This week, Moby loses sleep on the road, Ben Harper meets his heroes, Danger Mouse reinvents the Spaghetti Western, while Kate Bush reinvents her past. It's all pretty playable, with the exception of some middle-of-the-road pop from Kate Voegele.
PLAY: Ben Harper, "Give Till It's Gone"
Ben Harper ends his ten-album run with Virgin Records with a collection of songs that push him out of the comfort zone of his usual folk-rock turf. "Give Till It's Gone" travels from Neil Young-inspired ragged glory ("Rock N' Roll Is Free") to Beatles-esque psychedelia ("Spilling Faith" and "Get There from Here," co-written with Ringo Starr; technically, it's one long jam). Not all of the excursions are wholly convincing, but who cares? This is the sound of a man happy to become a free agent and travel the musical world how he chooses. Ramble on, Mr. Harper.
PLAY: Moby, "Destroyed"
Moby's tenth album is self-described as "broken down melodic electronic music for empty cities at 2 a.m." The cities in question are the ones visited by Moby while on tour. Recorded in hotel rooms during bouts of insomnia, the album's 15 songs (and photos in an accompanying coffee table book) are full of Moby's trademark soulless soul — and some cool crooning that channels '70s-era David Bowie. You can practically hear the buzz of the fluorescent lights and the smell of the Formica floors. In a world of backstage albums that celebrate groupies and trashing hotels, Moby's "Destroyed" is a perfect isolationist antidote.
PLAY: Kate Bush, "Director's Cut"
Kate Bush likes to take her time. In her 30-plus-year career, the idiosyncratic singer-songwriter has produced only eight albums. Ardent fans may or may not count "Director's Cut" as a true ninth. "Director's Cut" remakes songs from Bush's "The Sensual World" (1989) and "The Red Shows" (1993). No one would expect her to merely re-record some old favorites, and in true Kate Bush fashion, "Director's Cut" pushes the boundaries of a remake album. Lyrics have been rewritten, song keys dropped, and instruments added and removed. While it's a studied, meticulous, and lovely exercise, it feels like a teaser to what will hopefully be a completely new work that Bush says is already written. Play "Director's Cut," if only because there is precious little Kate Bush music that exists to play at all. But stay tuned for something even more grand.
PLAY: Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, "Rome"
After making his mark on American soul, hip-hop, electronica, and folk-rock, Danger Mouse inches closer to what may be his final home — as a film composer. Along with Italian composer Daniele Luppi, Danger Mouse has created his latest mash-up of a classic Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western-sounding score (courtesy of many of Morricone's surviving session musicians) and the otherworldly dark romance (courtesy of guest vocalists Norah Jones and Jack White) that we've come to love in a Danger Mouse project. "Rome" is the soundtrack to every lonely noir film burning in your mind on that long ride home or during that sleepless night.
SKIP: Kate Voegele, "Gravity Happens"
Can someone remind me which formulaic, perky, semi-sensitive singer-songwriter is releasing an album this week? I can't seem to keep them all straight. Voegele's follow-up to 2009's "A Fine Mess" finds her mining the same middle-of-the-road pop that her CW fans love (Voegele has had a recurring role on "One Tree Hill"), but the rest of us can skip this one.