Billy Talent / Billy Talent III / Warner
Billy Talent III continues the trend heard on II: a generally mellower and more radio-friendly sound than before. If the overplaying of first single “Rusted From The Rain” is any indication, Canadians can expect to hear a whole lot of these songs on local rock airwaves. However, the re-listenability of standout tracks “Saint Veronika” and “Tears Into Wine” may make this radio saturation bearable. Keeping with the tradition of “Try Honesty” and “Devil In a Midnight Mass,” Ben Kowalewicz’s lyrics on this album deal heavily in Catholic symbolism. Guitarist Ian D’Sa shows off his impressive chops most notably in “Rusted From The Rain” and “Tears Into Wine.” With their tendency of naming their albums numerically, and of writing kickass tunes, is it fair to dub Kowalewicz and D’Sa a modern Page and Plant? That will all depend on whether these tunes, not to mention D’Sa’s haircut, will stand the test of time.
Download: “Saint Veronika”, “Tears Into Wine”
Against Me! / The Original Cowboy EP / Fat Wreck Chords
To any longtime fans of Florida punk outfit Against Me! the track list from their latest, The Original Cowboy, will look quite familiar. That’s because it’s a collection of demos to songs that eventually made it on their 2003 album As The Eternal Cowboy, notable for being the first full-length release with the band’s current lineup. Every track from Eternal Cowboy turns up on Original Cowboy except “Sink, Florida, Sink,” but they’ve made a couple other alterations to the song order. The former “A Brief Yet Triumphant Intermission” which turned up in the middle of Eternal has become the album opening “A Brief Yet Triumphant Introduction” and segues smoothly into the stellar “Cliché Guevarra” as a single track. Similarly, “You Look Like I Need a Drink” has been coupled with “Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists” for a sort of double encore to close out the album. For fans who caught onto the band after the breakout success of New Wave, this makes a reasonable introduction to their past, but doesn’t represent much of a change from the original to warrant buying The Original if you’ve already got The Eternal.
Download: “T.S.R”, “A Brief Yet Triumphant Introduction/Cliché Guevarra”
Cage / Depart From Me / Definitive Jux
New York rapper Chris Palko, aka Cage, has said that he wanted to reach a wider audience with Depart From Me. Sure, the themes of drug addiction, a troubled childhood and mental illness will inevitably bring comparisons with Eminem, and the synthesized beats on tracks like “Depart From Me” and “Katie’s Song” seem to delve into territory pioneered by Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, but Palko brings enough original style and skill to Depart From Me to make it a hit on his own terms. Cage is not just another white rapper riding on Slim Shady’s coattails; he’s been receiving acclaim for his music since the mid-nineties and actually accused Eminem of imitation in 1997. Palko’s acute knowledge about the darker sides of human nature comes out in “I Never Knew You,” which sounds like The Streets minus the Brit accent, and “Teenage Hands,” a song that quickly becomes an indictment of the government for luring teens into the military. With the guitar-heavy instrumentation and Palko’s ranting lyrics on “Fat Kids Need An Anthem” and “Dr. Strong,” Cage wears his hardcore influences on his sleeve, resulting in some of the most enjoyable songs on the album.
Download: “I Never Knew You”, “Fat Kids Need An Anthem”
Yim Yames / Tribute To / Digital Download
This 6 song EP by My Morning Jacket lead singer and guitarist Yim Yames (a derivation of his actual name Jim James) is short and sweet, but all the more sweet when one realizes that the six songs featured on the album are all George Harrison covers that Yames reportedly recorded shortly after the former Beatle’s death in 2001. The most recognizable Harrison original is probably “My Sweet Lord,” which was the first song by an ex-Beatle to reach #1 on the British charts in the early seventies. Besides Harrison solo originals Yames also recorded the songs “Love You To” and “Long, Long, Long” off the Beatles’ Revolver and The White Album, respectively. Yames’ stripped down acoustic renditions of these songs manage to be both haunting and heartfelt, as his Louisville accent seems to echo through the sanctuary of a church full of mourners, still tearful over the loss of “the quiet one.”
Download: “All Things Must Pass”, “Sir Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll)”