Forever Young

The joyous clamor of today's youth punches you in the nose

NEIL YOUNG
Prairie Wind
(Reprise)

Where long ago Harvest's heavy orchestrations and dead beats groaned with significance, even the horn parts here are strictly utilitarian, meant to deliver the words as efficiently as possible. What makes the words different isn't that Young almost died, although that got his attention, but that they're devoid of fancy. Meditations on mortality and the passage of time are a trope that will wear out faster than road stories and fame plaints as more rockers visit the critical list. But few will make as much of unmistakable, one-dimensional language as this chronic obscurantist. "If you follow every dream you might get lost." "Yes I miss you/But I never want to hold you down/You might say/I'm here for you." "Silently it waits for me/Or someone else I suppose/This old guitar." For once he makes sure he's understood—a matter in which melodies that might otherwise seem overfamiliar are of great service. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

ANDREW BIRD
The Mysterious Production of Eggs
(Righteous Babe)

The main reason this record isn't insufferable is that Bird never preens. He shows off discreetly, underplaying his vocal chops and musical command, even his familiarity with scientific arcana—nay, his intelligence itself, which I bet exceeds that of 95 percent of the netcrits his ninth album has had its way with. But discretion exacts a price in identity, clarity, and meaning. The artist may know what these songs signify beyond cunningly arranged wordplay, but anybody else who does ain't talking. Nor does the artist reveal anything about his inner life, specifically including the delight that normally renders the ludic compelling. Certainly there are moments when the music asserts itself—I recommend the chamber-orchestra intro to "Fake Palindromes." But in this prog-rock moment, what half saves Bird's mild, pretty, supersmart album is that it doesn't throw the melody out with the rebop. B


Honorable Mention

THE CLIPSE & RE-UP GANG
We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2
(mixunit.com)

When they say, "Like the new Death Row," I think, "Just what we needed" (even though I know they're lying) ("Hate It or Love It," "Play Your Part").

GORILLAZ
Demon Days
(Virgin)
Pop trip-hop as alternative reality, from fantasyland to apocalypse ("All Alone," "Dare").

JOHN LEGEND
Get Lifted
(Gettin' Out Our Dreams/Sony Urban Music/Columbia)

For an ordinary soul man, he has excellent tunes ("I Can Change," "Live It Up").

MORNINGWOOD
(Capitol)

Imagine an Elastica devoid of soul, but relaxed about it ("Take Off Your Clothes," "Jetsetter").

STARS
Set Yourself on Fire
(Arts & Crafts)

The perils of romance among the disaffected classes ("One More Night [Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead]," "Reunion").

KEYSHIA COLE
The Way It Is
(A&M)

Bet she still hangs with her girlfriends ("I Should Have Cheated," "I Changed My Mind").

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE
Feels
(Fat Cat)

Back when I was a young feller, we called these things hootenannies, only we thought they needed songs ("Did You See the Words," "Turn Into Something").

MY MORNING JACKET
Z
(ATO/RCA)

Mindlessly arresting pop of moderately original flavor ("It Beats for You," "Off the Record").

LIL' KIM
The Naked Truth
(Atlantic)

Throws her voice around more and her pussy down hardly at all ("Spell Check," "Lighters Up").

DRAMARAMA
Everybody Dies
(33rd Street)

So get those songs on the record while you can ("Everybody Dies," "Good Night, America").

ROB SWIFT
Wargames
(Coup de Grace)

DJ nightmare for the war on terror ("Vietnam?" "Dream").

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
(Capitol/DFA)

Dance guy or rock guy, optimist or cynic—these are the troubling distinctions irony helps keep at bay ("Losing My Edge," "On Repeat").

FEIST
Let It Die
(Interscope)

A little Dusty Springfield, loads of Astrud Gilberto, no Dionne Warwick at all ("Inside and Out," "Mushaboom").


Choice Cuts

AMERIE
"1 Thing," "Touch"
(Touch, Sony Urban Music/ Columbia)

THE NATIONAL
"Abel"
(Alligator, Beggars Banquet)

YOUNG JEEZY
"My Hood"
(Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, Def Jam)

DADDY YANKEE
"Gasolina"
(Barrio Fino, Universal)


Duds

D4L
Down for Life (Demoney/Asylum)

NEIL DIAMOND
12 Songs
(Columbia)

DUNGEN
Ta Det Lugnt
(Subliminal Sounds)

LOW
The Great Destroyer
(Sub Pop)

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
(Reprise)

THE NATIONAL
Cherry Tree
(Brassland)

NEW ORDER
Waiting for the Sirens' Call
(Warner Bros.)

RIHANNA
Music of the Sun
(Def Jam)

YOUNG BUCK
Straight Outta Ca$hville
(G Unit/Interscope)

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