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Monday, April 5, 2010

4Play: Natalie Merchant, The Bird & the Bee, She & Him, Goldfrapp

Music Kristi Kates Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep - Nonesuch
Former singer for ’80s/’90s band 10,000 Maniacs, Merchant’s first studio album in over five years finds her adapting a variety of 19th and 20th Century American and British poetry into songs of her own. Ogden Nash, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edward Lear are among the poets represented here, in such string-bedecked, Merchant-arranged tracks as the foreign-tinged “The King of China’s Daughter,” the folky “Peppery Man,” and the more poppy “It Makes a Change.” Merchant worked with 125 musicians in a wide range of genres for this set, and her enthusiasm for the project - not to mention her distinctive vocal talent - really shows through.
Monday, April 5, 2010

Africa meets Appalacia

Music Kristi Kates Africa meets Appalachia at the Dennos
By Kristi Kates
Jayme Stone’s Africa to Appalachia CD - on which he collaborated with
Mansa Sissoko – singer, kora player, and a ‘walking encyclopedia of
Malian songs’ – won Best World Music Group at the Canadian Folk Awards
late last year, a high honor for a journey that started with Stone’s
own musical mecca to Africa.
Monday, March 29, 2010

Best New Band: FunDubMentals

Music Rick Coates “Best New Band” the FunDubMentals
By Rick Coates
Sometimes great bands come together when its members are not looking
to form a band. That was the case with the FunDubMentals, the Traverse
City based Reggae/Ska /Dub band that took home our Readers Poll honors
for “Best New Band.” While this was good news in the FunDubMentals
camp, the better news came a week earlier when band member Marc
Alderman was told he would be able to return home.
Monday, March 29, 2010

4Play: Squeeze, Stand, Them Crooked Vultures, DropKick Murphy‘s

Music Kristi Kates Squeeze - ArgyBargy (Deluxe Edition Remastered) - A&M
Originally released in 1980, Squeeze’s ArgyBargy spawned more than a
few now-classic tunes penned by the gifted Difford-Tilbrook team, and
this two-disc remaster does decent justice to the pep and vigor of
these pop songs. The first disc contains the original album, which
includes landmark Squeeze tracks “Another Nail In My Heart” and “If I
Didn’t Love You,” plus bonus tunes and B-sides including “What the
Butler Saw” and “Farfisa Beat.” Disc two adds to the retro fun by
offering up the band’s Hammersmith Odeon show from March, 1980.
Monday, March 29, 2010

Best Solo Performer: Levi Britton

Music Rick Coates Best Solo Performer: Levi Britton
By Rick Coates
If you ask singer/songwriter/guitarist Levi Britton about his life, he
will tell you that he has the best of “three worlds” and soon plans to
have the best of four worlds. Britton took home the Best Solo honor in
this year’s Readers Poll, but despite his win in the solo category
Britton is known for his band work as well. In fact, last week he was
in Chicago rehearsing with his band mates Down The Line for their much
anticipated new release Open The Door. They held a CD release party at
Chicago’s Lincoln Hall and the group is putting the final touches of a
major summer tour.
Monday, March 22, 2010

Berating Bowie

Music Kristi Kates Berating Bowie: Petoskey Professor Picks a Musical Fight
By Kristi Kates
North Central Michigan College Liberal Arts/Social Psychology
Professor Erick Haight is throwing down a musical gauntlet.
Specifically, a musical gauntlet against none other than innovative
50-year rock music veteran and legend David Bowie.
Monday, March 22, 2010

4Play: Madlib, OneRepublic, DJ Shadow, Beanie Segel & Freeway

Music Kristi Kates Madlib - Medicine Show No. 3: Beat Konducta in Africa - Madlib
Medicine Show This is the third in Madlib’s Beat Konducta series, in
which Madlib constructs his own potpourri of remixes, beat tapes, and
other productions into a cohesive listen. The Africa*set pulls quirky
vinyl tracks from the afro-beat, prog-rock, soul, and funk genres,
bringing the listener music from Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Ethiopia,
and the Ivory Coast, among other places. It’s interesting to see
Madlib’s personal stack of vinyl grow throughout his mixmaster
travels, and even more interesting to listen to what he builds out of it.
Monday, March 15, 2010

4Play: Broken Bells, The Courteeners, Monster Movie, Houston Brothers

Music Kristi Kates Broken Bells - Broken Bells - Sony Music
Danger Mouse teams up with The Shins’ James Mercer for this skillful side project band/duo, on which the pair play every instrument on the disc save for the string section. “The Ghost Inside” references Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” beat and pairs it with a snappy high vocal; “Citizen” is all patchwork samples and sharp harmonies; and the more subtle, quieter “Trap Doors” goes more gloom-pop. If you’re a fan of either artist, you’ll find both of their styles sonically reflected here, although the songs themselves are new and eminently interesting.

