Bonnie Raitt immediately pops to mind hearing “Better Than Gold,” the second album from Ohio-gone-to-Nashville roots rocker Erica Blinn.
Like Raitt, Blinn knows her way around the blues, working them into her rock ‘n’ roll via slide guitar on the opener “Softer Side” and the harmonica she plays across record on numbers like the swaggering “Dance With The One (Who Brought You)” and the thumping “A Little Rain.”
Lyrically, Blinn sings both autobiographically -- “Dreamer’s Heart” is about deciding to finally pursue music after piling up a ton of college debt and the shimmering, life on the road “Suitcases and Truck Stops” -- and observationally, lifting a line she heard in bar for the horn-punched shaker “When I’m With Suzie (I Do What I Want).”
Blinn’s a straightforward singer, her voice fitting perfectly into the rootsy background whether she’s singing ballads of love like the delicate “Don’t You Be Lonely” or biting bluesy rockers. That makes for very satisfying roots rock, or, as she calls it, "heavy Americana" from a woman who deserves to be widely heard. Grade: B
MGMT, “Little Dark Age.” With “Little Dark Age,” its fourth album, MGMT reverses field, abandoning the thick experimentation of the duo’s last two records for the hooky New Wavey synth-pop of 2007’s hit-filled “Oracular Spectacular,” that turned Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden into indie pop stars.
By and large, the reversal works. “One Thing Left To Try” is as good as any of the duo’s previous hits and the opener, “She Works Out Too Much,” and “TSLAMP,” which blasts a fitness-obsessed girlfriend and kids spending their lives on their cellphones respectively, add some humor to the hooks.
There’s some dark shimmer on “When You’re Small.” The album ends with the quiet, melodic refrain “is it over?” on “Hand It Over” that seems to say that the album may just be MGMT’s last stand.
That, however, isn’t likely. While it’s not likely to touch “Oracular Spectacular” in popularity, “Little Dark Age” is plenty good enough to revitalize MGMT and keep the synth-pop coming for a good while. Grade: B