Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino


April 9, 2010


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* Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - I Learned the Hard Way (R&B)


Even the digital release of this album sounds like vinyl, 1960’s vintage with the Stax fingersnap logo in the middle of the record ­- an icon of Memphis soul.  Jones’ smoldering vocals are fully orchestrated with horns and rhythms by the Dap Kings plus strings, vibes, backup vocals, and other surprises.  Classic sound, classy band.


Listen to Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings “I Learned the Hard Way


* Lunasa - La Nua (World)


Celtic tradition, modern sensibility.  Lunasa are brilliant players of pipes guitar, fiddle, and flute.  The mood is relaxed and sad-beautiful.  The complex rhythm of a track like “Unapproved Roads” is neither jig nor real, but something unexpected and wonderful.


Listen to Lunasa “Unapproved Roads


* Lameck – Emboscologia (World)


Brazil is home to some of the smartest pop music on the planet, and Lameck could be exhibit A.  Drawing from Tropicalia and Samba-Soul influences as well as American jazz and rock, Lameck’s vocals give urgent energy to a musical mosaic.


Listen to Lameck “SP (Sao Paolo)


Jonsi – Go (rock)


Ethereal tunecraft from the man who brought you Sigur Ros.  Stratospheric high male vocals pair with elastic danceable beats backed with a mélange that’s part orchestra, part rock band, and part DJ. 


Listen to Jonsi “Go Do


Brooklyn Rider - Dominant Curve (classical)


This string quartet from New York’s creative epicenter is among a number of young groups working to make new music hip again.  A mix of accessible and challenging pieces played by top-notch musicians with an evident belief that composition still matters.


Listen to Brooklyn Rider play Colin Jacobsen’s “Achille’s Heel: II. Second Bounce


John Cowan - The Massenberg Sessions (country)


Cowan is one of the heroes of the bluegrass fusion music known as Newgrass.  Breaking from the instrumental focus of the music, The Massenberg Sessions focuses on songs – some of his own, and some traditional blues and gospel – and the intensity of Cowan’s singing draws you in.


Listen to John Cowan “My Time in the Desert


Bobby McFerrin - VOCAbuLarieS (jazz)


It’s a missed opportunity that McFerrin isn’t likely to end up on Glee anytime soon.  This album is some of the most artistic music for jazz choir to come along in recent years.  With a musical palate that encompasses a capella, jazz, classical, and world influences from the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe, this is serious stuff, and seriously cool as well.


Listen to Bobby McFerrin “Wailers



* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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