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GrooveOut Shorts: March 2004

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Alicia Keys: The Diary of Alicia Keys

Yes, that’s her playing the piano. Not tickling the ivories, mind you—that’s her that you hear shredding away at every note. Alicia Keys is a prodigy. Her voice carries with it a newness with all the delivery of someone who’s been singing an entire lifetime, but there is youth in her inflection. The control and confidence that comes with it overwhelm that youth, however, and in the end this young R & B pioneer has put together a quietly confident and very strong record. Its 16 tracks twist and turn away from each other in defiance of sounding anything alike, and even with the incredible control Keys has over her voice, she seems to feel no need to flex it. All of the vocal melodies stay in place—something which is unusual in modern R&B—to a fault. “If I Was Your Woman/Walk on By” would be the standout on an album on which it’s difficult to pick one. From J Records (www.jrecords.com). —Lance Walker

Nellie McKay: Get Away from Me

A multi-talented “youngster” of 19, Nellie McKay is already a seasoned performer/singer/songwriter/reconteur who peppers her live shows with acerbic and witty banter in between self-penned songs—and a well-placed standard or two—from her ever-growing repetoire. She never performs a song the same way twice, partly because she has difficulty remembering lyrics, particularly her own, and partly because she pledges allegiance to no rule other than to keep her music and her performances as fresh and non-repetitive as possible. “If I write the same song twice, I’m dead,” she has been known to say, although she admits to revisiting certain themes, among them death, poverty, anger, animal rights, sarcasm, feminism, phoniness, and the desire to be “less pretentious, less arty, and basically call my own bluff.” From Columbia Records (www.columbiarecords.com). —Suzie Lynde

Various Artists: CLUB Sodade: Cesaria Evora by . . .

Her voice is an ocean of swells. Warmth, tides carrying the sounds of her aged pipes back and forth underneath her like the furious currents beneath our feet when we wade out too far from the shoreline. Cesaria Evora tours eight months a year. That’s not such a noble effort until you realize that she is in her 60s and that she didn’t begin any sort of ascent into the popular light until she was 50. With the release of her 1991 album Mar Azul, the Cape Verdean vocalist quickly rose to a level of recognition that has bordered on infamy, and has since garnered six Grammy nominations. An international host of producers has now paid tribute to her efforts through the alchemy of collaboration, and we have CLUB Sodade to show for it. Evora’s voice is left intact on this release—some of the tracks use a bit less of it than they would normally and take the songs in a dancier direction, but for the most part her songs are left in their original shape. It’s understandable that they didn’t take much liberty with it: Her voice is kind of like a Rothko painting—dark, intense, and (lyrically) admittedly fatalistic. What would you want to do to mess that up? From Bluebird (www.bluebirdjazz.com). —LW

Casey Stratton: Standing at the Edge

With the release of Standing at the Edge on the Odyssey label, Casey Stratton arrives, at the age of 25, as one of the most arresting voices in music today. The 12 tracks on this label debut reveal a boldly personal new ballad style—rich, hook-laden melodies and searching lyrics blended with Stratton’s powerful, expressive vocals. Standing at the Edge brings Stratton together with top producer Patrick Leonard—Madonna, Elton John, Jewel—in a collaboration that delivers a new, razor-sharp clarity to the singer/songwriter/musician’s expansive style, which he has been developing for over a decade. Stratton wrote all the songs, except for a co-write with Leonard, and plays piano throughout the album. From Odyssey. For more info: www.sonyclassical.com or www.caseystratton.com. —Troy Carrington

Daft Punk: Daft Club

If a cook’s going to let someone stir his or her soup, they’re gonna want it to be Paul Prudhomme. Or at least Emeril. Personally, I’d pick the Iron Chef. . . . Either way, Daft Punk has taken a similar approach on this disc of remixes, handing over the knobs and levers to luminaries such as The Neptunes, Basement Jaxx, and the lesser-known but brilliant Cosmo Vitelli. A remix of the already hooky “Digital Love,” done by German House DJ Boris Dlugosh, is a floor-stomper and accents the original resonance of the vocals while expanding on the direction of the music and giving it new life. That new life is evident throughout and will surely find its way to the clubs as the robotic and melodic voices of Daft Punk as you heard them on Discovery make their way around wearing brand-new leather jackets. From Virgin Records (www.virginrecords.com). More info: www.daftpunk.com. —LW

