I was surprised to read that Gustav Ejstes, the Swedish psych-folk multi-instrumentalist who records under the name Dungen, was incredibly unhappy—pissed off, actually—when he recorded 2004's Ta Det Lugnt. There's "so much anger in it," he told an interviewer. Really? All I heard was sunshine and happiness—almost too much sunshine and happiness, but then again, so much is lost in translation, or rather the lack of. Stadsvandringar, recorded with a full band and originally released in Europe in 2002, also has moments of blinding shimmer and almost numbing fuzzed jangle. The title track has a particularly triumphant color, but Ejstes' vocals are so upturned and buoyant that they actually begin to sound like a whine. Where this rerelease is better than Ta Det Lugnt, however, is where injections of dark, inward contrast bleed through. The mercurial instrumental "Sol Och Regn" has a medieval minstrel middle, but the beginning and end sound exactly like what you'd want to appear if you pressed the Swedish psych-folk key on your sampler. "Krona" is trippy, tribal, and proggy; Ejstes and his band cut airy, kaleidoscopic '70s keyboard lines with calm, circular rhythms and Nick Drake–esque acoustic guitar. They toss in some sound effects, too; but here, chirping bird songs don't necessarily denote a perfect day. Apparently, while recording Stadsvandringar, Ejstes "loved life and women and parties." Paradoxically—and fortunately— this rerelease doesn't always sound like a good time. LAURA CASSIDY
Dungen plays Neumo's with Mia Doi Todd at 8 p.m. Tues., Oct. 4. $12 adv. All ages.
Crazy Frog Presents Crazy Hits
DJ-producer T. Raumschmiere may be lumped in with the überhip Berlin techno scene, but the title of his second album suggests an in-your-face alloy that his frequently too-tasteful milieu would benefit from. Unfortunately, the title track and "Sick Like Me" evoke nothing so much as lousy early-'90s industrial, which even then communicated all the danger of a shopping trip to Hot Topic. And as for the pop part of the equation, Raumschmiere's unpersuasively cheery side won't do much to dispel clichés regarding Teutonic severity. On the instrumental acid stomp "An Army of Watt," he imagines what late-'90s big beat would sound like minus the lager-fueled bonhomie—you know, the thing that made it worth listening to in the first place.
Crazy Frog Presents Crazy Hits also evokes the '90s, if only because most of its songs date from that decade: "We Like to Party," "Get Ready for This," "I Like to Move It," "Whoomp! (There It Is)." There's plenty of '80s material in there, too—check the version of the Beverly Hills Cop theme, "Axel F," that kept Coldplay out of the No. 1 spot in the English charts this summer. Crazy Frog would be godlike for that alone, but what cinches the deal is the record's insistence that everything would sound better as a trance anthem with a cartoon frog nattering over the top. ("It doesn't even look like a frog!" complained a co-worker via Post-It note. "Mutant frog!")
So right—it's a novelty record. But it's a perfect novelty record. You can't tell me that producers Reinhard and Henning Reith and A. Litterscheid and the splendidly named executive producer Wolfgang Boss didn't know what they were doing by opening the disc with the minute-long, ominous-rising-synth "Intro" (sounds like every other dance-record "Intro" ever, except for the mutant frog rising from the briny sonic deep) and ending it with "Crazy Frog Sounds"—echo-laden ringtone noises that would make it into The Wire if some recluse in his mother's basement had put it on a hand-painted CD-R. And at 31 minutes, it never overstays its welcome. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
