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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
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+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
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+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
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+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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Who's Got Trouble

I have to admit that I approached Ambrosia Parsley, lead singer of the band Shivaree, with a little prejudice. I've never been a big fan of salad with marshmallows in it, or of people with culinary stage names. But it turns out Ambrosia is her given name. And she's a lot more solid than she is fluffy. With her velvety smooth voice, she sings about dying romances and empty cocktail glasses with an air of mystery and intelligence.

Shivaree's new release, Who's Got Trouble, is a collection of boozy torch songs for the rock audience. Especially the rock audience with an affinity for lounge. I know they're out there. In New York City, the Loser's Lounge tributes to acts like Burt Bacharach, Prince and Queen meld indie rock and cabaret, and regularly sell out. Bebel Gilberto and the Brazilian Girls are constantly played in restaurants and bars. Even Queen Latifah traded in the taunts and threats of hip-hop for sequins and "standards." These polished voices go well with the polished faces that took over when grunge's frumpy masses took to the salons. At this very moment, there's a contractor with better-groomed eyebrows than mine working in my basement.

Shivaree are doing their part to stir this rebirth of the lounge act. Parsley has a versatile voice, and she uses it to mine a variety of singing styles from the cocktail bar. Sometimes she's a brokenhearted torch singer, while others she's a saucy burlesque dancer. Her fellow songwriters, Duke McVinnie and Danny McGough (the other two-thirds of Shivaree), blend jazz, blues and even a little new wave for Parsley to drown her sorrows in. Who's Got Trouble is Shivaree's third album, but their first U.S. release in five years. Their second disc was only sold in Europe after a squabble with their label at the time (Capitol). While working on the CD, Parsley has also become a sort of social commentator, working on Al Franken's show on Air America: She sings the news.

The new disc opens with a plaintive and girly ballad, "The New Casablanca." It's easy to get caught up in the melancholic swells and swirls and Parsley's breathy pleading. The first word she sings is "please." The title of the disc comes from the chorus, where Parsley asks, "Who's got trouble?" "We've got trouble. Go ahead, make mine a double," she answers, singing with a little quiver. Just as I was about to start crying in my own drink, Parsley's odd, old-fashioned Southern phrases piqued my interest. She says, "I do declare" and "my handsome buckaroo." But she sounds more like a retro vixen than a victim. Especially when she rhymes "buckaroo" with "Wait until I get my hands all over you."

"Someday" is a feather-boa-swinging burlesque number. As Parsley struts away from her lover, singing, "Someday love will get you down, you'll see: You're going to suffer for what you've done to me," a honky-tonk organ and horn cheer her on. She sounds like Peggy Lee in all her shimmying glory. It's one of the two songs on the disc not written by the band; Dave Bartholomew, a New Orleans songwriter who worked with Fats Domino, wrote it. The other cover is Brian Eno's "Fat Lady of Limburgh." Shivaree channel '80s new wave band The Motels, as Parsley uses her throatiest voice, and McGough and McVinnie fill in Eno's sparse and herky-jerky original with a throbbing bass, an organ and electronic keyboard effects.

"Lost in a Dream" sounds like what might be playing at the end of the night, when the bar is empty and only the truly pathetic souls remain, unable — because of drink or heartache — to get up and walk out. As a stand-up bass is slowly plucked and a cymbal trembles, Parsley sings, "I'm looking for a moonbeam to get lost in/ Everything will be beautiful and bright/ 'Cause things come out at night/ They're ugly and some of them bite/ So I'm getting lost in a dream." The organ and horn wail along with her, until the bass picks up slightly and gives her a little kick.

The saddest song on the disc is "Mexican Boyfriend." You can hear the pout on Parsley's lips as she tells the sad tale of a first love, of the little girl who boxed up and gave away her dolls and the boy who disappeared. She sings, "What they said was a man drifted over the line; drove you away and a little girl out of her mind." The little girl is there, in the high octaves of Parsley's voice and the lullabylike keyboard and gentle guitar-strumming. Parsley paints a graphic picture with her lyrics, of the carnations and stone that took the place of the boy who had been by the side of the road. Now he won't know her first kiss. Somebody else will.

by Lori Miller Barrett

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