Outkast, Pedro, Peace Orchestra, Mice Parade and Múm


This year seems to be starting with a whimper. Maybe it’s because I’m so insanely busy at work—reading all manner of applications as well as teaching—that I haven’t had a lot of time to make it to the record store. I’m having enough fun checking out things I missed. So it is, therefore, that Me’shell Ndegéocello’s Comfort Woman from last year is getting more play than anything else. Comfort Woman CD CoverIt is an absolutely brilliant record. And while I don’t know whether this signifies that her contract with Maverick has come to an end, rumor has it she’ll be releasing a recording on Verve in April featuring a cast of top-flight musicians generally associated with jazz (Kenny Garrett, Cassandra Wilson, and Joshua Redman among them). She apparently will also appear on Redman’s next release from his Elastic band (Sam Yahel, keyboards and Brian Blade, drums). Other guests on Redman’s recording include Chicago-based guitarist Jeff Parker.

OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below deserves all the praise (and awards) that have been heaped upon it (Andre 3000’s Native American schtick at the Grammies notwithstanding). So, yes, “Hey Ya,” with its seven-bar phrases (and a two-beat fourth bar in them), is wonderfully catchy and off-center. But the trippy love song “Prototype,” complete with “stank you, smelly much” ad-libs, is my favorite on a consistently inventive piece of work. It’s so good, in fact, that I haven’t listened to Big Boi’s CD yet.

My neighbor Pedro has been turning me on to all manner of electronic music that passed me by, including the self-titled recording by Peace Orchestra, Mice Parade’s collection of odds and ends called All Roads Lead to Salzburg, and the Icelandic group Múm’s Finally We Are No One. Finally We Are No One CD CoverThe final track on that CD, “The Land Between Solar Systems,” is stunningly languid and atmospheric. In addition, Pedro has re-opened my ears to the amazing recordings being made by Portuguese and Brazilian artists.

Where my nostalgia kick is concerned, I’ve been re-exploring the ’80s and early ’90s by listening to Visage, China Crisis and the Lilac Time. I’m also replacing worn-out vinyl—digging World Party’s Private Revolution, Japan’s Oil on Canvas and a pristinely remastered (and finally complete) two-CD version of David Sylvian’s Gone to Earth.

Still, there are new releases that have caught my ear. The two most notable are by bands with Chicago connections. Stereolab has occasionally worked with people from here, like The Sea and Cake and Common. While their latest, Margarine Eclipse, is no different from previous releases (except for the notable absence of Mary Hansen who was killed in an accident late in 2002), it’s still a enjoyable recording that I’ve loved more with each listen. Similarly, while I was initially taken by only a few tracks from Califone’s Heron King Blues (e.g., “Trick Bird”), it too is taking on larger dimensions.

Hmmm…. I’ve written much more than I intended, so I’ll sign off. Stay tuned for the next update.

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