Has the summer heat found you indoors, staring at walls? It might help to have some music. Get yourself to a music store, then, and check out these CDs.
“Life, Death, Love, and Freedom”
Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame apparently incited John Mellencamp to obsess on mortality. He responds with “Life, Death, Love and Freedom,” the most somber album of his 32-year career, offering bass-heavy, rumbling blues and dark-hued acoustic stomps that explore death, relationships and the dark clouds hovering over such ongoing concerns as liberty, equality and peaceful coexistence.
Working for the first time with veteran producer T Bone Burnett, Mellencamp moves away from the anthemic roots-rock and Midwestern soul music he’s built his reputation on. Burnett envelops him in the same misty, reverberating twang used so well on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raising Sand.” But Mellencamp uses that sound for an album of midnight ramblings that are less playful and more ominous.
“Como Te Llama?”
Albert Hammond Jr.
Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. leaps into the void with “Como Te Llama?,” an offbeat march into very un-Strokesian territory (it’s his second solo release since The Strokes last record 2006). You’ll get the dose of jangly guitar and insistent drum lines you might expect in Hammond’s latest, but he layers on strings and keys and ideas that don’t fit neatly into three and a half minutes.
Songs on this follow up to 2006’s “Yours to Keep” come in two types. Roughly half the album is long-form Guided By Voices, an homage to indie rock’s prolific poet prince, Robert Pollard.
The threatening guitar line, pushed along by a ticky-tack snare on “Rocket,” would fit right in on GBV’s minimalist “Alien Lanes.” And he echoes the vocal delivery and grandiosity of Pollard’s later work in “In My Room” and “The Boss Americana.”
In the uneven second group Hammond veers away into a strange land of reggae beats and introspective arrangements. These songs are far more experimental than anything you’d find on a Strokes album and even the weaker pieces have interesting accents.
“Around The Bend”
When ‘80s country star Randy Travis mounted a successful comeback in 2002, he did so by singing gospel music to a country beat, a gambit he repeated over several successive albums. Therefore, his solid new album, “Around The Bend,” is being billed as his first country music album in eight years.
In truth, he doesn’t completely abandon spiritual themes; “Faith In You,” “Love Is A Gamble” and “From Your Knees” feature Christian messages, or at least can be translated as such. Even the playful “Every Head Bowed” spends a good amount of time in church, albeit from the point of view of a young boy who’s grumbling stomach has him praying for preacher to adjourn so the family can head out to eat.