Rock/Pop

 

The latest releases reviewed.

FEIST
The Reminder
Polydor
****

The time may be nigh for Leslie Feist to pin herself down. Spells with Canuck indie-clatter collective Broken Social Scene, various electro tryouts with ex-flatmate Peaches, and vaudeville Berlin pranks with Gonzales may have broadened her horizons. But it was Feist's sinewy and fragile Let It Die debut, an album at odds with everything she'd done prior, that really introduced her to an appreciative audience. They and everyone else will find The Reminder awash with boho ideas, sharp turns and smart elegance. Feist still has a way with a cover version (Nina Simone's Sea Lion Woman is all a-swagger in Feist's hands), but it's the dusty, sepia soul of 1 2 3 4, the beautiful lilt and lift

of Honey Honey and the bittersweet drag of The Water that will be most in demand here. As My Moon, My Man and, especially, I Feel It All show, here's an artist with ability and craft galore. www.listentofeist.com  JIM CARROLL

Download tracks:1 2 3 4, I Feel It All

MODEST MOUSE
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Sony
**** 

After years in the weird-indie margins, Washington state band Modest Mouse hit pay dirt with their last album, the platinum-selling Good News for People Who Love  Bad News. Their profile was also considerably helped when longtime fan Johnny Marr became a full-time member of the band. It's not difficult to hear what attracted Marr; with their encyclopaedic knowledge of musical styles, at the flick of a switch Modest Mouse can go from sounding like New Order to Fountains of Wayne. Lead singer Isaac Brock describes this album as a "nautical balalaika carnival romp", and that sort of makes sense. Standout tracks Dashboardand Fly Trapped in a Jargive Marr the opportunity to flex his guitar virtuoso muscles. But what impresses most is that, on tracks such as Florida, they sound for all the world like The Gang of Four trying to do a disco album. A mini-classic. www.modestmouse music.com  BRIAN BOYD

Download tracks:Dashboard, Florida

BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB
Baby 81
Drop the Gun
****

After two albums of straight- shooting, pump-action rock'n'roll, the leather-clad trio from LA found themselves at a crossroads - and at cross-purposes. The acoustic Howlwas their catharsis, allowing them to regroup their forces and come back stronger than ever. Baby 81is a powerhouse of a record that brings BRMC back to what they do best, and they're doing it better than ever. With British drummer Nick Jago back in the engine room, songs such as Took Out a Loan, Weapon of Choiceand 666 Conducerthunder along. But it's not all rough and rumble: Window's piano progression is the jumping-off point for a beautifully pitched tune, while All You Do Is Talkprovides a gently worded emotional core. Baby 81 blends the political with the personal in such defiant lines as "I won't waste my love on a nation", and in the 11-minute guitarathon of American X. www.blackrebel motorcycleclub.com KEVIN COURTNEY

Download tracks: Took Out a Loan, All You Do Is Talk, American X

MIRA CALIX
Eyes Set Against the Sun
Warp
****

Mira Calix (aka Chantal Passamonte), French DJ and experimental composer sans pareil, is a true maverick, straddling the worlds of electronic, contemporary classical and avant-garde music. From touring with Plaid and Radiohead to performing at the Royal Festival Hall with the London Sinfonietta and a box of chirping crickets, Calix boldly occupies the liminal no-brow space between high art and pop culture, merging eclectic musical idioms, idiosyncratic structural ideas and wire-head technology into a unique sound. Her third album (after path-finding debut One on One and the astonishing follow-up, Skimskitta) finds Calix deftly blending her signature collage of found sounds, field recordings and digital noise with the more formal concerns of melody and pulse to create dense shimmering soundscapes of exquisite colours and textures. www.warprecords.com JOCELYN CLARKE

Download tracks: Because to Why, Eeilo

CORNELIUS
Sensuous
***

Keigo Oyamada has never had a problem coming up with new ideas, though he's sometimes a litle confused about what exactly to do with them. Indeed, there are more ambient electronic notions sprawled through the first couple of tracks on his first new album since Point(2001) than most of his peers will muster in a full career. Compared with the 1990s releases that made Cornelius a hip name to drop beyond his native Japan, Sensuousis more contemplative in nature, perhaps the result of fatherhood and his involvement in various art projects. Sometimes these grooves lack signposts or directions and, as pleasant as the sonic frills on Gum may be, the jilted funk and playful catchiness on Breezin' works better as Cornelius reins in his wayward tendencies. If he had more of the tonal darts on Like a Rolling Stone (Dylanesque in title only), Cornelius would truly be on to a winner. www.cornelius-sound.com   JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: Breezin', Like a Rolling Stone

VARIOUS ARTISTS
A Tribute to Joni Mitchell
Nonesuch
**

Most of the songs of Joni Mitchell (particularly her golden decade of the 1970s) are so ingrained in the mind of the discerning music fan that any deviation is a shock to the system. Interpretations and versions are all well and good, but if the messing about is done without grace and charm, you might as well be listening to Hayseed Dixie's metal makeovers of bluegrass tunes. It isn't all bad here: Björk's version of The Boho Danceis typically skittish while still holding on to the virtues of the original. Prince's A Case of You is also suitably adorned with a measure of respect, as is Annie Lennox's Ladies of the Canyonand Emmylou Harris's The Magdalene Laundries. The head-scratching stinkers include Cassandra Wilson's For the Roses,Caetano Veloso's D reamland, and Elvis Costello's Edith and the Kingpin. Save your money for Mitchell's forthcoming studio album - this is for completists only. TONY CLAYTON-LEA

Download tracks: The Boho Dance, A Case of You