T. Raumschmiere plays Chop Suey with Jerry Abstract and Foscil at 8 p.m. Sun., Oct. 2. $10 adv.
Sisters of the Red Death
Vendetta Red play rock and roll, so there aren't rules, per se, but here's one anyway: Songs about rape should never have punny titles. On Sisters of the Red Death's opener, "Vendetta Red Cried Rape on Their Date With Destiny," frontman Zach Davidson screams, "The blood soaked through the tissue/When your teeth broke when he hit you/You denied him the pleasure he gets when you scream." Undeniably scary stuff—except when it's titled by Bruce Vilanch. Vendetta Red are a Seattle group who play emo tailored for modern-rock radio (remember that?), meaning vocals, guitars, and drums processed like plastic-wrapped cheese slices; relationship- obsessed, misogynistic lyrics; and the overall mood of interpretative dance (first one to snicker—hell, even smile—gets three hairy eyeballs and shown the door). Good mainstreamo does exist—Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy—but Vendetta Red ain't it. Calculated and unfun to the point of alienation, VR subsist solely to placate 14-year-olds for whom girls are the Great Unknown. The band's right there with them: In "Coital Improv," Davidson bellows about miscarriage, somehow equating it to "machine gun fire in a shanty town" and blood that "rain[s] down forever"; in "The Body and the Blood," he sings, "Your womb mouth kiss could kill"; and in "Shiver," it's a baby's mama that grinds "your genitals in the dirt." Which means that the "Red Death" in the album title means . . . menstruation! Seriously, Zach, fuck you. YANCEY STRICKLER
Dreamin' My Dreams
In country music, more than most genres, the song and singer are paramount. That may sound awfully obvious, but country lives and dies by the story. Luckily, two of country's best voices are also two of its most adept at song selection. And over 15 years into their respective careers, neither Patty Loveless nor Trisha Yearwood is capable at this point of making an ordinary Nashville-machine country album.
Since 2001's return-home bluegrass album Mountain Soul, Loveless has worked at integrating that high- lonesome sound into her more mainstream work. The mesh didn't take on 2003's On Your Way Home, but Dreamin' My Dreams smooths the batter out. Loveless' pure, high, clear voice nails a sterling slate of songs by writers including Richard Thompson, Steve Earle, and Delbert McClinton, from lament ("Nobody Here by That Name") to romp ("Big Chance"; the Dwight Yoakam duet "Never Ending Song of Love," originally recorded by Delaney and Bonnie). It's loose and open, like a Kentucky front-porch guitar pull, and it sounds like the album Loveless has been working (and pointing) toward her entire career.
Yearwood's never been as playful as Loveless by half, but that suits her. Even on lighter-shade-of-Georgia-Satellites material like "Pistol," she sounds more like a big sister giving advice (the Reba influence is fairly easy to see at times) than a sassy, saucy lass. Where Loveless flavors her country with bluegrass, Yearwood tends to go the Southern soul/rock route, which suits both her personality and her big, expansive voice. If she wanted, she could probably attempt a Celine-style world takeover—she did record one of the dueling versions of Diane Warren's "How Do I Live" in the late '90s (country fans still prefer her version to Leann Rimes' monster crossover hit)—but the je ne sais twang in her vocals means she's as comfortable with string sections ("Trying to Love You") as with fiddle-and-harmonica ("Baby Don't You Let Go"). And the lead single, "Georgia Rain," a plaintive remembrance with backing vocals from fiancé Garth Brooks, ties it up with a tattered satin bow. THOMAS INSKEEP
The Edge: David Axelrod at Capitol Records 1966–1970
A decent handful of composers and arrangers in the late '60s and early '70s fused jazz and rock with baroque classical sensibilities, most of them plying their trade on celluloid. Los Angeles' David Axelrod could've been one of them, since he had the right ear for the kind of rattling tension, soaring triumphalism, and swaggering cool that would've suited your typical Peter Yates or Don Siegel thriller. But while Lalo Schifrin tackled Bullitt and Dirty Harry, Axelrod built a far more unique résumé by sticking to pop. His orchestrations—heavy on rollicking Ali-shuffle drums and guitar licks that dosed R&B twang years before "Psychedelic Shack"—were versatile enough to suit Man From U.N.C.L.E. co-star/multi-instrumentalist David McCallum (his two contributions to this comp, "House of Mirrors" and "The Edge," are beaded with dewy jet-age melancholia), South African Apartheid refugee and future Roots soundtrack singer Letta Mbulu (the languid, stormy thrum of "Pula Yetia" bridges township and penthouse), and soul legend Lou Rawls (whose rendition of "You've Made Me So Very Happy" incinerates Blood, Sweat & Tears on contact). But the bulk of the compilation focuses on tracks from Axelrod's ambitious solo concept records. His William Blake–inspired masterpieces Song of Innocence and Songs of Experience are represented well—even considering the inexplicable omission of "Holy Thursday," his best composition—and tracks like the superhero funk of "The Mental Traveler" and the mournful piano elegy "The Human Abstract" (the latter became the backbone of DJ Shadow's "Midnight in a Perfect World") are there for the taking if anyone's up to making films epic enough to contain them. NATE PATRIN