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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 'Hypnotic Eye'
Rating: Our Rating
Looking back, it's clear the 2008 Mudcrutch reunion was pivotal for Tom Petty, helping him re-focus and re-dedicate himself to playing in a band. Like the original band, Mudcrutch Mach II didn't last long -- long enough to play a few shows and record a warm, gangly beast of an album -- but it reinvigorated Petty. Afterward, he reveled in the sound of how the Heartbreakers played, digging deep into his catalog to shake up his set lists, letting the group exercise some blues muscles on 2010's Mojo, a record that stood as the Heartbreakers' rowdiest record since the '70s but which is easily overshadowed by the trashy psychedelic pulse of 2014's "Hypnotic Eye." Teeming with fuzz, overdriven organ, and hard four-four rhythms, all interrupted by the occasional blues workout or jazz shuffle, "Hypnotic Eye" comes across as a knowing splice of Petty's own XM radio show "Buried Treasures" and Little Steven Van Zandt's Sirius channel "Underground Garage," a record that celebrates all the disreputable 45s created in garages so they could be played in garages. Occasionally, the band evoke memories of their own past -- "Shadow People" has guitar tones straight out of Shelter Records -- but they're largely dedicated to the sounds that provided them with their original inspirations. What prevents "Hypnotic Eye" from sliding into the arena of soft, desperate nostalgia is a combination of muscle and savvy, a combination that gives the album a strong infrastructure -- Petty strips his songs to the bone; they're so lean they feel as if they clock in at two minutes, even if they run twice that long -- and a sonic wallop. Much of that visceral thrill is due to co-producers Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell, and Ryan Ulyate accentuating the intuitive interplay in the Heartbreakers with sharp, striking slashes of color; this gives the record immediacy and complexity, which means there is enough aural activity that repeated plays do not dull the LP's initial bracing impact. Ultimately, "Hypnotic Eye" is a record about the pure joy of sound, a rush that doesn't lessen upon repetition -- a sentiment that's true of those old '60s garage rock singles and early Heartbreakers albums, and this is a surprisingly, satisfyingly vigorous record. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
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Diplo, 'Random White Dudes Be Everywhere'
Rating: Our Rating
Named after a comment posted on his YouTube channel, "Random White Dude Be Everywhere" compiles a recent batch of Diplo tracks, solo ones fans might have missed between all the white dude's Major Lazer work and production for the likes of Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Riff Raff, Iggy Azalea, and so on. Maybe it's all for name recognition as the man was about to disappear behind Lazer's conceptual party presentation and the total eclipse that is Riff Raff, but whatever the reason, it's a good enough excuse to rescue these bangers from EPs, 12"s, and other hard-to-sort whatnot, as long as the listener doesn't mind a bumpy album ride with some redundant remixes plus Diplo's total embrace of the electro trap sound. New number "Techno" with Waka Flocka Flame Harlem shakes and stutters with that lurching trap beat, while "Freak" does the same only bigger, employing a hook that is somewhere between a fire alarm and a chainsaw. Latino rhythms spice up "Boy Oh Boy" and the Travis Porter-led booty number "Biggie Bounce" while "Revolution" is the reason the Britneys and the Biebers call upon the man, as it sounds Katy Perry big but with a much sharper edge. The remixes are all wonderful, and come off as the first half on a Molly-fueled spin cycle with cogs, sprockets, lasers, and bass drops shooting out, but so much dazzling junk jewelry and exciting monkey business is numbing in one go. "Random White Dude Be Everywhere" is a worthy round-up time capsule that works best when consumed in two EP-sized bites or parted out for mixtapes. -- David Jeffries, All Music Guide

Shabazz Palaces, 'Lese Majesty'
Rating: Our Rating
Launched in a shroud of mystery, hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces were much more forthcoming while promoting the release of this sophomore effort, coming clean that former Digable Planets member Butterfly -- now Palaceer Lazaro -- and instrumentalist Tendai "Baba" Maraire were the men behind the music. Good thing too, as otherwise "Lese Majesty" would be an almost unidentifiable object, falling into the genre of "left-field rap" by default because "Basquiat-styled broken boombox boom-bap" isn't available. The murkiness of cloud-rap, the off-kilter rhymes of Danny Brown, and the weird, spacy humor of Kool Keith all have their influences over this avant transmission, and while the opening "Dawn in Luxor" suggests the launch of a Deltron 3030-type journey, there's something utterly unique and artistically rich going on with this combination of soul poetry and intergalactic funk. So rich that "Forerunner Foray" connects the dots between Digable Planets and the SomeOthaship organization of Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins, and while that's artful, majestic stuff, Shabazz aren't so stuck on seriousness, and are able to offer up hashtags followed by street slang on "#Cake," a song where success threatens to eat sanity. Throughout the LP, catch phrases and hip-hop lingo mix with elevated ideas and scribbled notes from Philosophy class, and even if the minute-long interludes are generally scattered sound pieces or dark snippets of what sounds like Sunn 0))), Maraire makes purposeful music that will woo most open-minded listeners. With Lazaro frequently falling back on his warm and welcoming Butterfly-era flow, the album balances the avant with the approachable in a manner few others would even attempt. It's a shame that such a vanguard effort is weakened by a few clever and jokey interludes that don't warrant a return, but that just leaves Shabazz Palaces room for a proper masterpiece as the brilliant "Lese Majesty" is so very close. -- David Jeffries, All Music Guide

Jenny Lewis, 'The Voyager'
Rating: Our Rating
Lurking beneath the seductive, supple gloss of "The Voyager" lies a serious undercurrent of sorrow -- an undercurrent Jenny Lewis doesn't disguise but doesn't bring to the surface, either. Someone, somewhere broke her heart, and perhaps the culprit is Lewis herself. Regret and self-recrimination abound on "The Voyager:" it's a tattered storybook full of relationships gone to rot, missed marriages, infidelities forgiven but not forgotten, wistful teenage memories fading in the face of adult disappointment. Whether the songs are autobiographical or not -- and they're filled with seemingly personal signifiers, ranging from red hair and scars left from the San Fernando Valley to a philandering, layabout beau named John -- doesn't matter much, as "The Voyager" aims to strike a universal chord for ladies in their thirties watching the years slide by as they wait for boyfriends to commit or life to start happening. It's heavy midlife crisis material but The Voyager plays lightly, offering a warm balm of Southern California sounds. Much more than "Under the Blacklight," Rilo Kiley's 2007 stab at Fleetwood Mac-styled pop, this feels like vintage L.A. studio rock. Working primarily with producer Ryan Adams -- Beck comes aboard to give "Just One of the Guys" a narcotic sway, while Jenny collaborates with longtime partner Johnathan Rice on "Head Underwater" and "You Can't Outrun 'Em" -- Lewis indulges in the sunnier aspects of vintage yacht rock, occasionally dipping into the Laurel Canyon folk-rock she's specialized in on her own. Guitars roam wide-open spaces, couched in luxurious reverb and draped in strings; the rhythms often follow cool, steady eighth-note pulses; the surfaces always shimmer. It's such a sultry, soothing sound that it's easy to ignore the pain that lies beneath but that's a feature, not a bug: on "The Voyager," Lewis' characters live for today without ever thinking that the world might pass them by, and having her music flow so smooth and easy, she illustrates how easy it is to get sucked into that alluring stasis. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Eric Clapton, 'The Breeze - An Appreciation of JJ Cale'
Rating: Our Rating
In a sense, nearly every album Eric Clapton recorded after 1970 has been a tribute to J.J. Cale. On that first solo album, Clapton cut a cover of Cale's "After Midnight" and while he was under the spell of Delaney Bramlett for that album, soon enough Slowhand began drifting toward the laconic shuffle that was Cale's stock in trade. Clapton never hesitated to credit Cale, dropping his name in interviews, turning "Cocaine" into a modern standard, even going so far as to record an entire duet album with the Oklahoma troubadour called "The Road to Escondido" in 2006. In other words, E.C. owed J.J. little but after Cale passed at the age of 74, the guitarist decided to pay a full-scale tribute in the form of the 2014 LP "The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale." Working with most of his regular band, Clapton also invited a host of friends who share a soft spot for Cale, including Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, and the Oklahoma-based singer Don White, whose vocals are within the range of the departed Cale. All of these musicians don't distract from E.C.'s version of J.J.: everybody slides into an exceedingly laid-back, pristine roots groove, one that barely rises above a steady simmer -- only "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)" boogies, but "Cajun Moon" skips along, too -- and one that's executed with the precision of old pros. Occasionally, a personal stylistic quirk stamps a track with a signature -- there's no mistaking Willie's idiosyncratic phrasing or Knopfler's Strat -- but otherwise, everybody is operating at the same relaxed pace, differences between the musicians disappearing alongside the distinctions between songs. It's all perfectly pleasant and a convincing testament to what Clapton learned from Cale, although its silvery monochromatic shuffles suggest J.J. was a little more one-dimensional than he actually was. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
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