a review of cool new music
by Jeff Pinzino
Yo-Yo Ma’s pan-Asian supergroup teams up with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a mind-opening set of cross-cultural creativity. Eastern instruments such as pipa, sheng, and er-hu join Ma’s cello, a battery of percussion, and occasionally the entire orchestra to create a surprising array of suggestive textures. Several of the pieces are challenging listening, but on balance
! Common – Finding Forever (rap)
Common is one of a handful of principled innovators in the hip hop world, and his new disc continues to push the music to new horizons. The stories he tells go against the grain – fidelity in a hypersexualized culture, self-awareness instead of image, hope in the face of biting racism. Kanye West’s production is nothing short of epic, the traditional boom-bap replaced with a soul-groove including everything from church organs to rock guitars to piano fills and gospel choirs. Overall, a compelling and uplifting vision.
! Soulive – No Place Like Soul (funk)
Soulive hits the sweet spot at the crossroads of rock, soul, and jazz that makes this album absolutely infectious. Vocalist Toussaint has a voice to match the great blues shouters, and he sings his guts out. The rest of the band is funky as all get-out, and a
* Martin Simpson – Prodigal Son (celtic)
A Celtic-inflected folk album that is both sweet and simple. Simpson’s fingerstyle guitar playing shimmers across a mix of traditional and contemporary songs. Soothing and familiar, this disc feels like a September sunset.
The 1990’s – Cookies (rock)
I’d place this band a decade earlier than their name suggests. Like the best of 80’s pop, this group plays danceable candy. Loaded with hooks and head-bopping beats, this is fun, fun, fun.
* highly recommended
! highest recommendation