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Review: A look at overlooked albums of 2012

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2013 at 9:31 am •  Published: January 3, 2013
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Segall sets the mood with album opener, "Thank God for Sinners," an anthemic fist to the face that shows you right where his heart is. Other highlights include the shambolic "Ghost," the relentless "They Told Me Too" and "Love Fuzz," which has a self-explanatory title.

We missed Segall's run through Nashville, Tenn., earlier this year. That won't happen again. He has our complete attention.

—Chris Talbott, AP Music Writer (twitter.com/chris_talbott)

Anat Cohen, "Claroscuro" (Anzic)

Israeli-born Anat Cohen is doing her utmost to ensure that the clarinet no longer remains an overlooked instrument in modern jazz. On "Claroscuro" — a Spanish term referring to the play between light and dark in painting — Cohen offers a variety of tonal shades ranging from light buoyant tunes to dark intense multilayered pieces as she takes her listeners on a multicultural journey with stops in West Africa, New Orleans, Brazil and her present home, New York.

Cohen engages in intricate dialogues with another jazz clarinet virtuoso, Cuban-born Paquito D'Rivera, on four of the 11 tracks — ranging from the twisting, minor key "Nightmare," Swing Era clarinetist Artie Shaw's haunting theme, to the playful, danceable "Um A Zero" by the Brazilian choro master Pixinguinha. On "La Vie En Rose," Cohen pays homage to Louis Armstrong's New Orleans take on the Edith Piaf chanson, slowing the tempo and contrasting her smooth clarinet lines with Wycliffe Gordon's growling trombone and gravelly vocals.

Cohen gives her music more variety by embracing other reed instruments. She makes her recording debut on bass clarinet on her own tune "Kick Off," with Gilmar Gomes adding Latin percussion; plays a burning soprano sax solo on drummer Daniel Freedman's "All Brothers" with its West African rhythms; and displays some soulful tenor sax chops on the closing, gospel-flavored "The Wedding" by South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.

—Charles J. Gans, AP Writer (twitter.com/chjgans)

THEESatisfaction, "awE naturalE" (Sub Pop)

For some reason, year-end lists often carry a taint with them, but around here, we love them because of all the leads they give you on new music. THEESatisfaction came to our attention after its appearance on one list or another, and we're excited to discover "awE naturalE."

Rapper Stasia Irons and singer Catherine Harris-White's thoroughly modern mash-up of hip-hop and soul is intoxicating — they call their songs "funk-psychedelic feminista sci-fi epics" — and the music weaves back and forth between fierce and fearless.

The folks at Sub Pop, who had a stellar 2012, discovered Irons and Harris-White after hearing a Shabazz Palaces song they contributed to. Already a veteran of several mixtapes, the self-produced "awE naturalE" is ridiculously self-assured and constantly interesting.

Looking for a little ear candy? Check out "QueenS," which serves as something of a theme song, the jazzy "Existinct" and the fractured jam of "naturalE."

—Chris Talbott, AP Music Writer (twitter.com/chris_talbott)

Kitty Pryde, "Haha, I'm Sorry" (Self-released)

In between retail store shifts in Daytona Beach, Fla., and navel-gazing about drunken boys, Kitty Pryde found something valuable in 2012. She delivers dream-pop rap that resonates with a restless sliver of hip-hop fans craving something smarter to savor.

Pryde's EP, "Haha, I'm Sorry," was welcomed by the few that noticed its free-via-Bandcamp release.

The complex, exploratory beats by producer Beautiful Lou are crucial to the polish of the five-track effort by Pryde, whose youthful banality oozes out of each savvy curse-free verse. Pryde's easy flow on "Ay Shawty" has nothing to do with the hip-hop you hear on the radio and everything to do with a snapshot of hip-hop fandom, growing in numbers, who seek something beyond the guns-and-drugs drill that often dominates the genre.

This is real downtime talk, not saddled with rough urban fantasies.

—Ron Harris, AP Writer (twitter.com/journorati)

Ana Tijoux, "La Bala" (Nacional Records)

Sometimes the most powerful sound is not a shout, but a whisper.

Chilean-French rapper Ana Tijoux proves the power of that phrase. This year she brought new life to hip-hop en espanol with her rich, intelligent and original album "La Bala."

Tijoux captures attention with a complex delivery that is both soft and harsh, warm in tone, yet chilling. Her lyrics reflect the politics that have shaped her world: She grew up exiled in France, where her family fled to escape the Pinochet regime.

Musically, "La Bala" is a gorgeous, potent and smoothly produced mix of bass, orchestration, rock and soul — with delicious use of G-funk styling. The rhythms are unexpected and enticing.

On the title track, Tijoux details the shooting of a man, rapping over a militaristic march: "That body without life was her son, stunned Maria falls to the floor, her deformed face turned into a cry that leaves only a hum meaning — assassin."

—Michelle Morgante, AP Writer (twitter.com/mmorgante)