Thursday, July 30, 2015

CD Review: Zoya's 'The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room'

The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room
Zoya Mohan Music

With a birthplace in India and a current home base in California, Zoya brings diverse vocals and eclectic instrumentation from around the contemporary world on her latest venture into quaint and quirky pop music on The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room.  The ten-track release possesses a hint of South Asian influences with neo-classical strings, varied percussion, and wind instrumentation, while the other half of the influences stem from European or North American folk, roots, and pop.

“What’s Done Is Done” opens with a soft, keyboard medley, swishy percussion, and a flute before Zoya’s slightly husky vocals commence in a sort of jazz standard arrangement.  A few cymbals crash and a snare drum add to the percussive effects.  The drums, flute, cymbals, keyboards, and strings add to the full sound.  Though, the track is only two-minutes long.  Still, the song is impressive and Zoya’s voice is enticing.

“Swim” opens with an atmospheric wash and jazzy sax with scintillating, vibraphone sounds and Zoya’s jazzy, slightly R&B vocals in a down-tempo vein.  The sounds are jazzy, urban, dreamy, and intriguing with influences mainly stemming from an edgy jazz or trip-hop foundation. Zoya’s back-up vocalists are equally amazing by filling in the melodies and rhythms.  The jaunty song brings out smooth and sultry jazz influences indicative of a Colombian or Brazilian origin. Importantly, Zoya’s eclectic arrangements make the song stand out no matter what genre it may fit in.

“Hold On” begins with a few guitar strums, a sweeping vibraphone melody, breathy flute or clarinet, and Zoya’s achingly-beautiful vocals.  The flute sounds are rather vibrant throughout, while the acoustic guitar rhythm sets the base for the vibraphone sounds with are very dreamy. Zoya’s vocals are not too unlike that of Zero 7.  The four-and-a-half-minute composition contains jazzy improvisation the last minute of the song.

“She Was” begins with a jaunty, acoustic guitar medley that is very organic and earthy, while a rustling percussive sound and string slide begins the vocal portion of the song.  Zoya’s vocals are rather theatrical amidst the diverse guitar stylings, various percussion, and slightly Middle Eastern and flamenco-tinged arrangements.  The jazzy, back-up vocals are a perfect backdrop to Zoya’s vocals, as the song matures into an instrumental frenzy before four-minutes into the song. The song ends with a lighter mix of vocals, airy sounds, and clicking percussion.   

“The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room” begins with a raw, acoustic guitar melody with sounds of kids playing early on in the song.  Zoya’s vocals are rather airy and poetic.  A variety of string and horn sounds lend a jazzy substance to the mix.  The five-minute song is poignant, delicate, and intricate in a more structured manner than anything composed by Regina Spektor. At any rate, the title track is full of edgy percussion, Middle Eastern-like instrumental arrangements, and a theatrical vein that is rather chaotic (in a good way) by the end of the song.

Zoya’s new album provides listeners with a sassy and sensual voice that seemingly changes contemporary pop and world music for the better.  The down-tempo, jazz-laden, and R&B-esque vocalizations are poetic and theatrical.  The instrumental arrangements are rather short, but diverse.  For example, there are various wind instrument sounds, vibraphone additions, and sporadic strings that are performed in non-traditional manners, which showcase Zoya’s creative edge throughout.  This is not a pop, rock, classical, new age, urban, or artsy album.  Zoya’s new work is rather indescribable, but it incorporates the vocal similarities of Katie Melua and Zero 7 with the instrumental aptitude of an eclectic or alternative songstress yearning for something more.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CD Review: Kuku's 'Ballads and Blasphemy'

Ballads and Blasphemy
Buda Musique

Steeped in Yoruban traditions and Western arrangements, Kuku creates an engaging and thought-provoking mix of Afro-pop gold and roots music. The famous Tony Allen lends his talents on "Waya" and "Owo." The album revolves around Kuku's own agnosticism when it comes to religion, which is relatively pronounced here. Still, the melodies and rhythms are great and never boring. The sparkling guitar tones and heady percussion suggest West African influences with a little Afro-Latin action, too. Nevertheless, the album shines on all cylinders--even if you cannot understand the lyrics or song origins. "La Derniere Fois" is rather bluesy with languid vocals and steady percussion. Some of the songs are in English, but Kuku breaks language barriers here. This is another high-quality release from Buda Musique! ~ Matthew Forss

Saturday, July 25, 2015

CD Review: Patricia Vonne's 'Viva Bandolera'

Patricia Vonne
Viva Bandolera
Bandolera Records

Patricia Vonne's emotive Latin folk and rock music takes on new heights with soaring vocals, multi-instrumental repertoires, and a pop-edge cement the deal with Viva Bandolera. Patricia's vocals are a blend of Lila Downs and Shakira throughout. The song structures are more varied than Shakira, but rooted in the Tejano, Latin-American rock and folk of Mexico's Lila Downs. Seventeen tracks in all. Patricia brings more than basic Tex-Mex fanfare here. In fact, there are swirling melodies and rhythms with passionate and evocative vocals representing a deep, Latin-American connection, as well as American pop and rock constructions. The Spanish songs are back by great instrumentation and arrangements that do not disappoint. Get it today! ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CD Review: Honeybird's 'Out Comes Woman'

Out Comes Woman
Duckhead Green Music

Honeybird incorporates a variety of world, jazz, urban, classical, and pop elements on Out Comes Woman. The fourteen tracks are uniquely-named and equally-enthralling from a musical perspective. Some of the titles include, "TMBLGBT," "Ex-Spearmint," and "Bi Dead Chickens." Some of the vocals are arranged in a scat jazz setting, while others are set in a theatrical or artsy context with whimsical instrumentation and short or fast beats. This is not a power pop album or rock album, for that matter. Instead, it is filled with poignant melodies, diverse vocals, and varied instrumentation arranged in delicate ways. The vocals are often reduced in more of a spoken word or poetic delivery--especially on "Wanted In Wanted Out." At any rate, Honeybird creates some sweet tunes for anyone looking for something different. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Donna De Lory's 'Universal Light'

Donna De Lory
Universal Light

The contemporary kirtan and dance princess, Donna De Lory, brings life to songs inspired from the heavens above on Universal Light. This album contains a dozen songs with remixes from some of the hottest DJ's and maestros around, including Carmen Rizzo, Atom Smith, Drumspyder, Willie Lewis, David Starfire, Freq Nasty, and Dub Kirtan Allstars. "Gayatri Mantra," "The Offering," "Praying For Love," "Jai Mata Kali," "Om Namah Shivayah," and "Luciana" are more dance-centered tracks. There is a trip-hop-infused version of the Christian classic, "Amazing Grace," while "Om Tare Tuttare," "Amma," and "By Your Grace" are more down-tempo and kirtan-influenced with lighter melodies and rhythms. Donna's vocals are bright, clear, and most of all--universal! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Gao Hong and Friends' 'Pipa Potluck'

Gao Hong and Friends
Pipa Potluck

Pipa, a Chinese plucked lute, is the central component of the new album, Pipa Potluck, by Gao Hong and several guest musicians. This is where Asian folk meets American roots, bluegrass, and classical music. The instrumental album begins with a rousing bluegrass number, "Cluck Old Hen," which features the banjo of Alison Brown, the fiddle by Matt Combs, and bass by Garry West. "Friendship" is more of a contemplative Arabic concoction with oud, percussion, and of course, the pipa. The pipa and guitar complement each other quite nicely on the excellent "Golden Season." Likewise, the slack key guitar by George Kahumoku, Jr. and the pipa create another friendly and enjoyable medley on "Mosquito Song." The bluegrass and folk stylings come back on "Sally Johnson." The serene "Lutes Around The World" finishes the album with poignant strings and delightful melodies. Fans of strings, lutes, Chinese folk, neo-classical, new age, bluegrass, Arabic, folk, Americana, and world music in general will love to sample Pipa Potluck. Remember to leave room on your plate for additional listens! ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CD Review: Daby Toure's 'Amonafi'

Daby Toure 

Daby Toure comes from Mauritania--a Saharan country in North Africa. However, his music is trans-African and even trans-global in nature. It is filled with catchy Afro-pop hooks from the get-go. He achieved worldwide fame with Stereo Spirit and Diam--and now Amonafi continues to celebrate his unique voicings and guitar styles. Many of the songs build upon earlier song styles on previous albums, but Daby creates all new music that is slightly different overall. There are a few very characteristic Daby Toure songs here, including "Oma," "Emma," "Little Song," "If You," "Debho," and "Soninko." Amonafi, which means, 'once upon a time,' in the Wolof language, is a great analogy to what Daby does best: tell stories in an infectious, musical pattern with diverse vocal ranges and scintillating guitar-work. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Vishten's 'Terre Rouge'

Terre Rouge
Les Editions Du Corfus

The folksy trio, Vishten, hails from Prince Edward Island, Canada, and thrill audiences everywhere with their unique blend of Francophone folk, fiddle tunes, ballads, and roots music. Some of the more instrumental tunes are quite suitable for dancing and foot-stomping, while the vocal tunes incorporate a little pop and roots for a truly French-Canadian or European-infused musical ride. Besides vocals, whistles, mandolins, piano, bodhran, jaw harp, guitar, accordion, and bass synth instruments fill in the repertoire. The rousing melodies are ideal for relaxing, dancing, and meditating upon the wondrous skills of Vishten. Fans of Heidi Talbot, Karine Polwart, Varttina, and fellow-countrywomen--Natalie MacMaster and April Verch--will find happiness in the tunes on Terre Rouge. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Dolomites' 'Japan Years Volumes I, II, & III'

The Dolomites
Japan Years Volumes I, II, & III [3-CD]
Alien Arts Alliance

The Dolomites, led by Stevhen Koji Baianu, create stirring melodies and rhythms caught between the past and the future by incorporating a mix of influences from Japanese enka to gypsy, Balkan-inspired tunes, and Latin-American cumbia. Confused yet? Need not be. The group, which consists of nearly 70 members from different areas of the globe, celebrates the best of their work in a three-volume EP set comprised of certain years, such as 2006-2009, 2007-2010, and 2006-2010. Each album contains five tracks for approximately twenty-minutes an album. There is a mix of music on each album, but all of it draws upon electronica, cumbia, folk, roots, Balkan, Gypsy, neo-classical, enka, horn-powered ballads, and quirky, percussive renderings throughout. Stevhen's vocals are ruddy and charismatic with similarities to darker Russian folk groups or even ErsatzMusika from Germany. Moreover, the album art should clue you in that this is going to be an interesting ride. For instance, the Jamiroquai or Batman-influenced silhouette artwork on the back of the albums should alert everyone that this is a unique production. Though, some of the vocals are a little rough, out of tune, or drunk-like in nature, but that does not make it a terrible listen. In fact, anyone seeking unique, world music with numerous geographic influences will find The Dolomites solid as a rock (pun intended). ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Expanders' 'Hustling Culture'

The Expanders
Hustling Culture
Easy Star Records

Hailing from California with a sound from Jamaica, The Expanders expand their horizons (and ours!) with their new reggae-infused, Hustling Culture. The roots-influenced, rock and reggae beats grace all the tracks on this urban and contemporary-inspired release. The deep bass beats and syncopation are iconic in reggae music from Jamaica and contemporary reggae music from around the world. A dozen tunes of reggae bliss blast from the album with soothing beats, diverse percussion, and great vocals that do not miss a step. The upbeat and catchy ballad, "Piece Of Love," is a reggae anthem worthy of global praise and multiple listens. The laid-back, syncopated beats of "People Business" showcases a lighter side of reggae. Overall, The Expanders are very talented and do not have trouble creating beautiful songs that will stand the test of time. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Afro-Caribbean Party'

Various Artists
Afro-Caribbean Party

Putumayo releases another gem of a recording and this time they celebrate the music of Afro-Caribbean lands for their aptly-titled, Afro-Caribbean Party. The new album contains a cast of ten different musicians hailing from Martinique, Jamaica, Haiti, and Cuba. You will hear the Cape Verde and New Orleans jazz-inspired medley of Kali, rolling reggae melodies by Clinton Fearon, jazzy ska by Ska Cubano and Wesli, Afro-Latin dance by Michel Blaise, Latin jazz from Asere, Mandingo reggae with Famara, island rhythms from Jan Sebon and Kazak International, Afro-Latin jazz and folk with a classic tone by Chispa Labori, and mostly instrumental Bahamian folk music from Fred Ferguson & Grafitti. The diverse musical line-up showcases a good overview of typical Afro-Caribbean examples, but it is in no way complete or covers strictly traditional music from the above-mentioned regions. Still, it is a vibrant and dance-worthy album that runs a little short (38:42), but it makes up for it with repeated listens. Plus, a refreshing Caribbean punch recipe is included. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Tina Malia's 'Bridge To Vallabha'

