Thursday, February 25, 2010



(moooo-vin' on up!)


(we're a-movin' on up!)


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Casual Listening - Nick Curran and the Lowlifes, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dessa

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

February 19, 2010

I think we’ll be ready to launch the new website in a week. Expect a slew of special features as a kind of Grand Opening.

! Nick Curran and the Lowlifes – Reform School Girl (rock)

In the beginning, there was Rock & Roll.

Before the art form got micro-marketed as classic rock, shoegazer, dream pop, and a hundred others, there was one sound that set the world on its ear. That’s the sound Nick Curran plays with uncompromising energy. You can hear echoes of Little Richard in Curran’s bluesy shout, and the rhythm drives hard underneath. There’s even enough edge in the lyrics to make parents nervous. Curran drinks deeply from the source of rock & roll, and listening gives you the same rebellious thrill that launched a cultural revolution almost 60 years ago.

Listen to Nick Curran and the Lowlifes “Tough Lover

* Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Preservation (jazz)

The kings of New Orleans-style hot jazz team up with a slew of name artists for charity. Tom Waits, Merle Haggard, and Ani DiFranco are all here, but it’s Andrew Bird’s whistling solo that steals the show.

Listen to Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Andrew Bird “Shake it and Break it

* Dessa – A Badly Broken Code (rap)

Dessa’s hip-hop persona is stripped of braggadocio, leaving clear stories told in straightforward language. Breakbeats are layered with eccentric instruments (hammered dulcimer, bassoon) to surprisingly hip effect. Dessa’s rap won’t sell sneakers, but it has the potential to inspire a thousand young street poets.

Listen to Dessa “Children’s Work

Jaga Jazzist – One-Armed Bandit (jazz)

These Norwegian fusionistas are advancing the flag of jazz without limits. Broad instrumental range – electric guitar, flute, marimba, harpsichord, electronics – wash in a tidal wave of jazz-rock instrumentals. Shifting keys and time signatures bring complexity to songs that still have clear hooks – M.C. Escher in sound.

Listen to Jaga Jazzist “One-Armed Bandit

Joyo Velarde – Love & Understanding (R&B)

Velarde’s debut draws heavily from 70’s funk and soul – lush and occasionally psychedelic orchestration. Her voice is impassioned both with romantic love songs, and love-the-world songs. There’s a lot of hope in her music.

Listen to Joyo Velarde “Build This World

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at . Follow me on Lala here

To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Casual Listening - Abdullah Ibrahim, Galactic, My Name is Khan

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

February 12, 2010

First things first. For those whose hearts are with the protesters in Iran tonight, there’s a new recording by Iranian-Canadian band Blurred Focus of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” Check it out here.

! Abdullah Ibrahim – Bombella (jazz)

Ibrahim is the most important jazz musician you’ve never heard of. A South African talent who found a patron in Duke Ellington, his musical style rolled with the changes in jazz through the 1960’s and 70’s. Now back with a big band, his clear sense of melody and skillful use of a huge horn section would do Ellington proud. Ibrahim’s compositions are joyous, and the band really swings.

Listen to Abdullah Ibrahim “Bombella

! Galactic – Ya-Ka-May (funk)

No city has given more to the evolution of funk than New Orleans – Professor Longhair, Dr. John, The Meters, and now Galactic. Freely mixing jazz, hip hop, soul, and Mardi Gras brass band music, the group’s sound is downright stanky. A who’s who of Big Easy players in all those styles fills out the album. New Orleans is celebrating this week – join the party.

Listen to Galactic “Boe Money” featuring Rebirth Brass Band

* My Name is Khan – Original Soundtrack (world)

Judging from the previews, this movie is a powerful statement about post-9/11 America; judging from the soundtrack, we’re looking at a Bollywood music sensation that’s about to infect two continents. Some of the best voices and arrangers in the industry are here, and the Islamic themes give deep spiritual overtones to several of the songs.

Listen to Rashid Khan “Allah Hi Rahim” from My Name is Khan

* Tecupae – Tiempo (Latin)

Tecupae is driving a new sound that incorporates the groovy accordion of Venezuelan Vallenato music into Latin pop and rock-en-espaƱol stylings. It’s a potent mix that earns the band a place alongside other Latin rock crowdpleasers like Los Lonely Boys.

Listen to Tecupae “Amor Chiquitico

Living Corpse – Metaphysical Collapse (metal)

Seriously heavy, and seriously listenable. Power chords and a driving double-kick-drum serve as musical lifelines that carry you through the volcanic fury. Some slower passages give emotional contrast. Shouted vocals provide energy without stealing focus, even if the lyrics are unintelligible.

Listen to Living Corpse “Metaphysical Collapse

Josh Turner – Haywire (country)

Turner’s full-on bass vocals and honky-tonk tendencies distinguish this album from the pop country masses. Kick back and enjoy this easy ride.

Listen to Josh Turner “Why Don’t We Just Dance

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at . Follow me on Lala here

To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Casual Listening wins 5 Grammys, plus Bassekou Kouyate, Bela Fleck, Yo-Yo Ma

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

February 5, 2010

Casual Listening Wins 5 Grammys

While the Grammy voters are notorious for choosing star power over musical integrity, the down-ballot categories tend to be a reasonable benchmark for how much quality and diversity of music you can find on Casual Listening. The following grammy winners had garnered a starred review or better here when they were first released:

Best Regional Mexican Album: Vicente Fernandez – Necesito de Ti

Best Americana Album: Levon Helm – Electric Dirt

Best Bluegrass Album: Steve Martin – The Crow

Best Contemporary World Music Album: Bela Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart

Best Musical Album for Children: Ziggy Marley – Family Time

Anyone can turn you on to Beyonce, but Vicente Fernandez? That’s what we’re here for.

! Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – I Speak Fula (world)

How do you say “guitar god” in Fula? The ngoni is an ancestor of the banjo native to Mali, and Kouyate leads a band full of them. The rhythms are devastating, and multiple vocalists give elegant contrast to the furious strings. This album will be 2010’s must-hear world music album.

Listen to Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba “Musow (For Our Women)

! Bela Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart: Africa Sessions Part 2 (world)

A welcome companion to last year’s must-hear world music album. This and the first should be considered a complete set, with volume 2 containing more music from the movie, more field recordings, and more studio tracks from the African voyage of the world’s most versatile banjoist. More mind-opening, world-shrinking, jaw-dropping musical collaborations.

Listen to Bela Fleck “Salam Aleikum” available only at his website here.

* Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, & Itzhak Perlman – Mendelssohn Piano Trios (classical)

While I’m not expert enough on Mendelssohn to do this recording justice, it’s worth checking out just to hear three of the most accomplished musicians of our age playing together. The second trio in particular has some exquisite moments.

Listen to “II – Andante Espressivo” from Piano Trio No. 2

Kasper Fredhom Groove Syndrome – Naked Brunch (jazz)

Wicked jazz-funk that’d be at home on the shelf next to Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. Electric organ, sax, guitar, drums, and smoky female vocals put the band in the shades-at-midnight coolness league.

Listen to Kasper Fredhom Groove Syndrome “Naked Brunch

Akai – The Coldest Hour (Is Just Before Dawn) (rock)

Sprinkle your ipod with fairy dust. Gossamer pop-rock with piano, glockenspiel, and reverb-heavy harmonies. Tight, sweet tunes hold the package together.

Listen to Akai “Satellite

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at . Follow me on Lala here

To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Casual Listening - Corinne Bailey Rae, Four Tet, Eric Bibb

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

January 29, 2010

! Corinne Bailey Ray – The Sea (rock)

Writing a convincing love song is almost as hard as love itself. Corinne Bailey Ray makes it sound impossibly easy. She lends a perfectly bittersweet delivery to this collection of pop-soul beauties. Impressionistic guitars and tasteful use of strings makes this feel already like a classic.

