Those who expected this compilation to feature the likes of Marisa Monte, Gal Costa or even newer names like Bebel Gilberto or Cibelle will be disappointed at first—this release contains none of their songs. Instead, we are presented with few names ever heard Stateside save for Luisa Maita or Mart’nalia, who have regularly toured in the US. The disc opens with Italy-based Nossa Alma Canta’s “Bossanova,” a tune that remembers the Brazilian movement that swept the world with the help of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. The tune name recalls many familiar hits like “Wave,” “Desafinado” while playing snippets of familiar tunes via instrumental interludes. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Shawn Brackbill
On Kurt Vile’s last EP—“So Outta Reach,” sandwiched between the LPs “Smoke Ring For My Halo” and the new “Wakin on a Pretty Daze”—he sang: “Life’s a Beach.” For rock critics attempting to pin his philosophy (which I most certainly am), it’s a buffet. That Vile imbued the world of the generation he’s been chosen to speak for (whether he likes it or not) with such vigorous, sardonic ease in those words, and so many more before, was quite the epilogue to the release of “Wakin,” a seventy-minute wall of shimmering, hi-fidelity sound that chugs along with zero thought to an apology for “selling out.”
When Brooklynites Titus Andronicus voiced displeasure with his selling his “Smoke Ring” opening love song, “Baby’s Arms,” to Bank of America, Vile tweeted: “sorry titus. i did it to be like the carpenters.and to buy my daughter high end diapers. and to pay back my publishing advance. and because i never cared about that sorta thing. whoops,i even have a bank of america account.” On “Smoke Ring” track “Puppet to the Man,” he says: “I bet now/You probably think/I’m a puppet to the man/Well I’ll tell you right now/You best believe that I am.” Marxist integrity, Vile seems to say, is a privilege for the privileged. And trying to maintain it as an artist, with a family, in a musical marketplace that’s long been even more broken and confused than the recession the rest of us are worried about, is a pointless war of attrition; and one you’re going to lose. Read the rest of this entry »
Music is arguably one of the few art forms that is able to erase political or ideological boundaries. No matter how someone might feel about the Cuban embargo or the Castro Brothers, you will still listen to the piano magic of Chucho Valdes or the members of the Buena Vista Social Club. The same goes with Persian music, which has found an audience stateside in spite of the tensions between us and the Ayatollahs in Iran.
On this well-crafted collection, singer Zohreh Jooya leads an ensemble on a collection of songs from her native land, all performed with traditional acoustic instruments. The songs are a great introduction for newbies who are unfamiliar with this kind of music—there are long instrumental interludes between the vocals, and Jooya has a poignant delivery. Read the rest of this entry »
Latin psychedelics are currently enjoying a revival thanks to the efforts of current bands like Grupo Fantasma and Brooklyn’s Chicha Libre, who have both rediscovered this music (the latter’s leader, Olivier Conan, reportedly stumbled into the genre during a trip to Peru), but sadly a precious few of these artists are known Stateside. This is partially remedied by this collection from the Rough Guides, which brings us some of the prominent groups of the time alongside some of their contemporary followers.
The music is very varied, going from Spiteri’s proto-punk “Campesina,” a tune that blends distorted guitars with salsa beats. Salsa legend Johnny Rivera appears with “Cloud Nine,” an early track recorded with Tequila Brass. The mid-tempo track has very suggestive lyrics that playfully talk about “getting high” while “taking care of business”—whatever that might mean. Many of the groups on the record were clearly inspired by Santana, and that is evident by Wild Wind’s “A Drink or Two “and Conjunto El Opio’s “Piratas en El Titicaca.” Current groups are well represented by Chicha Libre, who makes an appearance with “Number 17” and Ocote Soul Sounds’ “En El Temblor.” Read the rest of this entry »
Colombian pop music is well known in alternative circles thanks to the efforts of bands like Aterciopelados or individual performers like Juanes or Shakira, but the country’s traditional sounds are not as widespread, and are often confused with the ubiquitous Andean music that is played on the streets of many major American cities.
