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Pop reviews — week of March 30



Skrillex is this generation’s rave king, a sultan of sub-bass EDM whose singular look (shaved sides, long locks, thick glasses) and double sound (dub-step’s room-shaking wub, techno’s deep drops) made him a hero to fans, remix clients and fellow producer/DJs alike.

He recently released Recess, his first solo album, first as an Android and iPhone app called Alien Ride. Now it’s out as a CD. Recess plays with the electro-music form, both reveling in and toying with his personal musical signatures.

The hard-line All Is Fair in Love and Brostep both plays up and deflates the boot-stomping machismo of dub-step. Coast Is Clear, with guest Chicago sensation Chance the Rapper, injects a delectable, dance-hop feel into the proceedings, while bringing in buoyant brass and lush vocal harmonies for something fleshy and real. Speaking of fleshy and real, we really get both when Skrillex calls upon Philly’s Diplo, whose grungy Dirty Vibe is aptly titled.

Even when catchy, some of Recess can sometimes sound samey. Still, as far as samey goes, it’s a good samey.

— A.D. Amorosi

Philadelphia Inquirer

Stone Cold

C.J. Box

In Stone Cold, the latest installment in the Joe Pickett series (Joe being a game warden who finds trouble as easily as a grizzly finds grubs), C.J. Box takes readers to one of the most remote places of his beloved Wyoming: the northeast corner that has been bypassed by the economy as well as many travelers.

Pickett is sent by the governor on an undercover mission. Making a repeat appearance in the opening scenes is Pickett’s buddy, former special forces operative Nate Roman­owski, who is on a mission to kill a shady American millionaire.

The author paints vivid pictures of the Black Hills, and you can feel the elements — a snowstorm descending on the mountains, the bitter cold. Landscape and weather are important features of Wyoming, and Box depicts these well. He’s also got a B plot rolling when Pickett’s daughter, a student at the University of Wyoming, has to deal with a creepy potential school-shooter.

The area, at least in the novel, is on the skids, mining and logging having played out. So the residents are subsisting mostly on government benefits and are more susceptible to collaborating with a rich guy who shows up buying property and influence, and who might be organizing assassinations.

It’s an accessible, quick and fun read, though the characters jam a lot of background information into dialogue. There are precious bits scattered in the story like nuggets of Black Hills gold: Nate not wanting to be involved with a woman who is coming on to him, but also not being able to resist her laugh, her smile and her “beguilingly musical” voice. Sounds like a person falling in love, which is hard to capture in any genre.

— Andrew O. Selsky

Associated Press

Teeth Dreams

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady is a garage band at heart, but it’s a two-car garage in a nice neighborhood, and there might be a Mercedes inside.

Singer Craig Finn and his mates have always come across like upper-middle-class products who are usually the oldest, smartest guys at the party — and thus the ones who tell the most interesting stories.

Teeth Dreams, the Brooklyn band’s sixth album, is filled with Finn’s characteristically compelling characters, mostly female, as he sings about bad company, simple minds, night moves, life in the fast lane, dancing the night away and Pink Floyd. Rock doesn’t come much more classic.

To help keep the ’70s alive, the Hold Steady doubles down on the guitars, and recent addition Steve Selvidge teams with band co-founder Tad Kubler to frame the songs with dense, shimmering sound.

It’s often pretty, and it always packs plenty of punch. Horns? Strings? There’s no need when you’re a garage band.

— Steven Wine

Associated Press


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