With 2000’s breakthrough “The Moon and Antarctica,” Modest Mouse established itself as one of America’s best indie rock groups. But was the magic of that album’s epic millennial angst a fluke, the result of a desperate attempt by an underground band, flush with major-label cash, to hit the big time?

“Good News” answers with a resounding “no.” As ambitious (and lengthy) as “Moon,” and as biting as the group’s earlier, less polished work, the album is full of singer-guitarist Isaac Brock’s trademark paranoid restlessness, but a glimmer of hope stirs beneath the surface. “The World at Large,” the opening track (not counting the brief, startling “Horn Intro” performed by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band), finds Brock explaining his drifter’s ways over delicate guitar arpeggios and fluffy “ba-ba-ba” backing vocals.

First single “Float On” is a rousing anthem with martial drumbeats, an insistent bass line, and sharp power chords that demands an arena full of pumping fists. The song is an unexpected turn for the band, but it’s exactly what Modest Mouse needed to keep its sound refreshing.
-Amy Phillips
Dilated Peoples ‘Neighborhood Watch’
Los Angeles trio Dilated Peoples has always been a bit of an anomaly in the hip-hop world. With the stylish beats and soul and R&B samples by turntablist DJ Babu and the dense wordplay of rappers Evidence and Rakaa, Dilated Peoples seems to prefer blazing its own path – while catering somewhat to the underground and the mainstream. The group’s third full-length, “Neighborhood Watch,” is another example of Dilated’s attempt to try to appeal to both camps, featuring a mix of languid beats (like the laid-back jam “Reach Us”) and topical political ruminations (“Big Business”) and soul-laden, bumping tunes (including “This Way,” featuring hot rapper-producer Kanye West, and “Marathon” and “Poisonous,” both produced by the Alchemist).

Much like the group’s earlier albums, “Neighborhood Watch” is a consistently solid but not mind-blowing record. Dilated Peoples seems to shine brightest when performing in front of an audience, primarily because of the dynamic interaction between the two rappers and DJ Babu’s astonishing turntable skills. That said, it’s hard to find too much fault with “Neighborhood Watch,” with its fun, lively and ultimately crowd-pleasing vibe.
-Tim Pratt
Toots Hibbert isn’t only one of reggae’s greatest vocalists, he’s one of soul music’s greatest, on par with Al Green and Otis Redding. On the uneven “True Love,” Hibbert revisits his classics such as “Pressure Drop” and “54-46 Was My Number” with undiminished passion and the help of an all-star cast. The less his guests get in his way, the better.

Since they don’t compete with Hibbert’s singing, guitar heroes Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards and Trey Anastasio fare well. The rest is a mishmash, ranging from the baffling (Willie Nelson) and the odd (Ryan Adams) to the predictable (Jamaican peers Bunny Wailer, Ken Boothe and Marcia Griffiths) and the inspired.

In the last category, No Doubt is characteristically giddy on “Monkey Man.” And Bootsy Collins and the Roots – “Boots, Roots, and Toots,” says Collins – have a party on “Funky Kingston.”
-Steve Klinge


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