Drive-By Truckers

Album: Brighter Than Creation’s Dark

Label: New West Records

Release Date: Jan. 29

**** (out of five)

 




Drive-By Truckers continue their fine work as rock ’n’ roll curators of the real American South. With a new lineup showcasingmore twang, the Truckers’ latest is a slow-burning yet sly update of their drawl-laden brand of gritty and candid southern rock tales about everyday struggles. Amid some stellar pedal steel guitar backdrops, Dark offers an admirable range from raunchiness to acoustic sweetness — although the scarcity of floor-stompers may give some the honky-tonk blues.










Hawksley Workman

Album: Between The Beautifuls

Label: Universal

Release Date: Jan. 29

*** 1/2





One of the best songs of Hawksley Workman’s career can be found on Between The Beautifuls — the first single and bonus track, Piano Blink. It’s an instantly likable, surprisingly touching heartbreak song filled with lush-sounding instruments and beautifully soaring vocals.





That said, overall, the song quality and lyrics on this album seem to lack Workman’s early career eccentricities and provocative nature. Still a decent collection here — much improved from Lover/Fighter — but a little mainstream sounding (by Workman standards).





Other notable tracks include all-encompassing ballad Pomegranate Daffodil and the soft-strumming Oh You Delicate Heart.










Karma Controllers

Album: Sirens

Label: Independent

Release Date: Jan. 29

*** 1/2





If actions govern future rewards then the cosmos surely owe Karma Controllers a round of applause in the next life. The Toronto duo of Helen Kuan and Jack Jamieson lace their brand of bubbly, folksy indie pop with a not-so-subtle dose of jazzy pep. Kuan’s vocals have a breathlessness about them and the back and forth musical banter between her and Jamieson works wonderfully.





  • Karma Controllers play The Smiling Buddha Bar (961 College St.) tonight.










Matt Costa

Album: Unfamiliar Faces

Label: Bushfire Records

Release Date: Jan. 29

*** 1/2





Matt Costa’s brand of music stays clear of acoustic folk ballads for the most part and leans more toward quirky pop. Costa has a knack for catchy numbers. Emergency Call and Cigarette Eyes are snappy, breezy songs that are reminiscent of ’70s easy rock, while Mr. Pitiful is an adorable piano number. The smooth style draws, perhaps deliberately, from Yacht Rock, but with more clever lyrics.










Mars Volta

Album: The Bedlam In Goliath

Label: Universal

Release Date: Jan. 29

** 1/2





Be careful. The Mars Volta’s latest will blast you through a frenetic prog-rock universe, traversing sharp free-jazz, Latino-funk and nu-metal turns with heaps of cosmic vocals. It can be fun in spurts and the speed and virtuosity is often impressive. However, that combination is unrelenting and maniacal in these lengthy fusion jams, largely smothering the tunes under self-indulgent weirdness. With the effects you may also hear a familiar falsetto — but there is no one in the band named Alvin, Simon or Theodore.