Sound & Fury 5-4-2006

Belle and Sebastian The Life Pursuit (Matador; February 2006) the%20life%20pursuit.jpgA fun game to play while listening to this album is to choose the band each song most sounds like. The ones I came up with – T-Rex, Velvet Underground, the Smiths, the Mamas and the Papas, Steely Dan – are a testament to the album’s diversity and skill. This Scottish group has clearly perked up with age, producing songs that are catchy and upbeat while retaining Stuart Murdoch’s wit, crypticness, and spirituality – think dogma-free Christianity meets sunshine ’70s pop. Still, there’s something disturbing about the rave reviews this album – hands down B&S’s poppiest – has received, most claiming it’s the band’s most accomplished work yet. What was wrong with the ones wherein they sound like themselves?  — Hannah Tennant-Moore

Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino; January 2006) arctic%20monkeys.jpgWith the first great rock ’n’ roll song of 2006, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” the Arctic Monkeys took Great Britain by storm. Now their debut disc is your chance to sample the hype – and sample on, because you won’t be disappointed. Equal measures of the Strokes, Jack Bruce, and the Jam are in the mix, but the final product is something else entirely, as these monkeys simply tear through their 12 songs. Play it loudly and you too will look good on that dance floor. — Bruce Riordan

Shel Silverstein The Best of … (Columbia Legacy; 2005) shel%20silverstein.jpgFor the child in you, or in your car, here’s a wonderful collection of poems and songs by the unbelievable Shel Silverstein. Did you know he was a songwriter and a musician, and not just the creator of inspired children’s books? I didn’t, and so this is a great introduction to the world beyond the end of the sidewalk. You get Shel performing some of his poems, interspersed with his own redneck (!) band playing songs about Johnny Cash, interspersed with performances by Waylon and Willie and Kris and all the old Nashville outlaws. This is more adult than you’d think, and you’d have to be an ogre to resist the genuine joy of this release.  — Derek Svennungsen

Duncan Sheik White Limousine (Zoe Records; January 2006) white%20limousine.jpgSince his stunning debut with the Grammy-nominated song “Barely Breathing” 10 years ago, Duncan Sheik has kept us addicted to his catchy compositions and poetic lyrics. His deference from the mainstream light and focus on his preferred sound has only added to the emotional integrity of his music. His fifth album, White Limousine, is even less pop-idol and more rocker, the Duncan fans hail. The mid-tempo songs highlight pro-love, anti-war messages and more edgy lyrics for the mellow guitarist. But while the songs work well together, not one particularly stands out – it’s just the same Duncan formula we’ve heard multiple times. Not that the lyrics don’t have sweet aspirations (“Fantastic Toys and Corduroys” is dedicated to his mother), but the songs, like title track “White Limousine,” never quite reach the climax fans know Duncan can achieve.  — Stephanie Cain

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