POP Daft Punk "Random Access Memories' Daft Life/Columbia ***1â 2
The fourth album by the French duo Daft Punk may well go down as one of the best albums ever by an electronic dance music act — except that it's not really an EDM album. This time out, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manual de Homem-Christo indulge a deep and genuine infatuation with the polished, disco-flavored R&B of the late '70s, particularly the smooth sounds that emanated from Los Angeles more so than the grittier flavors of New York City. And they do it to a T, meshing it so seamlessly with Daft Punk's contemporary sensibilities that it sounds like it could have come out 35 years ago — or tomorrow.
COUNTRY Darius Rucker, "True Believers' (Capitol Nashville) ***
After two country chart-toppers, it's probably time to have some true belief in the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman's solo career. His third outing shows the benefit of taking a bit of time (three years) between albums and crafting something deeper than the annual ledger-satisfying exercises at which most country acts excel. Rucker gets into some genuinely deep subject matter here — the title track is a clear-eyed look at the challenge of sustaining a long-term relationship — but he has plenty of fun, too, on the honky tonk spirit of "Take Me Home,' the soaring guitar rock of "Heartbreak Road' and the funky twang of "Radio.' And his remake of the Old Crow Medicine Show/Bob Dylan collab "Wagon Wheel' with Lady Antebellum guesting is icing on top of an already tasty country cake.
New & Noteworthy:
Airbourne, "Black Dog Barking (Roadrunner): The third release from this British group holds to the same hard rocking path set by its two predecessors.
Alpine, "A Is For Alpine' (Votiv): The U.S. debut of the buzzed-about Australian sextet fronted by a pair of lead singers.
The Beach Boys, "Live — The 50th Anniversary Tour' (Capitol): This two-disc souvenir of the group's 2012 reunion tour will rekindle warm memories — and make you wonder why they're not doing it again this year.
Brand New Heavies, "Forward' (HeavyTone): Vocalist N'Dea Davenport is back on board for the British acid jazz group's first new release in seven years.
Clairy Browne & the Bangin' Rackettes, "Baby Caught the Bus' (Vanguard): Who can resist a name like this — or the racket this bangin' Australian nine-piece makes on its first U.S. release?
Marshall Crenshaw, "Stranger and Stranger' (self-released): The second EP in the Berkley-born rocker's new subscription series includes a cover of the Carpenters' "Close to You' and a new recording of his own "Mary Anne.'
Cold Satellite, "Cavalcade' (Signature Sounds): A second offering of Americana from the team of rocker Jeffrey Foucault and poet Lisa Olstein.
Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, "Seesaw' (J&R Adventures): The powerhouse vocalist's second rootsy collaboration with guitar hero Bonamassa comes just six weeks after her own new solo album.
Highness, "Hold' (Magic Bullet): The debut from New York/Virginia collective of members from Darkest Hour, Christie Front Drive, Antarctica, Forensics and other underground concerns.
Indigenous, "Vanishing Americans' (Blues Bureau): The Native American blues-rock group ventures deeper into Mississippi Hill Country on its latest release.
Bob James and David Sanborn, "Quartette Humaine' (OKeh/Sony): James and Sanborn bring their piano and saxophone master, respectively together for this tribute to Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.
James McCartney, "Me' (ECR): Beatle Paul's guitar-playing son issues his first full album after a pair of well-received EPs.
Bret Michaels, "Good Songs & Great Friends' (Poor Boy): The Poison frontman steps out solo again, loading his "Friends' list up with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Loretta Lynn, Miley Cyrus and pals from Aerosmith, Van Halen, Kiss and beyond.
French Montana, "Excuse My French' (Coke Boys/Bad Boy/Maybach/Interscope): The debut album from the Moroccan-born New York rapper was overseen by Sean "Puffy' Combs and Rick Ross, who both guest along with Snoop Dogg, Birdman, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Ne-Yo and others.
Willy Moon, "Here's Willy Moon' (Island): The New Zealand rocker's debut sports a Wu-Tang Clan sample on the first single, "Yeah Yeah.'
Laura Mvula, "Sing to the Moon' (Columbia): The first full-length outing from the soulful British singer-songwriter who's still riding a buzz from her South By Southwest performances in March.
The National, "Trouble Will Find Me' (4AD): The Cincinnati mood rock group fortifies its sixth album with guests such as St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, Doveman and members of Arcade Fire and Dark Dark Dark.
Chip Taylor, "Block Out the Sirens of This Lonely World' (Trainwreck): The adventurous Americana singer-songwriter ventures overseas to soak up the mood of post-2011 massacre Norway with the help of producer Goran Grini.
30 Seconds To Mars, "Love Lust Faith + Dreams' (Virgin/EMI): Jared Leto stays faithful to music with his band's fourth album, which sports more electronic flavors than its predecessors.
John Zorn and Pat Metheny, "Tap, The Book of Angels Vol. 20' (Tzadik/Nonesuch): Metheny brings his virtuoso guitar skills to Zorn's Masada repertoire, assisted by drummer Antonio Sanchez.
From The Vaults: Captain Beyond, "Live in Texas — October 6, 1973' (Cleopatra); David Crowder*Band, "All This For a King: The Essential Collection' (sixteps/Sparrow); The Moody Blues, "Live at the Isle of Wight 1970' and "Live at Montreux 1991' CD/DVD (Eagle Rock); Primus, "Sailing the Seas of Cheese (Deluxe Edition)'; Diana Ross, "Playlist: The Very Best of Diana Ross' (RCA/Legacy; Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, "Playlist: The Very Best of ...' (Epic/Legacy).
New Music DVDs: Queen, "On Fire — Live at the Bowl' (Eagle Rock); The Rolling Stones, "Crossfire Hurricane' (Eagle Rock).
Gary Graff's work can also be found at www.goanddomichigan.com, www.twitter.com/GraffonMusic and in the Facebook group Gary Graff on Music, while his Classic Rock Insider reports appear at www.wcsx.com. Gary's latest book, "Rock & Roll Myths: The True Stories Behind the Most Infamous Legends' (Voyageur Press) is available now.