Bright Eyes – “The People’s Key”Saddle Creek-out now4.5 / 5 According to NPR, “The People’s Key” is Conor Oberst’s best album; no minor statement, considering Bright Eyes has seen 2007’s “Cassadaga” and 2005’s “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning,” let alone Oberst’s various side projects (“Monsters of Folk,” “The Mystic Valley Band”). Take him or leave him, Oberst is doubtless one of the most skilled lyricists of his generation, and on “The People’s Key,” he does not disappoint. He is still capable of drawing up strong, concise images, such as in “A Machine Spiritual (In the People’s Key)”: “And little Hitler sat in his giant’s chair/Read More →

Jake Shimabukuro – “Peace Love Ukelele”Hitchhike Records-out now4 / 5 So then, you think you know everything about the ukelele. Not until you’ve heard Jake Shimabukuro’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the infectious cover from 2006’s album of the same name (YouTube it!). How does “Peace Love Ukelele” measure up to that high water mark? It’s still good, it’s still an impressive talent on display, and it still gives solid originals and covers (one of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” strangely enough). And while Mr. Shimabukuro is in excellent form, we’re going to suggest that “Gently Weeps” is still our favorite; nonetheless, “Peace Love Ukelele” delivers allRead More →

Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Outside”Ibid Records-out Jan. 114 / 5 There’s no “magic bullet” to what works in music, no specific tempo or chord changes or guitar hooks, but if there were one element we’d have to pin on the success of Minnesota, MN’s Tapes ‘n Tapes latest album it would have to be Josh Grier’s pushing his vocal boundaries. The punkish color to his vocals is in part what makes “Outside” more successful than “Walk it Off;” it charges these rock songs with an energy lacking in their previous release. The other part of it may well be the whimsical attitude of the instrumentalsRead More →