Pumpkins, Apple top CD reviews

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and Fiona Apple (AFP, Handout photos)

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and Fiona Apple (AFP, Handout photos)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

And the hits just keep on coming: Fiona Apple, Smashing Pumpkins, ZZ Top, Colin James and Dexys are just some of the bands crawling out of the woodwork this week.

Fiona Apple

The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do Singer-Songwriter

4.5 stars out of 5

Apple doesn’t make it easy. On herself or her fans. Her latest long- awaited album — her second in 13 years — lumbers under another sesquipedalian title. Its emotional burden is equally heavy; these are desperate declarations of heartbreak, alienation and self-loathing, rendered with ragged vocals, majestic pianos, post-rock textures and clattery jazz drums. Incredible — and indelible.

Download: Daredevil; Left Alone

The Smashing Pumpkins

Oceania

Alt-Rock

4 stars out of 5

With Billy Corgan, bigger is better. And his latest project — the ongoing 44-song Teargarden by Kaleidyscope — is his most ambitious since 2000’s Machina. In keeping, this ‘album-within-an-album’ bears all the classic Pumpkins hallmarks: Searing guitars and busy drums, epic songs and complex arrangements, wistful romanticism and bombastic grandeur. His best work in years.

Download: Quasar; Violet Rays

ZZ Top

Texicali EP

Blues-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

About freakin’ time. Nine years after 2003’s mediocre Mescalero, the little ol’ band from Texas finally uncork a taste of their long- overdue 15th disc. If these four cuts are any sign, they’ve stuck to their twangy boogie-rock guns while embracing hip-hop (one tune rewrites 25 Lighters) and allowing superproducer Rick Rubin to tweak their sound for the 21st century. A how-how-how now.

Download: Gotsta Get Paid; Chartreuse

Colin James

Fifteen

Blues-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

He just came back. And he brought friends. Veteran Canadian blues- rocker James co-wrote the bulk of his 15th release with pals and peers like Tom Wilson, Gordie Johnson and Ron Sexsmith. Topped with his warm vocals and wiry guitar, these cuts — which run the gamut from fuzzy rockers to horn-topped soul and bouncy reggae-pop — add up to one of his most consistent outings.

Download: Sweets Gone Sour; I Need You Bad

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

The Lion The Beast The Beat

Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

One good makeover deserves another. After dolling up and rocking out on their self-titled 2010 breakthrough, these Virginians get real again for this fourth CD. Mixing propulsive riff-rockers with everything from ’70s California rock to ’80s new wave to southern soul — plus an assist from Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach — Potter and co. go big while sounding comfortable in their own skin.

Download: Never Go Back; Time Keeper

Waka Flocka Flame

Triple F Life: Fans, Friends & Family

Rap

3.5 stars out of 5

“Gangbanging, selling weed, shootouts and some ecstasy” — it’s all in a day’s work for Waka. Well, that and spitting testosterone-fuelled raps and strip-club anthems over thwacking slow-grind beats. The Atlantan’s second disc doesn’t pack the punch of his starmaking 2010 debut Flockaveli, but makes up for it with cameos from Drake, B.o.B, Nicki Minaj and others. Pump dat fist.

Download: Lurkin’; I Don’t Really Care

Glen Hansard

Rhythm & Repose

Folk-Rock

4 stars out of 5

And then there was one. After a handful of albums with The Frames and Swell Season, Irish troubadour Hansard goes it alone with a solo album. Supported by a crew of New York players, the Oscar-winning singer-songwriter expands his horizons with an emotionally rich, stylishly understated disc that seamlessly shifts between folk, pop, jazz, southern soul and more. Gorgeous stuff.

Download: Maybe Not Tonight; Love Don’t Keep Me Waiting

Dexys

One Day I’m Going to Soar

Soul-Pop

3 stars out of 5

Don’t call it a comeback; call it a resurrection. Kevin Rowland and Dexys are back, some 27 years after the last Midnight Runners disc.

Not surprisingly, they sound older, wiser and wearier on this fourth outing, which finds Kev spinning an album-length tale of lust, love, loss and acceptance while the lads lay down blue-eyed soul vamps. One day he may indeed soar, but not today.

Download: Now; Free

Azealia Banks

1991 EP

Hip-Hop

3.5 stars out of 5

It isn’t bragging if it’s true. So when Banks boasts, “I’m the one today; I’m the new s---, boo,” on her debut EP, you’d best believe.

The 21-year-old New Yorker is rap’s hottest phenom, and no wonder:

Spewing her risque, rapid-fire rhymes with arrogant nonchalance over irresistibly danceable grooves, Banks gives both M.I.A. and Minaj a run for the money. Get on the bandwagon now.

Download: 212; 1991

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Big K.R.I.T.

Live From the Underground

Hip-Hop

3.5 stars out of 5

If you want something done right, get Justin Scott to do it. The Mississippi hip-hopper known as Big K.R.I.T. is more than just another rhymeslinger with a nimble tongue and a smooth flow. He also wrote and produced the cuts on this impressive debut, expanding his southern- fried swagger with a hefty portion of sonic playfulness and plenty of whimsical wit and wisdom. Big respect.

