8:39am

Tue December 27, 2011
Music

More Favorite Music of 2011: Day 2

Although quite different vis-a-vis each other, these artists in their own ways offer a distinctive and fresh sound -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and Keren Ann.

Right away in the song, My Name Is Trouble, which opens "101" by Keren Ann, you know you're in new musical terrain with a droning hurdy-gurdy timber underneath her clear lilting voice. An exotic background may help explain this - Russian-Jewish and Dutch-Javanese parents - plus she lives mostly in France and New York yet retains Dutch and Israeli citizenships. No lack of mileage points here. Her projects are diverse, collaborating with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and music featured on TV, including Grey's Anatomy. She paints with "frequencies instead of pigments," she laughingly says, "I know it sounds very pretentious." On this, her sixth album, you hear a gentle melancholy voice flowing with fine musical textures unlike any other artist I've enjoyed recently. For a video change of pace, let's hear Keren Ann singing My Name Is Trouble with only her guitar while driving through Soho, honking horns and all. But be sure to check out the album's version!

Perhaps the semi-funky Detroit duo, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., is plugging into America's zeitgeist of discontent with a song and album entitled, "It's A Corporate World."  However, there's not edgy anger here. What I like is their inventive micro-layering of percussive and other effects combined with careful lyrics articulating awkward situations (from their dating days perhaps?).  For example, in the song, Simple Girl: "She's a simple girl... she won't ever let you meet her family but she'll show you pictures...." Yup, guys, we can relate to that one! ...And, yes, they got the race-car star's blessing for their name.

More music recommendations from 2011 tomorrow!  -PJ