A record by Ry Cooder
Available at All That Jazz for $17.98
Do you like music better if it has a story attached? Do people buy Abbey Road because of the legend behind the cover art? Did most of us buy Brian Wilson's "Smile" because it sent him to bed for three years in deep depression and wasn't released until decades later?
Yes, little chickens. We love a good story.
Which isn't to say that "Abbey Road" and "Smile" weren't great albums. But the story helps us connect to them on a level more personal than the music itself.
Ry Cooder knows this better than anyone. How many people would have picked up an album of traditional Cuban music if it hadn't been for the touching story (and movie) behind "Buena Vista Social Club"?
A lesser-known story is broadcasting the new Chez Ravine album to the ears of the masses.
Chez Ravine is part sports story and partly the story of a culture. Chez Ravine was a Mexican-American neighborhood in Los Angeles leveled during the construction of Dodger Stadium. In the 1950s, the residents were removed forcefully from their homes. Almost half a century later, there is still bitterness about what took place.
"Chez Ravine" is a tribute to the neighborhood and something of a retelling of the story that still circulates in Los Angeles conversations.
Like he did in "Buena Vista Social Club," Cooder brought back the best of the long-forgotten, Spanish-language musicians.
Rated: Oral history and urban legend, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
Fall Out Boy
"From Under the Cork Tree"Available at All That Jazz for $16.98
What goes through your head after you step off a cliff? How many thoughts can push their way from one side of your mind to the other in a matter of seconds? This is a good album to test how fast you can react to a changing environment and a dangerous situation.
This also may be a good album for those music lovers recently baptized into alternative sounds by Green Day's "American Idiot." Now that your ears have gotten used to the water, why don't you try to swim a little deeper?
Fall Out Boy has the same monorhythmic guitar and the same Green Day emo voicing. In fact, they probably have a towrope somewhere on Green Day's wagon that I just haven't been told about.
Fall Out Boy is 100 percent primetime MTV.
The best part of Fall Out Boy may be their song titles, such as "Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner" or "I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got was this Stupid Song Written About Me."
Rated: They start their album by telling you to go away; just your kind of dysfunctional relationship.
Kings of Leon
"Aha Shake Heartbreak"Available at All That Jazz for $14.98
It wasn't long ago that Kings of Leon was just another obscure alternative band, held sacred by a few music lovers. But this year has been good to the Kings. Now that they are coming off a tour with U2, your ears would have to spend the summer in a cave not to hear this band.
The problem obscure indie bands face when they are thrust into the mainstream spotlight is rejection by original fans, who don't want to be dancing next to polo shirts and baseball caps. Well, stand aloof if you like. This band deserves a little success.
How these guys ended up in front of U2 fans is a mystery to me. They sound nothing like the Bono band.
If you're a music lover drawn in by lyrics, this Kings album isn't for you. Lead singer Caleb Followill has a slurring vocal style that sounds more like moaning (think drunken Steven Tyler) than singing, which turns him into just another instrument. Instead of listening too closely, this album made me want to light up a cigarette, put on a poodle skirt and do some chain-smoking and 1950s swing dancing. "Aha Shake Heartbreak" is just like that -- world-weary and innocent at the same time.
I don't know what this means, but it means something. Literary tastemaker Dave Eggers has moved on to controlling our thoughts about music, as well as books. Apparently, Eggers now has a column in Spin magazine, and his debut ink was titled "Why you should be digging Kings of Leon."
Rated: If Eggers says it's cool, well, it is.
-- Autumn Phillips