David Bowie is starting the New Year right, with a three-night stand January 13,14, 16 at the Rosemont Theatre. It should prove a phenomenal concert experience; fans haven’t had the chance to see the “thin white duke” in a setting as intimate as Rosemont in ages. Bowie is touring to promote his new album, Reality, on Columbia.

Stereolab has issued a five-song EP of the band’s typically experimental techno compositions. Instant O in the Universe, on Elektra, offers the disco funky “Mass Riff,” as well as the tinkling ‘80s synthesizer work of the opener “…Sudden Stars.” All of the tracks are colored by dreamlike female vocals that are used as “instruments” in the mix; the actual lyrics seem far less important than the melody charted out. This is funky, dreamy music to “space out” to.

Likewise with Shakatura’s Galactivation CD on CyberOctave Music. This is a cool rhythm-centric CD of synthesizer textures interlaced with deep bass grooves, bells, jungle percussion, funky guitars and occasional voices. This is an album of exotic moods and atmosphere, not pop songs. Great for background listening.

Bleu Bleu

Bleu crafts crunchy power-pop with an upbeat flair a la Tal Bachman and a harmonic sense that sometimes enters the realm of Queen. Opening with the demanding stomp of “Get Up,” and soaring harmonies of “That’s When I Crash,” Bleu moves from fist-raising anthems to contemplative singer-songwriter fare with equal panache. “We’ll Do It All Again” finds him strumming an acoustic guitar over an addictive drum beat while “Watching You Sleep” is a beautiful hymn about watching a lover at rest.

Bleu first appeared on the Boston music scene in 1999 and released an independent album in 2000 before signing to Aware for his first major release. Redhead is the energetic result, and was recorded with the help of Semisonic’s Dan Wilson and Jellyfish’s Andy Sturmer, whose harmonic influence resonates throughout the CD.

Bleu has opened for the likes of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Ric Ocasek and Ben Folds, and played shows in Chicago in November and on New Year’s Eve; if you missed those appearances, keep watch for him to return in 2004. He’s an entertaining live act with one of the top albums of last year.

The Rapture The Rapture

The first thing you’re likely to think about The Rapture is, “man, these guys really overdosed on The Cure, didn’t they?”
The opening couple of tracks on Echoes sound like vintage mid-80’s Cure, with an almost eerie duplication of Robert Smith’s plaintive vocal delivery and Cure-like simplistic but effective piano parts resting atop strutting bass parts. “Olio” is the first and best track on the disc, a solid electronic rhythm feast, that leads into “Heaven” an almost equally infectious “throwback” song. “Heaven” lets the guitars in for a raucous mix of Cure-isms along with a couple vocal cues that sound like early Clash.

Things settle down for a strangely showtune-ish ballad in the quavering “Open Up Your Heart” before the near-disco beat and oscillating synthesizers of “I Need Your Love” kick the energy back up. The bassline on “Echoes” just won’t quit, and the electronic bed of beats behind “Sister Saviour” wave the warm, fuzzy synth flag of New Order-ish Euro-dance.

As Echoes goes on, the Hives/Vines/Clash-style punk element grows more pronounced, and the band clearly revels in its raw distorted guitar funk-punk roots. The Rapture manage to pay amazing homage to their New Wave influences on Echoes, without sounding like a one-trick skinny-tie cover band. These guys sound like the ultimate band to see live on a tiny stage in a smoky, gritty rock club. This is a group with energy, power and bite, and hopefully the raw invention strutted on Echoes signals even better things to come.