Cristina Branco: Menina

Cristina Branco is a fado virtuoso but her interpretation isn’t confined to a single genre, nor is her inspiration limited to the world of music. Menina (Girl), her fourteenth album, began with a dream about Diego Velázquez’s iconic painting Las Meninas, in which the figures come to life. The vision prompted her to write a self-portrait that she shared with several musicians, asking them to deliberate on her text and come up with songs. The resulting album reflects feminine sensibilities, habits and passions … More Cristina Branco: Menina

Coope Boyes & Simpson: In Flanders Fields

World War I hostilities began in Europe on August 4, 1914—and 976 days later the United States joined the conflict. On August 4, 2014, the English a cappella trio Coope Boyes and Simpson released a sweeping 50-track homage to the songs of the war and the British soldiers and civilians who sang them. Now, some 976 days after the album’s launch, a review from an American music blog seems belatedly on time. In Flanders Fields is a landmark … More Coope Boyes & Simpson: In Flanders Fields

17 Hippies: 20 Years – Anatomy

The Berlin-based world/folk group 17 Hippies emerged in an open-minded Europe that valued diversity. Operating less like a band than a village in which each resident carries instruments and tastes acquired on foreign adventures, the collective’s disparate elements work beautifully together, against expectations. The result is a floating musical center of gravity as inspiring as it is fun, with dominant elements (Balkan rhythm, French chanson, Weimar … More 17 Hippies: 20 Years – Anatomy

Sous Les Quais: L’âme ronde

You won’t soon forget the three artists of Sous les Quais. Frédéric Flouret (deep vocals, guitar), Romain Jamard (an accordion he calls his “third lung”) and Benoît Grelier (sonorous cello) offer street corner French chanson—early twentieth century style—and typically perform their songs in a stage-set living room crammed with flea market finds, down to their vintage suits. Fred’s lyrics are mostly about love’s weight and complication, but the band’s optics carry a cheeky vein that perhaps … More Sous Les Quais: L’âme ronde

Ceuzany: Ilha d’Melodia

We think of islands as isolated places, but Cape Verde, the archipelago off Africa’s west coast, has enough tourists and more than enough expatriates to ensure constant traffic and ample opportunity for its prodigiously talented musicians to reach across the waters. One of the country’s rising stars is Ceuzany Pires, whose second solo album is an exploration of home, family, strong women, migration, music and love—expressed in traditional Cape Verdean morna and coladeira, seasoned with folk, rock … More Ceuzany: Ilha d’Melodia

Surpluz: Dat Ik Zingen Moet!

In the modern world, a boundary separates stage from audience. But the Belgian band Surpluz performs charming traditional songs with bagpipe, hurdy-gurdy, dulcimer, accordion, guitar and clarinet, transporting listeners to a time when the line between entertainer and spectator was thin, when music was a larger part of everyone’s life, when farmers, soldiers, traders, weavers, smiths and tavern … More Surpluz: Dat Ik Zingen Moet!

François Léveillée: La part des anges

When cognac ages, the elusive portion that evaporates is called the angels’ share (La part des anges). As François Léveillée—humorist, singer-songwriter, author, director and beloved fixture of Québec culture—has aged, he has developed a potent formula of comedy and music. “I can take an audience to one place with humor and somewhere else entirely with a song,” he observes. While the love songs from his latest album (French chanson, folk … More François Léveillée: La part des anges

Anda Union: Homeland

In the dim light of a New York night club, a cavernous church in Oxford or in any secluded corner of the globe, the musicians of Anda Union recreate the open skies of the Central Asian grasslands. Through traditional vocals, overtone (throat) singing and Mongolian long song, playing horsehead fiddles, lutes, flutes and drums, they tell stories of herds and heroes, of lands and families. The driving forces of their music are nostalgia and a passion … More Anda Union: Homeland

Tango-Orkesteri Unto: Dark Wings of the Night

The range of human emotion stays largely the same, even in physical landscapes that are poles apart. So perhaps the mystery of Finnish tango lies less in how it flourishes in subarctic ground than in the eternal shadow of passion. One indicator of how rooted the century-old Argentine import is in Finnish culture is the exquisite sound of Tango-Orkesteri Unto—six virtuoso musicians with parallel careers in folk, jazz, classical and theater music … More Tango-Orkesteri Unto: Dark Wings of the Night

George Telek, David Bridie & Musicians of the Gunantuna: Songs from a Bit na Ta

Papua New Guinea may seem remote, but everyone manages to find it. Prior to independence, parts of it were colonized or invaded by Germany, Great Britain, Japan and Australia. Few among the intruders knew the Papuans, but that’s the aim of a Bit na Ta (Source of the Sea), a sweeping multimedia exhibit at the Queensland Art … More George Telek, David Bridie & Musicians of the Gunantuna: Songs from a Bit na Ta