Trixie Whitley, Friction Family, Eberhard Weber 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Trixie Whitley

Trixie Whitley

Fourth Corner

Strong Blood Records

File next to: Alicia Keys, ZZ Ward

Brooklyn's Trixie Whitley makes a good impression with her full-length alternative soul debut, Fourth Corner. She's equal parts Alicia Keys, Pink and Christina Aguilera when it comes to her vocal chops. Add a dash of ZZ Ward's genre-bending sensibilities, and the album is filled with variety and surprises. The downtempo "Morelia" features hypnotic piano strains and simple acoustic guitar chords as her vocals aim for the heavens, but then "Hotel No Name" uses spoken-word stylings in some sections to keep you paying attention. Bluesy riffs on "Need Your Love" add another dimension to the project; the moody, ambient keys of the R&B-flavored "Pieces" will put you in an introspective mood; and "Irene" uses eerie aesthetics and off-kilter percussion to make the hair on your neck stand up. Whitley misses the mark a few times with overly exuberant vocals, but on the whole Fourth Corner is a notable debut. — Brian Palmer

click to enlarge Fiction Family

Fiction Family

Fiction Family Reunion

Rock Ridge Music

File next to: Switchfoot, Nickel Creek

After successfully mixing their respective rock 'n roll and bluegrass folk leanings in Fiction Family's self-titled 2009 debut, Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins are back with their sweet sophomore release, Fiction Family Reunion. Foreman probes the depths of love, struggle and life's many unknowns in the first single "Up Against the Wall," while the rocking "Give Me Back My Girl" sounds like a B-side from Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane sessions. Watkins holds his own on the lively pop number "Guilt" and the more serious "Damaged," but nowhere does this duo shine more brightly than on "God Badge," where they both offer thoughts with respect to religion: "Put your God badge down / And love someone / Let it free your soul / There is no Us and Them / There's only folks that you do or don't understand." Whether singing about the sacred or the silly, Foreman and Watkins make this a reunion worth having. — Brian Palmer

click to enlarge Eberhard Weber

Eberhard Weber



File next to: Ron Carter, Jan Garbarek

German jazz label ECM has made valiant attempts recently to jumpstart the emotional heights it reached during its glory years. Back in the late '70s and throughout the '80s, the label was considered the acoustic downtempo source for oddness beyond art-punk, serving as home to young turks like Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek. Now ECM is trying to attract new audiences with repackages of existing and current works by mainstays like Eberhard Weber, whose Résumé is the first of several collections set for 2013 release. The album consists of live pieces the bassist performed from 1990 to 2007 as part of the Jan Garbarek Group. At times, these snippets sound too fragmentary to capture the essence of how the two musicians work together. But at its best on transcendent pieces like "Amsterdam" and "Grenoble," Résumé underscores the relevance that Weber and his ECM peers continue to wield in the 21st century. — Loring Wirbel


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