Music Reviews: Tristan Prettyman, Garage A Trois, Jake Shimabukuro, KJ Sawka, Baumer

Every month(ish), we recommend the most seriously awesome albums and tracks we had on repeat.

Tristan Prettyman


Music: Here is something novel. Tristan Prettyman actually plays guitar, writes her own tunes, and—sorry Britney—sings. And she’s really good to boot. Twentythree serves up nuanced acoustic folk-pop that is irresistibly sprinkled with whimsy, honesty, and melancholy. Think Ani DiFranco meets Jason Mraz meets that breathy-hot-girl-poet-in-high-school-who-was-way-too-smart-to-talk-to-you. 

Drumming: No syncopated, 11/16, prog-jogging riffs here—just deep-in-the-pocket grooves delivered by Matt Johnson (on most of the CD) or Nir Z (on two tracks). Percussionist Leon Mobley nicely complements both drummers, and no matter which pair steps up to play, the combined rhythms snuggly fit each song. Check out “Love, Love, Love” and “Always Feel This Way” for tune-conscious drumming done the way it should be.  

The Straight Poop: Soon enough, Prettyman is going to dominate the airwaves. When your troglodyte guitarist friends finally crawl from their musical caves to give her a listen, just sit back, scoff, and say you heard her way back when.

Garage a Trois

Outre Mer

Music: Composed for the avant-garde French film Outre Mer, the tracks on this disc apparently mirror the main character’s journey through joy, sorrow, isolation, devotion, and romantic love. Well now, that’s a little too highbrow for us: all we hear is the best and nastiest New Orleans jazz/funk that has ever crawled from the bayou. If the Swamp Thing wanted to get his groove on, Outre Mer would be on the turntable.

Drumming: You wish you were this good. Drummer Stanton Moore and vibraphonist/percussionist Mike Dillon get downright filthy with deep tom grooves, playful vibes, and a fat cowbell. Every track—especially “Outre Mer,” “Bear No Hair,” and “Merfati”—demands a head-bobbing, arm-jerking, leg-flailing response. But it was “Antoine”—with its slithering half-time feel and ringing snare—that had us getting naked and grabbing hold of the inner swamp creature. 

The Straight Poop: Stanton Moore’s drumming, ya’ll. Get a nightly taste. Serve it over gumbo. 

Jake Shimabukuro


Music: A fucking ukulele? Yep, native Hawaiian Jake Shimabukuro shreds on the tiny, two-octave “gee-tar” you thought was just a toy. Combining nimble fingers, cleverly integrated effects pedals, and a whole lot of creative chutzpah, Shimabukuro’s playing on this CD ranges from latin-tinged fusion jams (we like those) to softer, island-inspired songs (for the weepy set). But rest assured: this is not a collection of your great-grandfather’s Don Ho–inspired instrumentals.

Drumming: Noel Okimoto, who has played with jazzers Stan Getz and Wynton Marsalis, runs the gamut here. He tears it up on “Shake It Up,” the disc’s opener, and he stomps all over the pieces on “3rd Stream.” Bouncy cross sticking and rim-clicks guide “Me & Shirley T” and “Toastmanland.” And the softer “Touch” allows Okimoto to lay back with delicate, fluttering brush work. 

The Straight Poop: Go buy two copies—one for listening to, one for drooling over. Hawaiian hipsters unite!

KJ Sawka

Synchronized Decompression

Music: On first listen, KJ Sawka is simply good drum ’n’ bass. With the addition of Christa Wells’ ethereal, soothing vocals (the perfect complement to the songs’ frenetic pace and jarring rhythms), the music soon becomes very good indeed. But only when the secret is out do you realize you have heard something outstanding: the band’s driving, computer-generated beats are in fact played by Kevin Sawka himself, a real drummer wailing on real drums in real time. 

Drumming: If drum machines ever take over the world, this is the guy who will infiltrate their ranks and live among them. Wresting from his acoustic kit the tight, staccato sounds endemic to electronic music, Sawka is somehow capable of maintaining intricate, repetitive patterns at rapid tempos. By all rights, his hands should bust playing the frantic “Future Juju Soundsystem” and “Close Your Eyes.” Is Sawka man, machine, or cyborg? Who cares. Just plug him in.

The Straight Poop: Creative and inspired and wild and freaky and….


Come On, Feel It

Music: The Americans are coming! Finally, we have a homegrown varietal as tasty as Travis, Coldplay, and Keane. New Jersey’s soon-to-be-darlings have done good on a freshman effort full of infectious, danceable melodies that are a little too clever, a little too dark to be labeled pop. Check out “Not Done With You Yet,” “Perfect Day,” and “Do The Choo Choo.” Just try to stay in your chair.

Drumming: Caleb Weathersby joins the ranks of contemporary players who effortlessly mingle their live drumming with programmed sounds and loops. Backed by a phalanx of electronics, he in turn provides a dynamic foundation for the rest of the band. Listen as he matches the aggressive guitars on “Take What’s Mine” by riding on crashes and laying into his kit. Despite the disc’s inevitable tender moments, there is plenty of unbridled drum abuse for you bruisers.

The Straight Poop: Come on, and feel it. Don’t be nervous: that’s your dancing feet coming to life.

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