It's been about three years since Stars issued its brilliant "Set Yourself on Fire" on Canada's flawless Arts & Crafts label. So, perhaps it's little surprise that listening to "Do You Trust Your Friends?," a remix CD of that disc, feels a bit like seeing an old friend for the first time in a long while.
You'll recognize the words and the vocals and the melodies, but the clothing, the hair color and the rest have changed. Stars, one of many offshoots of Broken Social Scene, enlisted friends and labelmates like Apostle of Hustle, Jason Collett, The Most Serene Republic, Metric and others to realign the original tracks from "Set Yourself on Fire."
The results are brilliant. While the band is in the studio recording its next CD ("In Our Bedroom After The War" is due out in September), this reworking of its career apex (so far) will keep fans happy. It's great to hear the new takes on old favorites, like the understated remix of "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" by Final Fantasy and the slow electro of the Junior Boys' reading of "Sleep Tonight."
"Do You Trust Your Friends?" almost feels like an entirely new friend, albeit one that reminds you of someone you once knew.
Staying north of the border, where the music scene appears to be more vibrant than ever, we hear the latest Feist record, "The Reminder" (Cherrytree/Interscope) Another Broken Social Scene connection and another great CD. And this time round, Leslie Feist has really done it her way.
She wrote or co-wrote all of the tunes here, from the rollicking, alterna-nursery rhyme of "1-2-3-4" to the plaintive "So Sorry" to the smoky, jazzy "How My Heart Behaves." The production is quirky, quiet, and alternately melancholic and playful.
"The Reminder" is certainly palatable enough for the mainstream, but Feist hasn't sold her soul to the charts. Instead, she's made a record that is intimate, airy and left of center but also irresistible. It ought to be the perfect combination.
From across the ocean in Italy comes my surprise record of the year so far. Every now and then a CD arrives and knocks me off my feet. It serves as a good reminder to give everything a chance, because hidden gems are always worth finding.
Zibba is a "cantautore" (singer/songwriter) from Genoa and AlmaLibre is a talented, spark plug of a band, and their disc is "Senza Smettere di Far Rumore" (without stopping making noise) on Divinazione/Terzo Millenio. It arrived here thanks to the folks at Asti's L'Altoparlante.
Although Zibba is rooted in a lot of modern Italian traditions (Genoa's legendary Fabrizio DeAndre, older cantautori like Paolo Conti and newer guys like Vinicio Capossela), he's a world traveler when it comes to music.
The rollicking cabaret ska of "Margherita" conjures Les Negresses Vertes and Mano Negra. "Nella notte che verra'" is smart, pop reggae. "La fine di un se" and "Le ultime dee" are minor-key numbers with faint French cafe overtones. "Neve d'Estate" and "Anche se oggi piove" are melancholy rockers. "La festa del vino" is an update of great "osteria" (tavern) songs in praise of good wine, good friends, with a bit of "Smoke on the Water" tossed in. Add a dose of Tom Waits ... and you start to get the idea.
Find Zibba at the link below (and in the photo above) and order his CD. He's not on a major label, but you already know that doesn't mean he's not a major talent.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.