The Faraway Places, Unfocus on It (Eenie Meenie Records). Baby,it’scold-and tense -outside, but this catchy, cosmic CD will warm your frigid heart and relax your tight ass. According to the band’s Website,principals Donna Coppola (keyboards,vocals)and Chris Colthart (guitar, vocals) met in Boston while watching a Sun Ra video, and their music-first put out under the moniker the Solar Saturday, and fleshed out by an ever-changing ensemble of players-evokes the experimental, jazzy and frequently downright wacky spirit of the Arkestra’s work. Except that the Faraway Places are a helluva lot more listenable: They combine jangly and fuzzy guitars, layers of electronic and orchestral flourishes and a pop sensibility that straddles 60′s England and 70′s California, with Ms. Coppola’s matted voice sounding like a cross between Nico and Kim Deal. Unfocus on It , their debut album, manages to be both cool and warm, especially on the wistful “Summertime” with its melancholy string arrangements and back-up sighs, and the Beach Boys-meets-Bowie “City on the Ocean.” Technically, this album isn’t slated for release in the States until Feb. 17, but it’s been available as an import on the Bella Union label since August. It’s worth tracking down now.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, in “Hot Four” quartet formation, at Joe’s Pub, Jan. 27, as they inaugurate the new Preservation Hall Recordings label and celebrate the release of three great-sounding CD’s: Best of The Early Years , which features a number of previously unreleased recordings, including “So Long Blues,” Ain’t Got Nobody” (with Marvin Kimball on vocals) and “Hindustan”; Hot Four , quartet performances with saxophonist Harold “Duke” Dejan on vocals; and Shake That Thing , which spotlights the current Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and “That Bucket’s Got A Hole in It,” among other standards, at the hall in New Orleans that tuba player Allan Jaffe and his wife Sandy opened in 1961. The late Jaffe plays on a number of the early recordings, while his son Ben Jaffe (who runs the label, band and hall with his mother) plays bass in the band’s current incarnation. You won’t go wrong with any of these CD’s, but if you’re looking for a starting place, go with Best of the Early Years . Its exuberant mix of chugging tubas, snaking clarinets and razzing horns-occasionally contrasted with a buttery, bluesy vocal-will wake you from your January coma better than any chicory-laced caffeinated product that Café du Monde serves up.
Interstella 5555, an album-length, dialogue-free anime video made in collaboration with Daft Punk for the musical outfit’s last album, Discovery , by Leiji Matsumoto, a man who’s been called the George Lucas of Japanese anime. The story-depicted in that hyperrealistic and yet somehow depressingly flat animation style that dominates the Cartoon Network’s Toonami program block-is about a band that’s been kidnapped from an alien planet and brought to earth by an evil manager. (As Count Floyd would say: Veddy, veddy scary! ) Pay close attention to the abduction scene, which occurs at the beginning of the film to the tune of “One More Time,” and try not to think of it as a metaphor for millennial New York: While what seems to be an entire city-or maybe planet-parties to the band in question, a group of black-clad marauders (looking like a cross between Darth Vader and Delta Force) sneak in and bring the oblivious masses to their knees. The scene of three red blips flashing on a radar screen is particularly unsettling, even though this part of the film was completed long before Sept. 11.