Thursday, February 19, 2009

Casual Listening -- Beirut, N.A.S.A., ...And You Will Know Us...

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

February 20, 2009

! Beirut – March of the Zapotec & Realpeople: Holland (world)

The core of Beirut are richly sentimental songs channeling Eastern European folk styles. The settings on this double EP are night and day: the first half with a full Mariachi band and the second half with Euro-dance club beats. Miraculously, both sides work. The stark emotion is a common thread which appears in different colors depending on available light.

Listen to BeirutThe Shrew

and “My Wife, Lost in the Wild

* Dr. Lonnie Smith – Rise Up! (jazz)

There’s a penthouse apartment in the jazz world dedicated to the organ combo. These days you find groups like Medeski, Martin, and Wood who rent it out, but Dr. Lonnie Smith is the landlord. Sax, electric guitar, bass, and drums add to the Hammond B3, bringing a righteous and oh-so-funky vibe.

Listen to Dr. Lonnie Smith: “Tyrone

* N.A.S.A. – The Spirit of Apollo (rap)

Here’s a party game: take your favorite rapper and pair them with a completely unrelated underground rock icon. Chuck D and David Byrne? Kanye West and Santogold? Kool Keith and Tom Waits? Welcome to N.A.S.A.’s galaxy. No, really. There hasn’t been this assemblage of talent since they designed the album cover for Sgt. Pepper. N.A.S.A.’s production team keeps fresh beats rolling throughout, emulating everything from classic disco to space-age techno.

Listen to N.A.S.A., Kanye West, and Santogold & Lykke Li “Gifted

* William Elliott Whitmore – Animals in the Dark (folk)

Whitmore’s soulful baritone delivers tales of scoundrels and saints. Electric guitar, an occasional banjo or drum, and backing vocals give subtle support to a gin-soaked and heartfelt voice.

Listen to William Elliott Whitmore “Johnny Law

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Century of Self (rock)

An opus with both the ambition and broad appeal of a Who rock opera. The band has a dense sound layered with guitar effects, as well as melodies to charm an audience. A valiant jailbreak from the prog-rock nerd ghetto.

Listen to …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead “Isis Unveiled

Also worth a listen this week: Morrissey “Years of Refusal,” The Kills “Midnight Boom,” and Alela Diane “To Be Still.”

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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