Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's in a name?

They're called West Indian Girl. I figured they'd have a Caribbean sound to them. It turns out they're sort of a dreamy, spacey rock group. And they're not from the tropics at all. The founding members are actually from Detroit. They moved out to California and started releasing CDs in 2004. Their name comes from a legendary early street LSD. And it seems to have an influence on their music. They write catchy, dancey stuff that you can't help but snap your fingers to. The only downside to them is I think their name will keep some folks from listening to them. Another good group with a mediocre name.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A National Treasure

Okay. I’ll admit it, this isn’t a new band. Just new to me. The group called "The National" originated in Ohio and then moved to New York in the late 1990s. They’re very down-tempo and their lead singer is a cross between Leonard Cohen and Mark Kozalek (of Red House Painters fame). Add a bit of Van Morrison’s bizarre mysticism and you’ve pretty much wrapped up The National. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cat Power Redux

I have a theory—there are two kinds of writers, musicians, and artists. Those who have one great work pent up in them and let it flow and then they’re done. They try to follow it up with a series of weaker efforts, which only disappoints their fans and detracts from their magnum opus. And then there are those who produce a masterpiece and follow it up with hit after hit.

Then there’s Cat Power. I have to admit; I thought her earlier music was better than her latest releases. But upon listening to her oeuvre again, I now feel this woman has definitely improved over the years. Her maturity has resulted in better singing, and much more accessible music. I can’t think of another singer (with the exception of Bjork) who has matured this much. I can’t wait for her next album to come out. Rumor is, it’s a Dylan cover album. I’m sure it’s going to be exceptional!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Cat’s out of the Bag

Say the name “Cat Power” to most people and they’ll probably think you’re referring to a DC Comic heroine. But mention it to indie rock enthusiasts and they’ll know you’re referring to a singer who also goes by the name of Chan Marshall. I feel she’s an artist who deserves far more attention than she receives. She has a quiet, husky voice, a down-tempo delivery, and has produced some outstanding work.

I’d classify her early recordings as singer/songwriter. Then she stretched out a bit and recorded The Greatest, backed up by a group of soul musicians from Memphis, TN. It’s an R&B outing that’s her most uplifting and accessible release to date. Her most recent recording is a cover CD and the rumor is her next one will be one as well. Her latest work is well worth listening to, however I must admit, I’m partial to her earlier recordings.

If you ever have the opportunity to see her live, jump at the chance. It is one unique experience. When I saw her I couldn’t tell if she was really high, shy, or slow in the head. Or a combination of all three! She came out and performed with her Memphis group, and then did an extended solo set, accompanying herself on guitar and piano. In between songs she babbled incoherently, a bit like Grace Slick used to do on stage. I got the sense that she’s most comfortable in a solo setting. She finished the set somewhat awkwardly with the full band. But in the end, she was still Cat Power.

One of her vids:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Goofy Name. Fun Music

If you enjoy offbeat bands like Gogol Bordello, Devotchka, and Beruit, add Balkan Beat Box to your play list. This group combines music of the Mid-East, hip-hop, dance, Reggae, Gypsy, Greece, and even a smattering of Le Mystere de Voix Bulgares and Pink Martini. Yep, this group has it all. It’s an extremely fun group to listen to. They’re actually from New York City, but have their roots grounded in Israel. If you think they sound a bit like Gogol Bordello, that’s because both principals of the group, Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat have worked with that group. Expect to hear heavy percussion; lots of singing, and a rhythm that makes you wanna dance. Hey, if I was getting married today, this is the group I’d want to play for my wedding. What an exciting band—with a great future ahead of it. So get up and dance already!

Here's a taste of the joy of their music: