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CYRO BAPTISTA & BEAT THE DONKEY 5/27, manifest; 5/28, HOTHOUSE Cyro Baptista’s list of credits as a sideman starts with Geri Allen and ends with John Zorn, with stops at Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, Paul Simon, and Caetano Veloso, to name a few. But I’m even more impressed by what the […]

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DAGONS 5/21, HIDEOUT With the best of the two-piece bands–from Flat Duo Jets to Mr. Airplane Man–you never feel like something’s missing. I’d add to that short list this California couple (front woman and guitarist Karie Jacobson and drummer Drew Kowalski), whose bangy garage blues is touched by a graceful, moody goth sensibility. On the […]

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RATATAT 5/14, ABBEY PUB The straightforward instrumental dance music on this New York duo’s self-titled debut (on XL/Beggars) sounds very homemade: guitar licks, keyboards, and simple programmed beats. Leaving out the endlessly proliferating layers of percussion that usually come with the territory is a good idea, and I don’t know why more people haven’t tried […]

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EMBER SWIFT 5/7, SCHUBAS This Toronto-based singer-songwriter follows the Ani DiFranco model, with her own label (Few’ll Ignite Sound) and networking Web site. On her eighth album, Disarming, Swift (on acoustic guitar) and longtime collaborator Lyndell Montgomery (electric bass, violin) effectively contain the music’s fierce politics in an easy-to-swallow capsule of deft, frisky, superwhite jazz […]

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AUDREYS 4/30, EMPTY BOTTLE; 5/7, SUBTERRANEAN Though they’ve been at work in Chicago for two years, the Audreys are only now releasing their debut recording, #13 (No Holds Barred). Earlier, unreleased material from the band has been making the rounds–some of it produced by Voidoids guitarist Ivan Julian–but this EP is all new. Deceitfully simple […]

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SOUND ON SURVIVAL 4/22, 23, VELVET LOUNGE In the early 80s alto sax player Marco Eneidi left the Bay Area for New York, where he found his fortune on the free-jazz scene; opportunities to learn from Jimmy Lyons, Bill Dixon, and Cecil Taylor are nothing if not golden, and Eneidi developed a trusting, confident touch […]

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ELF POWER 4/16, SCHUBAS On its sixth album, Walking With the Beggar Boys (Orange Twin), this Athens band dials back its former psychedelic splendor and a sadness flows into the vacated space: songs like “Drawing Flies” and “Empty Pictures,” with their world-weary banjo, have some real dust and calluses on them, and the occasional burst […]

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WEIRD WAR 4/9, EMPTY BOTTLE This Drag City project from Ian Svenonius has been hard to follow, and a little hard to care about. It started out as a sloppy, self-indulgent all-star band, then (under the name Scene Creamers) put out a second album that sounded like it was still trying to decide if it […]

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TOM HEINL 4/1 & 2, SCHUBAS On With or Without Me (Leisure King), this Oregonian takes his thrift-store-Tom T. Hall routine to the next honorably hokey level: you get the whole album twice, once with lead vocals and once in karaoke mode. Most of it’s pure B comedy–titles include “Pinto Squire” (“Partial to cruising in […]

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GREAT BIG SEA 3/26, METRO Something Beautiful (Zoe/Rounder) is this Celtic-Canadian band’s seventh album, and they’re still struggling to write songs as powerful as their interpretations of trad material or their well-selected covers: the album’s emotional peak is the sea shanty “John Barbour,” and “Beat the Drum,” a cover of “Pride of the Summer” by […]

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CHINESE STARS 3/19, FIRESIDE BOWL This Rhode Island supergroup teams veterans of Arab on Radar with Richard Ivan Pelletier of Six Finger Satellite. They’re working on a full-length due out in July, but for now there’s Turbo Mattress (Skin Graft), five cuts of buzzing, scything limber postpunk, wired but alert and surprisingly accessible. The hint […]

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HACKENSAW BOYS 3/12, FITZGERALD’S These boys started out playing bluegrass jams on street corners in Charlottesville, Virginia, and though the crowds have gotten bigger over the years–two summers ago they were the only unsigned band on the Unlimited Sunshine Tour with Cake, the Flaming Lips, De La Soul, and Kinky–they’ve never lost that busker feel. […]

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FORTY PIECE CHOIR 3/5, METRO Tennessee (Cooked County), the third full-length from these locals, is a mighty leap from 2002’s well-received but rough Face Your Fear. Skimming lightly over country and folk on its way to gentle psychedelic rock, the new album is generous with its licks and ideas in a way that mellowish hippie […]

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ELASTIC FESTIVAL OF IMPROVISED MUSIC 2/26-28, 3030 If you’re reading this on Thursday, you can catch the first night of this small but impressive event, featuring Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls (see Critic’s Choice). On Saturday, cornetist/electronicist Rob Mazurek (once a Chicago-scene anchor who’s seen more rarely since his move to Brazil) leads his Black Goat […]

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HABIB KOITE & BAMADA 2/20, OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC Guitarist and singer Habib Koite, a griot’s kid from western Mali, is currently leading his ensemble on a monthlong sweep of U.S. cultural capitals and college towns in support of the new Foly! Live Around the World (World Village). On the double CD (recorded, […]