Listen to Corinne Bailey Ray “Are You Here?’

* Four Tet – There is Love in You (electronic)

This is electronic artistry designed for headphones, not the dance floor. Four Tet employs a warm, clean palate of slowly shifting sounds reminiscent of bells, chimes, cymbals, and voices. Four Tet’s music is utilitarian in the best sense, a slow-turning kaleidoscope that gently agitates your mind.

Listen to Four Tet “Circling

Eric Bibb – Booker’s Guitar (blues)

For a bluesman, having a chance to touch the strings of the guitar of a musical ancestor like Booker (Bukka) White is a fairy tale come true. Eric Bibb was inspired enough by the experience to write an album’s worth of fables. He channels ancient spirits into new blues, and the emotional power is palpable.

Listen to Eric Bibb “With My Maker I Am One

Pat Metheny – Orchestrion (jazz)

Metheny ups the instrumental ante in wiring an orchestra like a player piano. His jazz fusion guitar riffs still cascade over the top, but the breadth of sound possibilities available make these recordings stand out.

Listen to Pat Metheny“Orchestrion

And see the Orchestrion in action here.

Youssou N’Dour – Music From The Motion Picture “I Bring What I Love” (world)

One of the most famous voices in world music finally gets his close-up on the silver screen. The soundtrack puts his Senegalese pop in a more deliberately global setting, which N’Dour takes in stride.

Listen to “Mame Bamba/Touba - Daru Salaam

Cyrille Aimee & Diego Figueiredo – Smile (jazz)

A reminder of the power of a simple voice and guitar. Aimee has tremendous vocal control, and Figueiredo’s guitar is powerful yet understated. Cabaret, Bossa Nova, and jazz standards all rub elbows comfortably here.

Listen to Cyrille Aimee & Diego Figueiredo “La Vie En Rose

Citay – Dream Get Together (rock)

I’m risking my critic’s credibility in admitting that I love a good jam band. Citay is one of the best I’ve heard in a long while. Acoustically based with vocal harmonies and a swirl of psychedelic classic rock. This band deserves their own Ben & Jerry’s flavor.

Listen to Citay “Return From Silence

It’s an amazing week for music, and I’ve just scratched the surface. Great stuff also out by Patty Griffin, Magnetic Fields, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Fredrik, Lady Antebellum, Never Shout Never, Basement Jaxx, Brooklyn Rider, Gorevette.

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at . Follow me on Lala here

To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Casual Listening - Eels, Makoto Ozone, Sizzla

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

January 15, 2010

! Eels – End Times (rock)

Heaven help us if the end of the world sounds this beautiful. The songwriting sparkles like diamonds intentionally left in the rough. Simple guitar on some tracks, pedal steel and electronics fill in behind the band on others. The apocalyptic theme that runs through this song cycle works to intensify a sense of nostalgia and isolation. Above all, these are songs that will bear a hundred listens without getting old.

Listen to Eels “End Times’

* Makoto Ozone featuring No Name Horses – Jungle (jazz)

Listening to a great big band is one of the true pleasures of jazz. Ozone’s manages to do it all – heavy swing, sizzling mambo, and several modern compositions that show the potential of the form to cover new ground. Big brass, lots of percussion, and fluid piano work from Ozone.

Listen to Makoto Ozone “Coconuts Meeting

Sizzla – Crucial Times (reggae)

Sunny Jamaican roots music with a heavy dose of Rastafarian devotion. Electric organ and saxes bounce along with Sizzla’s rubberband voice, along with a couple of tracks with more experimental settings.

Listen to Sizzla “Precious Gift

Tracy Thornton – Steel Drum Fever (world)

Carnival time is coming, and in Trinidad, that means steel drum bands playing in the streets. This is a representative set of Calypso and other party music that’ll help melt away the snow.

Listen to Tracy Thornton“Bum Shaker

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at . Follow me on Lala here

To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Casual Listening - Vampire Weekend, La Otrabanda,

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

January 15, 2010

* Vampire Weekend – Contra (world)

* La Otrabanda – Pueblo Vivo/Vibrant People (world)

Two impressive releases with a cosmopolitan vibe bode well for new directions in global fusion. Vampire Weekend combines pop instincts and bouncy energy with southern African rhythms and guitar styles. La Otrabanda combines Venezuelan, American, and a smattering of other musical traditions to create a sound with mellower, dreamier grooves. Vampire Weekend’s production is expansive, including tasteful electronics alongside xylophones, assorted percussion, occasional strings and a core of guitar/bass/drums. La Ortrabanda isn’t far behind, with a rock band augmented by acoustic guitar, cuatro, percussion, and even bagpipes on one tune. Both of these represent the possibility of adventurous sounds infiltrating unsuspecting American ears.

Listen to Vampire Weekend “White Sky

Listen to La Otrabanda “Indigenas

* Ray Wylie Hubbard – A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) (country)

Hubbard’s is the Americana of fallen angels. He’s drawn to the redemption of old gospel hymns, but is more at home with hard-living blues and honky-tonk. His sound digs deep in the gutbucket with bottleneck slide, blue harmonica, and a voice with edges like a chainsaw. His lyrics reveal a literary mind and a barroom brawler’s fists.

Listen to Ray Wylie Hubbard “Drunken Poet’s Dream

Sean Corbett – Keep On Walkin’ (R&B)

Louisiana-style keyboard funk that’d give Dr. John himself a mischevious grin. Horns and backup singers build a thick sound over a rhythm section that cooks.

Listen to Sean Corbett “Keep On Walkin’

T-Model Ford – The Ladies Man (blues)

T-Model is one of the last of the backwoods bluesmen, and on this album delivers a stripped-down acoustic set that’s miles deep. If Lightnin’ Hopkins were still around, he’d be making albums like this one.

Listen to T-Model Ford “Two Trains

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at . Follow me on Lala here

To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Casual Listening -- The Real Sound of Chicago, 2009 Playlist

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

January 8, 2010

One new review, and a new year’s treat. The website is almost ready – I’ll let you know when the grand opening is happening.

! The Real Sound of Chicago: Underground Disco From The Windy City (dance)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…an underground musical movement emerges in the 1970’s in response to the banality of what rock music had become. Kids everywhere responded to the new do-it-yourself ethic by picking up guitars and putting music on wax, if for no one else than their friends and the few die-hard fans who’d show up at a club and listen.

This is disco??? More than you’d imagine, and this collection brings together the best of the forgotten disco bands of one city in that era. Four-on-the-floor beats, slap-and-pop bass, big orchestral arrangements, and a surprising amount of artistry. At its best, disco is the progressive evolution of funk, and this is disco at its best.

Listen to samples from The Real Sound of Chicago here, including “Too Far Gone” and “Open Soul”

Casual Listening 2009 playlist

People will argue whether these songs are the best of the year, but these are the songs that I’ll remember the year by.

Listen to the full playlist on Rhapsody here.

And here’s what’s on it:

2009 Playlist

1. Invisible Cities – NOMO

2. Saudades de Manezinho Araujo – Forro in the Dark

3. Soul do Samba – Marcio Local

4. Sounsouomba – Oumou Sangare

5. Kalemba (Wegue–Wegue) – Buraka Som Sistema

6. Frenzy – Bobby Sanabria

7. Quiet Dog – Mos Def

8. The Spirit vs. the Kick Drum – Derek Webb

9. Give Blood – Rain Machine

10. The Passenger – Art Brut

11. Electric Twist – A Fine Frenzy

12. Mama’s Little Baby – Delbert McClinton

13. Don’t Lie Down – Round Mountain

14. Throw Down Your Heart – Bela Fleck

15. Winnipeg – Chris Pandolfi

16. Williamine – Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard

17. Such Great Heights – Iron & Wine

18. Goodbye – Tingsek

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at . Follow me on Lala here

To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to