Previewing new albums from DJ Shadow, DJ Quik, Doves, Dirty Vegas, and more.
Hey Mr. DJ
It's all about the DJ this week, with highly anticipated new albums from West Coast gangsta rapper/producer DJ Quik and Bay Area-based mixmaster DJ Shadow. Quik's "Under tha Influence," released on his own Bungaloo label, features guest spots from Dr. Dre, Talib Kweli, and longtime collaborator AMG. It's the follow-up to his 2000 Arista set "Balance & Options," which peaked at No. 18 on The Billboard 200.
The 14-track set, not counting its two unlisted songs, sees Quik exploring a reggae influence on such cuts as "Murder 1 Case" and "Gina Statutory." Elsewhere, he samples Paul Simon's pop hit "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" (shortening the title to "50 Ways") and drafts Kweli, Pharaoh Monch, and the Wu-Tang Clan's Shyheim to lend a hand on album opener "Proem." The set also recycles "Put It on Me," a tale of sexual bravado with Dr. Dre that first appeared on the Capital/Priority soundtrack to "Training Day."
DJ Shadow's "The Private Press" is the follow-up to his landmark 1996 Mo' Wax debut "Endtroducing." The new set extends Shadow's mastery of atmosphere on such tracks as "Fixed Income" and "Giving Up the Ghost," blending highly percussive, jungle-leaning rhythms with dark, sample-driven soundscapes. The early techno homage "You Can't Go Home Again" features a sample from the South American-derived "El Condor Pasa," popularized by Simon and Garfunkel on their 1970 Columbia album "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Look for Shadow on a rare North American tour this summer.
Tune In, Turn On
U.K. rock trio Doves has already hit the top of its country's album chart with its sophomore Capitol/Heavenly album "The Last Broadcast," which arrives this week in North America. After recasting itself from the more dance-oriented Sub Sub the mid-'90s, the group made significant inroads with American audiences last year, thanks to a multi-faceted sound that weaves psychedelic strains through soaring, superiorly catchy melodies.
On "The Last Broadcast," the group makes a giant creative leap forward, at once crafting the kind of jubilant guitar rock not heard since "Achtung Baby"-era U2 ("Pounding," "Caught by the River") and left-field winners borne as much out of studio experimentation as pre-existing ideas ("There Goes the Fear," "The Sulphur Man").
Multi-instrumentalist Jimi Goodwin credits the group's completely collaborative working relationship for the diversity of material on the album. "There are really no rules," he says. "If anything, all we just try to do is bring out the best in each of the songs or ideas. That's why there's no one-trick-pony thing happening, because there isn't one person struggling to write everything." Doves are on tour in North America with fellow U.K colleagues Elbow through June 20.
Back In The 'Mix'
"There's no mistake in the color that it is. It's infused with black-born musicalities," Me'Shell Ndegeocello says of her new Maverick album, "Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape," before reeling off such artistic influences as Richie Havens, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, and "the one I love, Prince."
The set "is all my experiences," the artist continues. "I wanted to show all the transitions, from Southern stride to gospel to blues to funk. Musically, it comes from the African Diaspora. It's my improvisational rhythm and blues, my exploration of self, my anthropological mix tape."
Recorded in the heart of San Francisco's funky Tenderloin district ("The studio was in the booty of the Tenderloin. That neighborhood is the vibe of this record"), "Cookie" features numerous guests, including Talib Kweli, Caron Wheeler, Lalah Hathaway, Michael Hampton, and writer/activist Angela Davis. The set's first single, the Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and Rockwilder remix of "Pocketbook," features Redman and Tweet. Ndegeocello will be on tour internationally throughout the summer.
'Days' Of Our Lives
All new acts should be as fortunate as U.K. trio Dirty Vegas. Earlier this year, its debut single, the haunting and infectious "Days Go By" -- a top-20 hit in its homeland last year -- became the soundtrack to the Mitsubishi Eclipse TV ad campaign. Since then, the track has exploded in North America, paving the way this week for the release of the group's self-titled Capitol debut. "Days Go By" is No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play and No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In addition to "Days Go By," the album is home to such irresistible alt-leaning uptempo tracks as "I Should Know," "Ghosts," and "Alive." On tracks like "Burning the Candles" and "Simple Things," Dirty Vegas slows things down, with acoustic folk nuances nestled nicely among chilled-to-perfection landscapes.
The album was completed last October, notes group member Paul Harris, "well before the Mitsubishi ad began running." He describes the recording process as "very give-and-take. We each play more than one instrument. So, [group member] Ben [Harris] and I might get a chord sequence going, and then [group member] Steve [Smith] may add the lyrics -- or vice versa. We handle it from many different angles. The process of creating songs is not an easy one. Fortunately, we're all good friends, which helps keep things very democratic."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- The R&B/hip-hop compilation "Totally Hits 2002" (Warner Music/BMG), features 20 tracks from the likes of Pink, Fat Joe featuring Ashanti, Alicia Keys, and Outkast.
-- Canadian teen singer/songwriter Avril Lavigne's "Let Go" (Arista).
-- Latin rock outfit Los Lobos' "Good Morning Aztlan" (Hollywood).
-- R&B vocalist Donell Jones' "Life Goes On" (Arista).
-- Country artist Shannon Lawson's debut album, "Chase the Sun" (MCA).
-- Soundtracks to the upcoming films "Scooby-Doo" (Lava/Atlantic) and "Bad Company" (Hollywood).
-- The various artists compilation "Soundbombing III" (Rawkus), with tracks from Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, and the Roots.
-- Albums from modern rock acts Rearview Mirror ("All Lights Off," Gobstopper/Palm) and Greenwheel ("Soma Holiday," Island).
-- Roots principal Scratch's "The Embodiment of Instrumentation" (Ropeadope/Atlantic).
-- The debut album from Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers member Chris Hillman and bluegrass veteran Herb Pedersen, "Way Out West" (Narada/Back Porch).
-- DJ John Digweed's "MMII" (WSM/ffrr), featuring Darren Emerson remix of 108 Grand's "Te Quiero" and a previously unreleased mix of Shakespeare's Sister's "Black Sky" mixed by Underworld.
-- Hard rock outfit Danzig's "777: I Luciferi" (Spitfire).
-- U.K. rock act My Vitriol's "Finelines" (Epic).