CD Reviews


The Secret Sisters The Secret Sisters (Beladroit/Universal Republic)

Retro-Americana is almost kitsch at this point, but Alabama sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers are obviously steeped in the music, their gorgeously harmonizing voices serving as a time machine back to the olden days of radio, when talent counted more than crotch grabbing, and when nothing could match the thrall of a three-minute tune. Produced by arguably the greatest living pop-music producer, T Bone Burnett, the Secret Sisters’ debut album is a staggering thing of beauty, consisting of 11 tracks that mix evocative originals with simple yet powerful takes on standards (“All About You”) and with a couple of heartbreaking Hank Williams covers (“House of Gold,”) thrown in for great measure. These are full-band arrangements, but vocals are the showcase. Lovely as they sound, the Rogers girls do a mean “honky-tonk” on the George Jones classic “Why Baby Why.” Easily the year’s best country release. ★★★★☆


Jesu Heart Ache & Dethroned (Hydra Head)

Highly sought-after and out of print since its limited 2004 release, Jesu’s debut EP Heart Ache (two 20-minute tracks) finally gets proper distribution, along with four unreleased, more conventional songs that comprise the second disc, Dethroned, which clocks in at just under 30 minutes). This is a treasure trove for post-industrial fans and darkwave DJs looking to smash apart a dance floor. U.K. aggressive-music maestro Justin K. Broadrick (Napalm Death, Godflesh) blends electronic beats and loud guitars in ways that never sound dated, derivative or stale. The hypnotic “Heart Ache” delivers nearly two-dozen guitar riffs that any rock band would kill to have written. Broadrick’s only vulnerability lies in his lyrics, which are vague; yet the words reflect the sonically bleached, desert wasteland blasts of noise, drone and synth. Fans of NIN, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie will find much to admire here. ★★★☆☆


Rihanna Loud (Def Jam)

Despite her shocking red hair, Rihanna’s fifth studio album, Loud, doesn’t offer many surprises. Still, it’s audacious in its ability to tease and please listeners, even though few, if any, risks are taken. “Only Girl (in the World)” is aural candy, a strobe-flashing discoball that’s impossible to want to hear only once. Still, my votes for best tracks go to “California King Bed,” which highlights Rihanna’s country-rock power ballad prowess, and the dark, claustrophobic, Barbados-style reggae number “Man Down.” The strange, piano-drenched, orchestral funk of “Fading” is interesting, even if the drums are mixed to sound boxy and wet, thereby ruining everything. Her slow jams (“Skin”) still suck, and the obligatory leathered-Madonna-meets-bad-techno exploitation (“S&M”) that all pop starlets go for these days is lame. Overall, Rihanna struggles in an earthy temptress role, but succeeds in the lofty, futuristic diva approach. ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Full of Knots

Movie Review

Full of Knots

In keeping with the trend that all big-budget animated movies must sanctify their villain protagonist, Tangled recognizes bandit-in-hero’s-clothing Flynn Ryder (voiced by Zachary Levi from TV’s Chuck), a cad with a sexy “smoldering” stare. Flynn rescues an anime-inspired Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) from her comfy tower prison where she has spent most of her nearly 18-years since being kidnapped from noble parents by a deranged witch called Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). Rapunzel’s magnificently long golden locks possess a secret power that keeps Gothel young.