SLEEPING IN THE AVIARY Great Vacation! (Science of Sound) When you enter Sleeping in the Aviary’s website, you have some interesting choices to make. Sure, you’ll run across tags for news, merchandise, pics, fan-club info, and videos. But there are also links labeled “Horny Teens” and “Hornier Teens” Click on one, if you dare, and feast your eyes on seniors gumming ice cream. Visit the other, and a reclining Weimaraner puppy stares back at you flirtatiously. Disturbing on many levels? Yes. And you should expect nothing less from this Minnesota-based quintet, whose previous releases include the pop-punk-indulgent Oh, This Old Thing? and the low-fi folk-pop-driven Expensive Vomit in a Cheap
Hotel. Great Vacation! finds Sita expanding on a solid lyrical and instrumental platform of neo-folksy weirdness with nods to death, love, and S-M relationships that include an awkward yet comical combination of both. Lead track “Y.M.C.A. (No, Not That One)” finds fuzzed-out electric guitars, string-harp interludes, and a gargling man backing up a twisted tale of maritime lust and stingray attacks. The first 22 seconds of “Maria’s Ghost” sound like a tour-van collision between Primus and Big Black before settling into love-ballad mode à la The Beatles’ “Michelle.” In this tune, Maria expires while wearing a pair of handcuffs with “lips like fresh-cut honeydew, dried and cracked, cold and blue, doo-bee-doo … I taught Maria all the joys of ball and gag.” David Lynch: if you’re hard-up for script fodder, call these songwriters immediately. And give them my regards. — Rob DeWalt
GIRLS Broken Dreams Club (True Panther) In 2009, San Francisco group Girls released an album called Album. It was a promising debut that showcased an original voice (that of singer and songwriter Christopher Owens) but was stuck on some sloppy and fairly derivative classic-rock signposts. No big whoop: that’s what debut albums are for, and this six-song follow-up promises a brighter future for the band. Girls still gobbles up what it can from classic rock and soul music, but this time the group incorporates more polished production values and folds its influences more convincingly into a sound that’s its own. Owens shows empathy for his female protagonists with lines like “He’ll never know about the times you cried in your bedroom,” and his capable crooning evokes a time when most popular music was written for the fairer sex. The lyrics of the title song show unflattering emo tendencies — first Owens moans about never being the right guy for a certain girl and then veers into worries about being too sensitive to cope with the world’s ills — but the band rescues the song from preciousness with a delicate melody and a perfect pedal-steel accompaniment. Girls closes with “Carolina,” a seven-minute slow-cooker that morphs into a juke-joint jam with “doo ron ron” backing vocals. And yet, it sounds like Girls the whole way through. — Robert B. Ker
Virtually every song on ‘Our Secret World’ is a captivating adventure.
JOSQUIN DESPREZ Stabat Mater, Pater Noster/Ave Maria, Déploration (Ars Musici) He has been called “the Beethoven of the Renaissance,” but Josquin Desprez (or des Prez, or des Près, or however you care to spell it) requires no comparison to anybody to support his status as one of Western music’s supreme composers. Even during the height of his career — from the 1480s until his death, in 1521 — many of Josquin’s contemporaries viewed him as primus inter pares. This disc of his sacred (or at least spiritual) vocal works proclaims the astonishing variety of his style, from the chaste asperity of two-part canons to the textural magnificence of the six-part Pater Noster he wrote late in life, instructing that, when he died, it should be sung in religious processions that passed his home in Condé-surl’Escaut, on what is now the French-Belgian border. The seven gentlemen of the a cappella Dufay Ensemble (directed by Eckehard Kiem, one of the group’s basses) achieve chamber singing of the highest order; their tone, blend, intonation, and rhythmic flow are impeccable. And yet, what is perhaps most stunning about this Super Audio CD is its vivid acoustic presence. Notwithstanding a six-second reverberation in the St. George’s Church in Freiburg, Germany (the group’s home town), where these tracks were captured in May 2009, the sound is pellucid, and attacks and diction emerge so clearly that you’ll imagine you’re singing in the group yourself. — James M. Keller
KURT ROSENWINKEL AND OJM Our Secret World (Wommusic) The 16-piece Orchestra de Jazz de Matosinhos took the initiative on this collaborative project back in 2007. The seven works are all pre-existing originals by guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and every track but one was arranged by OJM members without his involvement. And the entire disc is just alive with creativity. On the title track (at 6:36, the album’s shortest piece) Rosenwinkel leads interesting explorations against Marcos Cavaleiro’s strong drumming and surges by various brass players. The music is multilayered and commanding, but with an air of enigma. Next up is a sprawling piece of music called “The Cloister.” You almost get a Chick Corea feeling from Rosenwinkel’s colorful sense of storytelling. There’s nice action here from the trombones and trumpets, but Rosenwinkel is unquestionably the leader of both melody and mood on the intriguing composition. On “Dream of the Old,” although there are some quiet, lyrical sections, the guitarist plays wildly and beautifully. “To be honest,” he says in the liner notes, “I couldn’t have done this record a few years ago, because it’s only now that I’m getting the strength in the sound, all the dimensions of voice and timbre and depth.” He exulted in pursuing “whatever my fantasy dreamed up” within the “fascinating textures and colors” of the orchestra. Virtually every song here is a captivating adventure. — Paul Weideman