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Music reviews: Incubus, Bloc Party, Yeasayer

Caption
(Courtesy photo)
A special series of intimate concerts for fans of the band Incubus is chronicled on "Incubus HQ Live."

Here is a look at recently-released music.

Incubus "Incubus HQ Live (Special Edition)"

As a way to promote the release of its first studio album in nearly five years last summer, the alt-rock band Incubus set up a temporary residency inside a California storefront and invited fans to stop by for six nights of intimate live performances. The effort is chronicled on “Incubus HQ Live.” The standard release contains one CD and a DVD. A “special edition” version includes a second CD with an additional 12 songs. The track sequence varies between the two. If you’re just into Incubus’ hits, they’ve made sure most of them, including “Drive,” “Pardon Me” and “Wish You Were Here,” are part of the single-disc version. The DVD is what makes this a worthwhile purchase as it fully explains the six-night project and what the band was trying to accomplish. The DVD is presented in documentary style and includes interviews with band members as well as footage from different music workshops held with fans during the week. There’s also interviews with fans, but most of them offer little substance to the DVD. Most were asked to explain their “If Not Now, When?” (the title of the most recent Incubus studio album) moment. Even after watching the two-hour DVD, I’m still not sure exactly what that means. Interviews and band features are slotted between live performances of songs. The group sounds solid in what appeared to be a cramped storefront. Their gear was set up in the center of the room as fans filed in around the performance area. If you listen to the CD first, you may not think the crowd is really into the songs. But after watching the DVD and seeing the performance space, the crowd’s tepid response makes sense. There’s only so much room for fans, meaning smaller crowds and a quieter reaction when compared to other concert albums. The “Incubus HQ Live” project is a fine way for the band to honor its fans. It’s not just a bunch of guys on a small club stage saying “hello Cleveland, you’re the best fans ever.” Instead, Incubus let their fans in on the fun and made a music-based project as much about them as it was about the band.

Bloc Party "Four"

British indie rock band Bloc Party arrived on the U.S. music scene in 2005 with the album “Silent Alarm.” The album was a mix of dance-punk songs that struck a nice balance between control and hyperactivity. Bloc Party has yet to regain that balance, although it came close on 2007’s “A Weekend In The City.” The downward trend continues on the band’s fourth studio album, “Four.” Here, the band tries too hard to vary its sound. Bloc Party’s music comes off as being much harder on this album. The guitars are heavier. Kele Okereke’s vocal delivery is more intense. On “Four,” Bloc Party fails to deliver the danceable rock rhythms we’re used to. It seems the band is searching for a new identity. “Coliseum” begins as a country-infused tune only to finish as a gruff hard rock song. “Kettling” is a straight-up rock song, devoid of bouncy drum beats and prickly guitar parts. Instead, the drums slam against a wall of thin guitar. It’s too much. Bloc Party most closely matches the sound we’re familiar with on “V.A.L.I.S.” It’s too bad they couldn’t have pulled that off more often on “Four.”

Yeasayer "Fragrant World"

It’s tough to categorize the sound of New York band Yeasayer. Its songs are clusters of pop, rock, world music, dub and other styles. On “Fragrant World,” Yeasayer’s third full-length studio album, these genres of music aren’t as cohesive as they’ve been on the band’s past releases. “Fingers Never Bleed,” the mesmermizing opener, is the best track on the album. Most of the other songs come off as being cluttered. “Regan’s Skeleton” is a plus as Yeasayer takes on 80s pop. Similar acts have done a much better job paying homage to the genre, but the song stands out here among its disjointed counterparts on “Fragrant World.”

Out this week: Dierks Bentley, “Country & Cold Cans”; Erin Boheme, “What a Life”; Betty Buckley, “Ah, Men! The Boys of Broadway”; Robert Cray Band, “Nothin’ But Love”; Cummings, “No Regrets”; Matthew Dear, “Beams”; Divine Fits, “A Thing Called Divine Fits”; The Dunwells, “Blind Sighted Faith”; Dwele, “Greater Than One”; Flobots, “The Circle in the Square”; Ian Gillan & Tony Iommi, “WhoCares”; Grandfather Child, “Grandfather Child”; Bruce Hornsby, “Red Hook Summer: Music From The Original Motion Picture”; InAshton, “Everyone & You”; Ingram Hill, “Ingram Hill”; King of Spain, “All I Did Was Tell Them The Truth And They Thought It Was Hell”; Kitten, “Cut It Out”; The Last Vegas, “Bad Decisions”; Alvin Lee, “Still on the Road to Freedom”; Maxïmo Park, “The National Health”; Minus the Bear, “Infinity Overhead”; Alanis Morissette, “Havoc and Bright Light”; Obey the Brave, “Young Blood”; The Orb featuring Lee Scratch Perry, “THE ORBSERVER in the star house”; The Osmonds, “I Can’t Get There Without You”; The Roys, “New Day Dawning”; Saga, “20/20”; Scum of the Earth, “The Devil Made Me Do It”; Maia Sharp, “Change the Ending”; Harry Shearer, “Can’t Take a Hint”; Beanie Sigel, “This Time”; Slaughterhouse, “Welcome to: Our House”; tobyMac, “Eye On It”; World Fire Brigade, “Spreading My Wings.”

Out Sept. 4:  Animal Collective, “Centipede Hz”; Azure Ray, “As Above So Below”; Bellamy Brothers, “Pray For Me”; Raymond Byron and the White Freighter, “Little Death Shaker”; California Wives, “Art History”; Cat Power, “Sun”; Chick Corea & Gary Burton, “Hot House”; Cult of Youth, “Love Will Prevail”; Deerhoof, “Breakup Song”; Melissa Etheridge, “4th Street Feeling”; The Fresh & Onlys, “Long Slow Dance”; Ian Hunter & The Rant Band, “When I’m President”; Imagine Dragons, “Night Visions”; Ronan Keating, “Fires”; Mark Knopfler, “Privateering”; Land Observations, “Roman Roads IV-XI”; Matchbox Twenty, “North”; Mono, “For My Parents”; Bob Mould, “Silver Age”; Bill Ortiz, “Highest Wish”; Brian Setzer, “Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot! Live From the Planet”; The Sheepdogs, “The Sheepdogs”; Smash Mouth, “Magic”; Stars, “The North”; Dave Stewart, “The Ringmaster General”; Two Door Cinema Club, “Beacon”; Two Gallants, “The Bloom and the Blight”; Young Guns, “Bones.”

• Rob Carroll writes about pop culture and entertainment for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at rcarroll@shawmedia.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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