Thursday, July 23, 2009

Casual Listening - Derek Webb, Bill Frisell, Eyedea & Abilities

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

July 24, 2009

! Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome (Christian)

One of the most interesting recordings of the year, in any genre. Meticulously produced, with elegant pop songcraft over heavy drums and electronic samples – if you dug Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” you’ll be equally entranced with Webb’s sonic collage. The album has also become the center of serious controversy, as Webb’s label refused to release it as written due to inappropriate content (namely, he used the s-word in one song, and railed against the pervasive homophobia in conservative Christian circles). Whatever your religious persuasion (or lack thereof), you’ll appreciate this as art with a progressive, righteous vision.

Listen to the song that kicked off the controversy "What Matters More” on myspace.

Then spend the $8 for the uncensored album here. When someone sticks their neck out like he did, it’s important to show your support.

Bill Frisell – Disfarmer (jazz)

Frisell is a modern guitarist who paints American musical landscapes in shimmery watercolor. This collection was inspired by another artistic original: self-taught depression-era photographer Mike Disfarmer. Reverb-soaked guitar draws out folk and country styles to convey an American Gothic atmosphere, with fiddle and bass to fill out these instrumental portraits.

Listen to Bill Frisell “No One Gets In

Eyedea & Abilities – By the Throat (rap)

Underground rap performed with a rock band tending toward an industrial sound. Lyrically, it’s dark, but thought-provoking. These mad scientists of hip hop are succeeding with some pretty daring experiments.

Listen to Eyedea & Abilities “Spin Cycle

Blue Roses –Blue Roses (folk)

Echoes of Joni Mitchell come through in a beautiful voice and songs that defy easy chord structures. Piano and guitar alternate in backing these songs, with multi-layered vocals, and occasional strings or glockenspiel.

Listen to Blue Roses “Greatest Thoughts

The Takers – Taker Easy (country)

Barroom country with electric guitars and ballads of hard living. Along with a sharp album of their own this week, The Takers also have an EP out with labelmate and Casual Listening fave Austin Lucas.

Listen to The Takers “Friends in Bottles

Listen to Austin Lucas with The Takers “My Momma’s Son

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Casual Listening - Present Music, Debashish Bhattacharya, The Dandy Warhols

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

July 17, 2009

* Present Music – Graffiti (classical)

Motown meets Mozart? “Motor City Requiem” is one of three smart, comtemporary pieces for small ensemble that grace this collection. “Village Idiot” is energetic and accessible in a post-minimalist style reminiscent of John Adams, while “Graffiti” is a series of humorous scribbles that put on the style and affectations of famous jazz and classical composers without any recognizable melody. Clever, vibrant, and beautiful.

Listen to Present Music "Motor City Requiem"

Debashish Bhattacharya – O Shakuntala! (world)

Despite not being included in the video game pantheon, Bhattacharya is a real guitar hero. Having re-engineered the instrument to play Indian classical music, he plays mesmerizing lines accompanied by a simple table drum.

Listen to Debashish Bhattacharya “Baarish!

The Dandy Warhols – The Dandy Warhols Are Sound (rock)

Artsy-cool electropop. Synthesizers, drums, and whispery vocals. The hipness quotient is so high, I almost feel like a poseur just talking about them.

Listen to The Dandy Warhols “We Used To Be Friends

Gina Villalobos – Days On Their Side (rock)

She’s got a voice that’ll break your heart. Alternative country bliss with pedal steel, acoustic, and electric guitars side-by-side and just enough twang to reel you in.

Listen to Gina Villalobos on myspace here.

Clutch – Strange Cousins From the West (blues)

Clutch continues the classic rock tradition of buying a bluesmobile and hot-rodding the engine almost beyond recognition. Clutch brings power guitar riffs, hellhound-on-my-trail vocal delivery, and a proto-metal love of extreme volume.

Listen to Clutch memorialize our 16th president in rawk: Abraham Lincoln

The Panic Is On: The Great Depression As Seen By the Common Man (folk)

This collection of 1930’s sides is just too timely to pass up. Twenty-three songs about hard times, including tunes from Woody Guthrie, Roy Acuff, and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Listen to Bessie Smith “Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out)

Schoolhouse Funk

Speaking of too good to pass up, how about a collection of funk tracks from high school bands off of self-produced albums in the 70’s? Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds.

For purchase here, and some sound samples here. Check out “Camel Back”

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Casual Listening -- Ivan Villazon, Vicente Fernandez, Hannah Montana

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

July 10, 2009

* Iván Villazón & José María “Chema” Ramos – El Vallenato Mayor (Latin)

Vallenato is the accordion-based party music of Colombia, and these two play it with gusto. Villazon’s tenor is bright and energetic, and Chema’s skills as a former world champion accordionist are still intact. Finding Vallenato this good is a rare treat.

