Drive-By Truckers & r & & r & Brighter Than Creation's Dark & r & & r & 4 STARS & r & & r & On the latest release by the best band now playing Southern rock, the Drive-By Truckers reveal yet another incarnation that promises so much wonder and grandeur. With the departure last year of singer-guitarist Jason Isbell, now singer-bassist Shonna Tucker steps to the microphone to offer three songs to the album's sprawling total of 19. With Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley offering nine and seven songs respectively, the DBTs stand on another transformative precipice.
The album penetrates the psyche of the Southerner. While Hood specializes in scenes of domestic dysfunction ("The Righteous Path" and "Daddy Needs a Drink") and Cooley explores the horrors of nostalgia ("Perfect Timing" and "Lisa's Birthday"), Tucker provides two exceptional maternal moments ("I'm Sorry, Huston" and "The Purgatory Line") that soften many of her cohorts' razors.
-- CAREY MURPHY
DOWNLOAD: "Self-Destructive Zones"
Venus on Earth
Dengue Fever continues to pursue its conception of pop-psychedelia-meets-world-music that transcends the normal limitations of either genre. On its third full-length release, Dengue Fever makes the expressive qualities of these 11 songs accessible and capable of transporting the listener across space and time. Few contemporary musicians create music that sounds so perfectly suited for film noir, Quentin Tarantino's exploitation films, super-chic hipster hangouts, and college dorm rooms alike.
Though singer-guitarist Zac Holtzman writes the songs, the identity of the band's ethereal sound is tied to Cambodian pop star and mega-babe Ch'hom Nimol, the band's chief vocal presence. Holtzman occasionally provides vocal support ("Sober Driver" and "Tooth and Nail"), but the album as a whole belongs to Nimol. The songs resonate with slow smokiness and dark corners, and Nimol's mostly Khmer, sometimes English, lyrics fill them with mystery. Though the English titles give hints to subject matter, understanding hardly is a prerequisite for enjoyment.
-- CAREY MURPHY
DOWNLOAD: "Tiger Phone Card"