This new release from Son de Pueblo is a great document of the various musical styles played around the country, and they run the gamut from cumbias, salsas and charangas (to name a few). Their arrangements are not at all dated; for instance, “La Cumbia Cienaguera” blends traditional percussive instruments with a very funky electric bass and electric piano, and “Moliendo Café” showcases the classical and jazz influences among the band members—the track begins with a Villa-Lobos-inflected flute intro that is followed by an intricate piano solo. Read the rest of this entry »
I remember one afternoon (I think it was in the late eighties) walking into a record store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I went to purchase a Kate Bush album (I have been a huge fan of the reclusive singer-songwriter for the longest time), and as I made the purchase, one of the employees there put on a record by a blues guitar player I had never heard about before. It was a raucous guitar followed by a powerful voice backed by a tight rhythm section. The song was “Love Struck Baby,” the opening track of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s debut LP “Texas Flood” (Sony, 1983). I was immediately hooked, and was saddened when just a few years later I heard about his untimely death following a concert in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.
A story like this one would be far less likely to happen today, because record stores are increasingly a rarity thanks to download sites and big-box stores that offer music at a discount that independent owners are just unable to match. New music is still discovered in interesting ways today (like I found out about Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona via—you guessed it—a free download from iTunes), but the culture has completely shifted since that day so many years ago. Read the rest of this entry »
Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre started out playing covers of obscure psychedelic songs from Peru, and on this four-song EP they come full circle with a collection of inventive takes on pop tunes reimagined into the chichi format, starting with a very personal take on the “Simpsons” that expands on the TV version by adding some improvisation and a more danceable beat. They recreate Love’s classically inspired “Alone Again Or,” as a song innovated by featuring a mariachi band in the middle section, something quite uncommon in the late sixties. They also pay tribute with “Guns of Brixton” and also include “Chicha Rica,” a song that I could not trace but I am sure comes from bandleader Olivier Conan’s treasure trove. Read the rest of this entry »
A decade after her smash hit “Thank You” put this English singer on the pop map and five years after 2008’s “Safe Trip Home,” Dido reemerges with this concise album that brings together all the nuances of her style, blending folk-rock, electronica and straight-ahead pop. The album opens with the acoustic ballad “No Freedom,” whose lyrics reflect on the necessity of allowing people to have freedom within the confines of a relationship. The title track makes a playful allusion to the lover “who got away,” the sort of utopian dream-like person who many of us were unable to keep by our sides. Read the rest of this entry »
Japanese-born Hiromi Uehara is well-known for her great technique, speed and also eloquent live performance style. Her style has caught the attention of jazz icons like Chick Corea and his Return to Forever bassist Stanley Clarke, who have both cut albums with her in recent years.
Uehara returns to form as a bandleader with “Move,” an album made in collaboration with Anthony Jackson (bass) and Simon Phillips (bass drum), two musicians who have broad experience both in the jazz and pop worlds. “Move” differs from her earlier releases because she explores a varied amount of sounds, going with contemporary tunes like the uptempo title track and the rock-tinged “Endeavor,” the latter of which evokes more of a jazz-rock feel with progressive notes. “Rainmaker” has more of a classical influence, as she explores her piano’s keys with gusto while Phillips and Jackson provide a subtle but highly effective backbeat. Also notable is “Suite Escapism: Fantasy,” a beautiful melody with psychedelic overtones that brings to mind Paul McCartney’s early solo work. Read the rest of this entry »
While musicians, labels and the media in America brand and rebrand music to fit some kind of niche audience, our brothers and sisters across the pond just go ahead and bring everything together to make the best music they can from the influences they hear.
One of the most recent examples of this is British singer-songwriter Charlie Winston, who has a penchant for blending funk, soul and the classical music he was initially trained in. If you are thinking “Here comes another Freddie Mercury,” that would not be a bad comparison, but Winston is not in any way associated with glam rock. Read the rest of this entry »