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We didn't always have a friend in Randy Newman ... film scoring having long since subsumed his day-job status; Newman's routine of late has been to release a new album every nine years, whether we need one or not. (We do.)
Dark Matter, Newman's first album of new material in nine years, is the follow-up to 2008's acclaimed Harps and Angels, which the Guardian called "the work of a true master of popular song." The pre-Pixar Newman returns with a comfortingly uncuddly vengeance in Dark Matter. It's a beautiful reminder of what that New-Orleans-by-way-of-Century-City drawl is for, and it's not babysitting, writes Variety.
Produced by long-time Newman collaborators Mitchell Froom, Lenny Waronker, and David Boucher, the album includes songs about Vladimir Putin, the Kennedy brothers, Sonny Boy Williamson, science vs. religion, love and loss, and more.
As is typical with most of Newman's albums, Dark Matter breaks down to about two-thirds comedy and one-third tragedy, though the lines are not always distinct. He's grown even defter over the years at not letting his targets come too sharply into focus, like a lesser satirical mind might. "Putin," designed as a sort of call-and-response with a chorus of Russkie groupies, rouses some ersatz sympathy for the strongman by giving us complaints about the rubes he rules and even how exactly WWII turned out. "Brothers," a conversation between Jack and Bobby Kennedy in the Oval Office, detours into a discussion of the racist history of the Washington Redskins' owner before landing on JFK's desire to use the Bay of Pigs to rescue Celia Cruz, whom he mistakenly believes is being held by Castro. For Newman, naturally, world leaders past and present are the most unreliable narrators of all. The one you can trust most is bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson, who sings a lament from the grave about how another guy stole his name and career; it's the most outlandish-sounding story on the album, except it's essentially true.
|The Great Debate|
|Lost Without You|
|It's a Jungle out There (V2)|
|She Chose Me|
|On the Beach|