Weekly Release: Talib Kweli, Cold War Kids, Iron & Wine and More

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Even if everything else that dropped today was total ass (it’s not), we have a new Talib Kweli album to talk about. That’s almost always good times. So let’s get right to it. Here’s your weekly release for the last week of January, 2011.

Iron and Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

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Great news for fans of singer-songwriters with out of control facial hair, Iron & Wine released a new album today! For those unfamiliar, Iron & Wine is the name that South Carolina born troubadour Samuel Beam records under. His fourth studio album, Kiss Each Other Clean, is the first on a major label. That usually means a lot of extra studio cash to throw around, and from the sounds of things, he didn’t leave a dime unspent.

Beam has stated in previous interviews that he hoped to make the type of record kids heard in their parents’ cars in the 70′s. He totally hits that mark, assuming your parents listened to a lot of soft rock. Even when he experiments with the stripped down acoustic sounds that Iron & Wine built a following behind by adding scratches and electronic bloop-de-whoops and such, things remain overwhelmingly mellow. It’s the kind of album that works best when you’re in the perfect mood to listen to it. Specifically, you best be in the mood to take a nap. That’s not a bad thing. We all need to relax sometimes. But if you’re looking for something to fire you up for your weekly street fight or whatever, find something else.

All in all, it’s a good listen, but all the bells and whistles are more of a distraction than anything else. Sometimes, less is more. That’s definitely the case with Iron & Wine. Not a horrible album by any stretch of the imagination, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the die hard fans start howling for a return to the stripped down sound of Iron & Wine’s previous efforts.

Corinne Bailey Rae – The Love E.P.

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Hey, look, a new Corinne Bailey Rae record! Awesome? You might remember Corinne Bailey Rae from, you know, that one song of hers that was really popular a few years ago. The Love E.P. is one of those stopgap affairs that artists throw out there when the wait for a proper follow-up album becomes too much for their fan base to endure. In this case, the solution is a five song collection of covers. It kicks off with a cover of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” which, like most attempts to cover a Prince classic, can be chalked up as a crime against music. Nobody should cover Prince. Nobody.

She travels even further into untouchable territory by having a go at “Is This Love” by Bob Marley and “My Love” by Wings. Again, those are two songs that really ought to be left alone. She puts a fairly unique spin on both tunes, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Listening to both just makes you want to listen to the original versions even more.

She does deliver one highlight though. Her cover of “Low Red Moon” by under appreciated 90′s band Belly is pretty damn nice. But the good idea there is the exception on this E.P., not the rule. If you’re a Corinne Bailey Rae super fan, you’ll probably dig The Love E.P. If you’re a casual fan or happen to be hearing her work for the first time, you’ll likely be far less pleased. Seriously, musicians of the world, leave Prince songs alone.

Cold War Kids – Yours Is Mine

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Cold War Kids are one of a long list of indie bands who were built up by music blogs on their first record only to be mercilessly torn down on their second. All the hell they received for their second effort, Loyalty to Loyalty, was largely unwarranted. Especially when you consider that it all started with the single “Something Is Not Right With Me,” a song that holds up pretty well against anything on their first record.

And with that, we’re done defending Cold War Kids. Mine Is Yours is the sound of a band shooting for Big Rock Band status and missing completely. This sounds like The Fray trying to make a U2 record. Or maybe a Peter Gabriel record. Whatever the case, it’s not pretty. It’s all big choruses and sweeping arrangements and just kind of flies in the face of what most people probably love about Cold War Kids. “Sensitive Kid” kind of finds the band back on track, but by the time that song rolls around on the second half of the album, it’s way too late. Oh well, we’ll always have “Hang Me Up to Dry” to remember them by.

Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows

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Even the worst Talib Kweli record is better than 90% of the shit any other artist puts out. So a new record from every rapper’s favorite rapper is far and away the highlight of this week’s slate of new releases. In general, Kweli’s best moments happen when he deals exclusively with Cincinnati DJ/producer Hi-Tek. See 2000′s Train of Thought or last year’s Revolutions Per Minute, both recorded under the Reflection Eternal moniker, for evidence of that.

This is a Talib Kweli solo record, though, so that same magic isn’t at work on Gutter Rainbows. But that’s a minor sticking point. It’s still a Talib Kweli record. If you know anything at all about his work, you don’t need us to tell you why you should give it a listen. It won’t get a month’s worth of media attention like a new Jay-Z record would, but it sure as shit deserves to. Do yourself a favor and buy it. Right now. The insanely incredible “I’m On One” is worth the cash all by itself.

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