Blog Posts by Dave DiMartino

  • Like A Neon Rainbow

    Neon Trees: Pop Psychology (Island/Mercury) There are certain records that seem to arrive at precisely the right time, offering music that resonates, fat-free and without excess, that are fascinating for their absolute purity. And that would be the case for this latest album by Provo, Utah’s Neon Trees, who with their flashy, multi-colored clothes and conspicuous flair for ‘80s-style pop seem slightly out of time—and deliberately so. With its healthy batch of aggressively catchy hooks populating tracks like “Love In The 21st Century,” “Sleeping With A Friend,” and “I Love You (But I Hate Your Friends),” Pop Psychology is buzzing with energy, and with the intelligence of the lyrics throughout—crafted and sung by Tyler Glenn, whose March Rolling Stone interview re his sexual orientation caused a stir—it’s easily one of the year’s sharpest, most delightful surprises. A big step up for a band getting better by the moment.

    Bastille: All This Bad Blood (Virgin) Those conscious of how swiftly

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  • Rock, Roll & Ronstadt

    Linda Ronstadt: Duets (Rhino) There’s probably a generation or two who’ll note Linda Ronstadt’s being admitted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and wonder exactly what the nice lady who made those orchestral albums with Nelson Riddle back in the ‘80s has to do with Kurt Cobain and Gene Simmons. I’m not sure this compilation of her duets answers that question—Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler, James Ingram and James Taylor aren’t exactly Chuck Berry’s misbegotten stepkids—but it illustrates Ronstadt’s spectacular skills both as a vocalist and, no less important, as an interpreter. Her rise to prominence in the ‘60s directly coincided with that of singer-songwriters like Dylan, who not only wrote great tunes but sang them, and her greatest skill was inhabiting the unique songs she chose to cover and very often making them her own. With a guest list of partners including those mentioned above as well as Don Henley, Dolly Parton, Aaron Neville, Emmylou Harris, and Ann Savoy, Duets is a

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  • Have a Happy Dio!

    Various Artists: Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life (Rhino) When all of music rushes by in a confusing blur, and this week’s superstar is next week’s has-been, there’s a certain comfort to be had in those musicians truly iconic—and boy, is that an overused term—in their genre. And so it is that the pint-sized, highly respected, golden-throated metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio, here in 1942 and gone in 2010, is in the public eye once more. This well-meaning tribute album, benefiting the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, features an array of metal pals—Anthrax, Motorhead with Biff Byford, Metallica, Scorpions, and, wisely, a conspicuous pair of hot metal babes—and an album cover featuring their lovable horned wildebeest demon swinging a pair of chained maces. Does it rock? Sure! Does it roll? Of course! Does it make you want to watch a Saturday morning cartoon show called The Metal Gang & Sparky? You bet! In the rough ‘n’ tumble and sometimes snooty world of rock’n’roll,

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  • Shakira Sings, Dances, Is Most Popular Person On Earth, Etc.

    Shakira: Shakira. (RCA) Certainly more important than the fact that Colombian pop superstar Shakira has a brand new album out is the unexpected news that she has recently become the most popular person on Facebook on the entire planet—with over 86.2 million followers, according to a popular rewritten press release! Adds the tempestuous singer: “I always wanted to have a lot of friends, but never imagined it would be so many!” So let’s get real: Even if this brand new album features a huge array of spectacular collaborators—indeed, some of the most popular musicians in the world, including Rihanna, Blake Shelton and, very probably, a drummer—and Shakira has already sold over 60 million records worldwide, how on Earth could that possibly matter in light of the fact that aliens could unexpectedly land on this planet and steal her purely because she’s our most popular human? And even more intriguing—at least for those of us who dwell on the dark side—is that statistics such as these imply

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  • Strypes & Stars Forever!

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    The Strypes: Snapshot (Island/Def Jam) This week sees the release of the debut set from Irish quartet the Strypes, a young, tight and exciting combo of the sort that arises every few years and excites the hell out of generations both young and old. Rocking with stunning precision, with attitude to spare, a charismatic lead vocalist, and nary a wasted note, the band boasts an efficiency and power that can’t help but impress younger music fans; older music fans, on the other hand, might be reminded of the glory days of Dr. Feelgood, the Inmates, or just about any ‘60s band that featured a well-dressed lead singer wearing sunglasses. Having caused a significant buzz at the recent South By Southwest confab and excited nearly every generation of rock fan to be had there, the Strypes will likely continue to make noise until their novelty inevitably thin--and it becomes obvious that the most significant difference between much of this music and the first few Fabulous Thunderbirds albums may

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  • The Cat In The Hat Comes Back!

