Casual Listening

A review of cool new music

By Jeff Pinzino


July 17, 2010


! Semi Precious Weapons – You Love You (rock)


Attitude:  The definition of rock & roll.  The Rolling Stones built an empire on it, and punk proved you barely needed to play if you had it.  Semi Precious Weapons have more than any band I’ve heard in years.  Hedonistic, destructive, and supremely self-assured.  From the opening line “I can’t pay my rent, but I’m f***ing gorgeous!” you feel the exhilaration of breaking an unspoken rule.  The music itself is phenomenal – big, dirty guitar riffs, crashing drums, and biting vocals.  Don’t miss this band.


Listen to Semi Precious Weapons “Put a Diamond in it


* Jessye Norman – Roots: My Life, My Song (gospel)


Norman is an opera phenom who’s turned her attention to the great Black voices of the last century: Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald and Odetta.  It’s an experience to hear spirituals, gospel, jazz, and blues in a voice as formidable as these foremothers.  More loving tribute than an attempt at definitive renditions, there’s a deep joy that comes through especially in these concert recordings.


Listen to Jessye Norman “Lord, I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray


* Jimmie Vaughan – Plays Blues, Ballads, and Favorites (blues)


This is blues of a very specific and wonderful vintage – late 1950’s when rock & roll, jump blues, and R&B were all wound up together.  Vaughan nails both the sound and spirit of the age, and it’s an immensely satisfying combination.  He’s got a killer horn section behind his electric guitar, with occasional blues harp and some vocal duets.


Listen to Jimmie Vaughan “The Pleasure’s All Mine


* M.I.A.  – Maya  (electronic)


M.I.A. is aural art that you can dance to.  Along with a broad palate of influences that identifies her as a one-woman United Nations, she wraps this album in a strong dose of pure noise.  Samples of drills, electonic blips, and all manner of manufactured sounds – if her previous work was everything but, this one focuses directly on the kitchen sink.


Listen to M.I.A. “XXXO


Robert Randolph & the Family Band – We Walk This Road (gospel)


Explosive.  That’s the word to describe Randolph’s pedal steel guitar playing.  Raised in a church with a “sacred steel” guitar tradition, this album draws from the well of the early gospel bluesmen such as Blind Willie Johnson and Reverend Gary Davis.  Juxtaposing bits of classic recordings with his reinterpretations and some new material, this album is part blues revival, part tent revival.


Listen to Robert Randolph & the Family Band “Segue 3” and “If I Had My Way



John Zorn – The Goddess: Music for the Ancient of Days (jazz)


Zorn turns his musical imagination to the goddess archetype, with a fusion-esque set for small ensemble.  The instrumentation is rich – vibraphone, harp, electric guitar, piano, and drums.  Shifting rhythms and cascading melodies make for a fleeting and beautiful set of images.


Listen to John Zorn “Ishtar


Trainwreck Symphony – Trainwreck Symphony (rock)


Disclaimer – this band seriously tested my objectivity, being a Chicago band with an awesome name and a friend playing bass.  Fortunately, this one would have made the list no matter how many degrees of separation I had.  With powerful vocals and a broad emotional range, Trainwreck Symphony is a cut above what passes for alternative rock these days.  The band careens between the twin poles of metal grit and ethereal pop without ever losing control. 


Listen to Trainwreck Symphony “Slipping into Lucid” on MySpace


Scissor Sisters – Night Work  (dance)


What made 80’s dance pop irresistible?  I’m the wrong person to ask, but the Scissor Sisters captured whatever it was and put it on a record, and it totally works.


Listen to Scissor Sisters “Any Which Way


Morcheeba – Blood Like Lemonade (electronica)


Smooth downtempo electronica with intense vocals on top.  It’s chill-out music that still leaves you with a warm feeling inside.


Listen to Morcheeba “Crimson



 all albums reviewed are recommended

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation


check out the website for more content

send me an e-mail at