The Black Keys' members return with Attack & Release.
Lizzy Goodman, editor-at-large at Blender magazine, discusses what's new in music this week, including new records from Kylie Minogue, The Black Keys, and R.E.M., as well as a U2 tribute album with contributions from African musicians.
Kylie Minogue is a huge international pop star, but she's really only had a few hits in the U.S. The singer's latest album, X, is her first she's put out since overcoming breast cancer. While Goodman questions whether the album will launch her to American domination, Goodman says that "it's still up, it's still dancey, it's still fun."
The Black Keys, from Akron, Ohio, worked with Danger Mouse on Attack & Release, the first time the band has worked with an outside producer. Goodman finds that his influence on the duo's album "feels richer, a little more fleshed out," making The Black Keys' spare blues-rock "a little more listenable."
R.E.M. fans, Goodman says, "have had a rough last decade or so" since drummer Bill Berry's departure. The group's new album, Accelerate, is becoming one of R.E.M.'s most well-received in years. Goodman attributes this to the fact that this is "the first album [where] they've been able to stop thinking so much, write a bunch of songs, and record them really fast."
The Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 is a new compilation featuring many stars of Afropop performing songs from U2's catalog. The tribute isn't simply a covers album, but contains homages that kind of make Goodman want to just listen to U2.
SXSW 2008: R.E.M.
After 25 years as one of the most beloved and acclaimed bands in rock music, R.E.M. needed a shot of adrenaline to get fans excited again. In advance of its 14th studio album, Accelerate, the group performed a bracing and even blistering set at South by Southwest, webcast live on NPR.org from Stubbs in Austin, Tex., on March 12.
With Accelerate due in April, R.E.M. showcased many of the new album's most electric and energetic songs — each of which demonstrated a retreat from the more tepid sounds of the disc's poorly received predecessor, Around the Sun. Ever since original drummer Bill Berry quit the band in 1997, R.E.M. has experimented more in the studio, but its new material looks to the prime of the group's '80s discography, while maintaining a modern sheen. Judging from the response by the thousands of fans in attendance — as well as the engaged and outspoken performance by frontman Michael Stipe — there's reason for optimism.