Thursday, March 26, 2009

Casual Listening -- The Decemberists, Wynton Marsalis, Amadou & Mariam

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

March 27, 2009

First of all, a special thanks to Yesh Pavlik and Jason Lusk, who did a fantastic job pinch hitting while I’ve been away tending to a new baby. You’ll hopefully be hearing more of them from time to time.

! The Decemberists – Hazards of Love (rock)

Meticulously orchestrated from start to finish, the Decemberists unspool a grand, dark fairy tale. You’ll hear chimes, pedal steel guitar, a children’s choir – everything but the kitchen sink. Seamless transitions between songs cast a spell that is Merlinesque in its evocation of an Avalon long ago and far away.

Listen to The Decemberists “The Hazards of Love 1

! Wynton Marsalis – He and She (jazz)

On He and She, Marsalis paints impressionistic jazz above an emotional core of blues. His five-piece band holds the tension of yin and yang as it travels the full emotional arc of developing love. Spoken-word interludes are like snippets of love letters that inspire the music that follows.

Listen to Wynton Marsalis “A Train, A Banjo, And A Chicken Wing

* Phil Kline – John the Revelator (classical)

Kline fills the form of the Latin mass with a cultural pastiche that includes shape-note singing, delta blues, avant-garde a capella and Gregorian chant. An equally broad range of texts work together to produce sublime robes from modern cloth. Powerfully performed by the 6-voice male chamber choir Lionheart and the Ethel string quartet.

Listen to Phil Kline “Sanctus

* Amadou & Mariam – Welcome to Mali (world)

In fusing Malian traditions with psychedelic-tinged rock, this duo does for West African music what Santana did for Latin music in his day. Electric organ and pedal-effects- happy guitar join a horn section and several hand-drums to create a formidable music machine.

Listen to Amadou & Mariam “Welcome to Mali

Keri Hilson – In a Perfect World (R&B)

Booty-shaking club tracks with superior hooks and strong vocals. A stable of guest stars including Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Timbaland, and other rap royalty will ensure the album gets noticed; the strength of the music ought to guarantee heavy airplay through the summer.

Listen to Keri Hilson “Return the Favor

John Rich – Son of a Preacher Man (country)

John Rich does mainstream country with a populist bent – songs that speak to and for rural America. The whole album is a cut above, but the opening track could be the national anthem of the economic crisis.

Listen to John Rich “Shuttin’ Detroit Down

In the blog this week: Some gems we missed – Bela Fleck, Anne Akiko Myers, Hiram & Huddie, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Casual Listening - Black Joe Louis, MC Lars, Les Claypool

Casual Listening - Week of March 15, 2009
Guest Listeners Jason Lusk and Yesh Pavlik

* Black Joe Lewis - Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! (rock)
Dirty, demanding vocals. Bluesy, funky guitar licks. Lots of call and response. A few horns thrown in to round out the sound. Black Joe Lewis sounds like Jack White, even if we wish he sounded more like John Lee Hooker. Whatever. We're picking up what he's laying down anyway. Fire up iTunes and buy the whole album.

We recommend the tracks Big Booty Woman and Get Yo Sh*t! BAM!

*MC Lars - The Giant Robot Kills (rock)

Guest reviewer Yesh has been Hipster Girl, especially the part about the mini-skirt and leggings in Brooklyn. This is a funny, smart album with a rocking energy. How could you not love a band that shouts out to Shakespeare (in Hey There Ophelia). "This girl's got more issues than Amy Winehouse." Too right. We think they kind of sound like the Flobots with a sense of humor. Bravo MC Lars.

We loved Hipster Girl and Guitar Hero Hero (Beating Guitar Hero Does Not Make You Slash).

