Here are some notable September releases that fell through the cracks for one reason or another:
Hard-Fi, Once Upon a Time in the West. The British foursome delivers another collection of reliable, durable, political, and economical pop-rock ditties with their sophomore set. The cover boasts big block lettering that reads "No Cover Art" while the booklet folds open to display three panels where the band's "Second Album Photoshoot" should go. Cheeky. Highlights include the strings and choir-filled "Watch Me Fall Apart" and the stomping "We Need Love."
Magnet, The Simple Life. Norwegian singer-songwriter Even Johansen's latest is a step up from 2005's The Tourniquet but it doesn't quite match the dizzying heights of On Your Side, his debut under the Magnet name. Highlights: the hand-clappy "The Gospel Song," the symphonic "Count," and two songs co-written with violinist/composer Sally Herbert, "Navigator" and the title track.
Ani DiFranco, Canon. Five newly re-recorded tunes round out DiFranco's first "hits" collection, including an unnecessary update of the 17-year-old classic "Both Hands" and a folkier take on "Napoleon." The folksinger disses her magnificent 1996 opus Dilate by largely eschewing the studio cuts for versions taken from her (equally impressive) live album Living in Clip, and of course, there are lots of missing favorites and dubious inclusions, but just go buy her entire catalog and make your own damn playlist. The packaging is, as usual, beautiful, though I'm not quite sure what to do with that cardboard cutout of a dove.
Kurt Cobain: About a Son, Original Soundtrack. One thing I forgot to mention in my review of the new Kurt Cobain documentary About a Son is its score, composed by Steve Fisk and Death Cab for Cutie singer Ben Gibbard. The film's soundtrack includes the pair's "Overture" along with selections from some of Cobain's favorite artists (Bad Brains, Iggy Pop, Lead Belly, David Bowie, among others) and excerpts of interviews with the late Nirvana frontman.
Clare and the Reasons, The Movie. The Brooklyn-based band's debut is a noir-ish ode to the Big Apple, featuring a cameo by Edward G. Robinson…I mean Sufjan Stevens. Read my full review in The Village Voice.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.