The New Pornographers - "Together" (7.5 out of 10) - At this point in their careers, you pretty much know what to expect from Carl Newman and his co-horts: melodic pop, interesting lyrics, nice harmonies. Their last album, "Challengers" found them at the very top of their game, so we sort of should have expected a drop-off in quality, and that is what we have here. "Crash Years" and "Your Hands Together" certainly get things rolling quite well, followed by perhaps Dan Bejars best contribution to the band yet, "Silver Jenny Dollar." But then the album starts to disintegrate into murky waters- sometimes too quirky, sometimes not so interesting. Oh well. I was hoping for much more, but they have not completely mis-fired.
The Hold Steady - "Heaven Is Whenever" (4 out of 10) - If Heaven is indeed whenever, then it can't hurry up fast enough after listening to this. Mara-na-tha.
Court Yard Hounds - "Court Yard Hounds" (6.5 of 10) - Two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks leaves us 3 points short of a great album. I'm not sure which sister sings lead here, and she does have a very nice voice, but most of the album sounds like Sheryl Crow when she tries to get country-fied (see her Kid Rock duet.) So - not so good. Who would ever thought I would miss Natalie Maines? Having said that, however, this cd does contain one of the best songs of this or any other year - "The Coast." Feel free to buy it or pirate it - it deserves to be heard far and wide.