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The Riff Report: New music this week –

MUSE — “The 2nd Law”: Left to merely find the nearest, most convenient genre to riff on for a bit, Muse have solidified their quest to top 2004’s brilliant “Absolution” as a real existential crisis. Their genre hopping, ostensibly the signifier of their artistic maturity, is in actuality the most concise description of their fatal flaw. Beginning in the comfy confines of alternative with “Showbiz,” this trio has expanded into a chaotic mass of sound, a sound that has lost the straightforward power that once served them well. “The 2nd Law” certainly isn’t the career bomb that many might worry it to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not any less of a red flag. — Brice Ezell

FLYING LOTUS — “Until the Quiet Comes”: Steven Ellison masterfully blends chilled-out electronica tones, deconstructed hip-hop rhythms, and a free jazz ethos to the point that each element is indecipherable on its own terms and becomes a component of a hybrid genre all his own. So while the guest spots by Erykah Badu on “See Thru to U” and long-time admirer Thom Yorke on the android paranoid “Electric Candyman” would seem to be the picks to click, it says something about FlyLo’s vision that their distinctive voices are subsumed into his fully immersive composition. — Arnold Pan

BETH ORTON — “Sugaring Season”: Trying to be both folk and electronica, Beth Orton’s career has always been defined by an identity crisis. Perhaps it took her a while to settle into a better understanding of what’s most compelling about her music, but Orton seems to have found her voice as an artist by breaking things down to their basic, time-tested elements. “Sugaring Season,” Orton’s sixth full-length and first since 2006, is her most straightforward, comfortable-in-her-own skin folk-pop affair, a consistent listen that isn’t muddled by the fuss and distractions of celebrity DJ remixes and electro beats. — Arnold Pan

HEART — “Fanatic”: The Wilson sisters’ new travelogue proves they have a lot left in the tank … and a lot to teach other bands. This sonic landscape lets Heart roar like they haven’t for a long time. The title song comes roaring out of the gate with an amazing riff and lets Ann unleash a snarl and a hunger that a lot of today’s groups don’t even try to approach. Ten tracks, all of which fit together in a logical way and with an almost-identifiable theme, over in 40 minutes but continuing to echo long afterwards, loud and rowdy but also soft and personal — “Fanatic” here reclaims folk music from the Mumblefords, teaches all rock bands how to actually rock, and continues Heart’s legacy of being one of the best bands we have ever had. — Matt Cibula

TORI AMOS — “Gold Dust”: Amos celebrates 20 years in the business with a fairly lackluster reworking of old and new favorites recorded with the Metropole Orchestra. What and who is this for, precisely? For the most part it only serves as a reminder that the original versions of these tracks are a hell of a lot better (save for “Flavor”). The album is also in many ways a continuation of the 2011 classical rip-off inspired “Night of Hunters,” but is in no ways as intricate or involved. — Enio Chiola

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS — “Transcendental Youth”: It goes without saying that John Darnielle is among the most prolific of songwriters today if you were to simply measure the sheer volume of the Mountain Goats’ archive of full-lengths, seven-inch singles, tape-only recordings, and other ephemera — supposedly around 600 songs’ worth. Continuing in the more listener-friendly trajectory Darnielle has been headed, “Transcendental Youth” is a full, well-rounded effort that’s as catchy as the Mountain Goats have ever been. — Arnold Pan

Other notable releases this week:

Iris DeMent — “Sing the Delta”

Mark Eitzel — “Don’t Be a Stranger”

Faith Evans — “R & B Divas”

Diana Krall — “Glad Rag Doll”

Matt and Kim — “Lightning”

Tift Merritt — “Traveling Alone”

Miguel — “Kaleidoscope Dream”

Van Morrison — “Born to Sing: No Plan B”

Papa Roach — “The Connection”

Chris Rene — “I’m Right Here”

Taken By Trees — “Other Worlds”

The Tragically Hip — “Now for Plan A”



Ralph “Soul” Jackson — “For Just One Second” (MP3)

Ralph “Soul” Jackson has been an R&B singer for nearly 50 years, hailing from a part of the world where God-given soul talents seem to run in the waters. Jackson comes from Phenix City, Ala., deep in the so-called “Black Belt” where music is an essential part of life. His first single was released in 1965 after Rick Hall brought Jackson to Muscle Shoals to work in his FAME studios. Since then the singer has kept up his rigorous performing schedule, as he says “I grew up in the country, a hard working environment where your ass had to get out there and work.” Jackson became known as the Alabama Love Man for his special appeal to female music fans. “See, I may sing my songs from the gut but they come from my heart. I learned very early that women appreciate attention, I’m not singing for women, I sing to them.” Now after all these years, Jackson is releasing his debut album “The Alabama Love Man” on Tuesday. — Sarah Zupko


Cauldron — “Nitebreaker” (stream)

Prolific Canadian heavy metal band Cauldron return to action Oct. 8 with “Tomorrow’s Lost,” their third full-length album in four years for Earache Records. Arena-worthy anthem “Nitebreaker” is a headbanging highlight from the forthcoming album, which sees Cauldron hone their songwriting, tighten their guitar attack, and fire-off the most memorable chorus of their career. “Tomorrow’s Lost” is a game changer and a must for fans of traditional metal/rock in the vein of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Angel Witch. Check it out and wreck your neck. — Dean Brown




Cajmere — “Chit Chat” (Clubhouse Remix) (MP3) from “Only 4 U”

On October 30th, Strut Records will release a compendium of classic Chicago house music from Cajmere and Cajul Records. “Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records 1992 — 2012” will feature two discs of dancefloor tunes, including Cajmere’s “Chit Chat” (Clubhouse Remix).


of Montreal — “Micro University” (MP3)

of Montreal have a new album coming out on Oct. 23 and it’s a collection of rarities called “Daughter of Cloud.” “Micro University” dates from 2006 and is one of 17 songs presented on the record.


Stay+ — “Crashed” (stream)

The UK hipster house duo Stay+ has offered up “Crashed,” another new track from their upcoming November album. It’s a soulful club banger.




Wax Tailor (feat. Aloe Blacc) — “Time to Go” (video)

French downtempo/ trip-hop producer Wax Tailor (Jean-Christophe Le Saoût) returns this month with his fourth album, “Dusty Rainbow From the Dark,” a 22-track affair conceived of as a concept album inspired by how children look at the world. Le Saoût has brought in a large cast to bring his dreamworld to life, including Aloe Blacc who features on this video for the very soulful “Time to Go.” Other featured guests include Shana Halligan (Bitter:Sweet), Elzhi, Jennifer Charles (Dan the Automator’s Lovage project), Charlotte Savary, Mattic, and more. The tour accompanying this release is a major theatrical venture with more than 20 directors contributing to bringing the musical concepts to life. – Sarah Zupko




Crystal Castles — “Wrath of God” (MP3)

Crystal Castles are back with a new album Nov. 6 called “(III)” and “Wrath of God” is the dreamy and ethereal electro-groove preview track. Great stuff.


Mayer Hawthorne — “No Strings” (RAC Remix) (MP3)

This Monday indie soulster Mayer Hawthorne is releasing an EP featuring remixes from his recent record, “How Do You Do.” With six tracks, it’s a beefy EP containing interpretations of his songs by the likes of Dam-Funk, RAC, The Bakaboyz and more.


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