Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, “Tearing at the Seams” (Stax/Concord)
Look, there is no “S.O.B. (Part Two)” on this album. But Rateliff and company don’t need it.
While that joyous, hand-clapping ode to alcohol withdrawal was sharp enough to make people pay attention, the band’s sophomore album will have no problem building an even broader audience.
Rateliff’s stirring, soulful vocals shine even more now, whether he is channeling Otis Redding on “Coolin’ Out” or updating the Band on “Say It Louder.”
The Night Sweats’ combination of soul and Americana is addictive in pretty much all its permutations, but especially on the gorgeous “Still Out There Running,” which ropes some poetic Paul Simon phrasing into the mix. The first single “You Worry Me” has already returned the band to the top of the adult alternative charts, with the horn-tinged rock song seemingly poised to become another crossover hit.
“Tearing at the Seams” is potent enough to return Rateliff & the Night Sweats to the spotlight to stay, not as the unexpected beneficiaries of a novelty hit, but as one of Americana’s brightest new stars. As Rateliff repeatedly belts out in the title track, “They’re gonna have to drag us away.”
GLENN GAMBOA, Newday
David Byrne, “American Utopia” (Nonesuch)
With Byrne, nothing is ever straightforward. That doesn’t change on his first solo album since 2004’s “Grown Backwards,” following collaborations with Fatboy Slim, St. Vincent and Brian Eno. He even feels the need to explain himself in the liner notes, writing, “Is this meant ironically? Is it a joke?”
Byrne assures us that he is serious about an “American Utopia,” that he believes it existed in the past and could exist in the future. The songs here, though, are specifically about the present and they come from radically different points of view.
“Every Day Is a Miracle” may be the most straightforward, though it opens from the point of view of a chicken. He actually sounds most earnest in “Dog’s Mind,” where he imagines political issues through a dog’s eyes. He sings matter-of-factly in the lilting “Bullet,” singing about a shooting from the bullet’s point of view.
“American Utopia” does offer glimpses of paradise in the contemplative “This Is That” and the dreamy “Here,” which navigates the brain until it reaches a space where the groove can stretch out.
The grand single “Everybody’s Coming to My House,” with its Afrobeat accompaniment that is the clearest descendant of Talking Heads’ heyday, seems to be about considering inclusion in the immigration debate, but veers off into an unexpected, more universal, utopian theme.
As with most Byrne projects, “American Utopia” is all about enjoying the ride.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
• The Decemberists, “I’ll Be Your Girl”
• Meshell Ndegeocello, “Ventriloquism”
• Snoop Dogg, “Bible of Love”
• Stone Temple Pilots, “Stone Temple Pilots”
• Scotty McCreery, “Seasons Change”
• Yo La Tengo, “There’s a Riot Going On”