Cassandra Wilson - Thunderbird (Blue Note, 2006)
Vocalist Cassandra Wilson is tagged as a jazz singer, but really jazz is just part of a repertoire that also includes blues, r&b and pop. Her choice of cover material over the years has been eclectic and has added to her popularity. On this album she adds some subtle electronics to the diverse mix of instruments that includes downtown guitarist Marc Ribot. My favorite tracks on the album are her takes on the blues, particularly "I Want to Be Loved" which has been recorded by a host of blues luminaries. The polish supplied by the production and the sampling does tend to give the album a little unnecessary gloss - a little more grit and spontaneity would be welcome.
The Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics (Warner Brothers, 2006)
Although the Flaming Lips have made a name for themselves as a navel-gazing psychedelic group, there is a great pop sensibility at work amongst the band's music. On this album they balance the bizarre story of an intergalactic wizard with a trippy mix of pop-prog that even throws in some anti-establishment political commentary and life and death philosophical leanings... pretty good for a band that's known for hopping around in bunny suits in concert. "Free Radicals" and "Haven't Got a Clue" are the most overt statements of the album, particularly on "Haven't" where they allude to the desire of punching a certain person in the nose. On the other hand, "The W.A.N.D." and "The Wizard Turns On" uses the trippy, goofy concept as an excuse to jam and show off their instrumental skills.
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