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

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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

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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

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