March 24, 2008

Music Reviews: Iron & Wine, Manu Chao, Sharon Jones, M.I.A., José Gonzalez, via Kirk Peterson

Broken Social Scene has spawned solo careers and side projects including, but not limited to, Feist, Stars, Metric, Apostle of Hustle, Do Make Say Think, Jason Collett and Amy Millan. Most recently, founder Kevin Drew has struck out on his own. Of all the projects, none sounds more B.S.S.-esque than Drew’s mocking, profane, pissed anthems and ballads. Many of the songs could stand alone with Drew and his guitar, but they expand and throb. B.S.S. has always been more of a party than a band, but sans the crowd it’s still party on. Drew and Brendan Canning, who form the core of instrumental songwriting duties for B.S.S., have created another masterpiece.

Sam Beam, a.k.a. Iron and Wine, forged a reputation as a soft-singing guitar and banjo-strummin’ crooner while still teaching college film classes. On The Shepherd’s Dog, he’s turned Southern Gothic symbolism into dense compositions. He’s as instrumentally adventurous as ever-there’s even a track that sounds of West African Highlife. Sounds like his experience recording the brilliant E.P. In the Reins with studio mavens Calexico has expanded his palette for keeps.

José Gonzalez (who is, of course…Swedish) plays acoustic guitar with sonic effect like few before. Tapping and popping percussively while picking and strumming melody, it’s hard to imagine that only one instrument and two hands are responsible for such rich texture. Think of a tropical Elliott Smith-dark yet exhilarating.

Music I Like > via Kirk Peterson

Manu Chao’s multi-cultural upbringing clearly influenced his musical paella: raised in the outskirts of Paris by Spanish intellect-artistes who fled Franco’s Spain, Chao sings in Spanish, English, French, Galician, Arabic and Catalan. Radiolina, his latest, is high energy, and high conscience-with Spanish flavored guitars and trumpets, pop punk drumming, Iberian folk songs and reggae beats. Overall feel: Sandanista!-era Clash.

SHARON JONES AND THE DAP KINGS > 100 DAYS, 100 NIGHTS Soul revival! Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings play authentic rhythm and blues as well as anyone played it the first time. Pint-sized Jones sings with authority. The Dap Kings rival Booker T and the M.G.’s or the Stax house band in their ability to lay down brick house grooves. The Godfather of Soul may have passed on, but Sharon Jones (also from Augusta, Georgia) is holdin’ it down.

M.I.A., born Maya Arulpragasam, was born in London with stints in her native Sri Lanka and India (thanks to her Tamil militant father). She excelled in painting and film before musician friends pushed her to make her own songs. Her music, a blend of electro-punk, ragga, dub step and Bollywood, is delivered with rapid fire beats and repetitive call and response rhymes and rhythms. M.I.A. sings in a mix of South London slang and West Indian and Indian island patois amidst sounds of gunshots and cash registers (to protest cheaply priced guns in Africa).

Tinariwen, literally “empty places” in the Touareg language, is a group from the Malian Sahara that plays a blues-inflected guitar version of desert folk songs. The Western Saharan Touaregs have bounced around Libya, Niger and Mali throughout the war-riddled 80s and 90s, and their songs tell the story. The flowing peaks and the valleys in their music-created by the interplay of guitar, hand drumming and a choir of voices-mirror the dunes they live in.

Kirk Peterson is a semi-retired line chef with a road cycling habit. He can’t seem to escape his day (and night) job as Talent Buyer/Program Director for the historic Boulder Theater: bouldertheater.com

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