By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
THE ROGERS SISTERS
Especially when the guy is singing, the art-funk forebears this trio recalls are ones the mind's ear can no longer retrieveMedium Medium if their finest moment had been less fine, say. But friendlier echoes tone up their EPDevo, Gang of Four, B-52'sand groove and lyrics pack serious wallop. Finest by far is Jennifer's cute, wise, dippy "Fantasies Are Nice," which deserves to rule dancefloors like the "Hungry So Angry" of yore. B PLUS
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO GYPSY SWING
(World Music Network import)
Django Reinhardt towers so high over this style that he takes four of 21 tracks on a multi-artist comp with no other repeats, and wrote two others. Maybe "Gypsy swing" isn't a style at alljust a bunch of tribute bands. Yet its master proves far easier to emulate than Jimi Hendrix or Jerry Garcia, in part because his followers bypass his excitable youth for the sophisticated background music of his postWW II decline. Reinhardt was one of the first to welcome bebop's harmonic challenge while finessing its cultural threatwhich makes him the kind of artist whose imitators segue smoothly from cut to cut on a collection like this one. B PLUS
10: Beasts, Ghosts & Dancing With History
Like so many folkies, Hanitra Rasoanaivo and her sister Noro Raharimalala are too damn nice and too damn sophisticated. But because they're so damn talented, they're also idealists sitting on a gold mineMadagascar's rich, isolated, heterogeneous Afro-Asian music culture, which they absorbed entertaining their 90-strong Merina family well before they made it into college. They have plenty of intellectual ambitiontheir Son Egal and Soul Makassartackle Madagascar's defeat by French-led Senegalese troops and its strong Indonesian strain, respectively. But this decade-marking retrospective of tuneful hits and apt remixes is just easy to like, a gratifying achievement for a band that's often too ingratiating. A MINUS
Dud of the Month
TV ON THE RADIO
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
(Touch and Go)
Intelligent, honest, and original ought to be enough. But in fact there are acres, tons, and years of bad art that share these virtues, especially if "original" is interpreted generously, which it better be with the world's hundredth or thousandth guitars-and-loops outfit. Really. Take-him-or-leave-him singer. No great shakes melodically or rhythmically. Approximately as insightful in re the exigencies of male-and-female as 50 years of male chauvinists before them. Always humorless, sometimes sententious. All told, pretty dullunless you're so desperate that you'll sing hosanna for every piece of intelligent-honest-original that comes down the circuit. B
Additional Consumer News
"I Get Along"
Debut-album "single" plus four affectionately unfinished collectibles, the best an actual single ("Don't Look Back Into the Sun," "Mayday").
Chasing drugs under the stars, staring at the ground through the hole in his shoe ("Tonight on the WB," "Invisible Drugs").
Sixteen brief, quiet, sardonic meditations that require your full attention ("Silent Night," "New Jersey Baby").
Greatest Hits 19942004
Nashville's feisty female ideal, which is one reason she's not a bigger star ("I Wanna Do It All," "If I Were You").
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF VENEZUELA
Folkier than necessary, which hurts the beats, though it probably helps the tunes (Simón Díaz, "Caballo Viejo"; Guaco, "Deshonestidad").
The Revolution Starts Now
The title's poetic license, the artist half a poet at best ("Condi, Condi," "The Gringo's Tale").
THE MEAT PURVEYORS
Pain by Numbers
The dark side of bluegrass revivalism ("TMP Smackdown," "How Can I Be So Thirsty Today?").
Norwegian aims for classic-pop wit in English, with precisely analogous music ("Wet Ground," "It's Over").
Who Is This America?
Mostly instrumentals, and no longer do they fade into nothingness up against Fela ("Indictment," "Obanla'e").
Madagascar supersession with Hanitra co-chairinglong on process, interactions their own reward ("Era," "Manigne").
In the Red
Madder and uglier than your father's punk noise ("Where Am I," "Nosedive").
"Bush Must Be Defeated"
(My Country II, Messenger)
"Los Angeles Is Burning," "Let Them Eat War"
(The Empire Strikes First, Epitaph)
"On My Way"
(On My Way, ATO/RCA)
THE FIERY FURNACES
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
In the Meantime
The Runaway Found
Honorable Mention and Choice Cuts in order of preference.
Astralwerks, 109 West 29 Street, NYC 10001, astralwerks.com; Bloodshot, 3039 West Irving Road, Chicago IL 60618, bloodshotrecords.com; Concord, 100 North Crescent Drive, Suite 275, Beverly Hills CA 90210, concordrecords.com; Diesel Only, PO Box 720508, Jackson Heights NY 11372, dieselonly.com; Emergent, 1101 17th Avenue South, Nashville TN 37212, americanrootspublishing.org; E-Squared, 1815 Division Street, Suite 101, Nashville TN 37203, e2records.com; In the Red, 1118 West Magnolia Boulevard, PO Box 208, Burbank CA 91506, intheredrecords.com; New West, LLC PO Box 33156, Austin TX 78674-0156, newwestrecords.com; Ropeadope, PO Box 1021, Village Station, NYC 10014-1021, ropeadope.com; Rough Trade, Chelsea Hotel, Room 103, 222 West 23 Street, NYC 10011, roughtrade.com; Stinky, 511 Avenue of the Americas PMB #153, NYC 10011-8436, stinkyrecords.com; Troubleman Unlimited, 16 Willow Street, Bayonne NJ 07002, troublemanunlimited.com; World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England, firstname.lastname@example.org; Yep Roc, PO Box 4821, Chapel Hill NC 27515, yeproc.com.