Noteworthy new albums
From heroes to '00s: Crowded House and the members of Velvet Revolver try to reclaim the glories of their 1990s heydays.
Crowded House – Time on Earth (ATO): If there was ever such a thing as a musical genome project, musicologists would try to map the dulcet double helix in the DNA of Crowded House's Neil Finn. Given that the songwriter's trove of indelible tunes are hummed the world over, news of Crowded House's reunion has led to high expectations. They should be downscaled. The 2005 suicide of the band's drummer Paul Hester weighs heavily on "Time on Earth," and the album's drooped-shoulder melancholy leaves little room for the sort of jaunty anthems Finn is known for. (A few bouncy tracks, such as "Even a Child" and "She Called Up," seem labored.) Once accepted on its own terms, however, this requiem reveals a new side of Finn's talents on minor (chord) pleasures such as "A Sigh" and "Silent House." Grade: B
– Stephen Humphries
Kim Richey – Chinese Boxes (Vanguard): Ten flowing tracks nest comfortably on this sixth album (and first studio work in five years) by Richey, a sterling vocalist whose songwriting has served the careers of such artists as Mary Chapin-Carpenter and Trisha Yearwood. Richey's own smooth, contemporary sound blends country, pop, and folk. And this selection – produced by Giles Martin of The Beatles "Love" remix fame – shows that she has reserved some shimmering songcraft for herself. "The Absence of Your Company" nails the sorrowful yearning of a relationship worn thin. "I Will Follow," with tambourine and backing vocals, has a bright, alt/indie vibe. In "Drift" and "Pretty Picture," in particular, Richey's alto dreamily roams. Grade: A
– Clayton Collins