What our critics are listening to

10:27 AM, Jan 15, 2013

Alicia Keys has released her fifth album, 'Girl on Fire.'/


PERE UBU

LADY FROM SHANGHAI. David Thomas bringing his rejuvenated art-punk band Rocket From the Tombs to play Lovin’ Cup Bistro and Brews was one of the manic, rocking highlights of the 2012 concert season here. Showing that he can juggle a handful of artistic balls at once (he’s also a writer of some surrealistic wit), Thomas’ post-Rocket avant-garde dance-rock band, Pere Ubu, has released a new record. Pere Ubu is the soundtrack of the anti-authority crowd, its view of the world as elastic as Thomas’ lyric question, “What part of the dream is true? What part of the truth is a dream?” Thomas’ existential poetry percolates around and electronic beats, synthesizers and noise that the band treats more as found sounds from a dying civilization than something from today’s disposable dance floor. This is a cynical rock band, and a very funny one. That’s not quite the Anita Ward disco hit “Ring My Bell” creeping through the opening track, “Thanks,” but Thomas merely telling you to “go to hell.” Take his advice, and buy this record. — JEFF SPEVAK

ALICIA KEYS

GIRL ON FIRE. It’s pretty sad when I associate a single with a commercial so much that I neglect to listen to the CD. In this case, Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys became the Citibank commercial song, not a tune from her latest CD. Thankfully, the real sizzle on this CD is not the cut in that annoying commercial. “Fire We Make” featuring Maxwell is a sultry tune. And though it is more uptempo, the electronic funky cut “Listen To Your Heart” is on team sultry as well. We fell in love with Keys when she first tickled the ivories and sang so soulfully on the simple, melodic hit “Fallin’.” Though “Not Even The King” is no “Fallin’ ” — nor does it try to be — it’s a reminder of how amazing Keys is when she simply sits at a piano (or keyboard) and sings as if no one’s in the room. — SHEILA RAYAM

DENISE DONATELLI. This is the latest jazz singer and improviser to catch my ear, thanks to the recently announced Grammy nomination for best jazz vocal album. She is, indeed, a remarkable singer, with a broad range, a lovely tone, and a rich understanding of the jazz vocal tradition, from scat to extended and bent notes. The 10 songs include originals, as well as standards like Cole Porter’s “All or Nothing at All,” and all are beautifully arranged. She gets excellent support from pianist and musical director Geoffrey Keezer. This is a classy, graceful album, one that I highly recommend and one that places Donatelli on a shelf with Karrin Allyson, Dianne Reeves and Tessa Souter, among my favorite modern jazz singers. — Jack Garner