Various Artists, Rave on Buddy Holly
If you need any sort of reminder of how significant Buddy Holly was to the early days of rock & roll, you need look no further than the lineup of artists who signed up for this tribute album. From young, rising stars like The Black Keys and My Morning Jacket to established names like Paul McCartney and Lou Reed, the collection of folks paying their respects to the Lubbock legend is one of the more impressive that I’ve ever seen on this type of album.
But more importantly, how does it sound? Pretty excellent, actually. Some artists stick a little too closely to Holly’s original arrangements (see Fiona Apple and Jon Brion’s “Everyday” and She & Him’s “Oh Boy!”), but others take the excellent originals and make them their own. Paul McCartney hasn’t sounded so alive in years as he does on the raucous take on “It’s So Easy.” Florence & the Machine’s “Not Fade Away” is a fun experiment but lacks the kick of the original, while Cee Lo Green’s “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” proves the soul man truly can tackle any genre and make it compelling. Julian Casablancas’ “Rave On” is a distorted treat, My Morning Jacket’s orchestral take on “True Love Ways” is destined to become a go-to wedding song, and Modest Mouse turns “That’ll Be the Day” into a wonderfully deranged acoustic-based stomper. And Lou Reed strains “Peggy Sue” through a metal-industrial filter, making the song something completely new. At 19 songs, Rave on Buddy Holly is a bit long, but that’s a minor quibble when the majority of the tunes are so satisfying. (RaveOnBuddyHolly.com)
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
There’s a chance those drawn to the relatively straightforward, simple songs on Justin Vernon’s debut album as Bon Iver, 2007’s For Emma, Forever Ago, might be put off by the expansive sounds and greater experimentation on this follow-up. But there’s little reason to be afraid; Vernon’s between-album dalliances with Kanye West haven’t turned Vernon into a wack rapper with an ego complex.
If anything, Vernon’s work outside the Bon Iver world—with West as well as with rock side-project Volcano Choir and pop-rock outfit Gayngs—have given him the confidence to make a bigger, better Bon Iver sound, and it’s captured beautifully on this self-titled sophomore set. Still rooted in acoustic folk, Bon Iver also delves into orchestral pop (“Minnesota, WI,” “Calgary”), incorporates horns throughout and layers Vernon’s voice to the point of distortion at some points (opener “Perth”). “Holocene” will thrill fans of For Emma, but rarely is Vernon so straightforward on Bon Iver. Lyrically and musically, this album expands Bon Iver’s palette considerably from four years ago. And that’s a good thing, at least until you hit the two-song finale of the instrumental throw-away “Lisbon, OH” and cringe-inducing bit of ‘80s-sounding schlock on album closer “Beth/Rest.” Seriously—that tune would sound at home on a 90210 episode or the Top Gun soundtrack. But eight solid songs out of 10 ain’t bad. (BonIver.org)