Fall Out Boy "Infinity on High" (Island Records)
Love 'em or hate 'em, one thing is undeniable about Fall Out Boy: Its songs are simply infectious. Raucous and radio-friendly as ever, the pop-punk heartthrobs have cranked out a solid disc of hooky, youthful anthems, amped-up riffs and energized drum kicks. They even snagged a cameo from hip-hop royalty, Jay Z.
Set against the backdrop of teen angst and bleeding emo hearts, Patrick Stump's distinctive vocals take the listener on a rock 'n' roll roller coaster that dips and dives through 14 tracks, losing momentum only for the piano-laden ballad "Golden."
"The Carpal Tunnel of Love" and "Bang the Doldrums" are evidence that the boys could lighten up on the incessant puns and wordplay that are a bit overplayed, having done much of the same on their previous album. Nevertheless, it's a forgivable fault that in no way deters from the start-to-finish spin the disc deserves. Fall Out Boy has proven that its career is headed to infinity and beyond. *** Hilary Langford
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Arbouretum "Rites of Uncovering" (Thrill Jockey)
Baltimore rockers Arbouretum are so retro, they're almost futuristic. There's nothing fashionable these days about brooding blues- and folk-based songs that wind their way into a maelstrom of loose, lengthy and explorative guitarwork. Singer and axe god Dave Heumann has a sturdy, commanding voice that makes his tales of violence, mysticism and betrayal sound as though they were handed down through generations of village elders.
Tracks like "Tonight's a Jewel" and "Signposts and Instruments" show that during his time spent backing Will Oldham a couple of years back, some of his former boss's masterly feel for warped Americana rubbed off. But it's when he stops singing that Arbouretum's music really speaks; simply put, few in indie rock today have Heumann's imagination when it comes to epic soloing.
Recalling rootsy giants with an experimental streak like Neil Young, J. Mascis, and late-'60s Jerry Garcia, Heumann's soaring flights on tunes such as "Ghosts of Here and There" and "Pale Rider Blues" are like manna from heaven for reformed Freedom Rockers who somehow lost sight of the volume control. In short: Turn it up, man. *** Mark Richardson
Various Artists "Friends of Old Time Music: The Folk Arrival 1961-1965" (Smithsonian Folkways)
Folkways Records has been a driving force in the promotion and release of music that's radical in both style and content. Founder Moses Asch took chances on such misfits as an ex-felon (Leadbelly) and an outspoken Communist (Woodie Guthrie). Between the years of 1961 and 1965, folkies Ralph Rinzler, John Cohen, Jean Ritchie and Israel Young brought a slew of musicians to New York City for concert performances. These concerts, presented in this beautiful three-disc set, introduced the country at large to names such as Mississippi John Hurt, Clarence Ashley, Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb, Doc Watson and others. Every track is great, and styles range from bluegrass by Bill Monroe to blues to the Caribbean guitar of Joseph Spence's excellent "Bimini Gal." This is a box set for folk-music aficionados or for anyone interested in great performances by a variety of artists on the cusp of fame. ***** Joshua Bearman
Angela Hewitt, Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Hyperion)
Angela Hewitt, widely touted as one of the rising stars of the piano, sampled her approach to Beethoven when she performed at the University of Richmond in December. Famed for Bach she recorded all his keyboard works and French music (Ravel, Chabrier and, lately, Rameau), Hewitt takes on a field of heavyweights with her first Beethoven disc.
The pianists commonly cited as master Beethovenians Artur Schnabel and Wilhelm Kempff in the past, Richard Goode and Alfred Brendel today treat the composer as a deep thinker with an emotional hair-trigger, a builder of massive sound constructs, expressing himself in flatfoot dances and earthy, soulful tunes, with descents toward despair and eruptions of rage or triumph. Their Beethoven is rarely focused on the instrument's capacity for tone color or its finer points of articulation, sound-blending and resonance.
Hewitt's Beethoven dances on the balls of its feet and whispers more than it shouts. She plays with extreme clarity, sensitive to the piano's vast color palette and wide range of volume levels, and, like Schnabel, with an understanding that phrases are shaped by the silences between notes. Her performances of the "Appassionata" and the earlier sonatas in D major, Op. 10, No. 3, and E-flat major, Op. 7, are Beethoven for a late night in winter intimate, probing, reserved, but absorbing. **** Clarke Bustard