The Crystal Method, “The Crystal Method” (Tiny e Records). Scott Kirkland and Ken D. Jordan of the Crystal Method have been making electronic dance music longer than most of the current crop of EDM superstars have been alive. They get points for authenticity, then – the duo’s efforts in this area helped pave the way for the current movement, and in most instances, the Crystal Method stands head and shoulders above the efforts of those artists who’ve been greatly influenced by them. Most of the duo’s self-titled fifth album plays to the Crystal method’s strengths – filthy synths, dirty grooves, plenty of plasticized sway and swagger of a decidedly European dance music bent. Things get a tough lame when the special guests start showing up, largely because they are pretty much superfluous to requirements, and thus, seem to be included here largely for their names alone. That said, hearing country-pop superstar Leann Rimes doing her thing atop the dreamy synth-pop of “Grace” is sublimely strange – as if the masked men of Daft Punk had landed in a spaceship to jam out in a cornfield in the American heartland. Dia Frampton, finalist from The Voice, lends her multi-tracked singing to “Over It,” which is a hoot primarily because of the frenzied activity in the synth department – Frampton’s vocal is wholly unremarkable in itself. The tunes that boast no cameos – “Sling the Decks,” “110 to 101,” “Jupiter Shift,” “Metro” – are the strongest here, and offer proof that, 20 years into the game, the Crystal Method is still at the head of the EDM class. ∆∆∆ (Jeff Miers)


Lone Justice, “This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983” (Omnivore Recordings). Twelve songs recorded straight to two-track, the adrenalized country music on “This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983” captures a fiery band at the beginning of its impressive run. The L.A. country-rock band, birthed by vocalist Maria McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock, is best known for its run of near-misses (despite being managed by a young Jimmy Iovine) in the mid-’80s, but before signing with Geffen Records it buzzed through town on the wings of McKee’s soprano. “This Is Lone Justice” introduces McKee & Co. with a combination of covers and originals. Among the classics they tackle are Merle Haggard’s “Working Man’s Blues,” the George Jones/Roger Miller song “Nothing Can Stop My Loving You” and the oft-recorded “Jackson.” The song selection suggests a band that had internalized a heck of a lot of country ideas at a young age. McKee, after all, was only 18 when this stuff was recorded, and her youth is most obvious in the cut-and-paste Dust Bowl-themed lyrics that dot the originals here. Still, the virtuosity within “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Dustbowl Depression Time” and “Soap, Soup and Salvation” presents a confident mix of yowling twang and a heavy backbeat (courtesy of drummer Don Heffington and bassist Marvin Etzioni) that eclipses lesser lines. Overshadowing all, though, is McKee, whose voice sounds like that of a young Dolly Parton fueled by Exene Cervenka’s passion. “Working Man’s Blues” especially reveals her natural-born way around a line. It’s one thing to hit the notes, another thing altogether to manifest them so completely. ∆∆∆½ (Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times)


Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, “Give the People What They Want” (DapTone). “Give the People What They Want” is a record that seems to be rather transitional, and not as immediate as 2010’s breakthrough “I Learned the Hard Way,” which moved just more than 150,000 units. In fact, you have to listen to “Give the People What They Want” a few times to get an appreciation for what Jones and her band are doing here, and, unfortunately, there are a few more songs that are precariously close to being near duds this time around. So, while this new album is not quite as good as “I Learned the Hard Way,” you have to give credit to Jones to walking the line between being a crowd pleaser while trying her hand at some reinvention of her trademark sound. ∆∆∆ (Zachary Houle,


Mozart, Keyboard Music, Vol. 5 and 6, Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano (Harmonia Mundi USA). The 18th century fortepiano can be an onerous beast, hard to control, but Bezuidenhout has it down to a science. These are performances as lovely as any I have heard of several sonatas and a number of rarities. The famous Sonata in A, K. 331, Bezuidenhout works in minor but tasteful embellishments. The “Turkish March” rocks, particularly the coda, which gets more volume out of this antiquated instrument than I would have thought possible. Bezuidenhout can sound mannered from time to time but he is crisp and surprising and exploits the quirks of his instrument admirably. There is a soft pedal that is like night and day, more so than the soft pedals on modern pianos, and when that pedal goes down, it’s like a scrim falls over the music. He uses that to wonderful effect in the tender Minuet of K. 331 as well as various slow movements. He also has a judicious sense of timing and silence. He brings grace and imagination to the pioneering little Sonata in E flat, K. 282. Mozart begins that sonata with an Adagio movement (as Beethoven would do later with his “Moonlight” Sonata) and follows it up with a couple of minuets and a dazzling, harmonically adventurous finale. Other delights include the Variations on Paisiello’s “Salve tu, Domine,” K. 398, and the famous “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” variations. ∆∆∆½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)