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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