Louisiana Red Hot
Dumpstaphunk marked its 10th anniversary with the release of its second album, Dirty Word. Ivan Neville brought two bass players aboard when he originally put together the band. The low-end foundation provided by Nick Daniels III and Tony Hall helped the group assume the mantle of funk royalty from the elder generation of Nevilles, including Ivan's father Aaron and guitarist Ian Neville's father Art. But the grooves on Dirty Word reach beyond Meters' and New Orleans sounds and echo other 1970s funk. The band has forged its sound gigging rather than in the studio, but this album doesn't fall back on long jams. Vocals are shared, including by drummer Nikki Glaspie, formerly of Beyonce's live band, who joined the group in 2011. Several of Ivan's songs delve into socially conscious messages ("They Don't Care," "Reality of the Situation"). And guests add a lot to many tracks, including the addition of Flea's bass on "If I'm in Luck" and Ani DiFranco's vocals on the title track. Some of the most pleasing songs are punched up with horns, including Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Skerik on "I Wish You Would" and Grooveline Horns on "I Know You Know" and "Water." The closing track "Raise the House" features Andrews, Rebirth Brass Band and Art Neville in a party song that's an appropriately raucous final blowout. — COVIELLO
Punk rock everyman King Louie Bankston and Missing Monuments made a big splash with the punk bubblegum on 2011's Painted White. With the band's self-titled follow-up album, the crew barrels through stripped-down, straightforward power-pop with earnest, more personal stage-dives on tracks like "Tru Luv" and "Dead to Me," loaded with sweetheart harmonies on the chorus.
Unlike the Goner Records camp of lo-fi, blown-out garage rock, Missing Monuments keep its guitars clean and bubblegum without sacrificing volume or losing its admirably sloppy urgency. Repetitive riffs lay the hooks on thick, laid out for cheeseball guitar shredding and wordy verses. The labored groove on mid-album track "Grizzly Star" grinds the four-on-the-floor pace to a halt, but the Rick Springfield-cribbed riffs on "Super Hero" spring it back to life. Album closer "Heart and Soul" nails the band's full-throttle power-pop mission statement: sing-along riffs, sing-along verses and an air guitar-worthy solo long enough to take your hand off the steering wheel. — Woodward
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
That's It! earned praise before it even appeared on record store shelves. In its 50-year career, Preservation Hall Jazz Band released its first-ever collection of original material, an accomplishment unto itself for a band busy doing exactly what its namesake suggests. The band is the de facto treasurer for New Orleans jazz, protecting and enshrining legacy material from the great American jazz songbook at home or around the globe.
On the titular opening track, rolling drums and cymbal taps roll out a dusty red carpet for a big burst of horns, like some forgotten big band lost in a smoky New Orleans jazz hall. That darkness lingers throughout, but Preservation Hall musicians are masters at exuberant highs — like "Dear Lord (Give Me the Strength)" and Charlie Gabriel's sweet show-stealer "I Think I Love You."
The band doesn't shy from the familiar feel of old New Orleans jazz, but it embraces fresh twists to a format it knows inside and out, whether fading horns and a dancing drum kit on "Sugar Plum" or Mark Braud's moody trumpet riffs piercing "Rattlin' Bones" and "August Nights."
My Morning Jacket's Jim James took a shine to the band over the last few years, and he co-produced the album with Preservation Hall bandleader Ben Jaffe. It was recorded at the hall, capturing the band at its best: in its element inside the intimate space. James and Jaffe were wise not to attempt to redefine jazz music but add to its traditions. — Woodward
Star & Dagger
Star & Dagger released a video for "Your Mama Was a Grifter" as a sort of calling card for the band, but it works better visually as an indication of what Tomorrowland Blues is all about. The song is a hard-edged blues romp, and the video looks like an encapsulated remake of Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, with a black-and-white Southern California desertscape overrun by thrill-seeking vixens. The reference has been made before: Bassist Sean Yseult is a veteran of White Zombie, which used a sound sample from the film in the song "Thunder Kiss '65." The video was shot near where the band recorded much of the album at David Catching's Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree, Calif. Catching (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal) produced the album and adds slide guitar work to "Grifter." But "Your Mama Was a Grifter" is the gentlest song on the album. The other nine tracks feature crunching and snarling guitar riffs much more in line with the metal of White Zombie and hard rock of guitarist Dava She Wolf's Cycle Sluts from Hell. Von Hessling (aka Marcy Hesseling) sings lead vocals. The title track and "Selling My Things" may suggest bluesy laments, but the album has a take-no-prisoners sound and creed. Various lyrics suggest bourbon and pills are less medicinal than fuel for the fire, and Tomorrowland Blues glints with the apocaplyptic luster ("End of Days") of metal-edged hard rock. — Coviello