Casual Listening

A review of cool new music

By Jeff Pinzino

First off -- a review from Guest Listener Lee Winkelman.  Lee follows kids music far more closely than I do, so when he picks an album, it's definitely worth tracking down.

When future music historians look back on the golden age of kids music we are now experiencing, Chicago’s Justin Roberts will stand out as one of the best and most creative of our era’s kids musicians.  Roberts’ songs focus on little moments in children’s lives: playing duck duck goose, attending sleepover parties, hoping for snow days, and signing a cast on a broken arm.  Roberts’ melodies are catchy without being cloying, and he and his Not Ready For Naptime Players bring a power-pop energy to the best songs.  His songs are direct enough for the kids, but with just enough humor and clever rhymes (and the occasional pop culture reference) to keep the parents hooked.  Roberts newest album Jungle Gym is another strong record, likely to be the best kids record of the year. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself listening to the rocking “We Go Duck” even when the kids are not in the car.  Highest recommendation.

Listen to Justin Roberts "We Go Duck"

June 25, 2010

! Kele – The Boxer (rock)

While labeling music as definitive of its age all but guarantees that it won't be, I really want artists up and down the next decade to look to Kele for inspiration.  He weaves delicious noise tapestries that draw in elements of techno, drum&bass, industrial, new wave, and whatever else he can find.  An approach to Black art that picks up the spirit, if not the style, of TV on the Radio.

Listen to Kele "Tenderoni"

* Devo – Something for Everybody (rock)

Long live nerd rock!  More than 20 years after their heyday, Devo's synthesizer pop is even more concentrated, more infectious, more goofy than you remember.  Slip this in at your next 80's party, and even though no one will recognize the songs, I guarantee it'll light up the dance floor.

Listen to Devo "Fresh"

Cowboy Junkies –  Renmin Park (folk)

The mellow, country-tinged folksters pack up for the other side of the world.  This is interestingly about China, with a few Eastern tunes among the Chinese-inspired Americana, and some feedback-laden rockers thrown in for good measure.  A bold set that often works, and you've got to give credit to a band that isn't content to rest on their reputation.

Listen to Cowboy Junkies “A Few Bags of Grain


Elvin Bishop – Red Dog Blues (blues)

Cyndi Lauper –  Memphis Blues (blues)

In this corner, the master of the Red Dog, the backbone of the blues, the one, the only, the Bish, ELVIN BISHOP!!!!  (BISSSHHHHHH!!!!!!!)

And in this corner,  the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun teen idol, 80's popster princess, all crazy hair and sassitude, Cyndi Lauper!!!  (WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!)

The Contest: Cutting' Heads -- a Faustian guitar showdown at the Crossroads, just like in that Ralph Macchio movie that was popular about the same time as Ms. Lauper.

Elvin Bishop comes out cranking!!!  Crying slide guitar licks jump off the strings!  Another and another!  There's nearly 50 years of blues-colored soul coming out of that guitar!  Is there a slaughter rule in the cage match?

Wait a minute, who's that singing?  No it can't be!  Cyndi Lauper can sing the blues?  Holy smokes!  She's belting it out!  And who's that band with the steaming juke joint sound?  Charlie Musselwhite!  Johnny Lang!  And - no, it can't be!  The immortal B. B. King!!!  I can't believe I'm saying this, but we have a winner, and it's Cyndi Lauper!!!!!!!!! (WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!)  

Dang, Elvin, you got beat by Cyndi Lauper!!!

Listen to Elvin Bishop “Red Dog Speaks

Listen to Cyndi Lauper "How Blue Can You Get?"

Laurie Anderson — Homeland (experimental)

Anderson has been creating rock-as-performance-art for a couple of decades now, and it still manages to make you think.  She sets spoken-word ideas against sometimes swirling, sometimes angular musical backdrops, with trademark violin and vocoder.  "Only an Expert" is one of the most incisive political songs of the year.

Listen to Laurie Anderson “Only an Expert

 all albums reviewed are recommended

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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