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    Pharrell Williams: G I R L (Columbia) Few would deny that the most fascinating album release of the week comes courtesy not just of the talented Pharrell Williams, but via his extraordinary hat, which in the scheme of things—the world at war, recent American cultural ceremonies honoring the best of music and film, hot TV shows like True Detective—could not be more profoundly relevant. Plus, like his hat, were you to buy this album in its vinyl configuration, place it between two sheets of glass measuring roughly a square foot or more, then place the entire mess in your oven for a few moments, you could pull it out, bend it over your head, and perhaps dig the fabness of being Pharrell himself. Hint: wearing sunglasses helps! With a set of great duets featuring Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys, absolute hipness beyond belief following his Oscar performance, and his association with the now godlike Daft Punk megaclassic of last year, Williams is simply the most impressive musician ever

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  • From ChopinTo Metallica: All The World Is Lang Lang’s Stage

    Kevin Winter/WireImageWhile the Y! Music studios have hosted musical performances of nearly every shape, size and genre, it has to be said that the recent visit from world-renowned concert pianist Lang Lang was unprecedented.

    The 31-year-old Chinese pianist was in town for his memorable—and quite unexpected—live collaboration with Metallica on the recent 56th Grammy Awards Show in late January.

    In our studio two days prior to that broadcast, the pianist graciously gave all of us a preview of what he’d providing for the night’s special arrangement of “One.” While we wouldn’t exactly call it heavy metal—it’s hard to get the necessary screech out of a Steinway piano—it rocked, it moved, and it was intense.

    A warm and gracious interview subject, and, of course, an incomparable player, Lang Lang detailed for us what his life’s been like of late, what his post-Grammy show plans were, and what’s up for him next.

    Directly next? Off he went to China--appearing before an audience of 814 million people for China

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  • Beck To Basics!

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    Beck: Morning Phase (Capitol) It struck me as I was listening to this new Beck album for maybe the third time that 1) It is very good and 2) Lots of people I know are bigger fans of him than I am. “Oh, isn’t this record great?” asked one co-worker, “it’s like his best since Sea Change.” Someone else came by twice and caught me listening to it two days in a row. “This is like my favorite album of the year,” said she. “It reminds me of Sea Change.” Frankly, if you asked me what Sea Change’s cover looked like, I couldn’t begin to tell you—it come out 12 years ago, and how it snuck in through the back door to become everyone’s secret favorite Beck album is beyond me. All I know is Morning Phase is smooth as you like, hook-filled and harmony-crammed, positioned to be his “California album,” as if all the other ones weren’t, and about as listenable and original sounding as influence-sponge Beck has ever been. I suspect I would be slightly more enthused if this were to be the result of a

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  • Benmont Tench: I, Heartbreaker!

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    Though this purports to be a weekly recap of the week’s best, most exciting and best-decorated album releases, there are those certain times when, to be blunt, your guess is as good as mine!

    Back before my friend Larry invented the Internet, most music critics dealt in a world of print publications with three-month album review lead times, advance cassettes, promises not to leak said cassettes to over-eager radio stations, and a well-orchestrated publicity and promotion plan perfectly timed to guarantee maximum consumer interest and, hopefully, sales! Sometimes the writers had months to figure out if the albums were any good!

    Not any more!

    These days, when there’s a Monday holiday such as, say, Presidents’ Day, lazy writers can simply stream the new albums once on Spotify on a Tuesday morning, write their reviews on Tuesday afternoon, then, with appropriate drink in hand, sit back and laugh at their witty reviews just hours later thanks to the marvelous Internet!

    Luckily, everything’s

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  • Bells Of The Ball!

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    Between the Grammys and last weekend’s Super Bowl halftime show, and the insanely whacked out world of today’s social media in overdrive, you’d think the entire world has embraced pop music like never before.

    But Bruno Mars vs. the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Really?

    I don’t know about you, but most everyone I know thinks Bruno Mars is an extremely talented dude with not too much “there” there! And the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Obnoxious, shirtless, and tuneless!

    In short? That’s why football is best!

    Broken Bells: After The Disco (Columbia) While the union of Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and the Shins’ James Mercer seemed an ostensible one-off back in 2010, with album No. 2 here—combined with everyone’s short memory span—the pair seem very much a band here, and the album both surprisingly delightful and "bandish." Perhaps in keeping with the album title, there are several unexpectedly retro sonic cues—vocal hints of Bad Company & Foreigner, no lie—but it’s all subtle, moody, evocative,

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