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Jazz/Pop
Diana Krall
Glad Rag Doll
[Verve]
∆∆∆
Don’t blame Daddy, whose 78 rpm records Diana Krall heard in her teenage years and now credits for “Glad Rag Doll.” Don’t blame producer and guitarist T-Bone Burnett either, whose characteristic and delightful influence is all through Krall’s new major departure on this “song and dance record.”
You can forget Paul McCartney, too, even though Krall’s presence on McCartney’s “Kisses on the Bottom” undoubtedly had some effect on her head-first dive into post-modern versions of 1920s and ’30s ricky-tick pop. (Hey, if McCartney, Linda Ronstadt and Rod Stewart can dive from the high board into the vintage music they heard around the house as teens, why not the beautiful queen of pop jazz?)
What this seems to be is Krall’s happy declaration to the world that she’s Mrs. Elvis Costello. This sounds like the music Krall and Costello love listening to on their prize 78s and love discovering in the old music song portfolios laying on the family’s piano.
If Krall wants to turn into a musical vaudevillian on the likes of “Everything’s Made for Love” (when it’s over, I pictured George Jessel coming out and barking at the audience “Let’s really hear it for this beautiful young girl from Canada, DIANA KRALL”), let none of us argue with her. You’d have to be made of balsa wood not to be more than a little entertained by this disc. Or, for that matter, resistant to the wistful charms of the title song, sung so tenderly by Krall with just Burnett on guitar as accompaniment.
No one ever said she was a jazz singer on the same plane as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day or Carmen McRae. Joni Mitchell’s way with a “standard” is devastating compared with Krall’s, even though Krall, for at least a decade now, has shown no small Joni influence in her voice.
It’s a sacrilege, in fact, to mention Ray Charles’ version of “Lonely Avenue” in the same sentence as Krall’s innocent charmer here, despite Marc Ribot’s guitar and Krall’s piano quotation from Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”
On the other hand, born entertainers aren’t that common, either. What you’re hearing here may be the secret busking that lies at the heart of the Krall/Costello marriage.
It’s enjoyable for us, but I’d bet anything it’s a lot more so for them.
– Jeff Simon
Folk/Pop
Mumford and Sons
Babel
[Glassnote]
∆∆

Hmmm. It’s been a good while since we had a “New Dylan” or “Next Springsteen.” Could Marcus Mumford be he?
Not if “Babel” is the best he and his bandmates can do.
The sophomore effort from the neo-folk hopefuls is pretentious, overwrought and, to make matters even worse, a total snooze-fest. It’s slightly above average pop music masquerading as folk. And it sounds an awful lot like a sleepy Dave Matthews tribute band covering a set of Pogues classics. Badly.
No, it isn’t fair to compare Mumford to Dylan, even though the band did back the Bard at the Grammy Awards last year. It’s not like the guy ever came on like he was trying to be his generation’s Bob – he’s innocent on that count.
One of “Babel’s” greatest offenders comes early on, in the form of the (already a hit) “I Will Wait,” a faux-folk-bluegrass romp that finds Mumford fully inhabiting his most annoyingly adenoidal vocal posture. A relentless banjo roll and bass drum/high-hat stomp fail to make this song anything more than what it clearly is – an arena pop tune played by a bunch of guys who insist on dressing rather disingenuously like early 20th century farmers.
There are not really any authentic Celtic structures here, nor are there well-earned American folk-country influences. Instead, we’re treated to a grim hour of self-important singer-songwriter fare eager to play dress-up. If this is what the neo-folk movement is all about, well, it ain’t about too much. Mumford may be dreaming of the “old weird” folk music, but what he’s offering is shiny new and safe as milk.
– Jeff Miers
Pop
Deadmau5
“>Album Title Goes Here<”
[Ultra/mau5trap]
∆∆z

Deadmau5 can leave a five-second beat practically untouched for seven, eight, nine minutes and have a good club anthem result from it. So why would he bother mixing things up for an entire album? “>Album Title Goes Here<” is his first LP since becoming the mouse-helmeted superstar of the EDM scene, so he remains as eager as ever to stick with what works. For one thing, the title completes a trilogy with his previous no-name albums, “For Lack of a Better Name” and “Random Album Title.”
From its first moments, this already sounds like a rehash: Opener “Superliminal” might as well be any track from one of his recent albums, just slowed down and moved around a little bit.
The next 70 minutes are a long haul of the same pattern: Long intros, clobbering two-step beats and routine drops that you can feel coming a minute away. It’s a formula that’s too simple to not work, and hopefully it will keep you moving long enough to avoid wondering how much more could have been done with these tracks in half as much time.
Even the big-name guest vocalists – Cypress Hill, Imogen Heap and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way – don’t add much, except for Chris James, who gives a childlike wonderment to “The Veldt.” That song is based on the Ray Bradbury story of the same name, and it’s one of a few quirky pop culture references scattered on the album. “Closer” is built around John Williams’ theme for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” while “Maths” and “FN Pig” have a different kind of nostalgic appeal – they sound like NES games with club beats.
You might start wishing Deadmau5 would take these quirks further. How about more dabbling in 8-bit music, or soundtrack remixes, or, sure, dance-and-literature mashups? He’s taken his current style about as far as it can go.
–Jason Silverstein
Classical
Mozart
Piano Concertos No. 9 and 21
Performed by Mitsuko Uchida, pianist and conductor and the Cleveland Orchestra
[Decca Universal]
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Mitsuko Uchida, who heads the Marlboro Music Festival along with Richard Goode, turns in two delicate performances of two famous Mozart concertos, the “Jeunehomme” and the “Elvira Madigan.” To me the music sounds too studied. Uchida’s playing is tinkly, like a bell, and the orchestra sounds on occasion wan and weary.
Uchida makes a few shy forays into improvisation, but they sound scripted, and she does not do much to enhance the music. In other words, this is kind of old-fashioned Mozart. Uchida is at her best in the last movements, when the music draws her in and carries her along. Her technique is so crisp and sure it is a pleasure to hear.
– Mary Kunz Goldman