Portishead: Third

In spare moments, I dream of the horror film I'd like to produce: harrowing, soul-piercing work that leaves viewers devoid of hope in 90 short minutes. The soundtrack is always the same; Beth Gibbons, lead vocalist of Portishead, sings unaccompanied, warbling in despair and moaning in her peerless croon. Portishead's first release in eleven years, Third, is not far from this vision, especially in Gibbons' contributions, but its sound is sharply different than their trip-hop prototype of the late '90s. The lush textures and high-production remain, but the breakbeats have been outmoded, morphing into experimental percussion more Steve Reich than Tricky. Plenty of surprises, each darker than the last, await the listener throughout this record, so take a listen today.

Jazz, Hoops and Bad Boy

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Walter Dean Myers was interviewed recently by NPR, maybe because he just had an August birthday or maybe because he's a respected heavyweight when it comes to writing for teens. He's released two titles just this year, which makes about 70 titles all total. The Iraq War is the setting of Sunrise Over Fallujah a story told by Robin Perry, a young recruit from Harlem.
Myers son, Christopher, creates images with collage and photos, and joined up with his Dad on Harlem which was named a Caldecott Honor Book.

The Global Jazz Trio Visits The Ark

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Detroit jazz musicians, The Global Jazz Trio, bring their jazz jams to The Ark in Ann Arbor on Monday, September 8 at 8pm. Band member Mark Hershberger describes their music as “a world influenced jazz that combines African, Latin, Asian and European influences with traditional jazz and funk to form a global jazz for all people.” Cool! Check out The Ark’s website for details and ticket information.

The Dresden Dolls

Bad pickup lines and corny jokes are two things I never tire of overhearing. So you can imagine how happy I was to eavesdrop on the following at a recent concert. "My name's John, are you into the Brechtian punk cabaret scene?" I was overwhelmed. Would this be the worst pickup line or the world's corniest joke? I waited with baited breath, soon to discover that this earnest young gent was trying unsuccessfully to get a date. Moreover, through his sermon I learned all about The Dresden Dolls, who indeed self-describe their brand of vaudevillian rock as John had. After checking out The Dresden Dolls' latest release, No, Virginia, from the AADL, I wished that things had ended better for our hero, for the band's unique blend of raucous female vocals and driving, Weimar-era piano lines was quite refreshing. My hope is that somewhere he found a soulmate because the music -- like Hesse's Magic Theatre -- is "not for everybody," and perhaps "for madmen only."

Isaac Hayes dies at 65

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Musician, composer and producer, Isaac Hayes, died August 11 at the age of 65. Hayes was best known for the theme from Shaft which won an Academy Award (and revitalized the "Best Song" category in the process), but in the 1960s and ’70s he was one of the principal songwriters for Stax Records, the Memphis R&B label that offered a grittier counterpoint to Motown. Hayes started writing songs with David Porter, which included numbers like “Soul Man” and "Hold On, I’m Comin’" written for Sam and Dave. In the 1990s he provided the voice for Chef on South Park.

The Iguanas Visit The Ark

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If you’re looking to see a fun band with Latin flair and bit of Cajun funk then why not check out The Iguanas at The Ark on Saturday August 23. They call their music "Chicano Rock with a greasy New Orleans second-line/mambo flavor." Talk about fun! The show starts at 8pm, see The Ark’s site for ticket information. Cha cha cha!

Music in Manchester

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Drive or bike to Manchester this Saturday for the 7th Annual Riverfolk Music and Arts Festival. Some of the featured musicians will be singer/songwriter, Vienna Tang who won rave reviews at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival a few years ago, Tumbao Bravo, a Cuban jazz ensemble, local acts, a fiddle contest and special activities for children. And all for only $12 at the gate ($10 in advance). Kids twelve and under admitted free. Begin the party Friday night with a "Boogie Woogie Barbeque and Cash Bar" plus entertainment.

Foals: Antidotes

It's hard not to be quickly drawn into Foals' first release, Antidotes, because of its pop hooks, flashy riffs, and punchy beats. Hailing from Oxford, England -- with a heavy British affect to prove it -- Andrew Mears consistently delivers lines in a style instantly recognizable as post-punk in the vein of The Strokes and Interpol. It is this familiarity with Foals' sound that brings the listener back for seconds and thirds, but may also leave one wondering whether their cloudy lyrics actually have anything new to say. On the whole, the first half of the album has the decidedly A material, with more focused songwriting and fewer lyrical letdowns, while the second half will likely leave one hungry for the next new sound in indie music.

German Park Picnic

Festival lovers, fear not the end of July, for the German Park Picnic is back for the summer! Located at 5548 Pontiac Trail, the annual festival is held from 4-11pm on the last Saturday of June, July, and August. Like an Oktoberfest, but with warmer weather, the festival is best known for its authentic German fare, live music and dancing, large buckets of cold beverages, and abundance of lederhosen. Looking for some Volksmusik to get you in the spirit? Try Songs for Oktoberfest, or a Wagner opera available at the AADL. See you at the bratwurst stand!

Elvis Costello and Cup Noodles

Momofuku Ando, the inventor of cup noodles, created a product guaranteed to give the consumer the same sensual experience with every purchase. The same has not been true for the Elvis Costello listener. Costello's first albums in the late '70s - early '80s were practically lessons in popular music genres, from New Wave in This Year's Model (deluxe edition released this year) to Soul in Get Happy!! to Country in Almost Blue. The years in between have seen the former "angry young man" further explore these genres while honing his distinctive craft of pop songwriting. Momofuku, Costello and the Imposters' latest release -- available at the AADL -- documents the artist in top form, combining the acerbic wit and frenetic energy of his early work with the quirky, soulful melodies of the last 10 years. Expect to see this album in December on the inexorable lists of what critics call the best of 2008.

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