Tina Malia
Bridge To Vallabha

Tina Malia discovered the great mantras of South Indian devotional music just before working with Jai Uttal's Pagan Love Orchestra. Falling in love with Sanskrit mantras, Tina has released four previous albums covering different aspects of mantra music. The latest offering, Bridge To Vallabha, contains a host of vocalists, including Karnamrita Dasi, Peia, Donna DeLory, Heather Wertheimer, Jai-Jagdeesh, Sasha Rose, Al Torre, and a few others. In addition, Tina is not only a vocalist, but a skilled musician on various guitars, Rhodes, synths, vibraphone, charangon, and percussion. The rather symphonic, spacious, and awe-inspiring songs bring in cello, sarangi, lap steel, bass, tabla, piano, and shaker for a more textured result. The music is not as dance or urban-oriented as Wah! or Donna DeLory, but the end result is still impressive. There are mostly Sanskrit chants throughout, but a nod to Hebrew and Native American influences are present on two separate tracks. At any rate, Tina's vocals are atmospheric, light, and brilliant--all in the same breath. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Elida Almeida's 'Ora Doci Ora Marcos'

Elida Almeida
Ora Doci Ora Marcos

Elida Almeida's beautiful vocals electrify the music on Ora Doci Ora Marcos. The Cape Verde-native brings us thirteen songs of inner joy for a truly enjoyable journey into the traditional, yet contemporary, music from the islands. There are plenty of acoustic guitars, piano, percussion, bass, and ethnic grooves  that combine Portuguese folk with Afro-Latin rhythms and melodies. The soulful songs are very entertaining and diverse, but always memorable--in a good way. Elida's vocals are timeless and very moving. The vocals are especially outstanding on "Nhu Santiago," "Di Mi Ku Bo," "Mar Sagrado," "Djam Nkrel Pa Mi," and others. The upbeat music of "Txiku Branku" showcases Elida's creative vocals and dance-worthy, Cape Verde-beat elements. Fans of neo-classical, folk, Latin, Portuguese, Cape Verde, Afro-Latin, and island music will love Elida's latest effort. ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, July 13, 2015

CD Review: David Correa's 'New Moon'

David Correa
New Moon
BajaTSR Records

David Correa is a very talented Spanish guitar player from California with a knack for flamenco, rumba, and folk song structures over a fifty-minute medley of heavenly sounds in an instrumental arrangement. However, "Tierra Roja" is the only track with vocals, which are provided by David himself. The tunes are not just Spanish guitar tunes--they are complex creations of musical delight backed by a slew of instruments, including bass, palmas, drums, congas, bongo, cajon, darbuka, udu, timbale, violin, and other acoustic guitars. The Spanish guitar is the lead instrument on this album. The melodies ebb-and-flow with a calming influence throughout. The plaintive, yet up-beat musical tone is refreshing and relaxing. Fans of Matthew Montfort and Lawson Rollins will love David Correa's latest venture. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Shankar Tucker's 'Filament'

Shankar Tucker
Shrutibox Music

Shankar Tucker's new album, Filament, brings together neo-classical stylings, Hindustani classical music, and Western traditions in a contemporary context for both voice and instrument. Shankar is a clarinetist, but also adds vocals, guitarist, keyboardist, pianist, and percussionist to his list of talents. The wildly effervescent clarinet on "Chal Chal Sakhi" is especially intriguing, along with the vocals of Ankita Joshi. The heavily-laden cast of musicians on "Aa Re Chanda" brings out the classical, contemporary dance, and Indian music across form different forms: alaap, exposition, improvisation, and tillana. The vocals of Vijay Prakash on "Dil Hai Namazi" are very serene and ballad-like. The song is backed by Shankar's clarinet with tabla, cello, drums, keyboards, and guitar for a more modern arrangement. The more modern "Kashti" contains all the great tabla rhythms, percussion, and clarinet, but it adds the sweet vocals of Nikhita Gandhi for a truly remarkable result. Overall, Filament turns out to be the real-life thread that bridges the musical gap between the East and the West. ~ Matthew Forss    

