Old-Fashioned Amenities

Track after track of sincere classicism, internationalist anarchism, and foiled espionage


ION PETRE STOICAN
Sounds From a Bygone Age: Vol. 1
(Asphalt Tango)

Stoican was a not quite brilliant Romanian Gypsy violinist who in the early '60s personally apprehended a spy on the Black Sea coast. When the authorities offered him a house as a reward, he asked to make a record instead. Four tracks were completed, and his fame grew, but it took over a decade for him to obtain permission to cut this album in Bucharest. Aided by trumpeter Costel Vasilescu, he assembled an all-star 14-piece Lautari orchestra (twice the size of a wedding taraf) around cymbalom virtuoso Toni Iordache. If the later Yuri Yunakov and Taraf de Ha are wilder, the speed and compression here are hard to miss—with 45 minutes to play with, Stoican keeps eight of 16 tracks within 15 seconds of 2:30 and holds another three under two. Emotionally the music evokes a more intense Western swing instrumental or bluegrass breakdown at the higher speeds, tango or perhaps lounge r&b when it slows down. Iordache's cymbalom, a hammer dulcimer that sounds a little like a balafon, tumbles everywhere. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

RYAN ADAMS
29
(Lost Highway)

Adams's fourth and final 2005 CD—Cold Roses was a double, remember?—comprises nine verbose tales and laments. None are fast, six are slow, six amble past five minutes, and all seem to go on forever. Occasional rhythm tracks notwithstanding, the music is dominated by Adams's desultory guitar, please-not-more piano, and sensitive vocals. Although September's Jacksonville City Nights was the mess a lesser talent would have barfed up years ago, puffs of tune and vapor trails of feeling did waft briefly from its twangy swamp. These meanderings are the kind of indulgence that ends label deals. If I were Luke Lewis, all that would stop me would be the outpourings of personal vituperation and musical self-pity certain to ensue. C


Honorable Mention

ELECTRIC SIX
Señor Smoke
(Metropolis)

Dance-rock for an "evil generation"—their own, if you can believe them ("Rock and Roll Evacuation," "Jimmy Carter").


COMPAY SEGUNDO
El Compadre Again
(Escondida)

Recorded well before Buena Vista, when he was a mere septuagenarian, and the extra synovial fluid helps the son flow ("Chan Chan," "Me Diras Que Sabroso").


SOUAD MASSI
Honeysuckle
(Mesk Elil) (Wrasse)

Saudade Algerian-exile style—and yes, the translations help ("Inspiration [Ilham]," "Tell Me Why").


REGINA SPEKTOR
Soviet Kitsch
(Sire)

Once again, wise-ass New York art-pop (cf. Apple, McKay) outslugs subtle Toronto art-pop (e.g., Stars, Feist) ("Your Honor," "Ode to Divorce").


BILLY JOE SHAVER
The Real Deal
(Compadre)

Another Christian truth-sayer heard from ("Live Forever," "Slim Chance and the Can't Hardly Playboys").


MAHALA RAI BANDA
(Crammed Discs)

Roma youth meet Army brass on the outskirts of Bucharest ("Mahalageasca," "Colindat").


ROSANNE CASH
Black Cadillac
(Capitol)

Two mothers and one great big dad—that's too much death for two years ("House on the Lake," "Dreams Are Not My Home").


LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO
Long Walk to Freedom
(Heads Up International)

Works in spite of its prevailing gimmick, which is hooking them up with white female singers ("Long Walk to Freedom," "Hello My Baby").


THE ELECTED
Sun, Sun, Sun
(Sub Pop)

Alt sideman is content with his life and rolls out the tunes to prove it, which takes guts these days ("Would You Come With Me," "The Bank and Trust").


SHOOTING AT UNARMED MEN
Soon There Will Be Shooting at Unarmed Men
(Too Pure)

"Hey, hey, doesn't matter what you say" and other pissed-off disillusions ("Taking Care of Business," "Four-Eyed McClayvie").


SOUND OF THE WORLD
(Wrasse)

In the 2005 edition of Charlie Gillett's international sweepstakes, even the 38-man Kenyan hip-hop crew behave (Nairobi Yetu, "Nijenge"; Okna Tsahan Zam, "Edjin Duun").


Choice Cuts


JAMEY JOHNSON
"The Dollar"
(The Dollar, BNA)


MADELEINE PEYROUX
"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," "Dance Me to the End of Love"
(Careless Love, Rounder)


Duds

A.R.E. WEAPONS
Free in the Streets
(Defend)


BARBEZ
Insignificance
(Important)


BOBBY BARE
The Moon Was Blue
(Dualtone)


BILLIE JOE SHAVER
Billy and the Kid
(Compadre)


SIGUR RÓ
Takk . . .
(Geffen)


STORY OF THE YEAR
In the Wake of Determination
(Maverick)


THRICE
Vheissu
(Island)


ADDRESSES: Asphalt Tango, c/o Harmonia Mundi, 2037 Granville Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90025, harmoniamundi.com; Compadre, 708 Main Street, Suite 720, Houston TX 77002, compadrerecords.com; Crammed Discs, 43 Rue General Patton, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, crammed.be; Escondida, 150 Lafayette Street Suite 11R, NYC 10013, escondidamusic.com; Heads Up International, 23309 Commerce Park Road, Cleveland OH 44122, headsup@headsup.com; Metropolis, Box 54307, Philadelphia PA 19105, metropolis-records.com; Piranha, Carmerstr 11, 10623 Berlin, Germany, records@piranha.de; Planet Earth, 6634 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90028; Rough Trade, c/o Sanctuary, The Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue, NYC 10011, roughtradeamerica.com; Smithsonian Folkways, 750 9th Street NW, Suite 4100, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 20560-0953, folkways.si.edu; Stern's Music, 71 Warren St, NYC 10007, a href="http://www.sternsmusic.com; Studio E, 162 Fifth Avenue, Suite 901, NYC 10010, studioegroup.com; Sub Pop, PO Box 20645, Seattle WA 98102, subpop.com Team Love, 151 First Avenue, NYC 10003, team-love.com; Too Pure, 17-19 Alma Road, London SW18 1AA, toopure.com; Wrasse, Wrasse House, The Drive, Tyrrells Wood, Leatherland, KT22 8QW, England, wrasserecords.com

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