Pixies, "Indie Cindy" (Pixies Music)
It's hard to begrudge the Pixies their belated, somewhat mercenary victory laps over the past decade. They never really reaped the benefits that came easily to acolytes (such as Nirvana) who carried forth their substantial influence. So the fact that the first Pixies album since 1991 isn't just a bitter cash grab is something of a marvel; if nothing else, most of "Indie Cindy" has a reason for being beyond simply "Give us what's ours." The derangement that more than anything else — more than the quiet/loud dynamics, the shrieking mania, the surrealistic imagery — made the Pixies the Pixies remains firmly in place. The burnished riff-rock of "Blue Eyed Hexe" has it in spades, while "Bagboy" marches, unhinged and unstoppable, toward the horizon, and "Snakes" rides an unsettling calm. To be sure, the atmospheric indie-pop of "Ring the Bell" and the title track sound more like Black Francis' solo work, and the metallic blare and twisty melodicism of "What Goes Boom," "Another Toe in the Ocean" and "Jaime Bravo" suggest where Weezer picked up a few tricks. But the Pixies sound like a band again on "Indie Cindy." From time to time, they even sound like the Pixies.
Marc Hirsh, Boston Globe
Ray LaMontagne, "Supernova" (RCA)
LaMontagne's radical departure from his successful, gruff-but-soulful folk-rock path begins with the first notes of his fifth album. The psychedelic, swirling sounds of "Lavender" immediately make you wonder if you've slipped an old Graham Nash CD in by mistake. With the help of producer Dan Auerbach, LaMontagne succeeds in ripping down everything from his "Trouble" days, replacing it with a more upbeat, more rock-oriented world that embraces both fuzzed-out pop like "Julia" and the sun-kissed, laid-back loveliness of a Neil Young-inspired "Ojai."
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Rodney Crowell, "Tarpaper Sky" (New West)
In a 2005 interview, Crowell talked about how he had become interested in pursuing a "singular sensibility" rather than hit records. That may sound pretentious, but at his best Crowell has always melded artistry and accessibility. Now, coming off his Grammy-winning collaboration with Emmylou Harris on "Old Yellow Moon," he has done it again. With "Tarpaper Sky," Crowell wields his considerable skills to play everything from the voice of hard-won experience (the bookends "The Long Journey Home" and "Oh What a Beautiful World") to a wounded lover ("God I'm Missing You"), to a wayward son ("Jesus Talk to Mama") or a loving portraitist ("Grandma Loved That Old Man"). If Crowell, 63, sounds like the sage elder amid all the tasteful Americana, well, he can still get pretty frisky: "Frankie Please" is pure adrenaline rush, a breakneck rocker with a Chuck Berryish tumble of words, and "Somebody's Shadow" is a blast of sax-fueled R&B that would be at home in a roadhouse.
Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer