a review of cool new music
by Jeff Pinzino
! 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.
* 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
* 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