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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
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+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ 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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Ian Brown
Music of the Spheres
Polydor UK

It can't be easy being Ian Brown. The man who seemingly could have had it all during Britain's late '80s "Madchester" era managed to blow it with the Stone Roses, a once-promising band that ended with the most simpering of whimpers, then had to watch an inferior band they'd influenced — Oasis — attain the U.S. success they themselves never achieved.

As a solo artist, Brown has yet to find himself. His third solo album, Music of the Spheres, is an improvement over his lo-fi solo debut and his over-produced second disc, but it misses as often as it hits.

Electronic sounds (perhaps inspired by his brief collaboration with UNKLE on the "Be Here" single a few years back) predominate on Spheres, which exhibits some of the quality-control issues that have plagued every album on which Brown has appeared since the Roses' flawless debut. Things start out strongly with the symphonic strings of first single "F.E.A.R.," an initialism that the singer proceeds to spell out over the course of this melodic track (e.g., "For each a rule/ For every man a religion"), with the delicate plucking of a guitar alternating with the heavy beatbox rhythm and machine bass growls. "Stardust" is a homage to his former group, opening with a Roses-sounding guitar squall, and including Roses references such as "I'm made from stardust."

Things get dicier with "The Gravy Train," with its plodding chorus and clichéd references to cocaine and vampires as emblems of materialism, and from there the album meanders. Highlights include the beautiful, ambient "Northern Lights," the jaunty "Bubbles," and the concluding, acoustic strum-fueled "Shadow of a Saint." But there are too many low points, in particular the minimalistic, nearly spoken-word "Hear No See No" (evil, of course) and the silly "El Mundo Pequeño" — Spanish for "the small world" — which is just as trite a love song in English as in the Spanish form featured on this disc. (Though Brown's mastery of the subjunctive verb form, slayer of many students of the Spanish language, is commendable.)

Three albums into his solo career, Brown continues to show ambition, which is a plus. Still he reminds me of that guy from high school — maybe you know him, or one of his doppelgängers — who isn't that smart but wants to be known as an intellectual, and isn't afraid to grow his hair out, wear a baja or poncho, and promote "world" culture whilst not really knowing a thing about it. He's daft, but still good for a few tunes per disc that make one miss the early Stone Roses all the more.

by Steve Gozdecki

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