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Chris Donaghey
Reviews Editor
December 07, 2006
Recent Soapbox:
With all the solid music released in 2007, RMR thought that we would allow certain staffers to contribute their top albums of this year individually rather than collectively. These lists promise to offer unbridled opinions, rampant variety, and opportunities...
Dope Pope, King Self, and Negashi Armada are living a dream as Supreeme, a rap group consisting of three Atlanta natives recently drafted to Warner Bros. Records from the California based indie Record Collection.
GB Leighton is probably Minnesota’s best kept secret. Brian Leighton, the front man for the band, has been playing clubs in the Minneapolis region for almost a decade and a half, drawing huge crowds from an ever growing loyal fan base. He’s also one of the most productive songwriters coming out of the Twin Cities. His concerts are high octane parties that get people up and out of their seats, dancing and singing along.
For over three decades, America has been writing and touring, making it one of the longest running country rock phenomenons in the world. The band currently is touring to support their latest recording, Here and Now, that is a very forward-looking venture, produced in collaboration with indie artists Adam Schlessinger from Fountains of Wayne, and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins. They also will be touring with Chicago later this summer.
“Death Threat,” “Warrior,” “Vampire,” “Piston,” “Danger Girl,” “Headhunter,” “Aggressor.” There’s a common link between all of these DJ Hive track titles, and that link is his mantra and record label: Violence.
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For those of you who really want to discover new music, you know that you can't let the mainstream media, radio, or even your friends be the only conduits to choice tunage. Another barrier you shouldn't let trip you up is
language. As the cliched phrase goes, music is the universal language. The following five albums (in no particular order) are ones that I've heard this year that I might not always understand, but I'll always feel.

1. Ali Farka Touré - Savane (Nonesuch)

Savane is the final work from the prolific folkster from Mali (he passed away earlier this year) and it shows us all many of the reasons he became an essential face of the African music scene. While listening to "Beto" and the astonishing accessible blues/funk fusion of "Penda Yoro", just try to picture that this man was in his sixties recording in a mobile studio, crafting politically immediate polemic about everything from improving the methods of transportation in his homeland to encouraging the social responsibilities of every man, woman, and child. Set to toe-tapping beats and explosions of virtuousic folk guitar, this album is destined to carry on his legacy for many years to come, the sounds and voices immortal and timeless regardless of language.

2. Juana Molina - Son (Domino)

Hailing from Argentina, Juana Molina, a past television comedienne (!) has drawn comparisons to American chanteuses like Beth Orton and Lisa Gerrard. Son does much to further those comparisons as well as distinguish Molina a personal identity in the world music scene. Unlike some others, she chooses to only lightly rely on indigenous beats; instead, within these twelve songs, organic electronics merge with acoustic strings to weave entrancing blankets of sound. Molina's dreamy and seductive charms accentuate every slant and sway of the album along the way. It may not blow you away, but for fans of the previously mentioned women, the Notwist, and the Books, it will keep bringing you back.

3. Various Artists - Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (Soul Jazz)

This is an essential addition to anyone's music collection. I cannot make it any clearer. There are many other compilations on the market that cull together the genre, feel, and idea of tropicalia music into some tight packages, and some of them even include better songs by the artists included here. However, if you are looking for a cohesive and representative chunk of the best artists of the tropicalia movement, you should not look any further than this album. Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, and Caetano Veloso will enchant anyone willing to pop this disc into their stereo and lose themselves in the Brazilian explosion of fun that was, and is, tropicalia music.

4. Tom Zé - Estudando o Pagode (Trama)

Oh, another entry from those wacky experimental Brazilian artists. Zé has been at the game for a while and Estudando is no different. Here, we have a concept album about the female dilemma in patriarchal societies. The struggle is explored through delirious fusions of funk, pop, opera, and hip-hop, all of the elements bouncing off the walls in a rapturuous conflagration. "Ave dor Maria" and "Prazer Carnal" sound very different from one another - a schizophrenic groove versus a piano driven crooner - but such is the delightful contrast throughout. High conceptual reaches aside, this is a great listen.

5. Césaria Évora - Rogamar (RCA Victor)

For my last recommendation, I go to the pride of Cape Verde. Her tenth album harnesses her wonderfully full vocals and catchy island instrumentation to share tales of love, loss, heartbreak, and happiness with us within the context of water and the sea. This has been done millions of times before by other artists, but rarely are they so effortlessly beautiful and stirring. One can imagine Évora sitting on a white sand beach staring off over a crystalline ocean and writing these tales while understanding the power that gives the ocean its present beauty is also the power that can affect the splendor of the land. A great conclusion to a list of recommendations I hope will find you well regardless of your knowledge of foreign languages.

Consider these five albums an introduction to cultural studies in music for all terms of 2006.