What our critics are listening to

11:41 AM, Feb 12, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 14: Q Parker attends The Cinema Society with Circa and Alice & Olivia screening of 'Sparkle' at Tribeca Grand Hotel on August 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images) (Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)/


REGIONS OF LIGHT AND SOUND OF GOD. In the past decade, I’d say two rock bands have emerged with real staying power and the potential to be the defining acts of this era: Wilco and My Morning Jacket. They’re full of ideas, evolving and experimenting right before us. James, My Morning Jacket’s lead singer, is relentless. This is a spiritual record, and if you ask which spirits, I’d have to say The Beatles. The album seems built around meditative moments, including the gentle piano opening of “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.).” “A New Life” might be the finest moment, a reminder that James, under the name Yim Yames, put out an album that was entirely George Harrison songs. On “A New Life,” he sounds like Harrison from the opening line, “Hey, open the door, I want a new life.” It’s delicate, he steps carefully through the opening moments until the song blossoms with rhythmic warmth and sincerity, layer upon layer joining in, as James’ voice soars to falsetto. It’s really beautiful. — JEFF SPEVAK


The MANual. I love it when I have a “whatever happened to” moment and I find out. Well, sort of. Recently I wondered what happened to Grammy Award-winning R&B group 112 and I stumbled upon this CD by Quinnes “Q” Parker, formerly of 112. (Or he is still a member? There seem to be conflicting stories about whether the group is back together.) Parker’s voice is rich and reminiscent of a retro soul singer in “60 Seconds.” The music is smoky and the vibe is sultry in the simple tune “Better.” But for those of us who loved 112, he throws us a bone by offering a beautiful acoustic remake of “Cupid.” Parker will do just fine as a solo artist, even though I am still rooting for a 112 CD. — SHEILA RAYAM


NILSON MATTA’S BLACK ORPHEUS. Marcel Camus’ 1959 film Black Orpheus transferred an ancient myth to the exotic playground of Brazil’s Mardi Gras. It’s a memorable, Oscar-winning movie, but it also alerted the world to a marvelous form of music — the bossa nova. Vince Guaraldi, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann and Charlie Byrd all helped propel the great music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and Luiz Bonfá to sustained global glory, and boosted their own careers simultaneously. On this fabulous new disc, Brazilian bassist Matta gathers various well-known musicians to explore a CD-long suite of music from the original 1956 Brazilian play Orfeu da Conceição and Black Orpheus, the film adapted from it. The music is often familiar. But, this hour-long disc offers a virtually seamless, fresh and beautifully engaging interpretation of this trendsetting music. — Jack Garner