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02.15.10 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW

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1. ALBUM Traveling Like The Light V. V. Brown

This album is just a delight of doo-wop girl-group styled music for a modern generation. Lead single “Shark in the Water” is pitch perfect with a steady beat straight out of K.T. Tunstall’s catalog, Brown’s voice ringing clearly through an excellent hook. She finds her sexy cool on “Bottles,” with its synthy seduction and finds a smooth jazz sound on the less inspired “I Love You.” When she keeps it upbeat, she’s stellar, especially on the swingin’ “L.O.V.E.” and the throwback “Everybody.” The only real misstep might be her “Heart and Soul” riff on “Crazy Amazing” but somehow she makes it work because I can’t stop listening to it. A delightful musical romp, light and fun… A-

2. DANCE Parsons Dance at the Joyce

Thank god for the inclusion of perennial favorite “Caught,” an amazing dance performed with a hand controlled strobe light that makes it appear as if the solo dancer is literally dancing on air. If it weren’t for this bit of genius, it would have been a rough night watching the full-length ballet “Remember Me” scored to opera’s greatest hits done as euro-trash rock songs (Verdi would be ashamed). There are moments of interest, stage pictures that are worth thinking about, but none of it adds up to enough to shield your mind from the melodramatic storyline, insipid music and all around lack of creative taste… D

3. EXHIBITION Pearlstein/Held – Five Decades

The fascination here is the juxtaposition of two artists who started out on similar footing in abstract expressionism and ended in very different sectors of painting, Held in abstraction and Pearlstein in new realism. Each large canvas is bold and powerful, noted only by the dates in which they were created, showing some sense of this evolution of style. While the oversized nudes of Pearlstein are striking, it was all about one massive canvas from Held that captivated with intricate geometries, odd and dark color choices, all coming together to keep the eye constantly roving the entire panel… B+

4. EP XOBC Brandi Carlile

Carlile brings her usual great gifts to a short set of love songs. Staying very faithful to the untouchable original, she opens with The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Pulling out a bit more of that country influence, “Way To You” is a fun little ditty. The real shocker here is a fantastic cover of Bryan Adams ridiculous piano driven torch song “Heaven,” which comes out as a soft and beautiful ballad in Carlile’s capable hands. A nice set for Valentine’s Day, but only makes me more excited for the next full length album… A-

5. ALBUM Crows Allison Moorer

Moorer has one of those voices so distinct and seductive that she could sing just about anything and make me sit up and take notice. Luckily, this album also has some beautifully crafted songs. The mournful “Abalone Sky” opens the album with a slow evolution that seeps into your soul. “Just Another Fool,” with its strumming guitars, mandolins, handclaps and harmonies perfectly bolsters a vocal that floats effortlessly despite the range. My personal favorite is the smoky piano crooner “Should I Be Concerned.” The album is light on laughs, staying in the darker realms of the psyche, but no one does that with such aching beauty as Moorer, so who can complain… A

6. PLAY God of Carnage

I wish I could say that this Tony award winner lived up to expectations; instead I was confronted with a decent script, capable acting at best and a concept that beats its purpose over your head. Yes, parents, when provoked, can act more like their kids than the adults they purport to be. Not exactly a revelation. Admittedly, this was not the original stellar cast, which I imagine would have added some depth to the proceedings, but Yasmina Reza’s script is far from the intelligence she displayed in her Tony winner, Art, or the ingenuity if nothing else in LifeX3. Hats off to Annie Pots who does her best to connect and maintain composure in a character that it would be easy to lose sight of… C+

7. GALLERY Diane Arbus – The Absence of Others

This sparse gallery showing seems to mimic the photographs of the great Diane Arbus. Rather than the usual “freaks” this is empty human landscapes, in some respects the reverse of what you’d expect. The images are no doubt haunting, capturing the essence of each scene through meticulous detail. These spaces seem inhabited even without any specific subject to be seen. Having see much of her work only in books, this felt slight, but for introducing me to another side of a fascinating artist, I was quite pleased… B+

8. TV Taking the Stage, Season 2

I was a big fan of this show’s first season, in which cameras followed talented students in a performing arts high school, a la Fame, but you know, “real.” While season one was certainly contrived and filled with relationship drama, there was some true talent being showcased. This new season and new crop of students seems to be lacking on the talent side, this past week’s entire episode being devoted to the predilections of the teens. I’m hoping the season will develop a bit further and eventually demonstrate the difficulty of being a different type of student with that special gift that by no means guarantees you success… B-

9. BAR The Red Lion

There’s nothing special about this place, but no doubt there’s something pleasant about an old fashioned pub and some good happy hour specials. Getting there early in the evening, your bartender will likely be the owner with his awesome brogue, kind but business oriented. If you stay long enough, you’re bound to catch a live music act. The last time I was there, a very proficient guitar player and vocalist tore his way through the Beatles and more impressively, the solo works of George Harrison. An excellent place to grab a pint… B+

10. TV Shear Genius

This is definitely trash TV, and not at its best. Over the years, this particular Bravo format has been tweaked, but nothing has changed enough to make it match the joys of Top Chef and Project Runway. This years crop of “talent” are just as obnoxious and unmemorable as the past few seasons, but the real loss is of host Jaclyn Smith who, unlike new host Camila Alves, could speak English. The presence of Kim Vo and one-time reality celeb Jonathan Antin are welcome, if for nothing more than gazing upon two great reasons why men should stay away from plastic surgery. It’s not good, but I seem to be watching every week, go figure… C+

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