Playlist July 2012

August 1, 2012

Here's a compilation of music and DVD reviews from our July 2012 issue. Scroll past the Spotify player, which features a sampling of current or previous tracks (depending on availability) from these artists. (Warning: We put the El-P track at the bottom as it contains explicit lyrics.)


EL-P: CANCER FOR CURE. El-P (indie-rap hero, production genius, Definitive Jux co-founder, original Company Flow member) finally gives us a full-length followup to 2007’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Cancer for Cure is a chunk of pure 24-karat hip-hop gold. With stellar production, quick-witted rap flows, piano (yup), dirty synths, and super-thick bass and drums, C4C defines the word “tight.” “The Jig Is Up,” “Stay Down,” and “True Story” are standouts. C4C is replete with guests, including Killer Mike, Mr. Muthaf***in’ eXquire, and—no joke—Paul Banks of Interpol. El-P drops a key piece of advice in “The Full Retard” that can be easily applied to overall vibe of C4C: “You should pump this s***/like they do in the future.” ( - Lori Kennedy



AHMAD JAMAL: BLUE MOON. Pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal has been a towering presence on the jazz scene since “Poinciana” rocketed radio waves in the late 1950s. Now 81, he returns with the trio-plus-percussion outing Blue Moon, a cascading collection of standards and originals. On songs like “Autumn Rain” and the title track, Jamal surprises with an artful blend of silence, shifting meters, and persistent invention. Quite simply, he’s still one of the most creative musicians on the planet. ( - Jon Regen



CRAIG TABORN: AVENGING ANGEL. Pianist and composer Crag Taborn makes his ECM debut as a leader with the eloquent Avenging Angel. Marrying jazz, classical and avant-garde structures, the album at once reaffirms and re-examines the power of solo piano performance. In Taborn’s hands, a Steinway assumes a myriad of personalities—at times, he even manages to pull near-electronic timbres out of the acoustic beast. Beyond categorization, Avenging Angel is a recorded triumph. ( - Jon Regen



DVD: MIRACLE IN A BOX: A PIANO REBORN (directed by John Korty). Every piano has a story, but the one in this absorbing documentary is particularly inspiring. Upon her death, piano teacher Leone McGowan willed her 1927 Steinway M to be awarded to the winner of a student competition at the music department at UC Berkeley. First, it was painstakingly rebuilt by Callahan Piano Service in Alamada, California. With heartfelt narration by actor John Lithgow, the movie is a celebration of the many lives that a single instrument can touch. ( - Jon Regen



BIG SCIENCE: DIFFICULTY. The formula for Big Science’s sound goes something like this: The Killers plus Interpol plus Temper Trap equals blissful indie rock with sweet synths, echoing choruses, catchy guitar riffs, and energetic bass lines. Difficulty starts mellow with “All the Heat Has Escaped”—a drifting, soothing aural experience. Then it kicks into gear with “American Gravity,” a danceable indie-rock delight. Catchy and fun. ( - Lori Kennedy


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