Examine the facts: One of our favorite bands from the '90s puts out a new album--five to six years after the innovative, swelled distortion sound they cultivated has been copied, beaten, and shredded. I mean, you can hardly do massive distortion these days without sounding like you're using it as a crutch, and all the punk rock/hate-fuck sincerity Thurston Moore gave it in '82 was lost the second Bush's guitarist picked up a Big Muff. So is Unwound going to cut it in 2001? HELL, YES. They've toned down their distortion to a glimmer, and honed their focus on impacted, dissonant songwriting so sharply they could cut through mountains. Vern Rumsey's magnetic, panting bass; Justin Trosper's wailing shards of poignant guitar; Sara Lund's mallet-muted, internally flexing drums--it's the Unwound we always knew and loved, but matured. With such a long hiatus in between albums, Leaves Turn Inside You could have made or broken their future in music. This record is unflinching proof of Unwound's progressive malleability and pure musical vision. JULIANNE SHEPHERD
OSCAR TONEY, JR.
For Your Precious Love
Lord, I'm a S-U-C-K-A-H for the Deep Soul. You know, that weepy, hollerin'... GOSPEL-driven SOUL, which reaches through you and twists and pulls and pulls and twists on your heart till every last DROP of feelin' bad and blue, even if you got NUTHIN' to feel bad about, spills over and drips down your face. Whoo-whee... it is THAT feelin' which Toney nails! Now, overall, this reissue of Toney's Precious Love LP is solid chin-wigglin' and tear-jerkin', but... there's a song or two that kinda crosses over, um, into "classy pop." Please don't be afraid of "strings," since Toney is NOT given to schmaltzy "Warwick" soul... oh, and there's even, at least, ONE Northern soul mover... thankfully, which'll give me time between weepers to dance over to a fresh box of tissues. MIKE NIPPER
The Impossible Thrill
Alpha's only mistake on The Impossible Thrill, the group's second CD, is that it dropped the samplers and drum machines to pick up live instruments. This is regrettable because Alpha's first CD, Come From Heaven (1997), successfully shaped jazz songs out of looped digital noises and samples. Alpha, like Tyrell Corporation, blurred the line between electronic circuitry and the nervous system. The new CD still draws from the jazz song form, but the music is now made by humans--composers, orchestras, pianists--and only one sample ("Blues" from La Dolce Vita) drifts though the dub haze. Despite its failure to fulfill Heaven's destiny, I haven't stopped listening to The Impossible Thrill all week. It's abnormally beautiful. CHARLES MUDEDE