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Playlist, January 2012

January 1, 2012
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Tom Waits Bad as Me (Anti)
On his first studio album in seven years, Waits returns to compact, tuneful song shapes that echo the sounds of noisy streets, smoky nightclubs, and lonely rooms. You could call these “retro” Waits songs, but they still reach so far beyond the musical and conceptual scope of most artists—Bad as Me puts a fine point on his genius as a vocalist, songwriter, and sonic inventor. Frequent collaborator Marc Ribot adds some beautiful guitar work, as does guest star Keith Richards. Don''t miss the raucous, Screamin'' Jay Hawkins-style “Chicago” or the painfully beautiful ballad “Kiss Me.”?
—Barbara Schultz

Plaid Scintilli (Warp)
The opening notes of Scintilli recall—egad!—a Goldberg Variation by Bach, not a squiggly electronic doodle by longtime English pranksters Plaid. The duo “calculate that each beat has taken approximately one day to construct,” and that''s more like it. Soon enough, Scintilla is awash in demented children''s-game-show versions of the macabre sample tricks and loony dance giggles we''ve come to expect from this totally daft electronic duo.
—Ken Micallef

Jesse Rose Made for the Night (Made to Play)
UK-born, now LA-based Jesse Rose, aka “Made to Play,” established himself as a cheeky DJ/producer informed by hip-house and deep techno. Now he launches a new party brand with a husky two-disc set. Mixed for the Night condenses various artists'' deep, jackin'', tech-tinged house toying with clipped grooves and tweaked resonance–4/4 funk infused with soul without neglecting the sole. Produced for the Night highlights a decade of Rose''s wonky remixes and knobby edits–swollen bass bombs, gnarled synths, nervy palpitations.
—Tony Ware

T Bone Burnett T Bone Burnett Presents the Speaking Clock Revue (Shout Factory)
The concert documented on this album took place in October 2010 at New York City''s Beacon Theatre; the show and album benefit the Participant Foundation''s music-education funding. With just one song from each of the performers—Elvis Costello, Gregg Allman, Neko Case, Elton John with Leon Russell, Karen Elson, Jeff Bridges, John Mellencamp, more—it''s barely enough to whet your appetite. But every track is superb, no-holding-back, in-the-moment real music for an excellent cause.
—Barbara Schultz

Arco Iris Amina Alaoui (ECM)
Impassioned and sensual, Moroccan singer Amina Alaoui interprets Andalusian classical music with a supporting cast of daf, violin, oud, flamenco guitar, mandolin, and percussion. Arco Iris sets the mind on a journey of arid climes, opulent surroundings, and the constant tug of mystery, time, and stillness. Her voice is lush and dusky, winding serpentine-like among the sparse instrumentation. Alaoui''s fifth album, Arco Iris is a feast for the senses.
—Ken Micallef

They Might Be Giants Album Raises New and Troubling Questions (Idlewild)
Is it best to describe the almost 30-year career of They Might be Giants as weirdly prolific or prolifically weird? The latest addition to their huge discography features mostly extras from their recent Join Us sessions, along with other rarities that will please fans young and old. There is a ridiculous cover of “Tubthumping” (“I get knocked down!”) and a re-release of the classically silly (or is it profound?) “Particle Man” with a horn section replacing the original keys. 
—Bill Amstutz

The Barr Brothers The Barr Brothers (Secret City)
Led by brothers Brad (guitar, keys, vocals) and Andrew (drums, percussion) Barr, this group melds a bit of the technical tinkering of Wilco with Delta blues-style riffs and rhythms, and soft, intimate vocals. Rumor has it the Barrs do everything from effecting a classical harp with a fuzz pedal to fashioning instruments from found objects, but they also leave enough quiet space. Highlights are the lovely “Beggar in the Morning” and the Blind Willie Johnson song “Lord, I Just Can''t Keep From Crying.”
—Barbara Schultz

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