CD Reviews

ALLISON MOORER

Miss Fortune(Universal South)

Shelby's sista—doin' it for herself.

It's not difficult to make a case that country-soul wild child Shelby Lynne botched the follow-up to her 2000 breakthrough, I Am Shelby Lynne—last year's Love, Shelby boasted a couple ace tunes, but schlock-rocker Glen Ballard's domineering production and Lynne's confused songwriting suppressed the cohesive statement of purpose the album should've been. So who better to craft I Am's real successor than Lynne's little sister, Allison Moorer? Moorer certainly seems to be shooting for that on Miss Fortune, her third album: In shapely songs like "Cold in California" and "Steal the Sun," she leads a crack band (which includes ex-Wilco multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett) through arrangements informed equally by straight-country twang, '60s-pop spring, and classic-soul wallop, realizing the same sort of woozy, Dusty in Memphis-like grace Lynne and veteran producer Bill Bottrell made sound so natural. Moorer's voice breaks just like her sister's, too, so that when she kicks things up a notch on "Going Down" and "Ruby Jewel Was Here," she hints at a rough-and-tumble grit that neatly avoids Shania-style bluster. But like fellow Lynne admirer Norah Jones, Moorer's at her best here on the droopy soft-touch ballads—the one-two nudge of "Mark My Word" and "No Place for a Heart" showcases one more sensitive voice that doesn't quite fit into Nashville's choir. Shelby should be proud. MIKAEL WOOD

Allison Moorer plays Century Ballroom at 8 p.m. on Tues., Aug. 27. $17 adv.

THE BIGGER LOVERS

Honey in the Hive

(Yep Roc)

Proving all the best pop bands come in twos.

Common in many revered pop bands is that the companionship/competitiveness of their co-songwriters and singers proffers two bands for the price of one: Lennon and McCartney, Chilton and Bell, Ham and Evans, Holsapple and Stamey, Mould and Hart. And Bret Tobias and Scott Jefferson of Philadelphia's Bigger Lovers, whose sophomore effort equals last year's terrific debut, How I Learned to Stop Worrying, as a stylish, substantive slab of pummeling melodies and three-part harmonies. Produced by Thom Monahan (Scud Mountain Boys, Pernice Brothers, Beachwood Sparks), Honey in the Hive stars Tobias as the brusque Alex Chilton opposite Jefferson's silver-tongued Chris Bell, spiraling his guitar-fueled anthems through the powerful ("Half Richard's"), the celestial ("Don't Know Why"), and the spectral (the Stamey-like "They Haunt Me Still"). Tobias' snarling Radio City riff on "Bought Your Ghost" is a high point, but that's where the Big Star comparisons die. Thanks to Jefferson, the band more closely resembles a prudent Teenage Fanclub ("A Simple 'How Are You?'") or chivalrous Cheap Trick ("Make Your Day"). His (and the record's) signature song, "What Would It Take," drifts into Brian Wilson-land, with Pet Sounds verses that slam into the kind of soaring "aaah aaah aaah" chorus that made Badfinger so infectious. No new ground is broken on these 11 songs, but the Bigger Lovers wear their influences as a badge of honor and offer more proof that some of the best pop songwriters come in pairs. SCOTT HOLTER

FOG

S/T

(Ninja Tune)

Lo-fi horror show proves unexpectedly pretty.

Think of Andrew Broder's genre jumps—as Minneapolis rapper/ programmer/guitarist Fog—as aquatic leaps into a filmic abyss: a lo-fi Hammer horror show where oddly pretty melodies and greasy nasal raps appear like Dracula's wallpaper in one of those Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee '60s scare flicks, all vibrating pulps reds and grainy sepias oozing through black velvet. On his eponymous debut, Fog uses smoldered, smothered sonics and hack-heavy hip hop as a cathartic tool. There's some ugly socio-political speech-making (very Cabaret Voltaire) running between his sinewy singsongy patter ("Pneumonia," "We're a Mess"), adding a found-sound dischord to his quaint, breezy melodicism. In fact, that ruckus—the clatter of low-cylinder guitar madness, acoustic gitbox flitterings, tossed-together tones, and random beats hammered on rubber bumpers—sounds no less fertile than if John Fahey were to have worked with DJ Shadow on a follow-up to The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Beyond the cluttered yet spacious sound, there's an actual subtext to Broder's hip-hop lyrics. With guest MC MF Doom, Broder makes like Dear Abby on "A Word of Advice," before moving to trippier texts on illness, decay, and imagination ("Pneumonia") and the working class ("Check Fraud"). Elsewhere, Broder lets anthemic rock guide his shaky guitar hand and the muscley harmony vocals of "Ghoul Expert" and "And Stay Out." Strange melodies work their way through the rangiest oil-slick-foot-stomping grooves, making something unexpectedly pretty. A.D. AMOROSI

Fog plays I-Spy at 9 p.m. on Sat., Aug. 24. $8.

 
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