CD Review: Toto La Momposina's 'Tambolero'

Toto La Momposina
Real World

Colombia's Toto La Momposina has done for Colombia what Cesaria Evora did for the Cape Verdes--bring vibrant, traditional music to the indigenous peoples, as well as people and cultures beyond their respective country's borders. Spanning nearly sixty-years in the musical realm, Toto La Momposina brings together the ethnic influences of African, Indian, and Spanish roots for a re-imagined hour of music originally released in 1993 as La Candela Viva. My first taste of Toto La Momposina's music began in 2000 with Pacanto (World Village). The same musical styles are present, but Tambolero is more rhythmic, dynamic, and percussion-friendly. There are dance-worthy tunes throughout. The fusion of traditional South American and Latin American instrumentation and melodies makes this one stand-out from 'typical' Latin or Spanish releases. A dozen tracks grace the album with tons of traditional elements and vocal gems. There are airy flutes on "Curura" and rapid hand-claps on "Gallinacito." Other attributes include heavy percussion, poignant ballads, and mesmerizing and complex melodies--which are also quite timeless. Fans of tropical, folk, traditional Spanish, Latin, South American, and Colombian music will be fascinated by the colorful tunes of Toto La Momposina's Tambolero. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

CD Review: Jeff Oster's 'next'

Jeff Oster
Retso Records

Jeff' Oster is a very accomplished and revered trumpet and flugelhorn player. On next, which is purposefully-lower-cased, Jeff presents us with twelve unique gifts--gifts of music where each track is new and delightfully-inviting. The instrumental album contains a few spoken word lines, but that is it. The music is very relaxing, jazz-centered, and new age brilliant. In some cases, the percussive beat incorporates horns, guitars, piano, and other instruments. The title track, "Next," is a great introduction to the album with a rousing beat, swishy percussion, a jazzy vein, and sultry horn punctuated with crystal, clear keyboard tones. "Night Train To Sofia" begins with a sultry beat, atmospheric washes, horn accompaniment, and background voices that fill the instrumental track with Bulgarian-inspired choral vocals. "Half A Cookie" opens with atmospheric sounds, jazzy horns, light percussion, and a steady, new age beat with bright piano infusions and spacious soundscapes. "Heroes" is a triumphant horn tune with upbeat percussion in true Oster-fashion. All in all, Jeff brings in a talented group of musicians, producers, and talents, including Nile Rodgers, Bernard Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Tony Levin, Michael Manring, Will Ackerman, Todd Boston, Shambhu, Carl Weingarten, Philip Aaberg, Catherine Marie Charlton, Ricky Kej, Bob Ludwig, Tom Eaton, and everyone at the great Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, USA. Fans of new age, jazz, instrumental, lounge, and atmospheric music will love it. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Song Reviews: Alpine Camp's ''Regrets of A Cosmic Mountaineer" and "Seven Miles"

The Alpine Camp
Songs: "Regrets of A Cosmic Mountaineer" and "Seven Miles"

The Alpine Camp is a musical duo that comprises the work of Chris Bell and Charles Etienne. Chris is the primary guitarist and vocalist, while Charles is a pianist and vocalist. The duo brings in Jeff Stella on bass, Shad Wilhelm on drums, Bob Hamilton on banjo, and Jamison Hollister on lap steel. "Regrets of a Cosmic Mountaineer" opens with whining lap steel, uppity piano  melodies, rootsy percussion, and old-time folk elements wrapped around a catchy chorus with fast vocals and banjo stylings caught amid a roots and rock vein. The sub-three-minute track ends with a repetitive vocal line and guitar arrangement in a folksy context without any issues. "Seven Miles"  opens with a contemplative banjo tune with down-tempo drums and percussion amid jazz-standard and blues vocals in a classic R&B set-up. This seems to be executed in a very classic manner with a big nod to Americana tunes coming out in the 1960's and 70's. Though, as a completely original song, it stands alone with a complex categorization somewhere between folk, roots, rock, jazz, blues, and pop standard styles. The diverse stylings are still commendable and enjoyable throughout the above-mentioned tracks. 5 stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

CD Review: Desert Dwellers' 'The Great Mystery'

