The latest Rock/Pop CDs reviewed

Dawn Landes

Sweetheart Rodeo

Cooking Vinyl ****

2008’s Fireproofwas one of those depressingly under-rated records that should have made Dawn Landes’s name. Despite her Brooklyn-base, the singer’s heart is still in Kentucky, crafting countrified songs as raw as hide. Landes throws out rodeo metaphors for the bucking beast of failed love, and swoops from tender to droll with just a chord change. Her voice is exceptional, sweetly tracked over guitars, vintage keyboards, soft trumpets and percussive quirks – as on Romeo. A combination of subject matter, folk-country melodies and breathy vocals will no doubt bring Cat Power comparisons, but Landes is an original. It’s no surprise, either, that the production is impeccable, thanks to a producer day job at her own Saltlands studio. Wandering Eye, Brighton, Clown, Money in the Bank– it’s hard to pick a highlight on an album that so consistently delivers. SINÉAD GLEESON

Download Tracks: Romeo, Brighton, Money in the Bank

Cat Malojian

The Dawn Chorus

Bad Paw Music

It sounds like the sugar-coated spearhead of a charm offensive, but Lurgan duo Cat Malojian are more concerned with being loved than being famous. Some of the songs on their second album sound like they were recorded around a blazing turf hearth, others while pounding a sunshine-roasted pavement in Nashville. Others still get tangled in a perhaps unnecessary web of faint electronica – a departure from their organic-sounding debut – yet the harmony of Stevie Scullion’s earnest, droopy vocals with Jonny Toman’s skilled banjo playing is a thing of beauty. You Don’t See Mesounds almost like a Bees track, while the studied bounce of Alphabet Songrecounts the pitfalls of urban strife via a Belle Sebastian and CSN&Y union. World domination is unlikely, but they’ll worm their way into your affections with ease. LAUREN MURPHY

Download tracks: Alphabet Song, You Don't See Me


Get Color

City Slang ***

For these Los Angeles funky-punky discordance pimps, the second album was always going to be telling. While their debut was a bawling, mewling little belter that charmed many with its burps and tantrums, it owed much of its heft to the way it extrapolated the band’s influences and tapped into the exuberance of LA’s all-ages Smell scene. There was, to be honest, little else on show, so they have plotted a different route the second time around. On Get Color, the band’s addiction to sonic brashness now dovetails with tracks that sound more like songs (see Die Slowas a pointer) and not mere excuses to tune in and freak out at the drop of a hat. That said, they’re still happy to parade those scars and there are many noisy and happily troublesome tantrums here, like In Heat, where it’s a race against time to get all the sharp, menacing, angular ducks in a line. JIM

Download tracks: Die Slow, In Heat

The Cribs

Ignore the Ignorant

Wichita Recordings***

Edwyn Collins, Alex Kapranos, Lee Ranaldo and now Johnny Marr. The Cribs have employed some impressive personnel during their short lifespan. An explanation is finally disclosed on their fourth album – it’s simply because the Yorkshire trio, in some strange way, remind their elders of their own bygone days. Guitar hero Marr’s subtle ideas and chiming embellishments undoubtedly take the Jarmans’ sound in a new direction (back to the early 1990s indie scene, to be exact). The title track reveals the sedation and refinement of their usual lairy guitar rock, but songs such as Cheat On Meand Victims of Mass Productionmaintain a certain swinging bravado thats enjoyable, too. Still, for all their enjoyably ragged rock n roll tunes, The Cribs have yet to make a long-player thats resolutely brilliant. LAUREN MURPHY

Download tracks: Cheat on Me, Ignore the Ignorant

Declan de Barra

A Fire To Scare the Sun

Kila Records***

Two albums into a decidedly self-propelled solo career, and Declan de Barra is still teasing out the finer points of his own identity. With echoes of Jeff Buckley in his declamatory vocals (particularly on the opener, Until The Morning Comes), he slowly stakes a claim to a sound that’s clearly his own through the spectravision breadth of A Fire To Scare The Sun. By the time he reaches the closing Red Forests, he’s comfortable enough in his own skin to pitch and toss his lyric into an atmospheric mix of deep-bellied strings and feedback loops. At times, his ponderous lyrics verge on the wrong side of portentousness, but there’sroom enough for more than a handful of engaging musical ideas to flourish in between. SIOBHÁN LONG

Download tracks: Red Forests, Ghetto 101

Peter Yorn & Scarlett Johansson

Break Up

Atco/Warner Music**

God, it must be great being Scarlett Johansson; it seems she only has to click her fingers and she is on the receving end of offers from the likes of TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek and Tom Waits – and now Pete Yorn – to mess around in a studio and come up with something that approaches contemporary pop/rock/indie music. The recording of Break Upmight predate Johansson’s truly dreadful solo album ( Anywhere I Lay My Head) of last year, but that doesn’t make it any the more listenable. Yes, Pete Yorn is a good songwriter who has enjoyed cult-level success, but his work is done no favours by Johansson’s singing voice, which is so self- consciously low-key, it’s difficult to determine whether she’s bored, exhausted or just passing the time until her next acting role. Add in a pointless cover of Big Star’s I Am the Cosmos, and you’ve got a record that was surely released on the back of Johansson’s movie-star status. TONY CLAYTON-LEA

Download tracks: Search Your Heart