Popular music reviews

Friday, July 11, 2014

iMusic: Summer Flashback

For a while there, it looked like Canadian singer/songwriter Loreena McKennit might become as trendy as Enya. The similarities in their Celtic-influenced musical styles certainly made them worthy of comparison. McKennitt did have some hits (although not as many as Enya), earning her a devoted following and a reason to release a compilation such as The Journey So Far: The Best of Loreena McKennitt (UMe/QR). Drawing on songs from her 1990s period, when she was at her most popular, from albums including The Mask and the Mirror, The Visit and The Book of Secrets, the collection features “The Mummer’s Dance,” “The Mystic’s Dream” and “The Lady of Shallot,” to mention a few. The deluxe edition includes a second disc containing highlights from McKennitt’s 2012 Midsummer Night’s tour, recorded in Germany.

Friday, June 27, 2014

iMusic: Center Stage

Fun Home, lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s universally lauded graphic novel, might not seem like the most ideal candidate for a stage musical. The autobiographical story is about Bechdel’s coming out in college, her childhood growing up in her family’s funeral home (hence the title Fun Home), and her complex relationships with her parents, particularly her bisexual father Bruce who committed suicide. But leave it to Jeanine Tesori, who co-wrote new songs for the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie and collaborated with Tony Kushner on Caroline, Or Change, to bring it to fruition, with book writer and lyricist Lisa Kron. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated Fun Home: Original Cast Recording (PS Classics) features Tony-winning actor Michael Cerveris as Bruce, Tony-nominee Judy Kuhn as Alison’s mother Helen, and three actresses as the lead character, identified as Small Alison (Sydney Lucas), Medium Alison (Alexandra Socha) and Alison (Beth Malone). To the credit of all involved, Fun Home maintains the humor and tragedy of the book, honoring the original material and potentially expanding the audience for both the book and the show.

History is about to be made at New York City's world-famous Carnegie Hall, as an accomplished violinist and vocalist, Tona Brown, becomes the first African-American transgender woman to perform at the storied Weill Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25, during LGBT Pride Week. Ms. Brown, whose notable achievements include singing the National Anthem for President Barack Obama, as La Principessa in the opera Suor Angelica, and her upcoming role as Delia in the new Netflix series City Lightz, will headline a truly unforgettable evening as part of the many celebrations of LGBT Pride in New York City.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

iMusic: What’s in a Name?

Turning up the beats on the Rapor EP (Vagrant), Active Child a.k.a. Pat Grossi follows up his stunning 20111 debut You Are All I See with six songs that expand on the innovative artist’s repertoire. A funkier and more soulful effort, Rapor opens with the spooky rhythms of “She Cut Me.” “Subtle,” featuring Mikky Ekko, combines ’80s synths with a crackling beat to craft one of Active Child’s most accessible pop numbers. Ellie Goulding joins Active Child on the layered “Silhouette,” resulting in first-class heartbreak. “Calling In the Name of Love” also indicates that Active Child has the potential to appeal to a wider audience.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

iMusic: 2 Loud

The White Stripes may have set the bar when it comes to the level of noise made by a duo, but Sleigh Bells raised and then shattered it. On the aptly titled Reign of Terror (Mom + Pop), Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller “push it,” pulling us in, leaving us blissfully bruised. Beginning with the stadium-sized sonic assault of “True Shred Guitar” and the battering ram anthem of “Born To Lose,” Sleigh Bells jangles our nerves, but in a good way. The make or break stomp/clap of “Crush,” the devilish “Demons” and the newfound glory of “You Lost Me” all make this a reign that will ring your bells.

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