By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Múm, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy
"This is their new album that just came out. There are so many sounds and instruments, you feel like you're discovering music. I love that feeling, like, 'Wow, I've never heard that before; what an interesting way to combine things.'"
Ruby, Misheet Wara Ehsasi
"What I love about this album is not necessarily the songs but the sounds of the instruments—there's some strings in some of these songs that are really cool. Ruby is from Egypt. I don't really know much about her, but I just love the sound of her voice. You can think of the voice as another instrument when you don't know the language, and I almost think of that as an advantage."
"I love it when somebody does something and the bar just gets higher. That's what happened here. [British-Sri Lankan M.I.A. created Kala at different locations around the world after being denied a visa into the U.S. to record.] Our government is harassing a lot of people. It's getting more and more expensive for presenters to bring musicians in from Islamic countries. It's getting harder to get good information, and music is information."
Nathamuni Brothers, Madras 1974
"This is a cool record made on somebody's porch in India. The Brothers' group is called a brass band, but it's not really a brass band. There's a certain genius in India for taking something and just making it become something else."
Michael Hearst, Songs for Ice Cream Trucks
"Everybody likes ice cream! When I heard this I was like, 'Oh, I want to make a kids' album.' Maybe because I'm a kid myself."
Ge Gan-Ru, Lost Style
"Margaret Leng Tan [who performs on Lost Style] is, like, the foremost toy piano player in the world. On ['Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!'] she's playing all kinds of toys that she found in Chinatown in New York."
Various Artists, Ethnic Minority Music of Southern Laos
"Ethnic Minority Music of Southern Laos is one release of some 35 [releases] on that label. I think I have all of the Sublime Frequencies releases. The Iraqi piece we play I first heard when this particular label released a collection of Iraqi pop music from the '70s and '80s. Basically, I get everything they do—you never know what you're going to hear. There's amazing stuff on this."
Joe Meek, Vampires, Cowboys, Spacemen & Spooks: The Very Best of Joe Meek's Instrumentals
"Some people will say this is cheese; I think it's cool. This is a great double CD. Before [Beatles producer] George Martin, this was the guy, but he died tragically. I think through an accident of timing he got overshadowed but I love him. I feel better every time I hear 'Night of the Vampire.'"
Bettye LaVette, The Scene of the Crime
"Someone sent me The Scene of the Crime, which I can recommend. I have a great idea—at least I like it—for an album of songs, and now I've finally heard the right voice to join us. We'll see if she might be interested." Jennifer Maerz
Jordin Sparks' Idol Thoughts
Arizona native Jordin Sparks has the distinction of being the youngest American Idol winner in the show's history. The 17-year-old Glendale resident—whose father, Phillippi Sparks, played for the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys—was sent home after her initial L.A. audition but bounced back to win a second audition in Arizona and end up at the Seattle tryouts, where she made the Hollywood cut with Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me" before being crowned the show's sixth winner on May 23.
Since winning, the energetic and talkative teenager has been busy. First she traversed the States from July through September as part of the "American Idols Live!" tour, then headed straight into the studio to record songs for her eponymous debut, released November 20 on Jive Records. The album boasts creative input from the likes of Robbie Nevil, Chris Brown (who duets with Sparks on "No Air") and producers Eman (Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion) and Sam Watters (Jessica Simpson). Jordin Sparks runs the gamut from pop to rock to R&B, much like her iPod.
"If you see my iPod, it' s the craziest mix of stuff," she says. "I like post-hardcore, country, rock, hip-hop, '80s music. I'm all over the place."
Sparks says she spent most of her summer listening to the songs she was recording but still managed to quickly name some stuff she had in heavy rotation this year.
"I love her song 'I Hate that I Love You,' the one she does with Ne-Yo. The first time I heard that song, I knew it was going to be a hit. I have it on repeat on my iPod. It keeps growing on me, and I never get tired of it. I like the way their voices blend together."
"I haven't heard his new CD [Exclusive], but two years ago, when his first CD came out, all I wanted for Christmas and my birthday was his album. I'd love to tour with him. It would open me up to his R&B audience, and it would open him up to my pop audience. We're both somewhere in the middle."