CD Shorts

Chris Isaak
Mr. Lucky
(Reprise)

Though Isaak may have made a career out of cooking up tasty bits of nostalgia, this latest release is truly an aural snapshot of another time. Spanning the spectrum of throwback songwriting from beautifully styled, crooning '50s pop a la Roy Orbison to the more energetic Western rock of someone like Johnny Mathis or Jackson Browne, he's kept the spirit of Elvis alive better than any per-diem imitator in Vegas. If it weren't for the fairly complex production, this album could've been made in 1957, 1967 or 1977. It's a cherry-picked example of what keeps Isaak from becoming irrelevant: he's good at what he does, and what he does is sort of timeless, and kind of dark too. —Tom Sturm

*

Wendy Wall
The Road to Paradise
(Tumblestone)

Wendy Wall's knack for musical poetry and storytelling resonates at a conversational and interpersonal level thanks to the interaction of her vibrantly textured voice and the rest of her band. While Wall's voice evokes a cozy patchwork quilt or hot cocoa on a rainy day, she lingers on the edges of her vocal range without entirely digging into the passion that stays present throughout. Her songs speak about overcoming loss and contemplating dreams. Wall's third album, The Road To Paradise, is a graceful folk-rock interpretation of life's hardships and highlights as she returns to her Greenwich Village roots and the company of old friends. —Fraylie Nord

*

Mastodon
Crack the Skye
(Reprise)

Carrying on the proud tradition of drop-tuned prog-metal pioneered by bands like Tool and Queens of the Stone Age, Mastodon churns forth generous helpings of trippy guitarmonies, dripping-wet vocals and more arpeggios than an Italian phone book. They may, however, have a few too many cooks in their rock 'n' roll kitchen; one singer sounds like Ozzy and lilts his silky melodies expertly over the weird time signatures, while the other (who growls every word with James Hetfield-worthy zeal) seems to be there to assure that this band has not forgotten that it has testicles. It's an epic production that walks the tightrope between being a Sabotage-esque, trilogy-fueled dark lexicon of rock and a Spinal Tap-like parody of itself. —Tom Sturm

*

P.O.S
Never Better
(Rhymesayers)

P.O.S's new album combines punk and hip-hop, but this isn't some awkward rap-metal hybrid. The rapper deftly mixes rattling riffs, DIY production, and emo flow into a hip-hop template, creating an organic style that should resonate with anyone who likes beats and noise. Never Better's clattering drums and raw bursts of bass fit his sincere tales of the disaffected and downwardly mobile. The best tunes are frontloaded, so the album loses momentum. But, thanks to a winning sound and the most striking and elaborate packaging of the year, it's easy to overlook the album's faults. What's not to love about tracks that sample Fugazi and name-check tap dancer Savion Glover—and make the combination sound seamless? —Jeff Jackson

Author: Advocate Staff

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