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New releases from Radiohead, Santana, and The Jayhawks 

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click to enlarge Radiohead
  • Radiohead

Radiohead

A Moon Shaped Pool

XL

File next to: Interpol, Blur, Placebo

Thom Yorke painted himself into a morose and cryptic corner on Radiohead's last few albums. Now comes A Moon Shaped Pool, the band's ninth album The only thing that could rescue the British dystopian synth wizards was to display a touch more humanity, which seemed likely given Yorke's breakup with longtime companion Rachel Owen. The album thus aims for acoustic analog underpinning, layered with Jonny Greenwood's electronic manipulations. Sometimes, as in "Daydreaming," the results only half emerge from Radiohead's typical opaque gauze. But in tracks like "Desert Island Disk" and "Burn the Witch," strings and jazzy acoustic rhythms provide a hypnotic euphoria for an album that might otherwise be drenched in apocalypse. Radiohead's only way forward is to continue this stripping down to essentials that Yorke was smart enough to begin. — LW

click to enlarge Santana
  • Santana

Santana

Santana IV

Santana IV Records

File next to: El Chicano, Jimi Hendrix

After decades of spotty, sometimes less-than-inspired albums (not to mention underwhelming guest spots and collaborations), Carlos Santana has reassembled most of his Woodstock-era band's lineup to create an album that picks up right where they left off in 1971. The Latin/African vibe key to Santana's appeal is vibrant and alive throughout Santana IV. "Anywhere You Want to Go" sounds like a lost tune from 1971, while "Yambu" suggests Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Throughout, the guitars of Santana and Neal Schon are on fire, and Michael Shrieve's brutal yet finessed drumming is at the heart of all the songs. Greg Rolie's organ, piano and vocals sound and feel familiar in the best possible way, and Karl Perazzo does an admirable job of evoking the original group's peerless percussion. Thomas Wolfe be damned: Sometimes you can go home again. — BK

click to enlarge The Jayhawks
  • The Jayhawks

The Jayhawks

Paging Mr. Proust

Thirty Tigers

File next to: Uncle Tupelo, The Byrds

After a five-year break between Jayhawks albums, Gary Louris recruited producers Peter Buck and Tucker Martine for this two-part experiment. The first six tracks of Paging Mr. Proust recall achingly beautiful '90s Jayhawks harmonies, most notably on "Leaving the Monsters Behind." But starting with the feedback-informed "Ace," the final six take a distinctly harder, snarling turn for the Minneapolis band. Buck and Mike Mills from REM sit in to expand the very definition of a Jayhawks studio album. Meanwhile, the return of veteran members like Karen Grotberg and Kraig Johnson allows The Jayhawks to revisit their finest country vocals. In the midst of an ever-expanding Americana genre, Louris makes every attempt here to vary his palette. Some artists would try such a mixed bag and fail on both fronts. The Jayhawks show strength by succeeding in old and new styles. — LW

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