Thursday, May 28, 2009

Casual Listening - Ashley Cleveland, Vieux Farka Toure, Black Moth Super Rainbow

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

May 29, 2009

Follow me on the free music site Lala here

* Ashley Cleveland – God Don’t Never Change (gospel)

Cleveland reworks depression-era gospel blues for the new age of anxiety, hoping these songs can bring comfort from the hereafter to the recently afflicted. She invokes the music of the early greats: Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Reverend Gary Davis among others. Her settings range from simple acoustic to church gospel to blistering blues-rock. This is a deep river of music, and it’s encouraging to see a talented musician of the digital age willing to take a drink.

Listen to Ashley Cleveland “When This World Comes to and End

* Vieux Farka Toure – Fondo (world)

Toure brings an outsized version of the Malian-style blues of his late father, Ali Farka Toure. His twisting electric guitar and vocal lines draped in reverb are spellbinding with or without a full band in tow.

Listen to Vieux Farka Toure “Wale

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Eating Us (rock)

The mix of sound on this groovy electronic rock record is good enough to eat. Put on your best headphones and work your way through course after course: crunchy, silky, delicate, velvety, piquant, creamy. Melts in your mind.

Listen to Black Moth Super Rainbow “Born on a Day the Sun Didn’t Rise

Wisin and Yandel – La Revolución (Latin)

A heavy reggaeton album from two masters of Latin rap-reggae. Close harmonies alternate with wild rap-en-español above rolling dance beats and synthesizers. W&Y bounce in ways you just won’t hear in American rap.

Listen to Wisin and Yandel “Encendío

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women – Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women (country)

You’ve just dropped in on a back porch country jam session. The musicians are spinning through different styles just for kicks. “How about a Cajun tune?” “You guys ever listen to Bob Wills?” “Try this blues shuffle.” Everyone’s having fun and no one’s taking anything too seriously. If the style they’re playing this time isn’t your thing, well, that’s just an excuse to go to the cooler and open another cold one.

Listen to Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women “Marie Marie

Hot n’ Spicy – Hot n’ Spicy (jazz)

A three-piece band with the classic guitar-violin pairing that echoes Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli. The style is easygoing, with vocals on most tracks, and interesting arrangements, including a moody take on the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week.”

Listen to Hot n’ Spicy “Guitar Hero

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Casual Listening - Iron & Wine, Sparklehorse-Dangermouse-David Lynch, Steve Martin

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

May 22, 2009

NEW! Follow me on the free music site Lala here

! Iron & Wine – Around the Well (folk)

Iron & Wine is an ambassador from the future of American folk music. With impressionistic use of traditional instruments (banjo, steel guitar) and styles (ballads & blues), Iron & Wine unfolds quiet, penetrating lyrical portraits that approach the greatness of the best bards of the ‘60s. This two-disc set of previously (and inexplicably) unreleased work is split between early acoustic home recordings and more recent forays into psychedelia.

Listen to Iron & Wine “Loud as Hope” and “Carried Home

* Dangermouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul (rock)

This is a moody and interesting collection, with a range that stretches from brooding to peppy to aggressive. The focus is on the songwriting of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, and Dangermouse’s production gives muted hints of his work with other projects such as Gnarls Barkley and the Black Keys. There’s a different singer on each track, ranging from Suzanne Vega to Iggy Pop. This was originally intended to be released as a CD with a booklet of photographs by esoteric filmmaker David Lynch. Due to an unexplained disagreement with the record label, the booklet will be released with a blank CD-R and the instructions “Use it as you will.” Meanwhile, there are two places you can find the music – illegally through file-sharing services, or legally through what’s become one of the most consistently adventurous music sites on the web, National Public Radio’s NPR Music. Why major labels pick fights with their most talented and creative artists (Radiohead, NIN, Dangermouse) is beyond me, because in nearly every case what results is must-hear music, and the labels only make themselves more irrelevant than they already are.

Hear Dark Night of the Soul at NPR Music

And while you’re at it, try their All Songs Considered podcast, several other new albums on Exclusive First Listen, and an unbelievable archive of live Concerts

* Steve Martin ­– The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo (bluegrass)

* Chris Pandolfi – Looking Glass (bluegrass)

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out (bluegrass)

It’s a banjo-lover’s fantasy this week. Steve Martin is not only a formidable banjo player offscreen, he writes great banjo music in a range of styles. The pieces are primarily for small string ensemble, mostly instrumentals, with bluegrass and old-time elements – fresh ideas in traditional style. Pandolfi’s newgrass style is more adventurous, and the results are top shelf. IIIrd Tyme Out is more solidly traditional bluegrass, with tight vocal harmonies.

Listen to Steve Martin “Late for School

Listen to Chris Pandolfi “Machines

Listen to Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out “Hard Rock Mountain Prison [‘Til I Die]

Tori Amos – Abnormally Attracted to Sin (rock)

If you lost track of this singer-songwriter-pianist somewhere around “Cornflake Girl,” it’s time to start listening again. She’s writing some of the most attractive music of her career – solidly melodic tunes draped with downtempo beats and atmospheric orchestrations. There are also glimpses of the biting lyrics that made her early work unforgettable.

