It's been a while since we dished up a mix tape, so here's one to warm your feet and your ears as the temps begin to dip.
Cocoa Tea -- Biological Warfare (Minor7Flat5)
There's not a lot of Jamaican music pushing the boundaries these days, but with his great voice, Cocoa Tea is still a pleasure to listen to, especially when he's backed by humans instead of computers. Minor7Flat5 brought in the likes of Horsemouth Wallace and Sticky Thompson for these modern roots tracks and the results are enjoyable if predictable.
The Dynamics -- Version Excursions (Groove Attack)
An unlikely name for a band with a sound as even-keeled as this, but The Dynamics put a late ‘60s rock steady and mid-‘70s Lee Perry-style (awash in effects) dub flavor on more than a dozen tunes you likely already know. From The White Stripes' "7 Nation Army" to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" to the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" to Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" to The Impressions' "Move on Up" to Herbie Hancock's "Rockit." Fun in the same way that Nouvelle Vague's bossa nova new wave was.
Euros Childs -- The Miracle Inn (Wichita Recordings)
Nearly 15 years after founding Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Childs issues his third solo CD packed with a poppy record that opens by conjuring the British Invasion in "Over You" and ends with "Go Back Soon," an acoustic folk number. In the middle there's the rollicking piano pop of "Horseriding" and "Ali Day" and four other tunes. Childs is quietly making great records. Let's hope Americans start paying attention.
Ian Ball -- Who Goes There (Dispensary)
Another solo record, this time a debut one from Gomez front man Ian Ball, who says the record came about accidentally through meeting two other musicians, Will Golden and Phil Krohnengold. The collaboration caused the songs to flow from Ball and after a few sessions, there was a record. The result is a record that is quirkier and at times poppier than most Gomez discs. Frankly, I like it more than I like most Gomez records.
Thomas Dybdahl -- Science (Recall)
The Scandinavian invasion and the hippie folk revival are both in full swing (even Vanity Fair has a photo spread on the "new folk" with photos of Banhart and company), so Dybdahl is well placed for success. But don't try to pigeonhole this Norwegian singer and songwriter. Sure, he slings an acoustic guitar, but "Science" has some beats, too, so if you're looking for folk pop you can dance to, look no further. "How It Feels" has an ethereal melancholy sound that is especially alluring and "Something Real" swings. Later on, "U" has an almost jazzy feel.
Oz Mutantes -- Barbican Theatre, London, 2006 (Luaka Bop)
I imagine that seeing Brazil's legendary and much-ballyhooed (by everyone from Kurt Cobain to David Byrne) psychedelic rock outfit must be an experience. Luckily, Byrne's label has now documented the experience of Oz Mutantes reunion gig (after a 30-year hiatus) on a two-CD set that blends loopy rock with Brazilian sounds, African percussion and more. That the group covers Francoise Hardy's "Le Premier Bonheur du Jour" suggests just how wide ranging and international its sound is. The aforementioned Devendra Banhart guests on "Bat Macumba."
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss -- Raising Sand (Rounder)
I had extremely high hopes for this unusual pairing of two distinctive voices, so maybe it could never live up. After all, with its mix of left of center blues and American roots tracks bolstered by, especially, Krauss' amazing pipes, if this is as "mediocre" as music got, the world would be in great shape. Sam Phillips' "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" is emotive and the two voices interweave deftly on Gene Clark's "Through the Morning, Through the Night," with its George Jones-y melody. It's a good record with an interesting take on American music -- thanks surely in part to producer T-Bone Burnett and guitarist Marc Ribot -- but I keep waiting for "Raising Sand" to really grab me by the neck and shake, it might still happen.
Robert Wyatt -- Comicopera (Domino)
Wyatt is one of those guys that it seems every musician respects and most fans -- except serious music lovers - don't know. His music is symphonic, and he never shies away from taking chances (here, he covers an Italian song, singing it in Italian, and wrote music for a Garcia Lorca poem which he sings in Spanish and he covers a Carlos Puebla tune in Spanish, too). Paul Weller guests, but so does Brian Eno, to give you an idea of Wyatt's open mindedness and the breadth of his admirers. This engaging, but not always easily accessible record has pop like "Stay Tuned" and almost incidental music like "Pastafari." It's well worth digging deep into the treasures of "Comicopera."
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