May Music Releases
Scarlett Johansson Anywhere I Lay My Head (ATCO)
We know what you are thinking: Don Johnson, Heartbeat. But you are wrong, oh, so wrong. Scarlett Johansson’s first album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, is one of the happiest surprises in years. On this inspired collection of Tom Waits covers, Johansson’s famously oak-smoked voice is a natural cousin of the Roches, John Cale, and Sinead O’Connor. David Bowie, who sings backup on two tracks—“Falling Down” and “Fannin Street”—adds splashes of cream to this perfect cup of hot, dark New Orleans coffee. —Alison Powell
ROBYN Robyn (Cherrytree/Interscope)
Robyn presents a strong case for the pop-star comeback, exhuming pop culture artifacts like 8-bit Nintendo blips and late ’90s dance anthem basslines, and reprogramming them into deft, electronic hip-pop compositions. Of the set, “Konichiwa Bitches” is the most synecdochic: a brazen kiss-off to Robyn’s mid-level teenybopper past that also re-brands her as the queen of a pop revolution, where the darlings are encouraged to forgo glamour and spit filthy rhymes. —Rohin Guha
Portishead Third (Island) Sadly, Geoff Barrow’s reputed recent death metal fetish doesn’t really make a showing on the first record in a decade from Bristol’s much-heralded purveyors of groove-laden gloom. But if anything is noticeably different, it is how much stranger the trio seem to have become in their absence. Their sexy, heartrending beat-noir is now set to wild and peripatetic experimental arrythmia (“Machine Gun” is a literal song title, mind), while rather jarring, apocalyptic noises dart in and out, bereft of any particular reasoning. And all the while, Beth Gibbons carries on doing her aching, weep-inducing gothic-Billie-Holiday thing. Astonishing. —Ken Scrudato
Gossip Live In Liverpool (Columbia/Music With A Twist) This is the Gossip album fans have been waiting for—the one that captures the band’s raw concert experience in all its visceral glory. Right from the bluesy stomp of opener “Eyes Open,” singer Beth Ditto’s howl establishes her as Janis Joplin’s rightful heir, imbuing Gossip’s art-punk with real soul; even potentially jokey Aaliyah and Wham! covers become grittily transformed. Live In Liverpool proves the sonic equivalent of a sweaty, torn T-shirt, an essential souvenir of one of today’s greatest live bands. —Matt Diehl
Dizzee Rascal Maths + English(Def Jux)
This maverick London rapper’s third (and best) album, which was given only an aborted digital release last year, is finally coming out Stateside. It remains the most vital hip-hop album of now. “Sirens” perfectly hybrids Public Enemy with Rage Against The Machine, Lily Allen guests on “Wanna Be,” and “Flex” is the electro-funk anthem for Pitchfork-literate strippers. Meanwhile, “Where Da G’s”—a collaboration with legendary Houston rap crew UGK—indicates that Dizzee can keep up with his American cousins. —M.D.
Madonna Hard Candy(Warner Bros.)
A purveyor of addictive sonic treats since she opened her musical bon- bon business in 1982, Madge keeps it light, frothy, and irresistibly danceable on her 11th and final CD for Warner Records (before the Material Girl rakes in a rumored $120 million more bucks in a ten-year deal with Live Nation). Produced by Timbaland and Pharrell Williams, with Justin Timberlake collaborating on songwriting and vocals, Hard Candy’s vibe is more Jolly Rancher than Hot Tamale, with tracks like “Heartbeat” and “Candy Shop” glossed up with the elastic bounciness of her first two albums. On “4 Minutes To Save the World,” the Timbaland-produced first single, with its grinding wall of sound and Justin Timberlake vocals, Madonna isn’t pushing for spiritual revelations or shock value—just a radio-friendly track. Mission accomplished. —James Servin
Midnight Juggernauts Dystopia (Astralwerks)
The title of this Australian trio’s debut suggests futuristic apocalypse; Midnight Juggernauts’s sound, however, proves more of a disco-topia—a sci-fi dance floor paradise. That’s because their songwriting suggests greater depth beyond just heavyweight club beats. Amid vocoder synth action recalling Daft Punk and Justice, there are also touches of Bowie glitter, New Romantic glam, Heaven 17–style new wave, and atmospheric ’70s prog-rock, all tethered to massive pop hooks. If this is dystopia, the end of the world’s gonna be one hell of a party. —M.D.