All in the Family

Confused teens, confused thirtysomethings, and old jazz guys enjoying their dotage

Pick Hits

The Rough Guide to Planet Rock
World Music Network

Fearing Sepultura, Junoon, and Gaia knows what other arena-rock gooney birds, I got something more ethnic instead—16 pieces of folk rock, let's call it, from 15 different nations, with who else but the U.S. of A. hogging two tracks (two and a half, actually). Gutturals are the sonic determinant and electric guitars the weapon of choice on a collection that amps up all manner of indigenous pleasures, slipping only when it strays to Romance-language Réunion Island and Portugal midway through. Niger? Palestine? Hungary? All Islamic-tinged. As for the Tuvans throat-singing "In a Gadda da Vida," who better? A MINUS

The Handsome Family
Last Days of Wonder
Carrot Top

At her best—which must not come easy, or they'd release more and more consistent albums—Rennie Sparks is a great American realist. Who can resist a recollection that begins, "I can see you standing there in your grass-stained underwear," or deny her twin visions of existential displacement in airports? But when you have to struggle to realize that "Our Blue Sky" is a global-warming warning that belongs on television, is the problem really the writing, or eternally impassive Brett Sparks feeling more depressed than usual? My theory is that when his wife hits one good, his voice gets lifted. A MINUS

Be Your Own Pet
Ecstatic Peace!

Although their buzz came too early, this is one young band that did get better, not something being 16 guarantees—as paths go, both pretension and technique are pretty fucking forking. But at 18 or so, all four still identify as teens, and write for them. Mouthy, destructive, confused, sexed-up but no sex object, Jemima Pearl is the pearl. Guitar man Jonas Stein, who'll turn 19 this fall, takes the hyperactive rhythm section wilding. Yeah yeah yeahs all around. A MINUS

Kimya Dawson
Remember That I Love You

Some random verbiage—I could have picked almost anything. Say fast: "Adios, I'm a ghost/I am leaving for the coast/And I'll never work for anyone again/I'm not your savior or your heavenly host/I'm just a piece of zwieback toast/Getting soggy in a baby's aching mouth/I'm going south like the geese I just goosed you/And so maybe I seem loose to you/But I don't even want to screw." Then her family home gets sold. Then her brother wins a custody fight. Accept the strummed guitar plus friendly input (I like it when Jake Kelly's sour violin counteracts the ick factor) and the permanently childish voice, and give half a chance to the words spilling out: compassionate, confessional, witty, playful, maudlin, naked. The music is so minimal that you won't return that often. But when you do, you'll remember that she loves you. A MINUS

Etran Finatawa
Introducing Etran Finatawa
World Music Network

These Wodaabe and Tuareg obviously put aside their cultural differences, because seeing the world like those Tinariwen dudes beats breeding cattle or camels, as the case may be. But so what? Their Wodaabe polyphony is a difference worth selling the world. Sahara trance-rock, Niger stylee. B PLUS

Golden Afrique Vol. 2

As a stickler for compilation etiquette, I object to the sequencing of the Congo-based follow-up to this German label's excellent but pricey two-disc West African collection. It begins with two warhorses potential buyers probably own: Franco & Sam Mangwana's 1982 "Coopération" and Nyboma's 1981 "Doublé Doublé." But rather than touring the sleek, over-the-top Parisian soukous of the style's late international vogue, it moves back in time, hopping around among older examples of Lingala rumba. These are almost invariably charming and inventive, if sometimes a little poky, as in a personal favorite, Joseph Kabasele's 1960 "Indépendence Cha Cha Cha." Many have been rare in these parts, so it's a privilege as well as a pleasure to hear them. But often the musical logic is obscure. If there's anything an Afropop comp ought to do, it's flow. A MINUS

Just Like the Fambly Cat

Like said cat, Jason Lytle went out in search of adventure and lost the way home. Too young to obsess so much on the past and smart enough to know it, he just has to stop. So this will be his last album of songs labored over by an Ikea lamp, or so he believes. In a time when so many bands don't know why they exist but keep on vanning anyway, his honest tale is touching and instructive. "Where I'm Anymore," a disoriented local-color song about a central California of garage-sale exercise equipment and ice cream trucks that play "Don't Believe the Hype," is enough to make me glad he'll someday change his mind. A MINUS


Kris Parker has never been more didactic, and he's still working the same WTC-equals-WTO jive he was on in 2001. Motored by an exceptional collection of simple, clever hooks, however, his moralism packs considerably more wallop than the whining of white strivers and black artistes who think they're, you know, real hip-hop. Highlights include the cash-conscious "Mr. Percy," the sin-naming "F-cked Up," the enlightened "Woke Up," and, most intense, "Gimme Da Gun," in which Parker spits reasons not to do that crime as fast as he can, and his boy Raphi explains his side of the story. It ends with a shot. A MINUS

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