IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

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Kid in the Corner by Low
IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column which scoops up releases by international artists, in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column picks up New Zealand artists.

Comments will be brief.

Low; Ones and Sixes (SubPop): Now 20-plus years into their career and the band that defined the slowcore movement, Low here deliver a sublime, sometimes unsettling ("All you innocents make a run for it" on the mesmersing The Innocents) and casually melodic album which wins on every score for its dreamlike stasis. Writer Alan Sparhawk and his wife Mimi Parker's voices have rarely sounded so in synch, and the deft touches of electronics add an engaging dimension. And a number of songs have their heart in classic Fifties pop melodicism (the gritty No End, the airy Into You) and Sixties breeziness (What Part of Me where the lyrics belie the tune) as much as in the emotional disturbances and the alienation of the 21st century (Kid in the Corner). This really is quite something special. Highly recommended.

The Dark Horses; Tunnel at the End of the Light (Dark Horse): For many the fact this Australian six-piece includes Tex Perkins and Charlie Owens (both in the excellent Tex, Don and Charlie with Cold Chisel's Don Walker, as well as steering solo careers) is probably enough. Perkins is one of the great writers and here, completing a trilogy of albums  informed by landscape and characters in it, he brings his spare lyriscim and that weathered voice to acoustic-framed songs which have a lived-in quality and probe ideas of change, world weariness, and the dance of life and love (among them the cover They Shoot Horses Don't They?). The point of the final track Last Words is held to the very final line, jus before the wind blows through eerily. Excellent and pointedly understated musicianship too by this six-piece. Adult stuff.

All is Quiet
 

Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin; Lost Time (YepRoc/Southbound): Their volatile relationship seems to have been, at least in some measure, resolved and so these two brothers (Dave interviewed here) were in the post-punk country-rocking band the Blasters then went their separate ways. Blues is at the core of what they do and their previous album -- their first together since the mid Eighties -- Common Ground was nominated for a Grammy. This extends the brotherhood of the blues in this enjoyable selection which includes songs by Big Joe Turner, Willie Dixon and James Brown's Please Please.  Please. The countrified If You See My Saviour is a low-key treat. Fine album.

Lifehouse; Out of the Wasteland (Ironworks): Is it damning to describe this LA rock trio (with the obligatory aching ballads) as "competent"? They write decent songs, play them well and tap into late teen angst in a way that is familiar, unadventurous, enormously popular (15 million albums of their back-catalogue sold) and . . . competent. The acoustic'n'strings Wish shows they also have some depth beyond the cookie-cutter alt.rock elsewhere here. You can hear why they are such darlings at various radio stations. but . . . .  

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