The Whitest Boy Alive "Dreams" (Bubbles)
Goes well with a nighttime drive on I-95.
With his 2001 album with Kings of Convenience, bespectled Norwegian indie kid Erlend Oye claimed that "Quiet Is the New Loud." It was a hushed call to arms from a band that wallowed in the low-key, honey-harmonied prettiness of Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel. The delicacy that Oye brought to Kings of Convenience continues in a different vein on this debut from his side project, The Whitest Boy Alive. Formed with three locals in his new home base of Berlin, Whitest Boy traffics in supremely stripped guitar pop equally influenced by new wave and minimalist dance music. So the peppy "Burning" sounds like a lost Cure classic covered by Belle & Sebastian, while the funkier "Golden Cage," with a bass line that references Bernard Edwards' archetypal groove on Chic's "Good Times," could be tweaked by a remixer into proper house. It's a rock band setup guitar, bass, drums, with no synths or sequencers but Whitest Boy Alive remains propulsive and danceable throughout. These aren't Oye's greatest songs, but the presentation and overall sound of "Dreams" is hypnotic and subtly inspiring. *** Mark Richardson
Karen Dalton "In My Own Time" (Light in the Attic Records)
Goes well with mellow moods, Nina Simone and loneliness.
Old school folkie Karen Dalton may be the best blues singer you've never heard. She came of age in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s, strumming her longneck banjo alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Fred Neil, both of whom considered her one of their favorite vocalists, and for good reason. Dalton's husky alto is limited in range, but as mysterious as the darkening sea. She captivates because of her emotional, jazz-inflected singing, which is at once vulnerable and courageous in its risks, often cracking on powerful high notes (but doing so soulfully). Mostly an interpreter of other artists' songs, she draws comparisons to Nina Simone and Billie Holiday not only because she sounds like them, but because of her ability to convey loneliness and carry a familiar song to new heights. If you want to check her out, this is the album to start with; it features great versions of Dino Valenti's moving "Something On Your Mind" and the Richard Manuel nugget "In a Station." Sadly, Dalton died in 1993 after being strung out and homeless for years, never having experienced the recognition she deserved. *** Brent Baldwin
Rolf Lislevand "Nuove musiche" (ECM New Series)
Goes well with Celtic folk music and modern-day baroque fans.
What is baroque music? After listening to Rolf Lislevand's ensemble, the answer is one thing: surprising. This is baroque music, but not the kind you have heard before. Arianna Savall's clear soprano sounds hauntingly like a ghost from the 17th century, free of vibrato and wafting clear above the instruments. But the harmonies that follow typical of Celtic folk music play tricks on the ear, questioning the listener's perceptions of baroque music. It's not old and expected; it is new music. If the Celtic sounds don't convince you that this is not your father's baroque, then perhaps the flamenco rhythms will. The works of Kapsberger, Pellegrini, Piccinini, Narvaez, Frescobaldi and Gianoncelli are brought to life, not by musicians trying to play the music as authentically as possible, but by players who can't separate the past from the present. Because of this, the music is played more honestly. After all, no person alive today can separate himself from influences of music since the baroque time period. Lislevand searches for contact points between 17th-century music and 21st-century performance styles. And based on this recording, he's succeeded. *** Chantal Panozzo
"Borat: The Soundtrack" (Downtown/Atlantic)
Goes well with ice cream trucks and spastic disco dancing.
It's official. "Borat" mania is sweeping the country, leaving in its wake millions of fans quoting goofy signature lines like "wah wah wee wa" "very niiiice" and "high fiiive." For people who can't wait to own the DVD of this modern comedy classic, you can check out the soundtrack, which functions as a worthy sampler of upbeat, brassy Balkan music (not from Kazakhstan itself). Like its namesake, the album is bubbling with propulsive energy, from the tuba-heavy take on "Born to Be Wild" to polka-esque, manically modern gypsy disco from the likes of Kocani Orkestar and Esma Redzepova (from Macedonia); Fanfare Ciocarlia, Stefan De La Barbulesti and Mahala Rai Banda (from Romania); and Goran Bregovic (from Bosnia and Herzegovina); as well as Borat's own hilariously offensive live version of "In My Country There Is a Problem (Throw the Jew Down the Well)" with loud crowd participation. There are a few snippets of memorable dialogue included that will remind you of spitting up popcorn including the immortal frat boy advice "Never NEVER let a woman make you who you are" but not so much dialogue that it ruins the flow of the music. Also included are five minutes of video outtakes from the movie that are great success. **** B.B.
Local BinMouthbreather (Self-released)
Goes well with former Richmond hardcore bands and road rage.
It's not uncommon for Richmond bands to call it quits, only to resurface later under a different name and lineup. Mouthbreather is the latest incarnation from members of respected Richmond screamo/hardcore bands Wow! Owls and The Setup, and is not just a clever name for a dumb kid with his mouth wide open. This six-song demo, available now for download on www.wearethelabel.com, delivers extremely catchy lyrics along with a hyped-up guitar section. What's amazing about this five-piece is that it delivers a captivating sound without neglecting the noisy, clamorous chords that make the band so entertaining. The opening chorus ("The first thing I said to you / is f you / you said you too" ) is enough to make you grin and sing along. But take heed, I got dirty looks from at least two people in Shafer Court when I tried it.
Mouthbreather hasn't revamped its genre on this demo. Many of the songs sound similar to the members' previous bands, which is fine. After all, vocalist John Martin's screeching provides bursts of emotion similar to oh, wait his previous band The Setup. Like they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. **** Scott Whitener