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[whitespace] Mixing Up Christmas

Gifts of music to soothe--or rile--the holiday beast

Edited by Davina Baum

CLIP THIS LIST and present it to gift-givers--with a pleading look that conveys the idea that if only one gift is to be given this season, let it be music. Recently released or soon to be released, these albums are a sonic quilt that you can blanket yourself with over the cold, wet months to come.

DJ Spooky, Under the Influence; Six Degrees
Paul D. Miller, otherwise known as DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid), is a postmodern sculptor, whittling away at careful soundscapes. This avatar of turntablism has elevated the art into an intellectual pursuit, but while his art may be abstract and conceptual in theory, in practice it succeeds on a more basic, aesthetically delightful level. Under the Influence is the first release in a series from Six Degrees that features DJs remixing influential works--a tribute of sorts. Spooky's choices--from dance floor mainstays Moby and Mix Master Mike to Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and Iranian-born vocalist Sussan Deyhim to avant rockers Sonic Youth--are a testament to the diversity of his inspirations, and meld on the album into an eminently listenable product. The 26 tracks bounce and bump with lively yet intricately controlled abandon.

--Davina Baum

Bebel Gilberto, Tanto Tempo Remixes; Six Degrees
Da Lata, Songs from the Tin; Palm Pictures
Si*Se, self-titled; Luaka Bop
Forget Ricky Martin--21st-century Latin music comes directly out of the electronica scene: layered, richly produced music infused with house beats. This house element complements Latin music's inherent lounge-y sophistication in a truly euphoric way.

At the forefront of the scene is Bebel Gilberto, daughter of the famous Brazilian musician Joao Gilberto. Bebel's 2000 debut album, Tanto Tempo, set her up as the voice of bossa nova; with this month's Remixes, studio producers such as Peter Kruder (of Kruder & Dorfmeister), King Britt, and 4hero shake up the original tracks with love and inspiration, creating less of a remix album than a tribute. Then there's Da Lata, comprised of two Latin music outsiders, Chris Franck and DJ Patrick Forge. Da Lata put out Songs from the Tin last year, inspired by bossa nova tempered with lush orchestration. Every song sounds like a rain forest. Lastly, the New York-based group Si*Se's self-titled debut, out on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, takes bossa nova to a truly cosmopolitan level. The group, headed by heady vocalist Carol C and DJ U.F.Low, produces gorgeous mixes in which strings soar over drum machines. Together, all three albums will spice up the holidays for someone you love.

--Traci Vogel

Grateful Dead, The Golden Road; Rhino Records
Deadheads poo-poo their favorite band's studio work with hostility. The only thing for them is the sweet nectar of the live shows, where The Boys took the colorless forms of studio tracks and blew them up and out. But The Golden Road, the new 12-disc box set, contains enough rarities and outtakes to make any Deadhead reconsider. The 15 hours of digitally remastered sounds are drawn from the early years, 1965 to 1973, and include songs by pre-Dead incarnations the Warlocks and the Emergency Crew. The jewels of the set are two discs called Birth of the Dead, which are packed with songs from before the band signed with Warner Bros., including a live "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" and a twangy "Don't Ease Me In" that boogies infectiously. The other 10 discs, including Europe '72, are complete albums, each packed almost to the 80-minute mark with studio outtakes, live versions and alternate renditions--for a total of almost seven hours worth of previously unreleased material. The kit is illuminated by 240 pages of photos and essays. But the best part is Jerry's youthful voice, smooth and bright like unfinished wood. Be Grateful.

--Jeff Kearns

Kittie, Oracle; Artemis Records
The fur flew when Kittie ripped a hole in the male-dominated world of metal with its aggressive debut album, Spit, a vicious, snarling attack fueled by fierce female fury. Despite a dispute that caused former guitarist Fallon Bowman to sever ties with the band, these dark metal maidens power on with their new release, Oracle, set to drop on Nov. 13. With sisters Morgan and Mercedes Landers on lead vocals/guitars and drums, respectively, and Talena Atfield on bass, Kittie's latest demonstrates a sharp and matured progression of the band's abrasive style. The first single, "What I Always Wanted," delivers raw, throat-skinning, death metal rage and choking, guttural screams tempered by almost-sweet melodic brutality. Other take-no-prisoners tracks include "Mouthful of Poison," "Severed," "Pain" and a cover of Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell."

