PEARL JAM, Binaural (Epic) Twelve tracks into Pearl Jam's sixth studio album, Eddie Vedder sings and strums a cute little melody on ukulele, in what

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Pearl Jam, Departure Lounge

PEARL JAM, Binaural (Epic) Twelve tracks into Pearl Jam's sixth studio album, Eddie Vedder sings and strums a cute little melody on ukulele, in what I've gotta believe is an homage to (rather than a ripoff of) the Who's "Blue, Red and Grey." The song came from an album, Who By Numbers, recorded nearly 10 years into the band's career, and it featured a brittle-sounding Pete Townshend chirpily proclaiming, "I like every minute of the day." Vedder offers no such ray of hope in "Soon Forget" or anywhere else on Binaural for that matter. But Pearl Jam, now almost 10 years into their career, have etched out a place in rock that's comparable to where the Who were all those years ago: unfazed by their past role in a music revolution, content where they are right now, and undaunted by what may lie ahead. Named for producer Tchad Blake's recording technique, Binaural finds the four longtime bandmates and now-permanent drummer Matt Cameron (ex-Soundgarden) sketching out songs rather than overthinking them. The jittery "God's Dice" could be an anthem in another context, but Pearl Jam lets it unwind naturally, with Mike McCready and Stone Gossard's guitars slipping out of rhythm to reel off solos that dart into the backdrop. Even Vedder lurks, stepping up only to growl through the best of several protest songs, "Grievance," and to emote in the tuneful, almost beatific—if not for its lost-love theme—"Light Years." Given the band's pliable and less aggressive feel here, maybe they should have saved the Yield title for this one. Then again, you could call it Pearl Jam By Numbers.—Richard A. Martin

DEPARTURE LOUNGE, Out of There (Flydaddy) The first full-length release from Departure Lounge is an eclectic and stylized assortment of sounds and experiences, a late-night variety show of indie pop goodness. Instead of a brightly lit Lettermanesque stage, this show is indeed set in a lounge, a lounge full of broken-hearted hipsters, loopy electronic video game noises, retro keyboards, and the sweet, static noise of a guitar in an empty room. Tim Keegan, who's played guitar with Robyn Hitchcock and Blue Aeroplanes, leads the British quartet in subtle yet rich four-part harmonies with a voice that's at once sweet and as sour and winsome as the most minor of all minor keys. And it's the tone that runs through the album and makes the variety show work. I nominate "Late Night Drive" for the theme of the next James Bond flick; the sometimes lulling, sometimes provocative flamenco guitar and sneaky, soulful rhythms of this instrumental track lend themselves perfectly to spy movie intrigue. "Stay on the Line" is such a perfect break-up song, it makes me wanna get dumped just so I have more reason to love the lonely strummed guitar and the lines, "There's no one to talk to/Just records to play/There's no use pretending/It's over/Stay on the line/ We're gonna be fine." Even our first guest, "Music for Pleasure," blends the slowly bouncing pop noises of songs like R.E.M.'s "Strange Currencies" with ambiguously deprecating hushed lyrics like, "I'm not another broken fairground ride."—Laura Learmonth

MARC RIBOT Y LOS CUBANOS POSTIZOS, Muy Divertido! (Very Entertaining!) (Atlantic) I can't have been the only one who figured that the self-titled 1998 debut of the Prosthetic Cubans, as their name is translated, was a one-off. After all, guitarist Ribot is a restless sort, working with everybody from Laurie Anderson to John Zorn and never staying in any one stylistic place, be it avant-jazz or Brazilian pop, too long. But the man knows a good thing when he's in on it, and Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos, conceived as a tribute to the great Cuban bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez, was an exceptional thing—subtle, addictively gorgeous late-night music that simultaneously called up images of old Havana and modern New York. The new album strays from the template mainly through volume: the rhythms of Muy Divertido! (Very Entertaining!) are jumpier, and its vocals and guitar work are both louder than before. I do wish Ribot had excised the smirky English-language talkover of "Las Lomas de New Jersey" ("The hills of New Jersey are beautiful/It would please me to go back"), which skirts ever so slightly into kitsch territory, something the first album assiduously avoided. But this continuation of the debut's rich sonic territory is pure pleasure nevertheless.—Michaelangelo Matos

BEBEL GILBERTO, Tanto Tempo (Six Degrees) If anyone can update the sultry sounds of the bossa nova, it's Bebel Gilberto. The daughter of bossa nova originator Jo㯠Gilberto and vocalist Miucha, Bebel has Brazilian pop in her blood. On her debut album, the singer ushers her parents' music into a new millennium, collaborating with some of today's best producers: Mario Caldato Jr.—the man who hipped the Beastie Boys to Jobim—faithfully recreates the breezy '66 hit "So Nice (Summer Samba)"; Thievery Corporation collaborates on the dark, meditative abstraction "Lonely"; Arling & Cameron cowrote the percussive "Sem Conten磯." Befitting the bossa nova's air of self-assured sophistication, Bebel is no dewy-eyed youngster: She released her first solo effort, a self-titled EP, over 10 years ago (hence her new album's title, which loosely translates as "long time, no see"). Since then, the smoky-voiced singer has worked with everyone from Brazil nut David Byrne to DJ Towa Tei; her only misstep was an appearance on a Kenny G record. So, rather predictably, Tanto Tempo's nova bossa nova succeeds from the start—a cover of guitar virtuoso Baden Powell's "Samba da Ben磯" that subtly incorporates Amon Tobin's drum-and-bass rhythm. Later comes Jo㯠Donato's clean arrangement of "Bananeira," the jazzy standard he cowrote with Gilberto Gil; a host of other Brazilian veterans, from Carlinhos Brown to Bocato, appear throughout the record. All these noteworthy guests could've turned Tanto Tempo into a disjointed parade of stars. Yet a fluid consistency prevails, thanks to Bebel's effortless vocal style and the discerning ear of main producer Suba (even more impressive considering his tragic death in a fire midway through the recording process.) With all this talent in her court, Bebel Gilberto slides easily into the bossa nova throne.—Jackie McCarthy

 
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