Artist: Markéta Irglová
Songs: “Point of Creation,” “Without a Map”
Summary: "Muna" opens with a church procession — bells and chanting and all — and then goes with it into the cathedral. The song, “Point of My Creation,” was in fact recorded in a church in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Czech-born Irglová now lives. Or, perhaps more accurately, she builds a musical cathedral, a structure of grandeur and beauty.
Accordingly, her second solo album is at once a joyful and somber experience, the artist looking at life with both hope and awe, portrayed in songs marked by beauty and depth. This is no surprise to fans of her first album, 2011’s Anar.
But it might be a little bit, in a good way, to those who only know her as the winsome co-star of the movie Once. That’s certainly her calling card for most, having won an Oscar for writing “Falling Slowly” with co-star and the movie’s creator Glen Hansard, plus a Tony for co-writing the music in the Broadway version. It might even be a little surprise to those familiar with the two albums she and Hansard made as the Swell Season, spinning off from the movie. Nothing against those works, but this is something different, something more, something — dare we say — better.
Where the churchy “Point of Creation” is the start, the close comes with the more homey “This Right Here.” It’s a chronicle of a journey, with some telling titles between: “Time Immemorial,” “Without a Map,” “Remember Who You Are,” “Seasons Change.” Renewal, growth and discovery are among the major themes, living “Without a Map” and being rooted, grounded in a present, seeing both the journey and the destination as equally important.
Certainly it traces her unlikely life, but also it would seem to reflect her relatively recent role as a mother, looking at the voyage ahead for the new life she’s brought into the world. Religious themes reappear, and “Without a Map” concludes with a gorgeous setting of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not a Christian album, in the conventional sense, but it is prayerful.
As personal as that may be, so is the music, an in inventive lustrous blend, intimate and contemplative at some turns, invitingly expansive at others. Kate Bush comes to mind here and there, but without the precious artiness in which Bush has indulged at times. Irglová’s piano is most often the central instrument, dexterously played, but not showy and generally the backbone for the semi-orchestral elements surrounding it. And then there’s her voice, at once delicate and strong, certain yet dreamy, pure an unaffected.
All in all, Muna is rather — well, seductive may be the wrong word for something that seems so pious. But that’s what it is.
Summary: Listen to Idan Raichel sing a verse of “Hodu,” his adaptation of the Psalm 136 “Hodu l’adonai” — “Give thanks to God.”
Now listen to Vieux Farka Touré sing a verse. Same song, same melody, two very different feelings — one by an Israeli Jew in Hebrew, the tone distinct to his background and traditions, the other by a Malian Muslim in Songhai, true to his traditions.
The mundane, and obvious, thing to say now would be that this is not about how the artists and their cultures differ, but about what they share, a demonstration of how we can all embrace our similarities through music and transcend all our disputes. And it’s true. Of course. But that angle risks rendering this song, this album, this project about making a point rather than about making music — which is the point.
Keyboardist Raichel has made a mark with his fusions of Middle Eastern, African and European sounds, with a little jazz and electronics — and maybe just a touch of Jewish mysticism.
Toure has been following in the footsteps of his father, the late guitarist Ali Farka Touré, expanding the range and reach of the griot troubadour traditions of the Mande people, the son bringing in some jam-rock elements without diminishing the bonds to the family legacy.
The Touré-Raichel Collective grew out of a serendipitous 2008 encounter by the namesake principals in the Berlin airport. Already fans of each other, the two talked about collaborating. Raichel later invited Touré to Israel, resulting in 2011’s The Tel Aviv Session album, a nicely spontaneous exploration not just of their common ground, but also of how they can each respectively find their way in the other’s styles. A subsequent tour expanded and enriched the relationship. Plans were made for a second album, this time to be recorded in Touré’s hometown Bamako. But when conflict in Mali made that unworkable, the ensemble reconvened in Paris.
The compactness and focus of this music moves beyond that of the debut and the way the two leaders adapt to each other. The key is Raichel’s playing. Piano often seems out of place in non-western music. It’s too rigid, unable to go to the notes between the notes, the crucial quarter tones and legatos. Somehow he is able to at least create the illusion of such, perhaps not from what he plays, but what he leaves out.
“Hodu” aside, the album leans more to the lilting Mande modes and rhythms, a version of Ali Farka Touré’s “Diaraby” (which had appeared on his landmark collaboration with Ry Cooder two decades ago) as another centerpiece. But within any piece they can ease along the full range of the group’s experience, not just the leaders setting the tone but the bassist Daby Touré and percussionist Abdourhamane Salaha (on both African calabash gourd and congas) equally adept. And a few guest spots at once enhance the music marvelously and point to possibilities for further Collective explorations, notably Niv Toar’s trumpet on the opening “From End to End” and Eyal Sela’s flute on “Gassi Gabbi.”
But just the stripped-down quartet is plenty, the essence of this mosaic heard in the burbling “Tidchar.”
A photo in the CD package shows a close-up of Touré’s and Raichel’s fists bumped together, draped over them a silver pendant of the Hand of Fatima, a key part of the iconography of both cultures. So yes, there is a point illustrated here. But regardless, the image is in and of itself striking — just like the music.
Summary: Regional Mexican singer Luis Coronel returns with the second album of his career, “Quiero Ser tu Dueño.”
The latest project, a follow-up to Coronel’s first album in 2013 “Con la Frente en Alto,” re-introduces the 18-year-old who in one year has built major momentum in Mexican music, crooning his heart out in norteño and banda music.
The Arizona-born Coronel, who was discovered on YouTube by the owner of Del Records based in Downey, Calif., has become a major name in Mexican music. He’s part of the new generation of young artists growing in popularity.
As a new artist Coronel is showing promise as a songwriter in songs such as “Quiero Ser Tu Dueño,” a love ballad that showcases his solid vocals and ability to pen romantic songs that are vibrant and catchy.
The other song, “Tenerte,” shows Coronel’s ability to connect with a song vocally which in this case is set up perfectly in banda style.
Already, Coronel is showing maturity and savvy for his social media skills—he knows how to connect to his fans. Seeing him grow dramatically in a time frame of a year shows his he has plenty of talent, skill as a songwriter and it’s exciting to see this young crooner develop into a versatile performer.
Artist: Los Tigres del Norte
Album: Realidades (Realities)
Songs: “La Bala,” “Amarte Me Hace Bien”
Summary: Los Tigres del Norte, who recently were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, are back with the new album Realidades.
The CD features the classic Tigres noteño sound that has made the band a fixture on the Latin music scene since the late ‘60s. They've toured throughout the world and have fans everywhere. Their concerts, too, are must-see events.
Known for their versatility and ability to explore universal themes, Los Tigres on this album feature real stories that affect communities in songs such as “La Bala,” which explores the theme of guns which plays out further in the official music video.
The album also includes songs such as “Amarte Me Hace Bien,” a romantic composition about a man who is simply in love and who declares that “loving you does me good.”
Other themes on the record includes music tied to love, social rejection, discrimination and stories that will be a treat for fans as the band introduces one of the best albums of the year.