Iggy Pop, Dar Williams, and District 97 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Iggy Pop
  • Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop

Psychophonic Medicine


File next to: New York Dolls, The Stooges

If you made a list of the most unsentimental rock acts, Iggy Pop would be near the top. Right? He never looked back, always charted his own unique, peanut-butter-and-glass-coated path, right? Well, apparently not. As these three discs of mid-'80s live tracks and outtakes illustrate, James Newell Osterberg acknowledged his roots with bizarre tributes to The Animals' "It's My Life," Hendrix's "Purple Haze," Del Shannon's "Sea of Love" and various Stooges originals. The set also draws upon sessions produced by Sex Pistol Steve Jones, plus outtakes from 1981's critically shellacked commercial bid Party. Strange even by Iggy standards, this set manages to collect his most ill-advised efforts. That it still doesn't (totally) suck is a testament to his importance, I guess. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge District 97
  • District 97

Dar Williams


Dar Williams Records

File next to: Lucy Kaplansky, Jonatha Brooke

It's sad that a stunning singer-songwriter like Dar Williams needed a Kickstarter campaign to release her latest album, Emerald, finally out after half a year of panhandling. Williams has lost none of her lyrical power or moral vision in 20 years of making albums. There is a noticeable formula behind this release, but even within standard styles, the writing is stronger than that of most lyricists. The nostalgic rocker is represented here in "FM Radio," while the surrealist heartbreaker shows up as "Empty Plane." Old friends like Richard Thompson and Jill Sobule show up for session duty, making this collection her most cohesive set since 2003's The Beauty of the Rain. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Dar Williams
  • Dar Williams

District 97

In Vaults

Laser's Edge

File next to: Spock's Beard, King Crimson

With the unlikeliest of vocalists — American Idol contestant Leslie Hunt — District 97 kicked the door down into progressive rock. Last year, the Chicago-based band released a live disc featuring John Wetton from the legendary King Crimson's mid-'70s period. On this, District 97's fourth album, they dial back the classical trappings of their earlier material, while keeping the melodic quotient high. Hunt is a stunningly expressive vocalist; she can hold her own amid tricky time signatures and the slashing, angular chording that's part and parcel of modern prog. With extensive use of vocal harmonies, In Vaults deftly balances melody with the adventurism that fans of the genre demand. — Bill Kopp


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