This week features a trip across the Atlantic (for those of you reading in America) to highlight goodies from Spain and Israel. Bebe, real name Maria Nieves Rebolledo Vila, dropped her third album earlier this year, the aptly titled Un Pokito de Rocanrol, because there really is only a little rock and roll on it. I only know this album through the good graces of Rhapsody’s behavior to occasionally featuring left-field albums on its weekly listing of new releases. The same goes for Balkan Beat Box, whom I might have discovered otherwise if I was diligent enough to listen to every album Christgau recommends. (For the record, I don’t. I haven’t nearly enough time.) No need to feel like you’re expanding your cultural horizons; the music’s good, so enjoying it’s called having a soul. Also ears.
BALKAN BEAT BOX – Give (Nat Geo Music): The opening one-two-three-four Gypsy hip-hop kick these Israeli émigrés gone Brooklyn offer establishes their lyrical and political parameters with little wiggle room—“Money leads to more money/Power to more power”—before briskly backing off into a might-as-well-be instrumental laced with the hushed refrain of “Get sick of it.” A good move considering how much appears to be a bunch of simplistic 99-percenter with tinges of Arab Spring slogans until the lull at album’s middle lets you reflect—reflect on the music that is. Tomer Yusef’s rallying cries carry weight thanks to the universally appealing blistering beats and swinging horn arrangements of founding members Tamir Muskat and Ori Kaplan. Without those, this “us versus them”-a-thon would be as placid as picket signs lacking sparklies. You gotta have sparklies. A MINUS
BEBE – Un Pokito de Rocanrol (EMI Spain): Translates literally as A Little Bit of Rock ‘n Roll—Not to Mention a Little Trip-Hop, a Little Electronica, and Even Littler Instrumentation. Originally titled Alternately Political and Personal, Every Sentence is Painted With Heavy-Handed Metaphors for Disintegrating Relationships or Brief Lamentations of the Political Fuck We Find Ourselves In, Topped Off With a Detour to Denounce Rampant Consumerism. Truthfully, every sentence from the Spanish singer-songwriter/actress I can understand (something like 30%) makes me squirm with the wrong kind of discomfort. So thank French producer Renaud Letang for the genre-dabbling minimalism; the subtle shifts in simple guitar riffs alongside electronic drums with the occasional keyboard run aids Bebe’s delivery, where the cadence of her voice conveys her convoluted feelings and clumsy lyrics (hey, maybe they just don’t translate well) with conviction, enough that you get the mood if not the message. And maybe you shouldn’t. I’m not sure I do. A MINUS