CD Reviews: April 2011

R.E.M.
Collapse Into Now
Warner Bros.; 2011

Though 2008’s audacious Accelerate was generally well received, its aggressive garb never really suited R.E.M., so a reversion to their old sound was bound to happen. For as U2-like as they’d like to be perceived, the trio don’t really have the swagger in them, no matter how hugely popular they’ve become since their modest 1983 debut. It’s fitting, then, that Collapse Into Now’s strengths reside in songs like “Blue,” “Oh My Heart,” and “Überlin,” all of which seem like sly adaptations of classic R.E.M. songs, with their emphasis on Stipe’s comfortingly, yearny vocals and Buck’s mandolin and jangly guitar work. The problem, however, is that much of the album comes across as a vegan version of something meatier and more fulfilling. It’s unlikely Collapse will win R.E.M. any new fans, but it will rally their already considerable fan base to cheer on their merits even more fervently. This reviewer remains unconvinced. If you like R.E.M., you’ll be more than pleased; if you don’t, prepare to be underwhelmed. — G. Sanders

Radiohead
The King of Limbs
Self-released; 2011

As light and abbreviated as it first comes across, Radiohead’s latest release reveals great depths with repeated listens. Clocking in at a mere 37 minutes, these eight cerebral songs seem built with exacting, scientific precision, as if the band had compiled each of their EKG graphs and set them to music. But also like those peaked and valleyed charts, The King of Limbs indicates much more than just cold numerical data. Beginning with an almost deliberately obtuse, erratic drum beat, Radiohead go on to shepherd the chaos into some semblance of sense as each subsequent track takes over. By the time “Lotus Flower” gives way to the slower, ostensible second half of the album, the patients seem to have stabilized with the nuanced “Codex” and “Give Up the Ghost,” songs that for all their wispy slightness find the band back to their eccentrically beautiful ways. The last number, “Separator,” ends with barely a whisper, suggesting another album-length sequel in the near future. Make no mistake: this is ponderous stuff, but only a band like Radiohead could make it feel so airy. — G. Sanders

Catholic Radio
Catholic Radio
L. Parker Moore; 2011

Catholic Radio’s eponymous debut CD is full of surprises. First off, they have no affiliation with Rome, the Holy See, or Papal Decrees. They are, however, ready to convert the tired ears of those currently weary of contemporary radio. Released independently, the production on this disc is exceptional and jumps from the speakers. The songs are driven and hypnotic, exhibiting college radio sensibility while also capturing a big sound. Standout tracks include “Still Eyed Dream,” “Powder Run,” and “Eternally Blue,” songs that burn like the coal on your last cigarette; you’ve got too many miles yet to drive through the cool, inky black night, and rest isn’t an option. “Lose” is a disarming song with a trippy, irresistible keyboard riff that shimmers and reflects like sunlight on still waters. Peppered with instrumentals (three in all — “El Buen Sabor,” “How Do I Look?”, and “Markov,” these songs show off the band’s impressive chops while revealing a sly wit and playfulness they aren’t quite ready to put into words. Catholic Radio will restore your faith in something new worth listening to. — M.A. Rivera

The Orion Experience
NYC Girl
Self-released; 2011

Didja hear disco’s making a comeback? Too late; it is back. And I’ll say this: I respect The Orion Experience for not pretending that what they’re doing is more white boy funk. Nope, they go for the polyester jugular and shake it like they mean it. This five-song EP offers up four songs guaranteed to increase your heart rate and make you want to get up and dance. And the other song, “Sweet Friend,” is an endearing yet understated song reminiscent of Queens’ “You’re My Best Friend.” “NYC Girl” and “Vampire” belie all nostalgia and act as though it’s still 1978 — 16th notes and all. There don’t appear to be any loops programmed on this disc either, which qualifies the band as disco purists. The guitar chimes and teases over a solid, insistent bass line, which should be packing dance floors everywhere. Singer Orion Simprini’s voice is smooth as velour as he laments ladies who leave him breathless. He seems slightly girl crazy if we’re going to think too hard about what he’s saying, but the lyrics are beside the point. The groove is everything here. “Emerald Eyes” is a horn-driven upbeat shuffle, and “Rollercoaster” provides a four-on-the-floor dance beat. All of it is irresistibly catchy. Danceable and fresh, NYC Girl is required listening for anyone who needs to get up and move. — M. A. Rivera

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