells, Danger Mouse, has circulated for some time now. Finally, EMI has properly released Dark Night of the Soul, which features a number of guests, including Iggy Pop, filmmaker David Lynch and Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. Hearing it, you better understand the gloom that snuffed one of indie-rock’s brightest lights. Problem is, the grim tone is relentless, and not so different from what we came to expect from a Sparklehorse album. Still, it’s interesting to hear Linkous’ dim vision interpreted by so many talents. Suzanne Vega digs into the jittery, static-kissed folk-rock of “Man Who Played God”; The Shins’ James Mercer ballasts the turbulent melody of “Insane Lullaby.” However, hearing Vic Chesnutt (who took his life in December) warble through “Grim Augury” is too much. ★★☆☆☆


Kylie Minogue Aphrodite (Parlophone)

Exactly how Kylie Minogue evaded one-hit wonder status and sustained a career after her horrendous “Locomotion” cover way back in 1987 remains a deep and abiding mystery to me. I don’t have anything against the woman, except that she’s another female superstar in the Madonna mold who can’t sing, dance or write songs particularly well, and yet remains a top international entertainer and celebrity. Aphrodite, her 11th album, doesn’t do anything to change my estimation, but the songsmiths and producers she brought onboard created a pleasant enough dance album that never sinks into vapidity badly enough to warrant changing the disc. “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)” absolutely crackles with rich electronic textures and flourishes, while “Closer,” with its rapid-fire minor-chord synth arpeggios, is hypnotic and makes it difficult to keep from dancing around the house while cleaning. Which is really all this CD is: killer house-cleaning music. ★★☆☆☆

Suggested Next Read

All the Right Notes

Movie Review

All the Right Notes

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about The Kids Are All Right is that there aren’t more films like it. LGBT cinema is long overdue for mainstream success. For all the splash that Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain made, it wasn’t a mainstream film. Worse yet, its story supported an oft repeated cautionary tale about gays that Hollywood cooked up a half-century ago. Even great movies such as Boys Don’t Cry and Mysterious Skin exist in a dark netherworld of societal cruelty.