Listen to Ivan Villazon & Chema Ramos "El Errante"

* Vicente Fernandez – Necesito De Ti (Latin)

Fernandez is something like the Bob Dylan of Mexican folk music – after decades of recording iconic songs that qualify him as a living legend, he finds a way to keep putting out amazing new music. The style is ranchera: rustic ballads well-orchestrated with strings, horns, and guitars.

Listen to Vicente Hernandez “Tengo

Hannah Montana – Hannah Montana 3 (rock)

No, seriously…she’s popular for a reason. Just think – America has spent the last two weeks mourning a former child star who made the leap to serious adult artist. Of any of the current crop of musical teens, I think Hannah’s got the chops to make the leap. This album of songs from the TV show are cotton candy pop, but even cotton candy has its place. Trust me – seven years from now she’s going to be putting out music that’ll turn heads.

Listen to Hannah Montana “Let’s Do This

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Casual Listening - Parissa & Iman Vasiri, Levon Helm, Masada Quintet

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

Special double feature!

June 26 & July 3, 2009

! Parissa & Iman Vasiri – Simplicity (world)

With pro-democracy demonstrations igniting across Iran, many Americans are getting a crash course in the history and politics of that country. Consider this disc extra credit. Even without knowing Farsi, you can still sense the sublime joy in Parissa’s interpretation of the poetry of Rumi. Iman Vasiri’s virtuosic playing of the tar, a plucked instrument that is a distant cousin to the Indian sitar, displays the best of the Persian classical tradition.

Listen to Parissa & Iman Vasiri "Chahar Mesrab, Avaz"

! Levon Helm – Electric Dirt (rock)

Helm manages to rediscover the exuberance for American roots music that defined his work with The Band, and 40 years later he’s produced an album that’s every bit as good as those classics. His folksy ballads and blues are almost giddy, lifted by a brace of musicians mixing electric guitar and organ with mandolin, harmonica, and vocal harmonies.

Listen to Levon Helm “Growing Trade

! Masada Quintet – Stolas: The Book of Angels Volume 12 (jazz)

An energetic set of jazz impressions of Jewish themes. Saxophone giant Joe Lovano joins John Zorn in powering a superb ensemble. Spacious and introspective.

Listen to Masada Quintet “Haamiah

* Naledge – Chicago Picasso (rap)

Score another exceptional album for the Chicago School of Hip Hop. The self-proclaimed “brainiac” unleashes a powerful lyrical flow that explores the micro-geography of the South Side. Like Kanye, Common, and Lupe, Nalege is smarter than the average bear, and dismisses gangsta posturing in favor of a self-consciously square but real vision of his world. Nalegedge won’t insult your intelligence – let’s hope that’s a trend that catches on.

Listen to Naledge "Blessed By God"(explicit)

Wilco - Wilco (rock)

For a band that’s earned a reputation for avant garde heartland rock, this album’s a crowdpleaser. Compelling melodies surrounded by sculpted sound – 31 flavors of guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, and the occasional gong.

Listen to Wilco "Wilco (the song)"

Paulina Rubio – Gran City Pop (Latin)

If and when Latin music finally penetrates the American mainstream, I’m guessing Paulina Rubio’s voice will be one of the first you hear. She’s a Spanish-language Madonna, to the point that you assume she’s singing in English. And can you say infectious? There’s a reason the rest of the world can’t get enough of her.

Listen to Paulina Rubio “Causa y Efecto

Rana Sahota – Khadke Glassy (world)

Sahota plays serious Bhangra, the Indian popular dance music that’s had a huge influence on everyone from club DJ’s to Bollywood composers. With crackling drums over a keyboard orchestra and urgent vocals, this is a modern masala that lingers on the palate.

Listen to Rana Sahota - "Don’t Say No"

Regina Spektor – Far (rock)

A satisfying set of quirky piano-pop from the artist that blazed the trail for the Lilly Allen’s and Katy Perry’s of the world.

Dinosaur Jr. – Farm (rock)

One of the most influential bands of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s still sounds great today. With a characteristic sound of heavy, fuzztone guitars and straightforward pop-rock tunes, Farm is an album built to last.

Listen to Dinosaur Jr. - "I Want You To Know"

Budos Band – The Budos Band EP (world)

Big Apple Afrobeat with a ‘70s retro vibe. Instrumental tracks dominated by a big horn section and electric organ. Super-groovy.

Listen to Budos Band “Mas o Menos

Ben Weasel – The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (rock)

A glorious live punk album. Ben was the ringleader for many years of the Ramones-inspired Screeching Weasel, and his solo stuff keeps to 3-minute, 3-chord fast/loud gems.

Listen to Ben Weasel “Slogans (explicit)

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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