Bows, Bree Sharp, Bernard Herrmann, Brokeback

Bows Blush (Beggars Banquet) Since disbanding Long Fin Killie after three underappreciated albums, Luke Sutherland has fiddled away his time playing violin in Mogwai and writing the Whitbread Award-nominated novel Jelly Roll. Anyone who missed his musical vision will be thrilled to find that he's heading up a new project, Bows, though there is the question of whether it's any good. Sutherland has taken a musical turn that could be called opportunistic or even late to the table: Simply put, it's drum-and-bass. But as he did in his previous, punkier band, Sutherland stretches boundaries like an angry kid playing with Silly Putty, and he's always willing to leave the resultant shape rough around the edges—if it looks cool. Everything on Blush works, in part because Sutherland uses his dramatic, ultra-Brit voice sparingly. Instead, Danish singer Signe Hoirup takes the lead, and she sings in an appropriately stark tone that seesaws between assured and brittle (not unlike Portishead's Beth Gibbons). String sounds dance over the beats, likewise varying: There's clipped violin paired with rumbling bass in "Britannica," spooky harp in "Overfor Kommer,"and twangy guitar in the rock-oriented "Sleepyhead." When Sutherland does step to the mic, his urgent delivery is shocking in its impressiveness, as when he transforms the typical drum-and-bass workout "Girls Lips Glitter" into a mesmerizing, spine-tingling slice of music. Blush is a sleeper hit if ever there was one.—Richard A. Martin

Bernard Herrmann Alfred Hitchcock 100 Years—A Bernard Herrmann Film Score Tribute (Milan) After Citizen Kane and before Taxi Driver, Bernard Herrmann wrote the scores for The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, and Marnie, earning a reputation as Alfred Hitchcock's favorite movie composer. But when Hitchcock rejected Herrmann's Torn Curtain score in favor of John Addison's, the two men ended their friendship forever. Lasting 33 minutes and with only six tracks of music and four brief interviews with Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock 100 Years: A Bernard Herrmann Film Score Tribute as a whole is less than magnificent. Each piece on its own, however, is a diamond waiting to be set into the ring of Hitchcock's cinematic brilliance. The stabbing violins of "Psycho: The Murder" magnify the horror of Janet Leigh's knife wounds; the rolling drums in "North by Northwest: Prelude" solidify Cary Grant's stoicism; the operatic crescendo of "The Man Who Knew Too Much: Cantata—The Storm Clouds" proves that Doris Day couldn't have held the movie on her own simply by cooing "que sera sera." As Herrmann says at one point, "Hitchcock's interest in music is only in relationship to how the suspense can be heightened"; therefore, Herrmann's scores are given the responsibility of getting moviegoers to the edge of their seats. This album isn't for the person who vaguely recalls the Bates Motel, but for the moviegoer who still finds the name Carlotta Valdez tickling their tongue like a Zen koan. It's this person who remembers Kim Novak pointing to that tree ring as she locates a moment in time, and it's this album that validates Bernard Herrmann's ability to make that moment last.—David Massengill

Brokeback Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table (Thrill Jockey) Brokeback is an idea brought to life by Doug McCombs and his trusty six-string—bass guitar, that is—the major instrumentation on his new album, Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table. Brokeback began as a side project for McCombs, whose main gigs are Eleventh Dream Day and the ubiquitous Tortoise. With Field Recordings, Brokeback has moved from being "a couple singles from some guy in Tortoise," to a realized, coherent vision. Still, it's easy to pinpoint the origins of the reptilian pace on this album—sonically on most tracks, and literally with "The Great Banks," an awesome Ennio Morricone- and Stereolab-filtered cover of Tortoise's "Along the Banks of Rivers." From the slowed-down Zappa feel of "After the Internationals," to the Calexico-like soundscapes of "The Wilson Ave. Bridge at the Chicago River, 1953," to the hint of Duane Eddy in "Seiche 2," the album floats from song to song on a bed of the lush, resonating tones of the six-string bass. To his credit, McCombs enlists his Chicago friends only when absolutely necessary to fill out tracks that otherwise might sound too sparse. The title may try to evoke a more desolate urban feel, but Field Recordings is more like the soundtrack to a melancholy day in the Mojave, inviting listeners to lie beneath the shade of the saguaro, immersed in the desert blues.—Jacob McMurray

Bree Sharp A Cheap and Evil Girl (Trauma) The good news: Despite her eerie resemblance to a certain slightly slutty former Mouseketeer, Bree Sharp is nothing like Britney Spears. The bad news: Her songs are still fucking atrocious. It's clones like Sharp who climb the charts with their female hygiene commercial jingles and pseudohorniness only to take the viper right out of their titan sisters' good intentions. This particular lipstick loser tries her shot at angry, PJ Harvey-esque ballads ("The Cheap and Evil Girl") but ends up in sub-Morissette terrain. The opening track, "America," is one part cutout-bin Edie Brickell, one part pox-stricken Natalie Merchant. The album's hit single "David Duchovny" (as in "David Duchovny/Why won't you love me?") should buy her tawny head a pretty ransom from X-Files fanatics—though the ultravain actor reportedly digs the tune. Again and again, Sharp apes the giants of massively shitty adult-contemporary music. She even manages to make Jewel sound like Tammy Wynette as she mangles the art of yodeling in "Walk Away." At 23, Sharp is obviously aware that she's already a hag in Magic Kingdom years. But diluting an already bland formula isn't going to help: Even if they had Britney's deal with Satan, none of the songs on this album would stick.—Kristy Ojala

 
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