Nile, "Black Seeds Of Vengeance"; Pete Yorn "Music for the Morning After"; Mitch Woods, "Jump For Joy"; David Byrne, "Look into the Eyeball" 

Now Hear This

Nile, "Black Seeds Of Vengeance" (Relapse Records) — If there's one thing going for the Greenville, S.C., death-metal group Nile, it's that it has a fairly original gimmick. The band draws heavily on the sounds and imagery of ancient Egypt, hence its name, Nile. It incorporates historically accurate musical representations of Egyptian and Sumerian lore on this album, churning out songs with titles such as "Defiling the Gates Of Ishtar" and "To Dream of Ur." Nile's newest effort also includes the song with the longest title ("Libation Unto The Shades Who Lurk in The Shadows of the Temple Of Anhur"); most unpronounceable name ("Nas Akhu Khan She En Asbiu"); and most amusing moniker ("Masturbating The War God") of any release I've ever heard. Nile even throws in some keyboard and Tibetan chants to add to the overall eeriness of this musically blistering metal record.

While "Black Seeds of Vengeance" may be an incredibly charged album for hard-core death-metal fans and history buffs, be warned — the music may be way too harsh and unapproachable to those unversed in the genre. — Angelo DeFranzo

Pete Yorn "Music for the Morning After" (Columbia) - Pete Yorn knows how to grab a listener. With the first notes of the first song on his first full-length CD, Yorn shoves you onto the couch and says, "Hey, check this out."

The first notes seem to come from a scratchy record player in another room, but then "Life on a Chain" opens into a rhythmic, rootsy pop tune that makes you wonder — even hope — he's got enough to fill the rest of the CD.

He does.

Through 14 tracks, Yorn leaned on the basic ingredients of rock, such as a good beat. He first tapped out most of the songs on a drum, sang along, then built the sound with bass lines, and, usually, by playing the other instruments himself.

Yorn uses this catchy sound to cloak some biting suggestions to ex-girlfriends, not to mention society in general. Other than that, Yorn's tough to pin down. His influences include Morrissey, Joy Division, Sonic Youth and R.E.M., but he obviously extends his work into his own experiences. Basically, you have here a chance to acquire some straight-up modern rock.

Buy it. — Lon Wagner, The Virginian-Pilot

Mitch Woods, "Jump For Joy" (Blind Pig) — For his fifth CD for Blind Pig, Woods is on a real jump-blues tear, and how you take to this one will depend on how much the swing revival has jaded your yen for revved-up dance tunes. Woods moves away from the small, piano-led combo approach to boogie and blues for this 12-cut, all-original effort in favor of an 11-piece band. He takes to the new surroundings like a hep cat to a zoot suit. The California-based keyboard player is in fine, easygoing, bandleader stride throughout, rolling through the tunes with natural ease. Part of his appeal relies on humor as much as groove. His warm and mellow voice sells songs such as "Broke," "Swingin' At the Savoy" and "Jive, Mr. Boogie" with a night-on-the-town flair that's sure to make a listener more than ready for a little steppin' out. Generous horn arrangements by sax player Michael Peloquin, and some slick guitar from Danny Caron help shake things up. But what I really like about Woods is his fine piano playing, and, for the most part, this "Jump" favors more big horn parts. Woods and jump blues make a fine pairing, but I'll be ready for more of his boogie-woogie bag next time. — Ames Arnold

David Byrne, "Look into the Eyeball" (Virgin) — Look into "Look into the Eyeball" and you'll see David Byrne's whole musical career pass before your ears. There's the usual Talking Heads weirdness on "Broken Things," his fascination for Latin modes in "Desconocido Soy" and his newfound, string-induced McCartney pop in "The Revolution."

His geeky short hair is mainly gray, but the world-music visionary and former Talking Heads CEO still looks, and sounds, hale and hearty on his newest recording since 1997's "The Visible Man." His voice — once a brittle, whiny and tenuous thing — now sounds full and melodic.

The musical styles on "Eyeball" add nothing really new or innovative to the Byrne canon the way Talking Heads' "Remain in the Light" or his solo tropicalia "Rei Momo" did. In fact, the album's seeming conventionality makes it sound so unconventional.

Byrne seems to have shed much of the pretentiousness of his early career. Most of the new songs are tight, accessible pop opuses loaded with his usual quirky, obtuse and at the same time, simplistic ruminations on life and art.

Byrne certainly has something new to say, but now his musical art and artifice sounds as if it's gone from hip boutique to Wal-Mart. — Eric Feber, The Virginian-Pilot

Buzby, "Three Song Demo" (Buzby) — Consisting of three Richmonders, plus two members from Charlottesville, the artsy, college-pop outfit Buzby has been making its name well-known lately. Being from that small city to the west myself, I remember when Buzby's frontman/guitarist Brenton Hund was still hammering out songs with his college-rock outfit PSI. Things have certainly changed since those days, and now I can see just how much the music he writes and performs has matured.

Here Buzby gives us an across-the-board sampling of three songs from its set lists. This untitled CD demo starts with the folky love ballad "Bird," which tells an endearing story of love and loss (with a special mention of the group's hometown of C-ville.) Next comes the more upbeat "Midnight in L.A.," followed by "Simple Romance" (which is a little too funk-infused for my tastes). All songs present are graced by the pixieish backing vocals of singer/actress extraordinaire Lydia Ooghe. Although bands of this ilk are usually not my cup of tea, Buzby can write a decent pop song, as evidenced by this precursor to its upcoming full-length live and studio albums. If you're a fan of Dave Matthews and the like, do yourself a favor and check out Buzby. — A.D.

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