New Recordings

Posted: September 09, 2012



(XL ***1/2)

The xx's 2009 debut was a perfectly distilled, carefully articulated stunner. The quiet songs by the young London band built on understated romantic longings, spare beats that owed debts to dubstep, and softly murmured coed vocals mingling with fragmented guitar and bass lines.

Not much has changed for the trio's highly anticipated follow-up; if anything, Coexist is even more spacious than its predecessor. The songs - minimal, including the one- or two-word titles - need little more than a few notes, a few ingenious beats from Jamie Smith (a.k.a. Jamie XX), and the intimate vocal back-and-forth of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. They're full of erotic tension, sometimes ominous ("Missing"), sometimes eager ("Try"), sometimes frustrated ("Fiction"), always captivating. A few - "Our Song," "Sunset" - are so slight they threaten to dissolve, and the hooks aren't quite as immediate as on the xx's debut, but Coexist demands, and amply rewards, sharp listening.

- Steve Klinge

A Thing Called Divine Fits

(Merge ***1/2)

Britt Daniel's a nutcase. The two-note minimalism of his band Spoons hinted at controlled chaos, but his one-note drillings with Divine Fits, his new band-not-sidebar with Dan Boeckner (ex-Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs) are control for control's sake. A Thing Called Divine Fits is some kind of tantric conclusion to delayed gratification. "What Gets You Alone," the best track, channels Ministry of all things, albeit with acoustic interludes and the occasional ersatz orchestral blast. Most of the music here is tantamount to pounding a single key on a piano ad infinitum or swatting a synth part until the instrument melts. In the unusually unguarded lyrics, it's as if Daniel's heart has knees to get down on. These are classic rock clich├ęs with panache: "I've been contemplating suicide/ But it really doesn't suit my style."

- Dan Weiss

Lord$ Never Worry

(Polo Grounds/RCA ***)

Syrupy, singsongy rapper A$AP Rocky might be the $3 million man for the label that signed the Harlem-based MC, but there certainly has to be some trickle-down respect for the other members of his A$AP Mob. To A$AP Twelvyy, Da$h, A$AP Ant, A$AP Ferg, and A$AP Nast, Rocky is what Tyler the Creator is to Odd Future - the most notorious and melodic of the rude-rapping ride music bunch.

Certainly Rocky's sloppy rhyme drops are prominent throughout this mixtape-like release. Lord$ Never Worry's best moments are the wanton weed track "Purple Kisses," the chugging "Thuggin' Noise," and the creepily contagious "Bath Salt" (costarring the Mob's NYC neighbors, Flatbush ZOMBiES). All these highlights feature Rocky's popping slur front-and-center. A$AP Ferg is slightly left of center, literally and figuratively: His grouchy raps are rough around the edges, yet they're no less musical than Rocky's on tunes such as the heartbroken "Persian Wine" and the minimalist "Work." Ant, too, does a nice job throughout Lord$ with the rest of the crew coming up behind him. But it's the Rocky and Ferg show this time.

- A.D. Amorosi


(Salinas ***1/2)

The hard, power-popping Swearin' claimed dual home bases in Brooklyn and Philadelphia - until this week, when the entire band moved to our fair city. Their forceful full-length debut, Swearin', then, is one heckuva howdy to Philly.

Born from lo-fi acts P.S. Eliot and Big Soda, Swearin' plays effervescent, smirking pop without losing its punk-rock snarl. Blame songwriting singers Alison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride for the band's thrashing, trashy roar and disaffected lyrics.

The spirit of the indie '90s (Sleater-Kinney, Superchunk) is heard in every howl of Swearin'. But with Gilbride and Crutchfield, these influences are more intimate and more irritable. "I'm not satisfied with all of our instincts," Crutchfield intones on "1," a manifesto for what drives Swearin'. Through the crackle of clunky guitars, a restless Crutchfield wants to run from home, whether it means using all her cash ("Movie Star") or archly alienating loved ones ("Kenosha"). Meanwhile, Gilbride seems to be moving toward a forebodingly unhappy place, literally on "Here to Hear," figuratively in the bummer-ballad "Empty Head." Together, however, the pair find joyful hooks on "Just," with the same street-urchin lyricism that made X an instantly classic act.

Welcome to Philly.

- A.D.A.

Swearin' and Tenement play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Golden Tea House, 40th and Baring Streets. Tickets: $6. Information:, www.


Over With You

(Blue Corn ***)

"All I asked of you was a chance to make it right," Steve Forbert sings on the opening track of his new album. That segues into a number in which he asserts, "All I need to do is find someone who's just like you."

"All I Asked of You" and "All I Need to Do" set the tone for Over With You, an album suffused with longing and loss. The veteran troubadour tweaks his basic folk-rock sound, incorporating cello and piano in places, and the result is a heightened intimacy that suits the bittersweet mood and material. But this is still quintessential Forbert. His warm voice, with its raspy edges, is as inviting as ever, and his acuity and grace as a writer ensure that these songs skirt self-pity and solipsism and instead exert a soft but insistent pull.

- Nick Cristiano

Steve Forbert performs at 8 p.m. Sept. 22 at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. Tickets: $20-$30 in advance, $23-$33 day of show. Information: 215-222-1400 or


Live @ the Loft

(The Jazz Hut ***)

Tenor saxophonist Michael Pedicin Jr. keeps sounding better. The Philly-area native, 64, who broke in by playing horn for the Spinners and the O'Jays on the Philadelphia International label, is banging on the door of Medicare now. He's also a Ph.D. psychologist who specializes in helping creative people.

Here he helps his quintet, with pianist Jim Ridl and guitarist Johnnie Valentino, sound earthy and grounded. Pedicin's big tone is all over John Coltrane's "Impressions," nicely slowed down and unwound at a sensual pace.

Billy Eckstein's "I Want to Talk About You" serves as good ballad fare for the leader to do some gentle keening, while Joey Calderazzo's "Midnight Voyage" sets up some hard-bop blowing moments.

The set with bassist Andy Lalasis and drummer Bob Shomo is a personal mix of standards and originals. The quintet performs three Coltrane tunes, including "Africa," which gets a mystical treatment.

- Karl Stark

Pedicin and his quintet hold a CD release party on Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. ($22) and 10 p.m. ($20) at Chris' Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom St. Information: 215 568-3131 or www.chrisjazzcafe


Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Eivind Gullberg Jensen conducting.

(EMI Classics ****)

A fresh reading of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto - from beginning to end - seems unlikely given how overexposed it is and how much it tends to be a vehicle for racehorse playing. But the 26-year-old Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang takes the sort of personal approach that suggests she could have written the piece. As with her previous recordings of concertos and chamber music, there's no sense of outside personality imposed upon the ever-familiar melodies; she simply seems to find intense shades of emotion that were already there, waiting to be discovered.

Such an approach has even greater benefits for the Nielsen Violin Concerto, whose greatness has rarely been in doubt but which often seems so inward (and with some of the enigmatic quirks of the composer's later music) that it has remained on the fringes of the standard repertoire. However, Frang brings a quiet vitality to even the most potentially obscure ruminations, as well as a prickly eloquence to the extroverted passages - while conductor Eivind Gullberg Jensen never lets you miss the concerto's many ingenious thematic transformations.

- David Patrick Stearns

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