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THE BOOKS

The Way Out (Tem­po­rary Res­i­dence Limited) The lat­est full-length al­bum by found-sound folk­tron­ica sa­vants The Books is a lot like en­light­en­ment: if you think you can fully de­fine it, you prob­a­bly have very lit­tle idea what it is. Band mem­bers Paul de Jong and Nick Zam­muto may not have reached nir­vana — or be Nir­vana, for that mat­ter — but they’re cer­tainly en­light­ened mu­si­cians with a knack for evad­ing suc­cinct clas­si­fi­ca­tion with ev­ery new piece of ex­per­i­men­tal “col­lage mu­sic” they cre­ate. The Way Out feels more like the way in — into the mind of some­one with nu­mer­ous per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders. Zam­muto and de Jong have a tal­ent for mak­ing peo­ple feel slightly un­com­fort­able about what they’re hear­ing with­out com­pletely alien­at­ing them. Creepy sam­ples of a child say­ing things like “I can kill you … with a shot­gun, or any way I want to” dom­i­nate “A Cold Freezin’ Night,” and for the track “The Story of Hip Hop,” Zam­muto spliced to­gether por­tions of a decades-old record­ing of sto­ries writ­ten by mem­bers of an es­o­teric Chris­tian sect, cob­bling to­gether a new cre­ation story about the be­gin­nings of hiphop. Odd time sig­na­tures, strange in­stru­men­tal in­ter­ludes, and funky glitch bombs that fre­quently and vi­o­lently bounce through­out this ode to psychedel­ica and hokey New-Age wis­dom make it The Books’ least ac­ces­si­ble al­bum to date — but also, per­haps, its best. — Rob DeWalt

The Books may not have reached nir­vana — or be Nir­vana, for that mat­ter — but they’re cer­tainly en­light­ened mu­si­cians.

!!! Strange Weather, Isn’t It? (Warp Records) With un­em­ploy­ment and the B.P. oil spill in the news all sum­mer and with Hollywood fail­ing to pro­vide much in the way of qual­ity block­buster fare, mu­sic has rushed in to pro­vide a nice bit of es­capism. There has been a slew of solid dance pop in these warmer months — ready to turn that frown up­side down and move those hips left to right. !!!’s Strange Weather, Isn’t It? is the lat­est, of­fer­ing roughly 40 min­utes of Off the Wall-era Michael Jack­son (strangely, with some vo­cals that sound a lot like Jack­son 5-era Michael). The band un­corks its strong­est ma­te­rial from the first notes: “AM/FM” and “The Most Cer­tain Sure” are hook-heavy jolts of bass, funk gui­tar, and key­board ef­fects. “Wan­na­gain Wan­na­gain” tries to repli­cate the suc­cess of the band’s most cel­e­brated song, “Me and Gi­u­liani Down by the School­yard,” by sprint­ing through an ac­ro­batic mon­tage of 1970s and ’80s funk, dance, and hip-hop trends, from the JBs to Blondie through Eric B. and Rakim. The af­fair cools when the band dims the lights for the slower, darker num­bers “Hol­low” and “Jump Back.” Par­tic­u­larly af­ter the stun­ning “Steady as the Side­walk Cracks,” these songs open a trap­door on the dance floor, and the record never quite gets its foot­ing back, even when the band re­turns to the hard funk. Maybe by that point you’ve re­al­ized that a lit­tle disco goes a long way.

— Robert B. Ker MINIA­TURE TIGERS For tress (Mod­ern Art Records) Let’s just ad­mit it. The Bea­tles and the Beach Boys are the source of all in­die rock. Tight pop hooks and slightly be­hind-the-beat rock drums com­bined with har­mo­niz­ing vo­cals — the for­mula has never been suc­cess­fully du­pli­cated. Bands like the Brook­lyn-via-Phoenix Minia­ture Tigers would sim­ply be bet­ter off try­ing to drink from shoegazer gui­tar rock’s head­wa­ters. In­stead, with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess, the group tries to repli­cate the hot in­die fare of the 2000s, re­duc­ing it­self to shad­ows of the bands it so fer­vently ad­mires. “Rock N’ Roll Moun­tain Troll” sounds like a worn re­tread of the preppy Afro-pop sound that pow­ers Vam­pire Week­end. Ditto “Ja­panese Woman Liv­ing in My Closet.” Lyri­cally, “Lolita” veers into some dark ter­ri­tory about de­sir­ing a 17-year-old girl. Mu­si­cally, how­ever, the track doesn’t just sound like Panda Bear — it ac­tu­ally sam­ples a vo­cal riff from that band’s 2007 al­bum. For lis­ten­ers who like the bands that Minia­ture Tigers so brazenly rip off, their new sec­ond al­bum could be en­joy­able. For those wish­ing they would stake out some sonic ter­ri­tory of their own, the disc’s only re­demp­tion is the lead sin­gle, “Gold­skull,” a Neon In­dian-pro­duced gem of chill­wave pop that is per­fect rolled-down-win­dows sum­mer car mu­sic. — Casey Sanchez FRED HER­SCH TRIO Whirl (Palmetto) Fred Her­sch and his trio, with drum­mer Eric McPher­son and bassist John Hébert, of­fer 10 songs right up the leader’s gen­tle (but never lite) al­ley. The disc opens with Harry War­ren’s “You’re My Ev­ery­thing”: per­fect lyrical pi­an­otrio mu­sic. Three more cov­ers show Her­sch’s eclec­ti­cism: the im­pres­sion­is­tic “Blue Mid­night” by Paul Mo­tian; “When Your Lover Has Gone,” a soft, pretty song that was a hit for Louis Arm­strong about 80 years ago (and on which Her­sch adds a few old-fash­ioned flour­ishes); and the bright, quirky “Mrs. Parker of K.C.” by Jaki Byard. Three of the stand­outs on Whirl are trib­utes. First is the en­tranc­ing ti­tle track, for bal­le­rina Suzanne Far­rell. “She was ab­so­lute per­fec­tion in ev­ery way, and this piece takes its rhythm from her spin­ning en pointe,” Her­sch says in the liner notes. The pi­anist’s “Sad Poet” is a fas­ci­nat­ing, episodic piece ded­i­cated to An­to­nio Car­los Jo­bim, and “Still Here” is a trib­ute to Wayne Shorter. The CD’s col­lec­tion of Her­sch com­po­si­tions in­cludes the Latin-themed “Man­dev­illa,” the up­beat “Skip­ping,” and “Snow Is Fall­ing ...” — del­i­cate, min­i­mal­ist, cool, and beau­ti­ful. Over­all, this is a re­mark­able al­bum with no hint of the pi­anist’s re­cent ills. HIV-re­lated symp­toms — in­clud­ing loss of mo­tor func­tions, in­abil­ity to swal­low, and a two-month­long coma — ganged up on him in 2008. The mas­ter is back. — Paul Wei­de­man

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