Joel Harrison Urban Myths (HighNote Records)
Guitarist Joel Harrison—whose compositions are typically shaped as much by rigorous intellect as by Dionysian inclinations—relaxes on Urban Myths, preferring to groove on the rhythmic and sonic pleasures of electronic jazz. Intellect is never abandoned, but Harrison and friends (particularly saxophonist David Binney and violinist Christian Howes) are after an ecstatic expression that owes more to groove than gray matter. From “Last Waltz for Queva,” pregnant with loss and affection, to the funky “Straight No Chaser,” to the rock feel of “High Expectation Low Return,” Harrison explores his fusion self and plays some wailing guitar. (MM)
Tim O'Rourke Backyard Dreams (Blues Farm Records)
Placitas' Tim O'Rourke's been playing Western-swabbed folk for 35 years. Backyard Dreams proves he's still got a lot on his mind after more than three decades of letting his emotions crackle over a softly strummed acoustic or electric guitar. O'Rourke's pissed off about eight years of the Bush administration—on "Where's the American Dream Anymore" he wonders whether we'll ever salvage our once-mighty nation. O'Rourke waffles between resigned indignation and jovial whimsy on a track-by-track basis. Soulful and relentlessly sentimental, O'Rourke can hum a tune and tell a story. (SM)
Julian Plenti Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper (Matador Records)
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Julian Plenti, or as most know him, Paul Banks of Interpol, tries his first solo record. Banks is Interpol’s singer-songwriter, so why does a man who already has complete creative control need his own album? Judging from the scattershot patchwork of Skyscraper, it seems Banks wanted to try a few things that don't fit into Interpol's boxed-in style. More strings, greater breathing room and an affinity for silence create separation between this outing and Interpol's offerings. There are reminders of Banks' previous work in his stilted guitar strumming, but the alt.folk diversity on Skyscraper is distinct. It's not catchy enough for Interpol's most superficial fans, but it’s nonetheless a welcome reprieve from Banks' usual sullen slickness. (SM)
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