The Dean of American Rock Critics reviews Karin Dreijer's latest LP, plus new albums from Shopping, Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet, and Kissey.
The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it. He was the music editor at the Village Voice for almost four decades where he created the trusted annual Pazz & Jop Poll. He was one of the first mainstream critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." On top of his columns, he has published six books, including his 2015 autobiography, Going Into the City. He currently teaches at New York University. Every week, we publish Expert Witness, his long-running critical column. To find out more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.
Fever Ray: Plunge (Mute) Karin Dreijer's solo debut was about money when you listened up. This long-aborning follow-up is about sex. The tentative openers "Wanna Sip" and "Mustn't Hurry" end up where she and you had hoped before concerns about unsafe spaces and fraught hookups culminate with the free-abortion-on-demand "This Country": "This country"—and she means Sweden!—"makes it hard to fuck." Yet strangely or maybe not, that attack of nerves is the turning point. Immediately the title instrumental leads directly to "I want to run my fingers up your pussy" and an open if complicated beyond. Take the plunge, she's hinting. It'll be fine. You'll be glad you did. A MINUS
Shopping: The Official Body (Fat Cat) This theoretical dance trio are such miniaturists it may take their admirers a play or three to notice that on their third and I guess best album the music has broadened. The catchy treble guitar riff at the start of the 2:38 "Suddenly Gone" is partner to the virtual guiro somebody coaxed from a computer at the end—both are the kind of surprise that's good for a tiny thrill when you're out on the floor listening with your body. But no matter how well-honed they are, in this kind of miniaturism all distinctions are marginal—unlike classic Wire or Gang of Four, Shopping never risk a joke or break into something marginally anthemic. For them, "I know what I like and I like what I know" is still "never enough to satisfy me." Which does limit the use value to which they're theoretically committed. A MINUS
Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet: Landfall (Nonesuch) Audio version of string-quartet-driven multimedia meditation on loss and Hurricane Sandy stops at elegiac except when the artist uses her words ("All the Extinct Animals," "The Water Rises") ***
Kissey: Unplug the Delusional Monkey (Fool's Gold) If you think it's several decades too late for sexy trip-hop, very blonde Swedish coo-coo bird has a modeling career she'd like to get underway ("Kiss the Ground," "Delusional") *
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