Pop, world and jazz CD releases: American Music Club | Jack Johnson | The Duke Spirit | Rivers Cuomo | Shelby Lynne | Kenny Wheeler

American Music Club: The Golden Age | Jack Johnson: Sleep through the Static | The Duke Spirit: Neptune | Rivers Cuomo: Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo | Shelby Lynne: Just A Little Lovin' | Kenny Wheeler: Other People

American Music Club

The Golden Age

(Cooking Vinyl) £11.99

Long before Elliott Smith became the poster boy for West Coast depression, there was Mark Eitzel and his American Music Club. The sorrowful croon of the self-described 'gay communist' Eitzel has illuminated eight previous AMC albums, as well as a welter of solo efforts of wildly varying quality. The good news is that the ninth album from these inveterate melancholics is a burnished pleasure. Eitzel's gift has long been that he delivers his bleak missives in a voice made of cashmere. Here, voice, songwriting and band (50 per cent new) conspire to create a plush album that glimpses the odd silver lining in the thunderheads.

Kitty Empire

Jack Johnson

Sleep through the Static

(Universal) £12.99

Since his 2001 debut, Johnson has peddled wispy acoustic ditties that are presumably intended to evoke images of sunny afternoons, but are more likely to induce a coma. Perhaps to answer his critics, his fourth album throws in some electric guitar riffs, though they're a red herring - his folk-funk languor prevails, along with his bored vocals and gauche lyrical instinct, responsible for clunkers like 'I want to take the preconceived out from underneath your feet'. Solar energy powered the recording sessions; shame the music shows no such innovation.

Hugh Montgomery

The Duke Spirit


(You Are Here) £10.99

Remember Republica and their ubiquitous 'Ready To Go'? The Duke Spirit certainly do and, with revved up guitars and feisty lead Leila Moss, it's as if female-fronted Britpop never went away. Recorded with Queens of the Stone Age producer Chris Goss, this second album from the Cheltenham fivepiece extends their dark rock catalogue with more than a few nods to Kim Gordon's Sonic Youth output. Sumptuous ballad 'This Ship Was Built To Last' is the high point, but elsewhere the songs fail to make an impression. The Dukes' admirable effort to keep proper rock alive is stifled by an unmistakably dated sound.

Katie Toms

Rivers Cuomo

Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo

(Geffen) £12.99

Rivers Cuomo has always been free and easy with his demos and now, in advance of his band Weezer's sixth album, he's releasing a whole career's worth of them. Those who know the dork rockers by 'Buddy Holly' - included here in its wonky embryonic state - will be bewildered by their frontman bellowing Ice Cube lyrics on 'The Bomb'. Many of these tracks are from Weezer's unrealised concept album Songs From the Black Hole: 'Blast Off ' gives a short, sweet taste of what may have been, but others such as 'This is the Way' show how bland Cuomo and co can be at their worst.

Killian Fox

Shelby Lynne

Just A Little Lovin'

(Lost Highway) £11.99

A refugee from Nashville's conformity, Lynne had a Grammy-winning blend of country and R&B on 2000's I Am Shelby Lynne, since when her languorous vocals have struggled to find their place - a title like 'Identity Crisis' says it all. An album of Dusty Springfield covers produced by Phil Ramone suggests a shift to mainstream diva-dom. Instead, Lynne recasts the Dusty songbook - 'You Don't Have To Say' et al - as intimate, bedroom confessionals, with hushed, skeletal backings. At times less proves to be plain less, but Lynne's poise and honesty never waiver, and with another's songs, she's still her own woman.

Neil Spencer

Kenny Wheeler

Other People

(Camjazz) £13.99

With a highly personal style ranging from glacial free improvisation to limpid romanticism, Wheeler has been at the forefront of European jazz almost from the beginning. As both trumpeter and composer, Wheeler is always apt to come up with surprises, and this set is no exception. Working for the first time with a string quartet, he produces eight pieces that manage to be at the same time both fragile and energetic. No other trumpeter around can play extreme high notes as quietly as this. The warm tones of the Hugo Wolf Quartet and delicate piano of John Taylor make a perfect setting.

Dave Gelly

The GuardianTramp

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