Album Reviews

Reviews of albums by Jeff the Brotherhood, Ponderosa, and Joss Stone

Jeff the Brotherhood
Hypnotic Nights
(Warner Bros.)
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Besides being part of the young Nashville rock vanguard, this fraternal duo is, pound for pound, one of today's most whopping two-piece bands. This major label debut blends their melodic bounce with classic and underground leanings in garage, punk and rock in a way that revs like a jacked-up turbo version of power-pop. Although occasionally two-dimensional, their self-imposed, fuzz-thick minimalism makes for a beefy, catchy collection of youthful rockers, especially "Sixpack," "Wood Ox," "Staring at the Wall" and "Dark Energy." – Bao Le-Huu

Pool Party
(New West)
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Between earning this paper's gold star for best band at 2008's Florida Music Festival, and this new, second album for preeminent alt-twang label New West Records, Atlanta's Ponderosa are already outgrowing the strict constructionist Southern rock they rode in on. Their expansive new deal is a majestic dream-folk sound akin to more baroque peers like Fleet Foxes or Loud Valley. As happens with this ambient style, things occasionally get a bit blanched, but it shows they're now beyond the box. And "Navajo" is an epic beauty. – BLH

Joss Stone
The Soul Sessions Vol. 2
★★ (out of 5 stars)

For someone so musically addicted to re-introductions, Joss Stone is pretty damn bad at them. Since her Miami-assisted breakthrough in 2003, Stone has tried the same feat time and again with diminishing returns: Third album Introducing Joss Stone threw Betty Wright under a diva-sized bus, followed by Colour Me Free!, a celebration of the end of her EMI contract, then last year's disastrous LP1. Now that she's going back to the Wright well, how does she commence? By covering the esteemed Labi Siffre, only to giggle when his "I Got The" shifts to a familiar bridge – one Dr. Dre famously sampled for Eminem's "My Name Is." Why the laughing fit? Maybe she's recognized what's probably the first rap beat she ever heard. (Stone would've been 12 when Em's single hit the radio.) Or maybe she's already worked out how to re-introduce herself again when this record's done.
– Justin Strout