Listen to Tori Amos “Welcome to England

Original Music and Songs Inspired by: Rudo y Cursi (world)

The movie that this soundtrack comes from (about two brothers from rural México who get recruited to play pro soccer) is getting a crazy amount of buzz. The soundtrack should turn heads as well, with all the cool kids of Mexican rock-en-español contributing. And if that’s not enough, the movie’s theme song is Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.”

Listen to Juana Molina’s “Rudo y Cursi

And Gael Garcia Bernal’s “Quiero Que Me Quieras

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Casual Listening - Mark O'Connor, Bobby Sanabria, Steve Earle

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

May 15, 2009

NEW! Follow me on lala here

! Mark O’Connor – String Quartets No.’s 2 & 3 (classical)

If more contemporary composers were able to connect classical and popular forms with the confidence of Mark O’Connor, we’d be well on our way to reversing the exodus of audiences from the nation’s concert halls. The two quartets presented here are inspired by string band music (one is subtitled “bluegrass,” the other “old time”), yet show a thoroughly modern complexity, both harmonically and rhythmically.

Listen to Mark O’Connor – from “String Quartet No. 2 ‘Bluegrass’

! Bobby Sanabria conducting the Manhattan Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra –

Kenya Revisited Live (jazz)

It doesn’t get any hotter than this. Sanabria is the new millennium apostle of Latin jazz, and he’s enlisted an orchestra to recreate one of the masterpieces of the genre. He’s even got Candido Camero, who played congas on the original recording with Machito 50 years ago. Five minutes listening and you’ll realize why every jazz musician of the day dropped everything they were doing and taught themselves to play this music.

Listen to Bobby Sanabria “Wild Jungle

And for those who are interested, here’s Machito’s original “Wild Jungle

! Márcio Local ­– Marcio Local Says Don Day Don Dree Don Don (bluegrass)

Local is one of the inheritors of Tropicalia, the rich stew of jazz, rock, funk, and samba that started coming out of Brazil in the 1960’s. You’ll hear casually sung (and sometimes rapped) Portuguese lyrics over horns, electric organ, and a bucketful of percussion. This is instant summer jam: just add beach.

Listen to Márcio Local “Samba Sem Nenhum Problema

Steve Earle – Townes (folk)

Steve Earle has been waiting his whole career to make this album. The country-rock iconoclast is interpreting the work of Townes Van Zandt, Earle’s hero and mentor, who could be described as a rugged man’s Bob Dylan. Most of the western ballads receive a straightforward treatment with solo acoustic guitar. The rest are portraits in blues, bluegrass, roadhouse, or modern rock with a band configured to evoke the mood. What’s distinctive is the degree to which Earle owns these songs, many of which are as close to him as ones he’s written himself.

Listen to Steve Earle “To Live Is To Fly

Meat Puppets – Sewn Together (rock)

The sound shimmers, the tunes grip, and the harmonies curl around you. Despite their storied underground history, what’s distinctive about the Meat Puppets today is that they come across as an ordinary band that’s very good at what they do. Anyone who followed R.E.M. through the ‘80s will recognize both the sound and the style.

Listen to Meat Puppets “Blanket of Weeds

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Casual Listening - NOMO, Ziggy Marley, Spring Creek

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

May 8, 2009

! NOMO – Invisible Cities (world)

A musical layer cake - the base is Afrobeat (heavy, horn-laden funk) filled with improvisational jazz and iced with bells, gongs, and other creative percussion that give the music a psychedelic sheen. It's a brilliant combination, either for dancing till you drop or a hypnotic journey to another plane.

Listen to NOMO’s “Invisible Cities” on MySpace

! Ziggy Marley – Family Time (kids)

Family Time bears the mark of a great kids album in that its stands on its own as good music. This is serious reggae, and for as naturally as the hopscotch beat and positive lyrics come together, it’s surprising that there hasn't been more reggae for kids.

Listen to Ziggy Marley “ABC

* Spring Creek ­– Way Up On A Mountain (bluegrass)

Dense vocal harmonies and solid picking make for a magnetic album with traditional style. The chemistry between the members places this ensemble among the most promising of next-generation bluegrass.

Listen to Spring Creek’s “My Love is Way Up on a Mountain on MySpace

Yusuf – Roadsinger (folk)

The former Cat Stevens always appealed to the widest of wide-eyed idealists (full disclosure - I tend to fit that description). Roadsinger contains songs of peace and the spiritual journey, sung with a gentle voice that still inspires hope.

Listen to Yusuf “Roadsinger

Peaches – I Feel Cream (dance)

Peaches pairs sexual shock value with irresistible club-shaking dance music. It's the same formula that made Madonna a success in the 1980's, with the intensity cranked up several notches. Parental discretion advised.

Listen to Peaches “I Feel Cream

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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