Music

CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Neneh Cherry & The Thing; Solid Home Life; and Shmu

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Neneh Cherry & The Thing
The Cherry Thing
(Smalltown Supersound)

The real surprise here isn't the collaboration between the singer of pop hit "Buffalo Stance" and a Scandinavian free jazz trio, but how well this set of eclectic covers works. From one perspective, this meeting makes sense: Neneh Cherry, daughter of legendary jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, cut her teeth in post-punk ensemble Rip Rig + Panic, and The Thing have recorded instrumental versions of indie rock songs. Together, they transform a free jazz chestnut by Ornette Coleman into a sultry blues, rework MF Doom's "Accordion" into a noisy funk workout, and add brassy grit to Martina Topley-Bird's trip-hop "Too Tough To Die." A few times they overreach: "Dream Baby Dream" lacks Suicide's glittering seductiveness and the lurching "Dirt" doesn't begin to approximate The Stooges' emotional intensity. But these are the few times this unpredictable CD smacks of novelty. —Jeff Jackson

*

Solid Home Life
Solid Home Life
(Fin/PIAPTK)

Described in the band's bio as "a delicately woven together document of love, loss, and the mundane wrapped gently in a fiery and transcendent joy," the self-titled debut from singer and songwriter Greg Olin (Graves) and LAKE drummer Lindsay Schief is a low-key gem. Recorded mostly in Olin's Portland apartment, the tracks focus on humble topics like chores and living a "cozy home life" with friends. In fact, a handful of friends even pop up on the record, contributing the occasional organ or saxophone. Otherwise, acoustic guitar and muted drums dominate the mix amidst both vocalists' clear and charming voices. Sadly, the partnership appears to have been a one-off, and ended when Schief moved into her own home in 2010. However, for 500 lucky fans, the joy lives on thanks to a special run of blue-green vinyl copies of the record that also feature digital download codes. —Michael Cimaomo

*

Shmu
Discipline/Communication
(Grand Theft Zamboni)

Sam Chown, aka Shmu, is a drummer, singer and multi-instrumentalist in Austin, Texas duo Zorch. In this solo release, Chown offers sophisticated and subtle textures and a batch of tunes, including a few instrumentals, at once poppy and hypnotic. At times, things skate toward bubblegummy, but such moments are usually undercut by quirky rhythmic choices or off-kilter sounds. The result is an odd hybrid, an album that ought to please lovers of ambient experimentation and lush pop alike. That said, the purely pop-oriented listener may encounter unexpectedly sharp, even off-putting edges in passages of jerky looping and sampling and quick cuts between styles. Those same moments may well be strengths for more restless and adventurous listeners. Chown seems to possess a fair dose of restlessness himself, mixing genres and sounds with what sounds like gleeful and highly entertaining abandon. —James Heflin

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