--Sarah Quelland

Mates of State, Our Constant Concern; Polyvinyl Records
Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel are in love. They're married. They make beautiful music together. A keyboard/organ (Kori), drums (Jason) and two soaring voices (Kori and Jason) are all that's needed for such a deceptively simple endeavor. The duo, who started out in Lawrence, Kan., and now make their home in the Bay Area, perform with the brilliant fervor of a thousand bright stars, marrying their lovely boy-girl harmonies with a sound that tickles like the elegant bubbles of a fine champagne. Their second effort (which isn't released until Jan. 22 but will make a lovely post-holiday gift, because everyone needs gifts in the late winter months, to allay the effects of post-holiday malaise) includes songs like "I Know, and I Said Forget It," which opens with a tingly keyboard riff and then drops layer upon precise layer of delicate pop.

--Davina Baum

No Doubt, Rock Steady; Interscope Records
It took less than a year for No Doubt to write and record this upbeat party album--a bouncy synthed-up blend of pop, New Wave, rock, rap and reggae music that serves as the perfect support for glamour girl Gwen Stefani's sexy cotton-candy vocals. The eclectic Southern California band's new effort boasts an impressive cast of collaborators including Prince, Ric Ocasek and William Orbit. The group even spent time in sunny Jamaica with renowned producers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, who twiddled knobs for the first single, "Hey Baby," a hot dancehall number featuring rapper Bounty Hunter. Described as the happiest No Doubt album to date, the genre-bending Rock Steady hits stores on Dec. 11. Tracks include "Hella Good," "Making Out," "In My Head" and "Platinum Blonde Life."

--Sarah Quelland

Jill Scott, Experience: Jill Scott (826 Plus), Hidden Beach Records
Thank God for the resurgence of soul. How would we ever get our groove on without a Maxwell or Angie Stone CD? Another must-have for the turn-the-lights-down-low collection is Experience: Jill Scott (826 Plus), a soothing, sugary double-disc compilation from singer Jill Scott. Scott, whose debut album, Who is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds Volume 1, went multiplatinum, gives us a live rendering of songs plucked from her debut album as well as six new songs. Experience (release date: Nov. 20) features her hits "Gettin' In the Way," "Do You Remember" and "A Long Walk," and the bonus track, "Said Enough," with Ron Isley, and an up-tempo mix of "He Loves Me." Scott says Experience, which was recorded live from her performance Aug. 26 at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., is a gift to fans who couldn't be there to catch the D.C. show. It's an aural testament to her blend of spoken word and jazzy balladeering in the tradition of ancestral torch singers Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Give someone the "Experience" tonight.

--Genevieve Roja

Smash Mouth, self-titled; Interscope Records
Summer may have come and gone without a new Smash Mouth album to liven up those beach parties, but the San Jose all-stars plan to bring a little sunshine to the cold months to come with their latest release scheduled to hit shelves Nov. 27. With the retro-disco first single "Pacific Coast Party" already breezing along the radio waves, other tunes on the album hearken back to the flashy '70s as well. By developing a sound that mines from the hits of decades past, Smash Mouth's astute blend of surf, pop, rock and ska is irresistibly catchy fun that never goes out of style. Still, despite the band's upbeat tendencies, the group has a darker side that comes out on songs like "Out of Sight" (which addresses the lack of support they've been given from their hometown) and "Disenchanted" (a critical view of life in L.A. told from an outsider's perspective).

--Sarah Quelland


Belle and Sebastian, Storytelling (soundtrack); Matador)
Beulah, The Coast Is Clear; Velocette
Dilated Peoples, Expansion Team; Capitol
Billie Holiday, Lady Day: Best of Billie Holiday; Columbia
Le Tigre, Feminist Sweepstakes; Mr. Lady
Modest Mouse, Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks; Sony
Radiohead, I Might Be Wrong; Capitol
Hope Sandoval, Bavarian Fruit Bread; Rough Trade
They Might Be Giants, Holidayland; Restless
Tom Waits, Used Songs: 1973-1980; Rhino
Waking Life, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack; TVT/Searchlight

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From the November 15-21, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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