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Peter Bjorn and John

Living Thing

Almost Gold

Sounds like: The shotgun approach to dance pop

Short take: "Young Folks" charm is getting old

In 2006, Peter Bjorn and John set the indie world on fire with their summer dance single "Young Folks." Three years and two albums later, the best thing Peter Morn, Bjorn Yttling or John Eriksson have produced is the far more entertaining Lykke Li. Living Thing really isn't a bad album, given the inspired lyrical turns in "Blue Period Picasso" and the bouncy fun of "Lay It Down." But the title track's pseudo-Afro-pop sounds like something Vampire Weekend copied from Paul Simon, while the lead single "Nothing to Worry About" is nothing that Kanye West wasn't doing two albums ago. Peter Bjorn and John aren't adding anything new to the conversation. On a pop dance floor now crowded by CSS, Black Kids, Santigold, N.A.S.A., etc., they've lost a step. Jason NotteJorma Kaukonen


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River of Time

Red House Records

Sounds like: Nobody but Jorma

Short take: Hot Tuna/Airplane guitarist remains one of a kind

When Jorma Kaukonen plays guitar, you know it's him. He conceptualizes chords and solos in a way that sets him apart. Back in his Jefferson Airplane days, Kaukonen's folk roots dissolved easily into the era's LSD-laced psychedelia. On this stunning new album, his big red Gibson electric continues to breathe an elegant fire. Even with the quieter tone of these players, the songs stay as intense as any recorded by the Airplane. Producer Larry Campbell is a master of sonic architecture, framing everything in pristine settings, from Kaukonen's take on the Grateful Dead's "Operator" to his version of Mississippi John Hurt's "Preachin' on the Old Campground." A lot of years and Lord knows how many brain cells have passed under the Golden Gate Bridge since he started, but Kaukonen has a vision that's as strong as ever. Bill Bentley


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Mastodon

Crack the Skye

Reprise

Sounds like: A Black Sabbath-inspired stoner rock masterpiece

Short take: Mastodon shows less metal

Mastodon emerges from its death metal and post-hardcore lair with a Black Sabbath-induced trip of primarily progressive stoner rock. Thankfully, this fourth album, calculated and slightly slimmed-down perhaps the psychedelics the band ingested around the turn of the century have finally worn off opens the door to endless future possibilities. The lynchpin is the nearly 11-minute "The Czar," a mind-fuck track that leads the listener through driving melodic guitars, metal rants and darkened vocals. This is also where Brent Hinds' Ozzy Osbourne vocal tendencies are most obvious. Another notable tune is "Ghost of Karelia," a pleasantly surprising Tool-sounding affair. While diehards will claim major-label sellout, Crack the Skye actually places Mastodon one step ahead of metal extinction. John Benson

  • Peter Bjorn and John, River of Time, Mastodon

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