Music Reviews

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posted: July 15, 2015

Django Django Born Under Saturn

Ribbon Music, LP or CD
Django Django

Scottish quartet Django Django constantly obscures its mission statement. Is this a surf-rock act for our modern, dance-driven times? Or maybe a group of electronic gear heads with a love of guitars? But then how to explain the sudden shifts into frantic, tribal rhythms? And what about those harmonies? Django Django is a perpetually-in-motion beat-driven target, a melting pot of studio wizardry, Dick Dale-influenced riffing, and we’re-all-in-this together vocals. Read More


posted: July 15, 2015

Buena Vista Social Club

In 1997, the record Buena Vista Social Club took off as an unexpected international sensation. Recorded in Havana and produced by Ry Cooder, the project featured some of the most revered veteran players in Cuban music, some of whom came out of retirement for the recordings. Their entrancing take on traditional styles netted a Grammy, critical acclaim, and the best-selling album their home country had ever produced. Read More


posted: July 15, 2015

Calexico Edge of the Sun

Anti-Records, LP and CD
Calexico

Few artists can slip into different stylistic skins while also maintaining identities distinctly their own. It’s the hallmark of painters like David Hockney and of musicians like Beck and Bjork. Calexico may not share that level of renown or impact, but the group’s gift for creative osmosis is the same. Read More


posted: July 15, 2015

The Word Soul Food

Vanguard, LP or CD
The Word

After a 14-year absence, the jazz-jam-band-meets-sacred-steel group the Word is reunited. The group sounds like it’s shrugged off whatever changes occurred in popular music since then, just as much as they did in the late 1990s. And even as the annual Jam Cruise continues to set sail around the Caribbean—while the Trey Anastasio-fronted Grateful Dead commands top dollar for concert tickets—the Word’s succinct songs and pronounced soul/gospel bent keeps it apart from its counterparts. Read More


posted: July 15, 2015

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints

It’s a matter of buoyancy. When jazz improvisers are really, really swinging, all the ensemble action seems to float. Once it’s in play, it can work in innumerable ways. Sometimes musicians bear down and deliver expressionistic ardor. Sometimes they have their most feathery of maneuvers lifted by the collective flutter. Read More


posted: July 15, 2015

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth

About ten years ago, Bassist Chris Lightcap formed his own group on a whim. He had already done the hard work to make a considerable name for himself—so much so that he could draw from the pool of top young New York-based improvisers. Since the late 1990s, he served as a sideman to the likes of Regina Carter, Joe Morris, and Matt Wilson. Read More


posted: January 13, 2015

Sleater-Kinney’s Latest is a Smash

Sleater-Kinney stopped touring in 2006. Then came the comedy.

Underground heroes from the early to late 90s, Sleater-Kinney, intentionally or not, felt like an answer to a male-dominated alt-rock scene of the Pacific Northwest.The all-female group’s punk-rock affronts led the riot grrl movement with a pair of chopped up guitars that—for believers—functioned as a call to arms. Read More


posted: December 4, 2014

2014’s Best Pop and Rock Albums

No single human being could hear the thousands of albums released in a single year. The best a critic can do is hear as much of the field as possible, keep an ear to the ground, and react accordingly. Here are the albums that most frequently caught and kept my attention during 2014, and which should enjoy long shelf lives in the years to come. Read More


posted: October 27, 2014

Robert Plant

Robert Plant sounds jubilant on his first new studio record in four years. And why not? Forever linked with Led Zeppelin, the singer has spurned convention over the past three decades by ignoring lucrative requests to reconvene with his former mates and choosing instead to press on with a solo career marked with diversity, risk, and exploration. Read More


posted: May 25, 2014

Sharon Van Etten Are We There

Sharon Van Etten recently covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night” for the A.V. Club’s “Pioneering” video series, performing it solo at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

While countless artists have paid homage to the Boss, Van Etten’s choice to interpret the penultimate cut from The River both deviates from the norm (it’s a deep track) and speaks volumes about the burgeoning singer-songwriter’s own music. Read More


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