Desert Dwellers
The Great Mystery
Black Swan Sounds

Amani Friend and Treavor Moontribe are Desert Dwellers that bring out the best in world rhythms, dance, electronica, chill, and down-tempo. The California duo amass an onslaught of atmospheric blurbs, washes, and arrangements that combine with world rhythms, voices, and styles that create a stellar musical result. There are some dance-worthy tunes here, but a lot of world percussion in parts keeps everything rather chilled. The upbeat, electronic sounds and beats creates a moving thriller or suspense film result that could be used on a film. Also, the music is relaxed enough in some places that allows it to work just as well in a down-tempo or lounge format ideal for relaxing, studying, or related activities. The ten tracks provide a diverse selection of tunes, sounds, and emotions that will satisfy everyone's inner psyche. The Great Mystery is not so mysterious, but it challenges the mind, body, and spirit with delectable sounds that nourish the soul. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Taraf de Haidouks' 'Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts'

Taraf de Haidouks
Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts
Crammed Discs

The iconic, Gypsy music band from Romania, Taraf de Haidouks, releases yet another glorious album of European and Turkish-infused tunes with a bit of Romanian pizzazz and Balkan candor. The fourteen, dizzying tunes feature the best in Gypsy strings, wind instruments, percussion, and other indelible musical attributes that are top-notch. There are instrumental portions, but this is not an instrumental album. The vocals are very straight-forward, earthy, and neo-classical. The jaunty rhythms are what you would expect from a group of this caliber. Every song is like a mini-party that is full of high energy and nostalgic embellishments. The track titles are translated in English and Romanian on the album. The liner notes contain English and French translations of song meanings. Overall, fans of Gypsy music should already know about Taraf de Haidouks, but if not, this would be an excellent introduction to the band. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Chico Trujillo's 'Reina De Todas Las Fiestas'

Chico Trujillo
Reina De Todas Las Fiestas
Barbes Records

Chilean cumbia, pop, and rock maestros, Chico Trujillo, bring out the inner dance in all of us when the percussion, guitars, horns, and vocals come out on their latest release, Reina De Todas Las Fiestas, which roughly translates to 'Queen Of All Feasts.' Well, feast your ears on these guys. There are some great South American rhythms here, such as the uppity "Alturas" with pan flute type sounds and steady percussion and a great beat. "Chatito" is another great tune with bouncy bass, heavy percussion, and a playful melody with loads of horn sounds and keyboard sounds. There are nine tracks, which span the gamut from Latin jazz, cumbia, pop, rock, Latin beat, South American pop, and neo-soul wanderings. Chico Trujillo brings out the best in cumbia beats. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: SLV's 'This Kind'

This Kind

SLV is Sandra Lilia Velasquez and the lead singer for the Latin band, Pistolera. SLV incorporates the work of Jordan Scannella from the electronic music group, Tortured Soul, as well as Nick Zammuto from an another electronic band. Is the music Latin, electronic, pop, or rock? Well, This Kind is special, because it includes musical styles that are rather undefinable. The influence is pop, while electronica leanings fill in the rest of the sound. "Limits" and "Situation" are an excellent example of pop/rock deliciousness with catchy melodies and great vocals. However, there are even reggae-type rhythms, new age orchestrations, and South American contemporary elements--notably from Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina. Importantly, this is not a traditional album, but an album with modern elements with light ethnic ties. Still, SLV shines with great rhythms, sounds, and melodies that are rather fluid and emotive. Think of Katie Melua meets Ceu. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Tipsy Oxcart's 'Upside Down'

Tipsy Oxcart
Upside Down

Balkan music from Brooklyn? Yes, indeed. The instrumental ensemble creates dance-friendly tunes with lively percussion, trumpets, baritone/alto/tenor sax, trombone, accordion, violin, electric bass, and drums. Though, some of the songs are more contemplative and serene, a majority of the tracks are upbeat, edgy, and full of high-energy. "Homecoming" contains a Balkan-beat that is reminiscent of South American cumbia, but in a Balkan form. The frenzied "Tutti Frutti" is a rousing track with blaring horns, bubbly bass, and punchy drum beats throughout. There are eleven tracks in all. With track titles as diverse as "Fax Mission," "Honey Dripper," "Tipska," "Bone Dance," and others, Upside Down will astonish you with their uncanny rhythms and contemporary sounds in pure, Balkan music form. ~ Matthew Forss