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Brief Reviews of New Pop, Country/Roots and Jazz Releases


FUTURE Pluto 3D (A1/Free Bandz/Epic, 3 1/2 stars)

Nayvadius Cash was the quiet hip-hop story of the year, as hits beamed in from his April debut, titled Pluto. Then came Nov. 27, and the rerelease, titled Pluto 3D, with three new songs and two remixes, attacked the Billboard charts. Pluto had surprising critical legs, too — I wish rap fans were this open-minded about Auto-Tune when Nicki indulges it. But I can’t accuse Future of selling out because he’s a newbie, can’t mock his singing because it’s entirely cloaked, can’t call his rapping a retread because it came from nowhere. Or rather, Pluto. Narrowly escaping some middle filler, only the unstoppable Same Damn Time and mindless Tony Montana come back to top the openers: Parachute, in which R. Kelly bungee-jumps onto you, and Straight Up, in which Future declares, “I’m-a go to Mars and take the baddest broad.” Easily more fun than Drake.

— Dan Weiss

BROADCAST Berberian Sound Studio (Warp)

From its start in the mid-’90s, the British band Broadcast seemed influenced by soundtrack music. Like Stereolab, they looked back to visions of the future, building on space-age music from the ‘60s and spacious electronics of the ‘70s to create something that sounded new and contemporary, especially on 2000’s seminal The Noise Made By People. Broadcast’s vocalist Trish Keenan died in January 2011, but she and partner James Cargill had already composed the soundtrack to British director Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio, a film about an obsessive film sound engineer (Cargill is also working to assemble a final Broadcast album).

With 39 tracks in 38 1/2 minutes, the album plays as a continuous soundscape: sometimes churchy and imposing, sometimes pastoral and beautiful, sometimes angelic and ethereal, sometimes punctuated by unsettling screams and eerie voices. It’s uneasy listening, but it’s also a fascinating blend of daydream reveries and nightmarish horrors.

— Steve Klinge

BONNIE BISHOP Free (Be Squared)

In the second song on Free, Bonnie Bishop sings about a woman who “ain’t no shrinkin’ violet.” You’d never mistake the Nashville-based Texas native for one, either, after you hear Bishop belt out this swaggeringly Stonesy rocker. And that’s not the only bracingly organic blast the raspy-voiced singer and songwriter delivers here: There are also Keep Using Me and Bad Seed, the latter fueled by slide guitar and pounding piano.

Bishop proves just as potent as a balladeer. She cowrote, with Al Anderson, Not Cause I Wanted To, one of the standout tracks on Bonnie Raitt’s latest album, Slipstream. — Nick Cristiano

THE GAME Jesus Piece (Interscope)

The Game has titled this album Jesus Piece, and an African-American Christ graces the cover. That doesn’t mean Game has become a holy roller or that his newest work is ruled by religious imagery. Instead, it’s about going bad and loving God — how a rhyme-spitting MC can have a gangster lean while remaining spiritual.

There’s an unadulterated bacchanalia of drugs, thugs, and carnality on Celebration and the barking Ali Bomaye untouched by the Holy Spirit. Yet Game’s struggle between staying street and keeping God in his heart (and the club) is clear on bumping, dippy cuts like Heaven’s Arms, when he strolls into the VIP area with “Part the Red Sea in red Louboutins, who the don?/ Packing heat like two LeBrons/ It keep you higher than heaven’s arms.”

The tension between earthly goods and higher ground is most palpable when Jamie Foxx goes with Game to the Lord’s house on Hallelujah. After telling the Almighty he’s trying to reach Him with all his might, Game admits that thinking about young girls while in church is wrong: “I wanna live righteous and you know I love Jesus/ But you can’t catch the Holy Ghost in a Prius.”


— A.D. Amorosi

Country/ roots:

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Music of Nashville Original Soundtrack: Season 1, Volume 1 (Big Machine)

One thing you can say for sure about Nashville, the prime-time soap opera that returns tomorrow night on ABC: It gets the music right. As you can hear on this disc, even with the show’s actors doing all the singing, the results are as good as anything the city’s Music Row has to offer.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, because (the sometimes overrated) T Bone Burnett did the bulk of the producing, along with the always-estimable Buddy Miller. They have a terrific collection of songs to work with, and they manage to strike a balance between commercial accessibility and rootsy character.

Love Like Mine and Telescope, sung by Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere’s character), exude a spitfire attitude that would fit right in on a Miranda Lambert album. Several other numbers play up country’s duet tradition.

— Nick Cristiano


SONIC LIBERATION FRONT Jetway Confidential (High Two).

It feels like the 1970s on this CD from Philly’s own free-jazz big band the Sonic Liberation Front. The band members reaffirm links to the city’s archetypal free-jazzers, the Sun Ra Arkestra, dedicating the tuneful Jetway Confidential No. 3 to their older confreres.

(The piece was commissioned by Philly presenter Ars Nova Workshop.)

The Front, led by drummer and composer Kevin Diehl, features a percussive, African-laced undertow that dips heavy into grooves. Blurts and squeals also abound, as does an artful sense of space and sound. “Umami” is especially intriguing, with its seductive horns, and “Yemaya” emphasizes the group’s Afro-Cuban roots. “One Two” has that spacey stuff covered.

-Karl Stark


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