Like many, I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday in open-mouthed wonderment, astonished that such compelling performers as Christina Aguilera and the Black Eyed Peas were giving their all for our entertainment!
You might say that right then and there I realized: Music is the best it's ever been and it will never, ever be any better!
Then I stared at my fingernails and willed them to grow!
Later, someone told me that approximately 155,500 people die every day! Eventually I plan to buy all the Black Eyed Peas albums in their deluxe editions!
Various Artists: Now That's What I Call Music! 37 (Capitol) Filled to the brim with hits by Eminem, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, P!nk, and rising superstar D))Ld%, this may be all you'll ever need when it comes to buying records in 2011! We all know these songs! Why bother with unfamiliar ones? Then we can spend the rest of our money on things we really need! That said, word has it that the enormously successful Now! series has seen its sales markedly decline--meaning, some say, that follow-up series Then! should be rolled out by year's end, followed by 2013's anticipated Please! and 2014's For God's Sake! collection! What say we visit the local library before it shuts down, too?
Yanni: Truth Of Touch (Rocket Science) It's difficult to argue with a marketing campaign that proclaims "The return of Yanni as you know him," especially if you've always considered him a horrifying being with facial hair that lulled an entire generation into complacency while their very world was stolen from them by money-hungry politicians eager to take from the poor while filling their pockets with loot that might have fed the hungry! But that's purely hypothetical! I love the dude, and think he's never rocked as hard!
Thompson Square: Thompson Square (Broken Bow) A lot's changed since the glorious days of '80s New Wave, and driving that point home vigorously are Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie, the former Thompson Twins who've realized the error of their ways--I mean, those haircuts, my God!--and renounced all prior hipness to become Thompson Square! Whether the marketplace is ready to accept new versions of "Hold Me Now (That We've Taken The Vows Of Holy Matrimony)," "In The Name Of A Special, Deep Fondness," and the risqué "Fibs" remains to be seen, but there's one thing no one can deny: That's one hell of a hat, Tom!
Cut Copy: Zonoscope (Modular) I just can't stop playing the latest album by Australian synthdudes Cut Copy--maybe because it reminds me of hip '80s bands like China Crisis and I like accessible melodies in a bouncy rhythmic format, or maybe because I'm an unwitting speedreader and every time I look at the band name and album title I can't help but see the word colonoscopy! You too? That album cover doesn't help! I'm thinking maybe I should slow down and stop and smell the roses! Great work, guys!
Led Bib: Bring Your Own (Cuneiform) They have been proclaimed as the "future of jazz" in their UK homeland almost as often as the word "skronk" has appeared in their record reviews, but this energetic and vastly likeable quintet--whose last album was nominated for England's prestigious Mercury Prize--do something with saxophones and a driving rhythm section that may be accessible to fans of all musical denominations, and you should hear them! Rhythmic, melodic, as oddly "different" from their contemporaries as were unheralded Brit trio Back Door back in the '70s, Led Bib are among very few artists who seem less interested in following anyone else's traditions than starting their own! Highly recommended!
James Blake: James Blake (Universal) A sonically adventurous debut album by a young London-based artist whose mixture of skilled singer-songwriting combined with a an apparent love for dubstep--I use words like that all the time!--has resulted in a highly listenable album that just may connect with an entire generation! I like it a lot! Of course, I'd like an entire album of Daryl Hall songs produced by Brian Eno, so who cares? Sara would smile, but she's missing her front teeth!
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew Live (Columbia/Legacy) A welcome addition to the recorded legacy of one of the finest players in the history of jazz, this live set--featuring tracks recorded in 1969 and 1970 at the Newport Jazz and Isle Of Wight festivals--showcases versions of tracks that would go on to make Davis's Bitches Brew album one of the turning points in music, expanded social consciousness, and double-albums with especially cool covers! With jazz bigwigs galore--Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Gary Bartz, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette among them--this album rewrites history as we know it and then goes home, puts on a suit and tie, and sees about finally getting that MBA!
Belphegor: Blood Magick Necromance (Nuclear Blast America) Have to admit that I plopped this baby on in hopes that it might approach the greatness of all-time-gods-of-rock Belfegore, whose early '80s work defined all that would be metal for the remainder of our days--and while I'm sorry to say it doesn't quite measure up, let's be real: Whatever could? Still, when it comes to alluring product descriptions, when we're talking about "mainman Helmuth and his henchmen" and their unswerving "technical skill, sophisticated songwriting and blasphemous lyrics," how could anyone not be deeply compelled to listen to this album repeatedly? Next to the Black Eyed Peas, I like them best!
John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop--April '69 CD/DVD (Cuneiform) An absolutely unexpected gem from the delightful Cuneiform label--which between showcasing some of the world's brightest and most adept contemporary musicians and spotlighting older, often unissued works by unsung masters, is about the most adventurous record company out there at the moment. Anyone captivated by the British jazz scene that thrived in the '60s and '70s will be thrilled by the release of this superb set by Brit saxophonist Surman, recorded in a German television studio and featuring a wealth of talented players like Alan Skidmore, Kenny Wheeler, Alan Jackson, Mike Osborne, and Harry Miller, among others. Best of all, the set includes both an audio CD and a crisp video version of the session on DVD--which, for younger fans who never thought they'd witness this stuff while it was happening, is a virtual godsend. A fantastic release, and I hope more is coming!