Tonight’s show with the New Pornographers (including Neko Case) and Emma Pollock at Metro has to rate as the finest pop bill of the season—I hope you have tickets already, because the show is sold out. But even if don't, both acts have terrific new albums that should be much easier to come by. Challengers (Matador), the latest from the New Pornographers, does an excellent job at balancing the melodic froth of the band's early work with the more elaborate arrangements and less direct tunefulness that’s marked their last couple albums. Nominal leader Carl Newman, who wrote all but the three songs penned by Dan Bejar, has grown more ambitious over time, which often means he obscures his hook mastery with lovely layers of guitar, vocals, and keyboards that with repeated listens end up brilliantly complementing the melodies. But the songs here grabbed me immediately.
On her recent solo debut, Watch the Fireworks (4AD), former Delgados linchpin Pollock carries forward the more direct sound of Universal Audio (Chemikal Underground, 2004), the final record by her old band. I liked all of their records, which juggled the grandiose with the unequivocal, the scrappy with the smooth, and most of the credit was due to Pollock’s exceptional songwriting. I’ve only been able to listen to her new record a couple times so far, and while the production strikes me as rather ordinary—if not downright bland—her songs are just as elegant and substantial as ever.
South African reggae star Lucky Dube was murdered in front of his son Thursday night during an attempted carjacking in Rosettenville, a suburb of Johannesburg. He was just 43.
Enrico Rava Quintet, The Worlds and the Days (ECM)
Ardavan Kamkar, Over the Wind (Traditional Crossroads)
Various Artists, Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow! (Old Hat)
Nils Wogram & Root 70, Fahrvergnügen (Intuition)