Singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham’s big break came three years ago, when a handful of his songs anchored Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning movie Crazy Heart. He followed that up a year later with an album that explored America’s, and Americana’s, landscape with broad Springsteenian strokes. On his fourth and most ambitious LP, the 31-year-old New Mexican fine-tunes his observations, while stretching his narrative range: Several songs on Tomorrowland clock in at six and eight minutes, including the rambling call-to-arms “Rising of the Ghetto.” Bingham still makes room for simpler songs, like the barnstorming “Heart of Rhythm,” from time to time. But mostly the overlong Tomorrowland is resolute, a little self-righteous, and a whole lotta angry. On the album’s opening cut “Beg for Broken Legs,” he sings “I ain’t gonna bite my tongue.” It’s a statement of purpose.
I Bet on Sky
Three albums into their reunion (which is the same number the original trio made before disbanding in 1988), Dinosaur Jr. have settled into their role as indie-rock godfathers with all the respect and familiarity the title affords. But where 2007’s Beyond and 2009’s Farm sparked under the embers of playing together again, I Bet on Sky sags a bit, occasionally sounding like J. Mascis and Lou Barlow solo trips, just like the last time they made it to a third album.
Aimee Mann has made some indisputably downer records over the years, but on her eighth album, she cracks something that almost can be called a smile. Taking a cue from the pop songs of the late ’70s and early ’80s, when Mann started making music, Charmer is the singer-songwriter’s most optimistic-sounding LP in a decade – from the bubbly title tune to “Living a Lie,” a duet with the Shins’ James Mercer — even with her usual lyrical bite.
Corin Tucker Band
Kill My Blues
(Kill Rock Stars)
Like her former Sleater-Kinney bandmates, who make familiar but satisfying noise in Wild Flag, singer Corin Tucker leads her new group through full-speed-ahead Northwestern punk that’s as timeless as it is now. And like 2010’s debut, Kill My Blues doesn’t linger. Most songs get in and do their thing for two or three minutes and then blow out of there. The best of them – “Groundhog Day,” “Neskowin” – don’t even pause for a breath.
Enjoy the Company
This Athens, Georgia, trio has been making records for about seven years now, but on Enjoy the Company, their fourth album, they finally pull together the warm mix of soulful garage-pop they’ve played around with from the start. On songs like the sprawling horn-kissed opener “Staying Alive,” “Summer Heat,” and the stinging “Waiting,” the Whigs come off like a more grounded My Morning Jacket, without the art-rock baggage.