As promised last time, in this installment of Sound Thinking we'll try to delve deeper into the CD pile that has been steadily mounting since Easter. All praise, insults and attempted woolgathering will be kept to a minimum.
This time, we turn our attention to artists on the national and international front.
Ever wonder who rock's next great singer is going to be? Stand back, humans, she's here in the larger-than-life form of Beth Ditto from the Olympia trio the Gossip ('Movement,' Kill Rock Stars). On the new record, the Gossip fashion robust blues-punk ditties, with Ditto's voice acting as the kiln that fires them into shape. Her hellcat howls could blast barnacles off a battleship. É Who could this be? Why, it's former Lemonheads heartthrob Evan Dando ('Baby I'm Bored,' Bar/None) trying on the cloak of the mature singer-songwriter guy. For the most part, it suits him, though one wonders why he feels the need to cover Ben Lee twice on this record.
Speaking of singer-songwriters, Irish lass Gemma Hayes ('Night On My Side,' Source) is an especially good one. Hayes stands tall against various densities of rock with a voice that conveys both defiance and regret in equal measure. É From Philadelphia, the Lilys ('Precollection,' Manifesto) are back with their first new record in a while. Leader Kurt Heasley doesn't seem to be quite as obsessed with the swinging '60s as before, but the songs are still plenty pop smart. É Ach! Such noise! From the burgeoning German electronic underground comes Electrocute ('A Tribute to Your Taste,' Emperor Norton) an outfit that sounds like Trio fronted by that gal who sang '99 Luftballons' so many years ago.
You'd think the guys in Supagroup (self-titled, Food Chain) could at least wait until AC/DC had ceased to be before shamelessly plagiarizing its songbook. At least they wisely chose to rip off the prime Bon Scott years. É Oakland, Calif., is home to the Cuts ('2 Over Ten,' Birdman) a superior pop act that clarifies the musical conundrum of what Cars frontman Ric Ocasek would sound like if he moved to Memphis and played with Big Star. É It looks like the kitchen sink is about the only thing that the Starlight Mints ('Built on Squares,' Pias America) don't play. This tuneful, inspired mess suggests a pileup involving Tom Waits' backing band, the Beach Boys and They Might Be Giants. Let God sort 'em out.
North Carolina's Tim Lee ('Under the House,' Paisley Pop) has been making classy and passionate roots-pop for more years than Rover's got fleas. This record is as good a place as any to get plugged in. É It's been awhile since our pal Elliott Smith has coughed up any new product. In the interim, one could do worse than Bitter, Bitter Weeks (self-titled, My Pal God Records). Singer-instrumentalist Brian McTear has a knack for the same kind of forlorn, yet thrilling acoustic guitar-based tuneage. É A veritable who's who of Seattle rock royalty back singer-songwriter John Roderick in the Long Winters ('When I Pretend to Fall,' Barsuk). Roderick's somewhat snarky sentiments are reminiscent of the late Harvey Danger, which isn't too surprising since that band's singer-keyboardist Sean Nelson is onboard. Lively entertainment.