Zac and Hank top CD reviews

Zac Brown (left) and Hank Williams Jr. (AFP/REUTERS)

Zac Brown (left) and Hank Williams Jr. (AFP/REUTERS)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

On this week's playlist: Zac cuts loose, Hank sees red, Marina goes high-concept, P.O.D. surprise and more.

Zac Brown Band

Uncaged

Country

3 stars out of 5

Uncaged is a stretch. But Unpredictable is fair — or Unfocused, depending. Chicken Fried hitmaker Brown spreads his wings with his third major-label studio disc, expanding his jammy country-rock horizons with lickety-split bluegrass, Chesney-style Caribbean reggae- pop and even some wah-wah pedal soul. Sometimes he crashes and burns, but give him credit for being unafraid.

Download: The Wind; Natural Disaster

Hank Williams, Jr.

Old School New Rules

Country-Rock

2 stars out of 5

Are you ready for some outrage? Well, you'll get plenty from Bocephus.

Throwing his cowboy hat into the right-wing ring of the U.S. political debate, the redneck millionaire rails against Obama, ESPN, the EPA and the "United Socialist States of America" — when he isn't getting drunk and milking his daddy's archives for the umpteenth time. All that's missing is a Ted Nugent cameo.

Download: I'm Gonna Get Drunk & Play Hank Williams; You Win Again

Soul Asylum

Delayed Reaction

Alt-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

Who says you can't go home? Six years after their last disc, Runaway Train singer-guitarist Dave Pirner and his reconstituted Minneapolis crew — now featuring Replacements/GN’R bassist Tommy Stinson — are back on track. Reconnecting with their inner post-punks, they crank out a spirited collection of jubilantly scrappy rockers and scruffy ballads. Better late than never, man.

Download: Gravity; Let's All Kill Each Other

Marina & the Diamonds

Electra Heart

Electro-Pop

2.5 stars out of 5

Four of Diamonds? Kind of. The sophomore disc from Welsh popstress Marina Diamandis (who has no band) is supposedly something of a concept album, using a quartet of female archetypes — all various aspects of the ruthless title character — to examine the American dream. Though really, it's also just a bunch of slick, catchy dance- pop and new wave. Whatever works for you.

Download: Bubblegum B---h; Primadonna

P.O.D.

Murdered Love

Rap-Metal

3 stars out of 5

LIfe is full of surprises. Surprise 1: These San Diego Latinos are still together. Surprise 2: They still play Christian nu-metal reggae rap-rock (which seems a contradiction in terms on multiple levels, but whatever). Surprise 3: Their first album in four years, while every bit as dated and annoying as you expect, packs enough guitar-rock punch and melodic hooks to be worth a listen.

Download: Murdered Love; West Coast Rock Steady

Hellyeah

Band of Brothers

Southern Metal

3 stars out of 5

Unfurl the Confederate flags and bust out the bourbon: The Southern metal supergroup has risen once again. And this time, they're stressing the metal. The third studio album from these former Pantera, Mudvayne and Nothingface members tones down the party vibe and raises the stakes (and volume) with harder-driving beats, sharper-edged riffs and darker, angrier lyrics. Saddle up.

Download: War in Me; Bigger God

************************************

John Frusciante

Letur-Lefr

Electronica

3 stars out of 5

Wait one hot minute, Chili Peppers fans. Erstwhile guitarist Frusciante's second release since leaving the Red Hots — like all his solo work — defies expectations. Unless you anticipate five freewheeling cuts of skittery beatboxes, oddball samples, funky synths, noodly guitars and RZA raps. For him, it's actually fairly accessible. But you can forget those dreams of Californication.

Download: In Your Eyes; FM

Jeff Ament

While My Heart Beats

Rock

3 stars out of 5

Every man for himself. After celebrating 20 years together in 2011, the Pearl Jammers are in solo mode. The latest entrant on the field is bassist Ament, who offers this well-constructed solo set of rough-hewn indie-rockers and stylishly hazy alt-ballads. Granted, it never delivers the might or majesty of his day job. But if he could do that on his own, he wouldn't need the other guys.

Download: War in Your Eyes; Give It a Name

Hacienda

Shakedown

Garage-Blues

3.5 stars out of 5

Mentorship or meddling? Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys has championed these Texas rockers for years, producing their albums and using them as his solo band. Now, on their third disc, he also co-writes the songs. One guess who they sound like. Granted, it's probably a great deal for the band. But at this point, it seems clear Auerbach should just make another solo disc already.

Download: Let Me Go; Don't Keep Me Waiting

Die Mannequin

Danceland

Punk

3 stars out of 5

As Bob said, nothing succeeds like Failure. After being chewed up and spat out by a major label, T.O. punk guttersnipe Care Failure returns to indieland with this EP. Other than that, little has changed — this is another muddy muddle of post-grunge fuzz ’n’ wailing that aims for hooky, heavy and feral but ends up amateurish and incomprehensible. As Bob also said: Failure's no success at all.

