MARK LANEGAN I'll Take Care Of You (Sub Pop) On his fourth solo outing, Mark Lanegan departs from his previous introspective musings to deliver an

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The sardonic worlds of Mark Lanegan, Tarwater, Solex, and Andrew Bird

MARK LANEGAN I'll Take Care Of You (Sub Pop) On his fourth solo outing, Mark Lanegan departs from his previous introspective musings to deliver an eclectic collection of other artists' songs, spanning rock, folk, country, soul, and gospel. Cover albums are risky ventures, but the Screaming Trees singer envelops these tunes with his powerful baritone and such subtle devotion that he makes them his own. He and longtime collaborator Mike Johnson reinvent the Gun Club's inflamed "Carry Home" with spare acoustic consideration. Lanegan's languid styling intermingles with fellow Screaming Tree Barrett Martin's vibes to transform the Leaving Trains' "Creeping Coastline of Lights." Exposing his folkie side, Lanegan and Huge Spacebird's Mark Hoyt express their urban weariness on Fred Neil's "Ba De Da." Lanegan gets his mojo working with a pair of sentimental soul classics: the Brook Benton - penned "I'll Take Care of You," and Eddie Floyd's swooner "Consider Me." The motif of the narrator trying to find a home ties the album together, whether in prison (the classic bluegrass number "Little Sadie"), in the eternal hereafter ("On Jesus' Program"), or in the arms of a lover ("Together Again"). When he sings on "Carry Home," "I have returned/through so many highways and so many tears," you sense I'll Take Care of You is indeed a homecoming for Lanegan.—Barbara Arnett

TARWATER Silur (Mute) The duo of Ronald Lippok and Bernd Jestram are Tarwater, one of the new wave of German electronic bands. Less experimental and more song-oriented than Mouse on Mars or Kreidler and more organic than To Rococo Rot (Lippok's other band), Tarwater shares more ground with darkly inventive acts like Tricky and Massive Attack. Silur is best listened to in its entirety, with exemplary tracks being swells in the ebb and flow of this album. The opening "Visit" lays out an undulating midtempo groove, with Lippok rhythmically oozing lyrics by T Rex's Marc Bolan. "The Watersample" takes a similar tack, with political artist Mark Dion's description of a junk-filled beach transformed into a melancholy prose recitation with scratchy orchestral samples, plinkety piano, and simple guitar melodies. The pace is stepped up with the keyboard/high hat beat of "Ford," featuring the freaky high-pitched doubling of Lippok deadpanning an Aldous Huxley poem. The closing track, "V-A-T," brings to mind the phase-shifted, distorted orchestral pipings of My Bloody Valentine. The only slip-up on Silur is the album's title track, when Chicago sound artist Danielle Malkoff reads Philippe Cousteau's description of a dangerous dive with his father. Malkoff's Midwestern accent strips away the dreamy layers that the first half of the album put in place, and it takes a while to sink back into the slow beats and liquid groove that make Tarwater's stateside debut an otherwise beautiful effort.—Jacob McMurray

SOLEX Pick Up (Matador) Straight outta Amsterdam, Elisabeth Esselink (a.k.a. Solex) seems bent on reinventing the pop equation for the new age. Reveling in sonic pastiche, Solex constructs her hook-filled diary entries using crudely cut-up samples of low fidelity source recordings, stumbling scrap-iron beats designed as unsteady foundations, and a minimal overlay of live instrumentation. That this sonic junk-heap has even the slightest bit of candy appeal is a minor miracle, but there're plenty of sour sweets on Pick Up. It's certainly not a put-down or understatement to call the disparate mish-mosh of Solex's found sounds a junk pile—it is nearly fact. From the opening title track, where a cheesy Mangione-like trumpet mutates into a cheap drum-machine lurch and indie-rock guitar loops syncopate with string flourishes, listening to Pick Up is like burrowing through a backyard garage sale of weird samples. In contextualized moves that map out a sort of absurdist beauty, Solex splices together violin pizzicatos and guitar squalls, rockabilly percussion and Metallica bass lines. She then marries them to lyrical ideas of idiosyncratic design, implying that meaning can be as lonely and solitary as bedroom recording. And while all this may sound similar to the high-art pretensions of an obtuse act like Stock, Hausen & Walkman, in Solex's hands it ends up sounding like a Bj�fied version of a Stephen Merritt songbook.—Peter Orlov

ANDREW BIRD'S BOWL OF FIRE Oh! The Grandeur (Rykodisc) There's a casino in Las Vegas called New York, New York, where the skyline of Manhattan is recreated over the course of a city block. Except for the rollercoaster that loops above and around the Big Apple's core and the smaller scale of the whole enterprise, it's pretty authentic. Oh! The Grandeur by Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire gives me a similar almost-the-same feeling. The sometime Squirrel Nut Zippers violinist's solo project redraws the fading lines of 1920s hot jazz and repackages it for a retro-hungry audience. It's not a bad album at all—Bird and Co. shake it up, knock it down, and get seductively swanky with the best of them. They've done the Zippers better by leaving the Worst Lead Singer in the World behind and replacing those nail-on-chalkboard vocals with Bird's impressively reverent take on old jazzbos like Slim Gaillard. In fact, Gaillard's tongue-in-cheek influence is all over Grandeur, leaving me hankering for a bigger skyline—one where the inhabitants may spit on your shoes or stab you in the leg and where the buildings sag with age and fatigue. Oh! The Grandeur doesn't have that, but there's enough amusing ribaldry and sassy playing to make me surrender to toe-tapping and smiling, and to dig Slim Gaillard's solid Opera in Vout compilation out from the closet. —Jason Josephes

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire plays the Breakroom Thursday, September 30.

 
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