For Your Own Special Sweetheart (Desoto/Dischord)
A few months back, Jawbox turned up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon playing a stunning version of "Savory," arguably Sweetheart's best song. Long an area favorite, the band hadn't played together in a dozen years, but it reconvened for that lightning-in-a-bottle TV moment to publicize this reissue of its fab 1994 disc. Recorded at Oz Studio in Baltimore and originally released by Atlantic Records, it benefits from remastering that warms the vocals just a bit, enhances Zach Barocas's dynamic drumming, and pumps up the skewed melodicism at the heart of the songs. As a result, this blast of post-punk catharsis has never sounded better, and a trio of bonus tracks make it essential listening.
The Get Em Mamis
TerAwesome (RCRD LBL)
This terrific disc gets off to an inauspicious start with "Rolling Stonez," a track seemingly inspired by a certain magazine that's given much love to the Baltimore rap duo over the past few years. Its annoying chorus—"I'm so Hollywood/stick your tongue out baby" (a reference to The Rolling Stones logo?)—and cheesy electric guitar give way to odd mentions of Janis, Jimi, ZZ Top, and Freddie Mercury. (We can only hope that if the Mamis get glowing reviews from a certain on-line publication, it won't lead to a tune titled "Pitchforkz" with shout-outs to Sufjan Stevens and Animal Collective.) But all is forgiven as the propulsive "Alpines Kickin'" gives way to the sublime "Cold Summer." The fierce-flowing Mamis gather momentum with each passing track, and the likes of Darkroom Productions and DJ Booman mix in irresistible beats that wed Baltimore Club and hip-hop to electronica, rock, and synth pop. All told, the Mamis live up to the disc's title (defined as "somewhere between terrific and awesome"), and this CD qualifies as the best local hip-hop release in recent memory. It's available as a free download at rcrdlbl.com.
Beijing Guitar Duo
Guitarists Meng Su and Yameng Wang, who study with Manuel Barrueco at Peabody, exhibit interpretative skills and a cross-cultural flair that's incredibly rare for twentysomething musicians. Listening to the Chinese natives deftly handle difficult material by Brazilian master Sérgio Assad, it's hard to believe they were born during the Reagan administration, or, rather, the Deng Xiaoping era. They play with nimble precision and a passionate sensitivity that seems to animate the space between the notes. The duo makes its Carnegie Hall debut in April.