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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 14, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 37
Who's the greatest?
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Who's the greatest?

Cat Power, Little Big Town highlight this month's new releases

by Chris Azzopardi - SGN Contributing Writer

CAT POWER
SUN


The artist who once wanted to be "the greatest" isn't just imagining it now - she's living it. The self-confidence infusing Cat Power's first album of original material in six years - self-produced and featuring beats from Beastie Boys' producer Philippe Zdar - struts defiance and a life-affirming awakening, rather than the fragility and vulnerability displayed on her earlier releases. Now Power (née Chan Marshall) is the guiding light she probably could've used a few years back when dealing with health troubles and a breakup. With a fresh outlook on life, a new Lesbian hairstyle, and some electro-jolts shocking her trademark piano/guitar lushness, she brings us Sun, an exhilarating flood of emotions that pulls from life experiences and a politically and socially aware worldview. "Ruin" rips into a passive nation of greed, while "Peace and Love," which intros with an ethereal tone that's a throwback to her earlier sound, spouts off angrily and triumphantly via a trip-hop beat. The real gem, however, is the youth-empowerment anthem "Nothin' But Time," a song that's so good, so epic - especially as it reaches its liberating climax with Iggy Pop - it never feels as long as its 11 minutes. "It's up to you to be like nobody," Power insists. In other words: follow her example.

LITTLE BIG TOWN
TORNADO

One of country's greatest contemporary bands is done with playing second fiddle to the big dogs - their fifth album bids for merited mainstream acclaim, without sacrificing the signature sound the Grammy-nominated quartet established with 2005's The Road to Here. "Pavement Ends," a raucous rockabilly-fashioned song that kicks off Tornado, encourages folks to "let the good times roll." That's the plan on "Pontoon," the lead single that's become a summer staple with its lazy-day breeziness and sexy innuendo, conjuring up a day on the lake with beer and bikini-clad babes. The fun continues with "On Fire Tonight," an earworm-y party song doused in electric guitar and horns that shows the band to be more than just a down-home brand; they've got some rock running through them, as the bark of "Front Porch Thing" also demonstrates. They don't abandon their unrivaled four-part harmonies, which have always given them the edge over lesser acts such as Lady Antebellum, and "Can't Go Back" takes full advantage of those. The song's a standout, falling in line with other melancholy ballads like "Your Side of the Bed," that reaffirms Little Big Town's talent shouldn't just be acknowledged within award-show circles, but everywhere, and by everyone.

BLAQK AUDIO
BRIGHT BLACK HEAVEN

Davey Havok and Jade Puget, respectively vocalist and guitarist of punk-rock band AFI, take a detour with their side project, Blaqk Audio - a detour that takes them back to the '80s. The goth-glam throwback comes five years after CexCells, their initial venture into synth-pop. Bright Black Heaven looks to David Bowie, Erasure, and Depeche Mode for a decent run of songs that are casually listenable, though in a style so dated that they probably found these tracks in the same closet as their fishnets and leather pants. That's not necessarily a bad thing: "The Witness" has the swagger of an Adam Lambert song, and "Cold War" is as heartfelt as Andy Bell asking for a little respect.

STARS
THE NORTH

The hipster darlings known as Stars, a Montreal quintet with six albums to their name, lean heavily on the electro new-wave sound they've been toying with, especially on their 2010 album The Five Ghosts. "The Theory of Relativity" pops with a synth-y effervescence that has Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan tag-teaming Human League-style on this romantic charmer. Despite some remarkable moments, such as "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It," and a solo from Millan, "Lights Changing Colour," which bleeds '80s nostalgia - the album slogs in its schmaltzy final third, because by then this girl-guy drama is about as tired as they sound.

Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.

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