Soundgarden, Wye Oak, Cory Mon & the Starlight Gospel 

CD Reviews: Live on I-5, Civilian, Turncoats

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Soundgarden, Live on I-5
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This live set recorded during Soundgarden’s 1996 West Coast tour captures a band at the peak of its commercial success and on the brink of breaking up. That tension undoubtedly seeped into these performances, which range from the utterly skippable (“Black Hole Sun,” even if it is a different, solo Chris Cornell version) to the completely mesmerizing. “Jesus Christ Pose” is 6 1/2 minutes of everything that made Soundgarden a great live band: Cornell’s paint-peeling wail, Kim Thayil’s jagged guitar riffage, and the propulsive, knock-out rhythm section of Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron. The set relies heavily on the band’s latter output like Badmotorfinger and Down on the Upside, but a few tracks from earlier, superior albums like Ultramega OK would have been nice. Covers of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and The Stooges’ “Search & Destroy” are OK bonuses, but not essential. Even so, as either an introduction to new fans now that Soundgarden has reformed, or a keepsake for those still caught up in the so-called “grunge era,” Live on I-5 is worth a spin. (A&M)

Wye Oak, Civilian

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Some call this folk music, but it’s much too far-ranging a set to be confined to one label. Singer Jenn 
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Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack delve into all kinds of sonic corners on Civilian, from the lush, atmospheric opener “Two Small Deaths” to the droning, shoe-gazer rock of “Holy Holy” to the pop-meets-bluesy stomp of “Dog Eyes” to the slow-building title track that moves from delicate folk into a full-on noisy guitar freak-out without ever losing the beauty of the duo’s harmonizing vocals underneath. Wasner’s voice is a particularly beguiling one, enticing listeners to almost physically lean forward to be sure to hear every word within the crowded sonic soundscape created by engineer John Congleton. (Wye Oak plays Kilby Court April 1). (Merge)

Cory Mon & The Starlight Gospel, Turncoats

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With a pliable voice that veers from somewhere near The Waterboys’ Mike Scott to Tom Waits’ gravelly 
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croon, Cory Mon is capable of evoking any number of emotions in the listener’s imagination. This 11-song set by one of three top finishers in the 2011 City Weekly Music Awards is remarkably assured; Mon has a definite vision and it’s present in everything from the dusty folk-rock of songs like “Gypsy” and the addictive “3 Step” to the Old West motif of the album’s artwork. “Hold” and “Colors Fade” are both winning ballads, and the harmonica-fueled “Broken Train” is a highlight. Throughout, guitarist Eric Ellsworth proves a worthy partner/foil to bandleader Mon. Turncoats is a strong addition to the band’s catalog. (My Forlorn Wallet)

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