GOSSIP & r & & r & Live in Liverpool & r & & r & 4 STARS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "T & lt;/span & his is for the faggots... The G-A-Y," Beth Ditto proclaims on the album's second track, pointing up the downside of concert recordings: audience interaction. Liverpool has the flaws of a live performance, from having a song's subtext outed, to counteracting its vibe (the anarchistic "Standing In the Way of Control" is annexed by a perky "Peace!"), to the worst thing of all: audience sing-alongs. Still, the musicians get to show off their chops, and the band's secret weapon is revealed to be drummer Hannah Blilie, who is dead-on disco when she wants to be.
And there's Ditto, with a voice that ranges from thrash-metal to a flighty Etta James. Set between the group's sparse textures and the Gossip-hungry crowd, Ditto's wide range and rangy spirit come across even bolder than on studio recordings. The album is capped by the saving grace of concerts: the encore -- a punk cover of "Careless Whisper," with Ditto "do-duh-do"-ing her way through the sax solo.
DOWNLOAD: "Careless Whisper"
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & J & lt;/span & onathan Meiburg, the mind behind the band Shearwater, recently left Okkervil River to concentrate on his own efforts. While his deft orchestral touch there may be sorely missed, Rook, Shearwater's latest opus, is a fine substitute. Rook is an epic mass of amorphous melody, ranging from the quiet and introspective to the explosive. There is no comfortable setting to leave your speakers at -- you will either be unable to hear the intricacies of the soft movements or you will go deaf.
This is an active listening album, begging to be more than just background music. Soaring strings and brass bombast underscore Meiburg's quivering falsetto, smacking of Antony or late-era Scott Walker. His lyrics bring to mind a fairytale kingdom -- albeit one where the oxygen has spontaneously ignited, and now the very air is awash in cruel and fascinating flame. This is the musical version of Pan's Labyrinth -- full of imagination, enchantment and primal hypnotic brutality.
-- JEFF ECHERT
Download: "Leviathan, Bound"