CD Reviews


Elizabeth & the Catapult The Other Side of Zero (Verve Forecast)

Musical and melodic to a fault, Brooklyn’s imaginative popsters Elizabeth & the Catapult have succeeded in launching another minor opus with this sophomore album. It’s a sonically diverse affair that defies easy categorization. Singer/songwriter/keyboardist Elizabeth Ziman goes from an acoustic-guitar-and-symphonic-stringed, heartbroken torch song (“Thank You”) to rhythm-heavy, world music-flavored jam (“Go Away My Lover”) at the drop of an Ella Fitzgerald piano fakebook. Ziman’s lyrics, meanwhile, are deft, clever, with just a touch of melancholy. “Best not to whine/before you’re dragged under,” she notes in the cutely titled “The Horse and the Missing Cart.” It’s not all intellect, however; there’s a sensual side to the band, as in the gorgeous ballad “Open Book,” better than anything the much-admired Norah Jones has ever done. Indeed, if you enjoy piano-based indie-rock with a bit of bite and a dollop of darkness, Zero is for you. ★★★★☆


Black Dub Black Dub (Red Ink)

As producer, Daniel Lanois has helped bring to life so many acclaimed, best-selling albums—Peter Gabriel’s So, U2’s The Joshua Tree, Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, to name a few—that it boggles the critic’s mind. But Lanois’ own solo efforts are equally as compelling and celebrated, even if his sales are nowhere near platinum. His 2003 masterpiece, Shine, stands among “the aughts” best, perfectly encapsulating his atmospheric style while showcasing his little-known songwriting abilities. Now Lanois has formed a supergroup of sorts, featuring the late Chris Whitley’s daughter, vocalist Trixie, with bassist Daryl Johnson and New Orleans journeyman drummer Brian Blade. The project, Black Dub, is indeed a deep, dark, rootsy collaboration. The funky “Nomad” rides a wicked bass line, Whitley’s Joplinesque voice blending nicely with Lanois’ and Johnsons’ Curtis Mayfield falsetto backgrounds. The apocalyptic, reggae-kissed groove of “Silverado” is another standout, along with the shimmering, post-rock crescendo of “Ring the Alarm.” A brilliant, moody debut. ★★★★☆


The Ocean Anthropocentric (Metal Blade)

This German post-metal collective’s new album has been hotly anticipated by the metal community for an obvious reason: Few other bands are able to marry absolutely devastating prog-guitar riffs with cerebral lyrical content. This time the concept—because an alt-metal album must always have a concept, right?—is Russian author Dostoyevsky’s parable “The Grand Inquisitor,” from his dark epic novel The Brothers Karamazov, in which Christ returns, is interrogated and quickly sentenced to death by fire. As far as this critic can tell, The Ocean is no Christian outfit, but they’re definitely seekers of the spiritual. Anthropocentric seethes with the anger that characterizes those striving for transcendence in the McWasteland. Hate to draw the comparison, but moments here, particularly the title track, bring to mind the dark progressive grunge of Tool. That is, until flashpoints like the lacerating “Sewers of the Soul” pulverize your poor eardrums. Definitely among my Top 10 metal releases this year, Anthropocentric deserves a wide audience. ★★★☆☆

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Art of McSweeney’s a delightful yearbook of literary success

Book Jacket

Art of McSweeney’s a delightful yearbook of literary success

By M. Scott Krause

To be honest, I’ve missed the boat on a few things. I thought [i]Harry Potter[/i] wasn’t particularly well-written. I was lukewarm on [i]The Da Vinci Code[/i]. [i]Twilight? [/i]Who knew? That said, it’s a real point of pride I got in on the ground floor with Timothy McSweeney’s [i]Quarterly Concern[/i], the groundbreaking, all-star literary journal Dave Eggers founded in 1998, prior to hitting it big with [i]A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius[/i] (Vintage, 2000).