Colors from the Future (Beef Platter)
This disc's cover art, a photo of a carefully constructed landscape of gumdrops, hints at the sugar-rush exuberance that infuses the Jennifers' well-crafted pop tunes. This sort of stuff ruled college radio in the 1980's, and, when done well, its simplicity—guitar, drums, bass, and garage-y attitude—can be sublime. Combining the propulsiveness of The Feelies, with XTC's stratospheric sparkle and Young Fresh Fellows' absurd wit, the Baltimore-based quartet hits that mark more often than not. Although "Lion In Winter" and "Saturday" meander a bit at disc's end, the balance of the material cozies up to pop perfection. "Mrs. Gray" and "Starfleet Academy" might even bring an envious smile to Andy Partridge's face. The bitingly funny "Fell In a Hole" and a cover of Robyn Hitchcock's "Queen of Eyes" add to the fun.
Heroes Symphony/The Light (Naxos)
Glass, a native Baltimorean, seems to be everywhere these days, writing opera (see
The Witches of Venice in February's Play It), scoring films, attending the Academy Awards (Notes on a Scandal was nominated for "Best Original Score"), and even getting some long overdue love from his hometown (the BSO performed Glass's work for the first time in late February). This new CD of Glass' symphonic interpretation of David Bowie's Heroes album was conducted by BSO Music Director Marin Alsop, but played by another BSO—Alsop also conducts the U.K.'s Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Glass richly underscores the emotional range of Bowie's songs, which were co-written with Brian Eno, and Alsop coaxes a rhythmic and repetitive tension from the string section and punctuates it with brassy grandeur. The overall piece is suffused with warmth that's completely lacking in the original, and the Maestra exploits this characteristic to great effect. With Heroes, Glass successfully bridges pop culture with contemporary classical music, an achievement that qualifies as a minor miracle.
Kamehameha (Creative Capitalism)
Peter Quinn's Creative Capitalism imprint has issued a handful of intriguing books and CDs over the past year, including, most recently, this inspired racket by a group of local art school students. Ponytail's sound is tinny, but never tiny, as the band deconstructs surf/punk music and gleefully reconstructs it as the mutant offspring of Dick Dale and Deerhoof. Their songs careen, slide, pogo, bump, twist, and lurch for two or three minutes, before collapsing in a heap, like a pirouetting child finally succumbing to dizzying disorientation. Although this disc is somewhat disorienting, it's nonetheless a fun, adrenaline-fuelled rush.