Superchunk frontman/Merge head honcho Mac McCaughan reactivates his side project for another perky album of power pop a la Big Star (and acolytes such as The Apples in Stereo, the Elephant 6 scene, etc.). The chiming, jangling guitar sound (plus melodica on one track!) and stuffy-headed vocals mostly stick to the charmingly sunny side of things, although thereâ€™s sometimes a hint of more serious things in Macâ€™s lyrics. Anyone whoâ€™s a fan of chirpy, melodic indie-pop can put this on repeat play and be happily entertained for hours. - Steve Holtje
There's a lot of hype for this recently unearthed (at the Library of Congress) Voice of America tape of two short sets as part of a November 29, 1957 benefit. It may sound like exaggeration. But not when you hear the music. Background: Thelonious Monk was one of the harmonic architects of bebop, yet never fully a bopper himself, too original and rhythmically idiosyncratic to fit into what became sleekly formulized.
Estonian composer Arvo PÃ¤rt (born in 1935; he turned 70 on Sept. 11) has found considerable success with his austere style. After first gaining notice as a Serialist composer incorporating stylistic collage, he took two sabbaticals, partly because the Soviet government approved of neither his Serial tendencies nor his religiousity, partly to rethink his style. Starting in 1976, he pioneered a lean, meditative style he dubbed Tintinnabuli (think of lots of bells chiming).
Some people still think that rock and roll is a boysâ€™ game. Women have always made rock music, but theyâ€™re often stereotyped, trivialized, or badly marketed while theyâ€™re doing their best work, and quickly forgotten when they leave the public eye. There are a few moments that stand out in this history, however, moments when women have created songs or performances so transcendently rock that they canâ€™t be forgotten. My personal list includes Joan Jett singing â€œYou Donâ€™t Own Me,â€ Patti Smith singing â€œGloria,â€ Tori Amos grinding on her piano bench while snapping, â€œSo you can make me cum, it doesnâ€™t make you Jesus,â€ and Kathleen Hanna working the stage topless, with â€œslutâ€ scrawled across her chest.
The saga of Charles Gayle is a long and winding tale full of highs and lows. The fluctuations are mostly not in quality (he has made just two subpar albums out of twenty-two he's led from 1988 on), but in media and record label attention to his talents. He was a big story in the '90s (well, on the NYC avant-jazz scene), often with weekly gigs at the Knitting Factory, but then he became dissatisfied with his approach and began experimenting, musically and in terms of presentation, withdrawing from regular performance while he did so. In recent years, he has been working on combining the precision of bebop with the intensity of free jazz.
We have been flooded with reissues of â€œforgotten psychedelic classicsâ€ in the past few years. Some of them are good, lots of them are fun, and many demonstrate why they were forgotten. Few are classics. Now here comes Drag City, a Chicago label more associated with the current alt-rock scene, surprisingly touting this extremely obscure 1973 psych-folk album by a New England hippie, Gary Higgins. Even more surprisingly, this IS a classic.
So how could the folks at Radioactive have missed it?!? One reason, perhaps, is that the only overtly psychedelic musical touches â€“ really pretty mild â€“ are a few keyboard riffs spiced by Terry Fenton with pitch slides (â€œIt Didnâ€™t Take Too Longâ€) and some creative organ registrations (check out the tinkling notes on â€œStable the Spudsâ€).
An intelligently constructed program, especially if it's based on a compelling concept, is almost as important to a recital album as the quality of the playing. Jenny Lin, one of the finest classical pianists in New York (and that's saying something), has a winning concept here. As Luca Sabbatini, the author of the program notes, writes, "small forms -- preludes, etudes, nocturnes, poems, character pieces, etc. -- often served their creators as a space which fairly encouraged aesthetic revolutions and other breaches of convention..." Listening to this mostly chronological program from beginning to end, one hears the piano's vocabulary expand radically over the space of 17 years.
Halfway through his fifth decade in the public eye, Wayne Shorter sounds like as much of a jazz giant as ever: a superb composer and the architect of an elliptical improvisational sax style that has grown more and more influential. It's the latter facet that is emphasized on this album of concert recordings from the past three years.. The formation of a new quartet has seemingly invigorated him, and Shorter clearly inspires his younger sidemen to take risks -- Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade never seemed all that progressive before, and this is their most interesting playing.