José Luis Encinas: Travesura Chill

Encinas promotes his latest release Travesura Chill/Prank Chill saying it’s accented by “ambient-chill.” Too bad the liner notes don’t explain what any of that means. But even if listeners can’t understand his title or promo buzz words, they won’t have any trouble understanding his music. From smooth jazz to passionate flamenco, Travesrura Chill loses nothing in translation. Not for the Ricky Martin set, this is for more laid-back, mature listeners. From Planet Rhythm/Universal Music Latino. —Olivia Flores Alvarez

Kylie Minogue: Body Language

She was a pop princess in the ’80s, but don’t fault her for it. One has to admit that this Australian-born diva has not only survived the decade that gave birth to her career . . . she trumped it. Most of those tempered careers that were born in the ’80s survived the fatal blow of the tag of having been birthed in that decade, and despite a disappearance of sorts in the ’90s, Kylie Minogue has failed to go the way of Tiffany or any of her other mall-touring comrades. She has instead worked quite hard at constant image reinventions and overseen increasingly varied directions in her music. Not to save herself, mind you, but to continue some sort of regression into an infinitely more creative catalog of performance and songs. The new album is all over the place, her voice is where you expect it, and the direction is anybody’s guess. “Locomotion” is as much a part of her past as is Neighbours, and we’ll not be expecting her to look back any time soon. With the way she’s going, she’s likely got a lot of work planned ahead of her. By the way, she’s only 35. From EMI (www.emimusic.info). —LW

Tastexperience: Beyond the Horizon

The Tastexperience sound is undeniably catchy and has been sought after across various genres of lounge and electronic music for their crisp clean production. Electronic pioneers DJ Paul Oakenfold to DJ Tiesto have championed the Tastexperience sound, bringing their unique blend of tropical paradise to light. Beyond the Horizon is a riot of color, mixing harmonious strings with hauntingly beautiful vocals in tribal, tropical earthy undertones that cohesively blend into an electro-organic experience that is irresistible. From Neurodisc Records (www.neurodisc.com). More info: www.tastexperience.co.uk. —TC

Emilie Autumn: Enchant

Playing the violin since the age of four, Emilie Autumn grew up in the world of concert halls and European tours. Performing jazz as well as classical music, Autumn gained notoriety as a versatile yet virtuosic performer in her early teens. Her natural fascination for times past led her into the music of the medieval, renaissance, and baroque eras, becoming one of the youngest champions of the period performance movement and earning a classical recording deal at age 18. Her pop and rock songs have been recorded by international performers, and her symphonic works have found their way into a number of films. Most unexpected is her debut as a vocalist, as introduced on Enchant. Her self-produced album combines her vocal, compositional, and poetic skills as well as her mastery of the violin and piano. From Traitor Records (www.traitor-records.com). More info: www.emilieautumn.com). —SL

Etro Anime: See the Sound

Etro Anime means “to be infinite with spirit and in movement.” Encompassing this mantra, Etro Anime formed in Y2K as one of the most innovative acts to emerge from the New York dance scene in years. Their worldwide debut See the Sound will no doubt leave your head spinning and yearning to hear more of the electro-soul musings. The band’s sound takes in elements of trip-hop, drum & dass, and soulful, jazzy lounge grooves, finished off with blissed-out vocals. From Neurodisc Records (www.neurodisc.com). —SL

David Guetta: Just a Little More Love

Just a Little More Love preaches good times and nights that never end. There is ling-blasting garage (note: not garridge) from Strictly Rhythm vocalist Barbara Tucker on “It’s Allright,” lost-in-time Cajmere-style jack trax on “Give Me Something,” filtered EQ disco house that reflects David Guetta’s French heritage on “You,” and dark and sleazy electro on the title track, although Guetta is keen to point out that it was recorded before the current electro trend. The bottom line: It’s for dancing. From Gum Records (www.gumprod.com). More info: www.davidguetta.com or www.astralwerks.com). —TC

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