Los Lonely Boys, "Sacred"
Proudly hailing from San Angelo, Texas, Los Lonely Boys scored a hit back in 2004 with "Heaven," a sunny soul-pop confection. After two years of hard touring, the band is back with "Sacred." But rather than attempt to recapture "Heaven's" popular success, the band has tried to spread its musical wings. The Austin American-Statesman (rating: 3 stars) describes the new album as being "fuller and meatier," than the band's debut and "so bursting with musicianship that the lyrical clichés are excused."
Los Lonely Boys' musical chops werent enough to win over the Texas Monthly, though, which wrote that on the new album the band has "absolutely nothing new to say," "the blueprints seem worn" and the "clichés are bandied about like trophies." The Monthly was one of the few critical voices to sing an outright note of disappointment. More typical was Billboard, which dug the band's decision to focus on an "organic live sound that showcased their outstanding musicianship" instead of chasing another chart hit. Allmusic.com (rating: 4 stars) also brought the praise, even going so far as to mark the San Angelo band as innovators: "Truth be told, it's these guys who are creating a new mainstream Tex-Mex-driven Latin rock & roll that even gringos can cut a rug to."
Golden Smog, "Another Fine Day"
For a small but devoted segment of music fans, the appearance of "Another Fine Day" comes as big news. Featuring members of Wilco, the Jayhawks and Soul Asylum, Golden Smog is something of an alt-country supergroup -- notwithstanding the fact that the band has moved beyond overtly country-influenced music.
Given its side-project status, the Independent (rating: 3 stars) is pleasantly surprised at "how well [the album] works," and draws comparisons between "Another Fine Day" and "melodic AOR influences" like Crowded House, the Cars, and the Beatles. Also playing spot-the-influence, the Guardian (rating: 3 stars) heard traces of Cheap Trick and Neil Young, but still felt the album came across as "exuding perspiration over inspiration, meaning Golden Smog never entirely equal the sum of their parts."
Time Out Chicago may be guilty of a little local-boy bias (Tweedy is an Illinois native), but it came out in favor of "Another Fine Day," calling the album the band's "most earnest and consistent record by a stretch" and concluding that "Golden Smog isn't just a bunch of guys from great bands; it's finally a great band itself."
Perhaps more reliable is USA Today (rating: 3 stars), whose critic took the middle ground, finding the album both lovable and lamentable: "The material can be spotty, as if some songs are little more than constructs on which to hang the hooks, while others, such as 'Long Time Ago,' a tender song for a little sister, are genuine gems."
-- David Marchese