Download: Away; Children With Machetes

Mynabirds

Generals

Indie-Rock

4 stars out of 5

A picture is worth 10 songs. And a makeover. Inspired by Richard Avedon's iconic photo The Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution, singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn revamps her sound, ditching the Southern soul of her 2010 debut. In its place: A dark concoction of glam ’n’ garage-rock, complete with thumping percussion and cavernous reverb. It'll get your attention.

Download: Wolf Mother; Generals

Shout Out Out Out Out

Spanish Moss & Total Loss

Electronica

3 stars out of 5

All skills, no thrills. These six synth-loving Edmontonians clearly know how to run their machines — they spend most of their third album knob-twiddling, phase-shifting and Vocorder-vocalizing with impressive precision. But in the end, the machines end up running them — despite their twin live drummers, few of these songs display enough emotion or humanity to keep you plugged in.

Download: Now That I've Given Up Hope, I Feel Much Better; This Isn't Helping

Nile

At the Gate of Sethu

Metal

3.5 stars out of 5

Pyramid power is real. It works for these Egyptophile metalheads, anyway. The South Carolina trio continue their tomb-raiding ways on this seventh album, blasting out fiendishly intricate, mind-meltingly intense death metal with virtuosic precision — all while vomiting lyrics about mutilation, resurrection, cannibalism and megalomania.

Plus they have the gnarliest titles around. All hail.

Download: The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased

************************************

DOWN/STREAM

50 Cent

5 (Murder by Numbers)

Don't say Fiddy never gave you anything. To celebrate his 37th birthday last week, he released this free 10-song album — an "appetizer" for his fifth disc Street King Immortal, due in November. 50 doesn't refer to it as a mixtape, but with its loose feel, bare-bones arrangements and underproduced feel, it sure sounds like one from this side of the speakers. Not that I'm going to tell him.

twitter.com/50cent

Big Nils

Looking Through My Eyeballs

Rocker kid alert. This young Massachusetts crew includes Coco Gordon Moore — who just happens to be the teenage daughter of Sonic Youth co- leaders Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. Not surprisingly, this track from their new B---h Gutsssssss single lives up to her noise-punk pedigree with its primal beat, clanging guitars and caterwauled vocals. So much for rebellious teens.

bignils.bandcamp.com

Iggy Pop & Bethany Cosentino

Let's Boot & Rally

If you hung around to the end of last week's True Blood, you caught part of this twangy nugget from the one and only Iggy Pop, with an assist from Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino. Why not hear the full version? After all, now that Ig has basically given up rock ’n’ roll for crooning en Francais, it's a treat to hear him kick up his heels again. Even if he's only doing it for the money.

youtube.com

************************************

REISSUES

Donny Hathaway

Live + In Performance

R&B/Soul

4.5 stars out of 5

Sometimes you can get too much of a good thing. Not this time. Troubled soul stirrer Hathaway's supple, jazzy ’72 Live album is widely (and rightly) hailed as one of the best concert recordings ever. Here it's joined by the posthumously released In Performance, featuring extra songs from the period. Pity it doesn't include some previously available bonus cuts. Still, it's a must-have.

Download: The Ghetto; Voices Inside (Everything is Everything)

Glass Tiger

The Thin Red Line: Anniversary Edition

Can-Pop

3.5 stars out of 5

They aren't gone, but they'd still rather you don't forget them. So Alan Frew and his Can-pop vets have reissued their landmark debut to mark its, um, 26th birthday. Well, never mind; even with an extra cake on the candles, all the ’80s synths and freeze-dried production sounds just the same. A second CD of remixes, demos and live cuts sweetens the pot. Dig out your trenchcoat.

Download: Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone); Touch & Go

************************************

GARAGE BAND

The Wares

St. Catharaines, Ont.

soundcloud.com/thewares

"Give a listen, we don't care what ya say," wrote this St. Catharines duo in their submission. "We just wan't free publisity." Well, no points for spelling or punctuation. But full marks for honesty. And for freakiness. Apparently labouring under the belief they are soul men, these weenies lay down supple grooves and velvet slow jams with titles like Cougar Nites ("easy on the eyes, very hard on the wallet"), Home to Nothing and They Arn't Cool. Stay in school, kids.

VERDICT: "Putting the ill in illiterate."

2 stars out of 5

************************************

UPCOMING

July 24

Anywhere

Anywhere

Handwritten

Gaslight Anthem

Gossamer

Passion Pit

Antennas to Hell

Slipknot

 

July 31

Blur (Box Set)

Blur

Storybook

Kasey Chambers

I Am Armando

Pitbull

God Forgives, I Don't

Rick Ross

Soul Sessions Vol. 2

Joss Stone

Play.Rock.Music

Toadies

 


Photos