The Airborne Toxic Event - The Airborne Toxic Event (rock)

This is the kind of music that indie listeners will say is pop. You know the Aldous Snow character in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"? He probably fronts this band. They have Coldplay motion with at times a big, layered Polyphonic Spree sound. If a market researcher wrote songs perfectly targeted to "alternative" 16 year old girls and the boys (or girls) they are trying to impress, they would sound like every song on this album.

Nevertheless, we liked it. Put Wishing Well on your next road trip mix. Something New is also well worth a listen.

Groove Armada - EP (electronic)
With EP, Groove Armada comes full circle. It's been a decade since London DJs Andy Cato and Tom Findlay transitioned from downtempo to upbeat, adding a layer of production value along the way. This album reaches back and pulls in dirtier, less produced sounds while still keeping the essence of what makes Groove Armada so enduring popular. At times it defies your expectations, keeping it interesting from start to finish. Vocals have a Me’Shell Ndegeocello quality especially in Go.

Listen to Drop the Tough. Zone to El Padrino.

Les Claypool - Of Fungi And Foe (rock)

This would be the perfect soundtrack for eating "special" mushroom pizza if you were into that sort of thing. Les Claypool mixes viola and excellent percussion with creep-tastic vocals that sound like someone talking into a kidnapper's voice changer. The overall effect is intriguing if not exactly conventional.

Enjoy Bite out of Life and laugh out loud to the lyrics of Red State Girl

Casual Listening -- Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Madeleine Peyroux, Handsome Furs

Casual Listening – Week of March 8, 2009

Guest listeners – Jason M. Lusk and Yesh R. Pavlik

*Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Its Blitz (Alternative)

Similar to recent work by the Ting Tings, this latest release by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is energetic, danceable and very new wave-esque. Between the commanding vocals and energizing beat, you’ll want to want to rock those 80’s dance moves.

Check out the Heads will roll track for what we consider the best of the best on this album.

*Madeleine Peyroux – Bare Bones (Pop/Pop Vocals)

Whimsical and jazzy. If you’re an Etta James or Norah Jones fan, this album is an easy fit. Close your eyes, listen to the music and feel yourself transported into the art deco era. Hand me my flapper dress, we loved this album!

Listen to, Instead and Damn the circumstances

Handsome Furs – Face Control (Alternative)

Think early Coldplay and Joshua Tree-era U2. We imagined the lead singer wearing tight jeans (possibly why his voice sounds a little whiny). Listening to him makes you feel a little bit cooler.

Check out Evangeline

Kelly Clarkson – All I Ever Wanted (Pop)

This album hardly represents musical evolution, but expect the same hard-ass-pop quality that you’ve come to expect from this American Idol winner. Maybe her Texas roots are starting to show, but do we hear a little country pop in there too?

Listen to the track all of the radio stations will be spinning, My life would suck without you

But hear Kelly’s softer side in, Cry and Already Gone

In Flames – Whoracle Reloaded (metal)

An album named Whoracle? We couldn’t help ourselves. The title track has a startling celtic sound and takes a page from recent acts like Naio Ssaion, mixing heavy guitars and heavy beats with softer and more subtle musical textures. Careful with this stuff. For the metal newbie, Whoracle could be your gateway to a life of black trench coats and devil horns.

We’d recommend the title track, Whoracle as well as Jotun.

Rocco DeLuca And The Burden- Mercy (Rock)

Meet the lovechild of Dave Matthews and Macy Gray. Songs like I Trust You to Kill Me beg for air guitar and drums. Emotional vocals on top, delta blues riffs beneath – this is the kind of rock and roll that the non-flannel crowd was listening to in the mid-90s.

Casual Listening -- Baby Hiatus

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

March 6, 2009

My son Graham Pavlik Pinzino was born on Tuesday, so Casual Listening is on paternity leave. For the next two weeks, I’m hoping to be able to get you reviews from Casual Listening contributors Yesh Pavlik and Jason Lusk. Meanwhile, the attached file is a recording of my Graham, which represents the bulk of what I’ve been listening to over the past several days. Enjoy!

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