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Wednesday, October 1, 2014 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
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+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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Bob Dylan
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Love And Theft
Columbia
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Love and Theft, Bob Dylan's first album of new studio recordings in four years, is a work of real substance, brimming with honesty, humor and beauty. Dylan produced the album himself (as "Jack Frost") and recorded with his touring band, a group of crack musicians with impeccable feeling for nuance and mood. Together, they effortlessly traverse numerous American musical genres, from old-timey pop to hard blues to rockabilly. The music here is always soulful and authentic, both complementing and complimenting the words Dylan sings and the sentiments he expresses.

The album opens with "Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee," a shuffling, percussive number about two rambling jokers. As in many of the album's songs, there's no particular plot; rather, this one combines surreal imagery and evocative vignettes — comparisons to some of the material on The Basement Tapes are well founded. Only in the last verse does Dylan indicate that, perhaps, these two aren't so funny: "Tweedle Dee is a low down sorry old man," he sings. "Tweedle Dum he'll stab you where you stand." A flowing country ballad called "Mississippi" follows; it's the latest in the long line of rustic Dylan travel songs and is perhaps the most classically "Dylan" track on the album. The upbeat blues "Summer Days" spotlights Dylan's superbly cracked voice.

Along with several other tracks, "Moonlight" sounds like a pre-war standard, finding Dylan crooning with remarkable charm. The bluesy "Honest With Me" manages to sound lighthearted and bleak at the same time. The cutesy "Po' Boy" floats a light, pretty melody and makes a corny joke about room service ("send up a room"). On the country-blues "High Water (For Charley Patton)," Dylan weaves a mythical tale of impending doom, set in Clarksdale and Vicksburg and starring such characters as Charles Darwin and Fat Nancy. Dylan has always been skilled at creating a sense of foreboding in his songs, but here he sounds less resigned to his misfortunes than awestruck by them.

Love and Theft ends with its most earnest and significant song, "Sugar Baby." For the finale, Dylan sheds his various personae and delivers a statement both personal and universal. He soberly declares, "Every moment of existence seems like some dirty trick/ Happiness can come suddenly and leave just as quick." But to Dylan's credit, he refuses to end the album on a glum note. Instead, with the final lines, heaven comes crashing down: "Your charms have broken many a heart, and mine is surely one/ You've got a way of tearing the world apart, love see what you've done/ Just as sure as we're living, just as sure as you're born/ Look up, look up, seek your maker, Gabriel blows his horn."

After 11 songs dealing with the scope of human trouble and talent, is this a call to judgment? Surely. Dylan not only lays the human predicament startlingly bare, he admits its necessary consequence and hints at its possible solution. A stunning finish to a stunning album.

Each new Dylan album ushers in an explosion of praise and hyperbole, much of it founded more on past works than present ones. Of course, all the attention is irrelevant if his latest recordings are not worthy. As Dylan demonstrates on Love and Theft, he can and will withstand the hubbub; he really is that good.


by David Zahl




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