Sonny Cheeba Rocks the World


Topaz Records

Not often does an artist present a new genre. Try this one: blaxploitation electronica. From the groovy cover painting to the hopping beats and wah-wah guitars, Cheeba plays it hard like Shaft and smooove like cocoa butter. You gotta love a CD presented in “stereophonic bitch smackin’ sound,” especially when it lives up to the claim. Check the sexy vocal sample on “What You Doin Here” or the strings and piano hits on “Sonny’s Theme.” With the latter track being the only piece featuring vocals, Cheeba lets the beats and, most interestingly, the guitars do the talking. In fact much of the atmospheric space traditionally filled in electronic music by strings or keyboards is padded with subtle feedback. Probably best enjoyed with low lights and plenty of that wacky weed so popular with the kids, Blackout is a knockout. —Greg Hoy


November Project

A Thousand Days

The story of November Project, a New York-based folk-pop collective, is the hapless tale of coffee-shop bohemians caught up in an industry whirlwind. After releasing two stellar albums (under the name October Project), the group was dropped by Epic in 1996 and disbanded. Principal songwriters Emil Adler and Julie Flanders have now resurfaced with a new band, adopting their not-too-creatively updated moniker. This five-song EP demonstrates that the enchanting chemistry between Adler and Flanders is still very much alive, producing stirring songs drenched in delicate melodies. Although new vocalist Maryanne Marino’s voice lacks the haunting quality of the departed Mary Fahl’s, it beautifully complements Adler and Flanders’ arrangements. Marino shines on the closing track, “Endless Circle,” a heart-wrenching tale she tells through hushed vocals draped over a simple, elegant guitar and piano melody. Just like its predecessor, November Project has talent and promise—it just needs to be dealt a better hand. —Akash Goyal

Starflyer 59

Everybody Makes Mistakes

Tooth & Nail

If Brian Wilson had come of age in the indie- pop ’90s instead of the sunny surf ’60s, he would be Jason Martin of Starflyer 59. The similarities between the two are striking. Martin is devoutly religious and like the mercurial Beach Boy his faith is never dogmatic—it simply provides an inconspicuous backbone for songs that ponder the foibles of relationships, life and loneliness. Martin even sports prodigious mutton-chop sideburns, most likely an homage to Pet Sounds-era Wilson. But for all of Martin’s imitative flattery, he has wisely sidestepped the “Good Vibrations” curse that wrecked Wilson, choosing instead to arrange Starflyer 59’s songs in simple fashion with beautifully spare melancholy guitar lines and unfussy rhythm and keyboard backings. Everything hangs together through his aching tenor voice, a presence that renders phrases like “so this is what it feels when you’re on your own” as deeply moving observations. —Theo Cateforis


Taylor/Grisman Jazz Quartet

I’m Beginning To See The Light

Acoustic Disc


For years, mandolin virtuoso Dave Grisman has wandered the music world in relative obscurity, appreciated by only those roots-music aficionados from the acoustic jazz, psychedelic and bluegrass scenes. Grisman’s latest finds him working out with one of his various acoustic quartets, rearranging several standards and establishing his mandolin as the premiere solo instrument for jazz ensembles. Musically, Grisman is a stud—give him any tune and he’ll make it his own. A stripped-down version of Duke Ellington’s “I’m Beginning to See the Light” gives guitarist Martin Taylor lots of room for probing, shedding new light on nuances that may have escaped even the most educated listeners. The interplay between Grisman and Taylor is stunning throughout the disc, and bassist Jim Kerwin and drummer George Marsh underpin and punctuate everything with a sophistication found in few other rhythm sections. —Ian D’Giff

LI Sounds


Who’s Listening

Here’s a bunch of guys who sound like they can’t get laid, and you get to reap the benefits of their misdirected sexual energy. On Who’s Listening, WCF shakes the comparisons to Weezer by showing that they can write melodic, doo-wop inspired post-punk rock while staying true to an emo sensibility. You know these guys still sleep in the same bedroom that they used to play with their Chewbaccas in, but you still can’t turn them off. With crunchy guitars and pimple-popping melodies, WCF sing all about the girls that they just can’t quite connect with. “Can’t Find the Meaning in You,” a ’50s ballad featured in the band’s first four-song EP, holds the squishy charm of giving your best girl your varsity jacket on a cold autumn night. “Kelly,” the best track of the album, shows the band at its saddest, letting drummer Dan Lazerek flex his muscles Finally, a band from Long Island that isn’t afraid to not suck. Contact: Michael at 516-587-0218. —Bill Jensen

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 21, 1999

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