Download: Live From the Underground; I Got This

Jimmy Fallon

Blow Your Pants Off

Comedy-Rock

2 stars out of 5

As if there aren’t enough TV reruns already. Mischievous monkey-boy Fallon’s second comedy disc is dominated by musical parodies from his late-night chat show. On the plus side, the lineup includes his spot- on Neil Young and Bowie impressions, while the guest list features McCartney, Springsteen, Vedder and others. But without the video, what’s the point? Don’t blow your dough.

Download: Scrambled Eggs (feat. Paul McCartney); History of Rap (feat.

Justin Timberlake)

The Melvins

Freak Puke

Indie-Rock

4 stars out of 5

The Melvins going soft? Not a chance. Buzzo and Crover give their bandmates a break on this 18th album and enlist bassist Trevor Dunn in the so-called Melvins Lite. It’s a misleading moniker at best; while a few cuts are leaner and swirlier than their usual brawny sludge, they’re just as oppressively dark and heavy — including their crackling cover of Wings’ Let Me Roll It. Seriously.

Download: A Growing Disgust; Let Me Roll It

Future of the Left

The Plot Against Common Sense

Indie-Rock

4 stars out of 5

Common sense ain’t the half of it. With their third album, these Welsh smartalecs — starring two-thirds of deranged noise-rockers mclusky — continue their campaign against complacency and conformity. Angular alt-rock, sneering punk, spiky new wave, chilly electro; they’re all here, all laced with sharply sardonic barbs and all delivered with crackling urgency. Not for the humourless.

Download: Camp Cappuccino; RoboCop 4: F--- Off, RoboCop

Hot Chip

In Our Heads

Electropop

3.5 stars out of 5

Who says people can’t change? This British dance-pop duo recently revamped their approach, embracing sincerity after years devoted to quirk, kitsch and irony. This fifth full-length is their most honest and genuine effort yet, expounding upon the many splendors of love even as it lures you onto the floor with funky beats and infectious melodies. Music for the heart as well as the hips.

Download: Motion Sickness; Don’t Deny Your Heart

Xavier Rudd

Spirit Bird

World

3 stars out of 5

Dig out your tie-dye and sandals; Rudd is back. The Aussie multi- instrumentalist is up to his old tricks on his seventh album, mixing breezy slide-guitar folk with hypnotic aboriginal grooves and didgeridoo growls — while wishing “the trees could tell us where to go” in his dusty Sting tones. A perfect soundtrack to a Sunday sunset at the campsite, cottage or folk fest. Bong not included.

Download: Bow Down; Follow the Sun

Rhett Miller

The Dreamer

Alt-Country

4 stars out of 5

Rhett Miller is a hopeless romantic. Emphasis on hopeless. The Old 97’s frontman spends most of his sixth album in one of two states:

He’s either head over heels or down in the dumps. Lucky for us, the Texas singer-songwriter handles both situations with equal measures of wry wit (“This ain’t love, but it ain’t bad”) and understated country- rock craftsmanship. So what is not to love?

Download: Long Long Long; As Close As I Came to Being Right

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DVDs

The Beatles

Yellow Submarine

Classic Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

Sky of blue, sea of green — and let’s not forget the Blue Meanies. All have been lovingly and vividly restored by hand in this frame-by-frame upgrade of the Fabs’ silly, surreal and psychedelic 1968 cartoon odyssey. Storyboard sequences, pencil sketches, documentaries, commercials and interviews with cast and crew — but sadly, none of the surviving Beatles — round out the set.

Danko Jones

Bring on the Mountain

Indie-Rock

4 stars out of 5

Keeping up with Jones has never been easy – The Mango Kid has long been one of the hardest-touring men in Canadian rock ’n’ roll. This well-executed 90-minute doc chronicles the highlights and lowlights (including a detached retina from his onstage antics), and ups the ante with hours of extras: 19 videos, 14 live performances and a star- studded 25-minute heist pic. Play it loud.

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GARAGE BAND

Retro Circuit

Toronto, Ont.

http://www.facebook.com/RetroCircuit

Everything comes back in style eventually. Well, almost everything.

It’s been quite a while since ’70s space-rock was the sound du jour — though these aptly named Torontonians clearly aim to change that with their old-school synthesizer lines, laser-beam guitars, proggy grandeur and sincere lyrics about life spans and having rendez-vous with destiny. They’re either way behind the times or way ahead of the curve — but either way, they stand out from the pack.

VERDICT: “Spaceship superstars.”

3 stars out of 5

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UPCOMING

June 26

Suzie Cracks the Whip

Blues Traveler

Invisible Stars

Everclear

Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends

Flaming Lips

Duke

Joe Jackson

The Road

Aaron Lewis

Living Things

Linkin Park

Overexposed

Maroon 5

Days Go By

Offspring

Throw it to the Universe

Soundtrack of Our Lives

 

 


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