Noteworthy new albums
Spoon and Suzanne Vega return with new records.
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge Records): Every critic loves to be Spoon-fed and it's easy to see why: The Austin-based indie rockers play minimalist low-fi rock with just enough accessibility to liven up a trip to Starbucks. Make that a preferred independent coffeehouse. Britt Daniel favors stripped-down, raspy vocals that match the spare sonics. Even new flourishes – horns, hand claps, cello, and koto – sound muted in this Spoon drawer. Jarring piano and dissonance mar "The Ghost of You Lingers," while "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case" proves shallower than its title. There are two terrific, relentlessly efficient pop gems on this disc ("Rhythm and Soul" and "The Underdog"), but, beyond that, repeated listenings feel like a grating trip inside the soundtrack of Zach Braff's next romantic comedy. Grade: C–
– Erik Spanberg
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Suzanne Vega – Beauty & Crime (Merge Records): Suzanne Vega is that rare artist whose literate lyrics make for good reading on their own, since each song tells a story. On "Beauty & Crime," some songs seem autobiographical, others voyeuristic observations about people's lives. "Frank and Ava" is a prying peek into the can't live together/can't live apart relationship of Sinatra and Gardner. The wistful "Anniversary" is more personal: "Mark the month and all its anniversaries / Put away the draft of all your eulogies / Clear the way for all your private memories / As they meet you on each corner." Of all the pleasing melodies, the best is "Bound," its orchestral caress building to a chorus that straddles seesawing violins. Grade: B
– Stephen Humphries