Sonic Reducer

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Aside from stories of an ancient Ouija board, missing fragments of the album and a spiritual medium playing catalyst, Mars Volta guitarist and ringleader Omar Rodríguez-López wasn’t joking around when he got to work on The Bedlam in Goliath . It hits heavy from beginning to end. That’s not always a good thing—like other TMV albums, there’s an arrangement of confusion that can be difficult, if not daunting, to grasp the first time through. Since the second time around, I haven’t been able to pry my ears away from the stereo. (JH)

Jack Johnson Sleep Through the Static (Island)

In a move that will surprise no one, Jack Johnson doesn’t tinker much with his omni-pleasant formula on the Hawaiian surfer’s latest LP, Sleep Through the Static . He’s added pianist Zach Gill to his usual studio trio, but, save for a few fuller-sounding moments, the addition doesn’t change much. Johnson’s always been better at discussing pancakes than politics. As usual, Sleep’s best moments, both lyrically and sonically, come when the songs are especially tranquil and stripped-down. (SM)

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