MUSIC REVIEWS: Anni Rossi, Moby, Menahan Street Band, The Upsidedown
A young twenty-something from Minnesota who is aptly talented vocally, lyrically and instrumentally, Anni Rossi is like nothing else. Afton is her new six track EP and is at its best within the folds of Rossi’s upper octave pops, squeals and climbs. She can easily be compared to the lyrical ferocity of Regina Spektor or to Carol Van Dyk of Bettie Serveert’s almost talky charm but this is the most you can artistically connect Rossi to any other artist. Wielding the viola and engaging in a host of vocal gymnastics, this classically trained artist wins you over with her pure almost stripped down acoustic folk-pop sound. Afton is attuned to a folksy and bouncy presence yet hits its groove worthy status on a few heavier bass and percussive driven tracks like “Ecology” and “West Coast.” If this sounds clever, check out footage of Rossi impressively covering Radiohead’s “Creep.” Currently working with Steve Albini for her next release, for now she carves her own perfect rarity of a body of work that blends a fresh string heavy sound with her very own unique operatic dynamics.
Sipping scotch, mountain climbing, licking leather boots (sorry, I got distracted there for a sec), really any of the more dangerous, unusual pursuits can take time acquiring a taste for. Often times we don’t get there, we miss the train of popularity and never board while everybody around us ‘gets it.’ I feel this way about Moby. I recognize the dude’s talent, but I have gone through the past few years feeling quite un-hip that I never really took to the guy. Now though, with the remixes on this 14 song Last Night Remixed CD, I might be able to change my opinion…or at least grow a little but more informed of what the guy really is about and why so many people dig him.
The CD begins with “I Love to Move in Here (Holy Ghost! Remix) but it’s the second track “Ooh Yeah (Kris Menace Remix)” playing off a snippet of the first where I feel things really get kicking. There’s some fun velocity changing on “Live For Tomorrow” (Tocadisco Mix),” big commercial vocals and (even some rap) on “Disco Lies (Freemasons Club Remix)” and “I Love to Move in Here (Seamus Haji Remix)”.
For my unrefined, neophyte Moby-knowledge I’d say “The Stars (AC Slater Remix)” with its metallic overlap of key and aggression might be my favorite here (and I am a sucker for a piano, even if it’s digital). And “Ooh yeah (D. Ramirez Haunted Playground Remix)” is pretty nifty showing off Moby’s use of a lot of different sounds. The CD ends with the perfectly spacey “Last Night,” with Moby mixing the perfectly pretty Sylvia Gordon’s voice with his keys, creating more an aural pastiche then a song really, unlike anything else on this CD.
As a remix album you don’t go into it thinking you’re going to hear a lot of new ground covered. This is a bunch of tracks perfect for when you know you got to get people up and dancing, not to study the complexities of Moby.
A supergroup of local soul musicians culled from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, El Michels Affair, Antibalas, and the Budos Band, and assembled by multi-instrumentalist and producer Thomas Brenneck, the Menahan Street Band is a funky collective whose debut LP, Make the Road by Walking is so infused with positivity that you’ll be smiling before the triumphant hook of the opening title track bursts out of your speakers and compels you to move along with it.
Even without vocals, the band’s cheery optimism is resoundingly evident; this is no coincidence—the album title is a reference to a community organizing and advocacy group housed below Brenneck’s Bushwick apartment, and group members have charitably worked alongside elementary school band kids.
Although it’s difficult to choose highlights from a jubilant album so capable of bringing the cure of summertime warmth to the impending winter blues, recommended tracks include the title song and the swaggering, groovy back-to-back duo of “The Traitor” and “The Contender”—although the cover of “Going the Distance,” from the instantly recognizable “Rocky” score, is sure to be a favorite of many.
After a brief instrumental introduction, Human Destination bursts into life with “If You are Hell Girl” a rollicking little number that evokes memories of The Romantics singing “What I Like About You.” Immediately after that, the band leaps to “Silver Wind” an acid-washed piece of guitar hysteria with a Harmonica backbone.
In other words, these guys are all over the place, but their lack of consistent adherence to any particular genre comes off as charming, more of a reluctance to be pigeon-holed than any kind of wishy-washy inconstancy. The highlight is album closer “Hey Man I’m Kissing the Angels shoes”- a song sung in whispery harmony so that it evokes “Brain Damage” from The Dark Side of the Moon before moving into a rousing chorus of women singing “Amen.” It’s a fairly batty move, but brilliant for all that. And that fits these guys to a tee, batty but brilliant.