Oh how I want the Looking Closer music page to be more lively than it is. But too much is happening in my life right now, and I’m left singing along with great new albums while I work, wishing I had time to write in-depth reviews of all of them.

I’ll get around to reviewing some of these eventually, but for the record, here’s what’s currently getting frequent “rotation” on my iPod…

The Ragbirds – Wanderlove (I’d give it a B+. Eclectic “world music” with the pleasant pop sensibilities of Erin Zindle. This is an enjoyable followup to their debut, the extraordinary Yes Nearby. While it has more of a “live performance” feel to it, without all of the production bells and whistles, it lacks the energy of the live performances captured on last year’s Catching Fire. Still, one of the mroe colorful, thoughtful, adventurous pop records you’ll hear this year.)

Loudon Wainwright IIIStrange Weirdos: Music from and Inspired by the Film Knocked Up (B+. A surprisingly engaging, playful set of songs with excellent musicianship and lyrics that are witty and wise… although the rhymes are sometimes a little forced.)

The White Stripes – Icky Thump (B+. The Stripes doing what they do best, and doing it with more confidence and enthusiasm than ever. The title track is a hoot an a holler, and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” is my current favorite track for driving to work in the morning. Nevertheless, they push their familiar sound to its extremes here, and it makes me hope they’ll try some new ideas next time.)

Suzanne Vega – Beauty and Crime (A-. Sophisticated as always, and demonstrating impressive thematic focus. The songs show a deep, mature understanding of love and loss, set in the context of a wounded but resilient New York. I can’t say there are many songs here I’d include on a Suzanne Vega best-of, but it’s another solid album from a songwriter who has never disappointed me in her long career of poetry and melody.)

Over the Rhine – The Trumpet Child (A-. It’s one of their best, with surprising new sounds and flourishes of imagination. But it’s just a bit too fleeting to stand beside Ohio and Good Dog Bad Dog, which remain my favorites. These songs will make for an enthralling, joyous live show this year… don’t miss them. My review will be in the next issue of Christianity Today. I’ve written a separate article about the album for Risen magazine as well. The album arrives in stores August 21. Get ready.)


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