Monday, March 8, 2010

4Play: Massive Attack, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, MGMT, Free Energy

Music Kristi Kates Massive Attack - Heligoland - V Records
Massive Attack combine a plethora of electronica approaches into their latest disc, so many that perhaps that’s why it took them a half-dozen years to return with a new album. Also abundant are guest vocalists, from Blur/Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn to Hope Sandoval; Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) layers his vocals one over another on “Pray For Rain,” and Portishead’s Adrian Utley guests on guitar on “Saturday...,” which also features vocals from the aforementioned Albarn. And it’s all produced in spare fashion, all the better to showcase the talent.
Monday, March 8, 2010

Uncle Cracker

Music Rick Coates Uncle Kracker Plans to Bring a Smile to Northern Michigan
By Rick Coates
Uncle Kracker returns to Northern Michigan with a “Smile” on his face. He is kicking off the second leg of his tour in support of his latest release Happy Hour this week in Michigan and will perform Saturday night at Ground Zero Nightclub in Traverse City.
Uncle Kracker has a fondness for Northern Michigan; he grew up in Mt. Clemens and has a place up here where he hangs when he is not touring. Best known for collaborations with artists such as Kid Rock and Kenny Chesney, as well as his own hits, such as “Follow Me,” and a cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” Uncle Kracker collaborated this time with another Michigan native singer songwriter JTX on several songs, including the smash hit, “Smile.”
He took time from rehearsing with his band to answer a few questions for the Express.
Monday, March 1, 2010

4Play: Kris Allen, The Almost, Howie Day, Cartel

Music Kristi Kates Kris Allen - Kris Allen - Jive
Small-town Season 8 American Idol winner Allen’s lead single from his
debut album, “Live Like We’re Dying,” may have a great message, but
doesn’t showcase the best Allen has to offer. While some of the tunes
here occasionally stray into sterile Idol-songwriter territory, others
are standouts that indicate the potential of Allen’s talent (not
unlike the vocal stylings of one Jack Johnson), such as the jovial and
well-crafted “Alright With Me” (co-penned with The Fray), the
emotional “Bring It Back,” and “Heartless,” on which he improves on
the Kanye West original.
Monday, March 1, 2010

Claudia Schmidt

Music Kristi Kates Claudia Schmidt’s New Promising Sky
By Kristi Kates
Northern Michigan-based singer-songwriter and Prairie Home Companion favorite Claudia Schmidt opens her latest album, Promising Sky, with a big burst of singing stripped bare - an a capella version of the title track comprised of layered choral harmonies (by Rachael Davis, Seth Bernard, and May Erlewine) that are filled with bright promise, indeed.
“That song was a capella because it was inspired by the South African singing I had heard on a trip there in the previous year,” Schmidt explains.
Monday, February 22, 2010

4Play: Squirrel Nut Zippers, Blockhead, Volcano Choir, Real Estate

Music Kristi Kates Squirrel Nut Zippers - Lost at Sea - Megaforce
Squirrel Nut Zippers sank out of view, for the most part, back in 2000 after the release of Bedlam Ballroom, but now they’re back with their first ever live album, a great move considering that one of their strong suits has always been their live performances. The neo-swing, gypsy jazz band is as full of energy as always, as they groove through 17 lilting, sassy tracks in a spontaneous, peppy performance. Highlights include the jukebox twist of “Prince Nez,” the fidgety quirk of “Bad Businessman,” and, of course, the sassy and sarcastic anti-hit “Hell.”
Monday, February 15, 2010

4Play: The Cranberries, Eels, Findlay Brown, 30 Seconds to Mars

Music Kristi Kates The Cranberries - Bualadh Bos Live - Island
Dolores O’Riordan, brothers Noel and Mike Hogan, and Fergal Lawler make up Irish alt-pop band The Cranberries, who were best known in the mid-’90s. Although the bandmates themselves have moved on to work on other musical projects, this new collection brings together plenty of the band’s best known hits as well as some of their equally-worthy but lesser heard B-sides. The concert itself is recorded fairly well, typical, for the most part, for this sort of live album; the songs were collected from a variety of venues, including Cranberries shows in Toronto (“Forever Yellow Skies”), the Feile Festival (“Dreams”), The Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo (“Promises”), and Live at the Record Plant (“Linger.”)
Monday, February 15, 2010

Puddle of Mudd

Music Rick Coates Troubled waters no problem for Puddle of Mudd
By Rick Coates
When Puddle of Mudd takes the stage Friday night at Ground Zero
Nightclub in Traverse City it will be a reunion of a couple of
survivors. POM performed to a sold-out crowd three years ago at Ground
Zero and both the band and the club have found a way to survive the
challenges they have faced.