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Volume 77, Number 5 | July 4 - 10, 2007

Music

Summer playlist

Feisty tunes, Rufus croons, and American roots in translation

By Lee Ann Westover

Feist
“The Reminder”
Polydor/Universal

Feist’s every signature move is present here in her second solo album: the flutey soft voice, the occasional wail, the twanging guitars, bits of electronic merriment, and heartbreaking oooohs filling out the background. Just like her solo debut, this CD runs the gambit between tambourine sprinkled peppy pop tunes, ominous ballands, and her own brand of funky dance music. You’ll love “My Moon My Man,” a disco-folk tune reminiscent of the Naked Eye’s version of “Always Something There to Remind Me.” The upbeat, groovy tracks “I Feel It All” and “1234” will have you dancing on the subway to the unbelievably charming, optimistic rhythms. Her east coast shows in NYC and Washington DC may be sold out, but if you can swing it, it’s worth overpaying on eBay for a ticket to see her and her first-rate band do it live.

Rufus Wainwright
“Release the Stars”
Geffen

Mr. Wainwright is nothing if not dramatic. Track number one, “Do I Disappoint You,” starts out with a slow dirge under his high, pleasantly nasal tenor. As the tune rolls on, toss in a full orchestra complete with kettle drums, a slew of electronic sounds and a chorus full of his sister Martha singing shrill harmonies like a distressed children’s choir. True to form, Wainwright oscillates between political and perverted. He berates the state of the union in “Going to a Town” (“I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down / I’m going to a place that has already been disgraced / I’m going to see some folks who have already been let down / I’m so tired of America”) and a few songs later, waxes poetic about his genitalia and the Apocalypse in the slow and sexy march “Between My Legs.” In 2006, the Metropolitan Opera announced that he has been granted a commission to create an opera. If “Release the Stars” is any kind of preview, opening night will be the best ticket in town.

Wainwright plays Central Park Summerstage August 18.


Takénobu
“Introduction”
Independent Release

Cellist and vocalist Nick Ogawa and drummer Geoff Lewit’s exotic and romantic folk-pop includes influences from the strangest of places. Although not always overtly, an Asian aesthetic sometimes seeps through, in tasteful spareness of arrangements and presentation. Takénobu translates from the Japanese to “determination and faith.” More often than not, however, the band seems to pull from a mixture of American roots music. Ogawa’s smooth, smoky singing voice is deliberate and haunting on traditional tunes like “Shady Grove.” Highlight that with the occasional heady classical breakdown from the cello and you have something like Japan via the Wild West, and in this case, Brooklyn, too.


Matt Singer
“All Us Heathens”
Independent Release

New York City is so full of singer-songwriters, sometimes it seems like every single person owns a guitar, and all the wrong people get the gigs. Matt Singer is definitely one of the right people, and whether he’s solo or singing with Robin Aigner in their band Brookland, his sentimental side and snappy sense of humor shine through. “All Us Heathens” is around his fourth solo release. The basic instrumentation on the record is bass, guitar and drums, but here and there he adds interest with subtle horns, strings and accordion. My personal favorite is “Suitable Vacation,” in which Singer is imprisoned in an airplane seat listening to his girlfriend complain about his choice of vacation destinations. “Dear God shut up / Can’t you see that someone’s talking / Your opinions of Hoboken and Weehawken aren’t exactly moving me to create.” Don’t think he’s all jokes, though. Check out Brookland’s MySpace page for a heart-wrenching rendition of The Strokes “Heart in a Cage.”


Grey Gardens original Broadway Cast Recording
PS Classics

In between the cheese-fest musicals catering to the lowest common denominator, there are a few jewels on Broadway, proving that big-budget theater still has the capacity to amaze and inspire. Adapted from the Maysles Brother’s eponymous documentary, “Grey Gardens” paints a portrait of the surreal lives of Edith and Little Edie Bouvier-Beale — shut-in cousins of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis. Fans of the film will be overjoyed by Christine Ebersole’s Little Edie. In the first track of the cast recording, she gave me goosebumps as she announced, “I found it muthah dahling… I found your old reh-cord. Isn’t it just wonderful? Gawd, aren’t you just mad aboucha sawng?” Mary Louise Wilson is also eerily dead-on as her mother, Big Edie. If that’s not enough to convince you, both Ebersole and Wilson won Tony awards for their portrayals of these two terribly mixed-up, odd and fascinating women.

“Grey Gardens” is at the Walter Kerr Theatre, seven shows a week.


Jessica Molaskey“Sitting in Limbo”
PS Classics

On Jessica Molaskey’s solid cabaret offering “Sitting in Limbo,” her sweet tone is even and controlled; each syllable is perfectly audible and carefully expressed. In spite of a few tunes that offer little in terms of innovation (“There Will Never Be Another You,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”) some choice jewels shine through. “Knowing You,” co-written by Molaskey and her husband, guitarist John Pizzarelli, may be the best of the bunch. It’s a witty peek inside the joy of intimacy. “I know that you won’t fall for girls named after seasons / I know that you are often late and will not give good reasons…I know that you won’t take sinus pills while handling large machinery / While bathing you sing songs from ‘Cats’ and sometimes ‘Mountain Greenery.’ ” The couple’s arrangement of “The Circle Game/Waters Of March” is also a standout, brilliantly mixing Joni Mitchell’s vibrant lyrics with Joao Gilberto’s ebullient bossa nova.


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