Alibi V.17 No.51 • Dec 18-24, 2008 

Sonic Reducer

Joanna Pascale Through My Eyes (Stiletto Records)

On her second release, this young, Philadelphia-based vocalist freshens the American songbook with new takes on old standards, including some out-of-the-way tunes. With a vivid imagination, infallible phrasing, and a sensual and intelligent expressiveness, Pascale discovers surprises in timeworn favorites we all thought we knew. On “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” for example, she eschews the usual skipping giddiness for a slow, bluesy approach, and finds an almost unbearable longing and a charming, genuine delight in an imagined future. She gets excellent support from her band: Tim Warfield (sax), Andrew Adair (piano), Madison Rast (bass) and Dan Monaghan (drums). (MM)

Common Universal Mind Control (Geffen)

[ MP3 Preview ]

On his eighth album, Common tries to traverse some new ground. It's encouraging that the Chicago-born MC still has a sense of adventure, but he should have stayed closer to home. The Neptune's Pharrell brings an icy soullessness to the lion's share of the tracks. Adding to the artificiality is Common's sexed-up lyrics, delivered awkwardly on "Punch Drunk Love" and "Sex for Sugar." When rave-rap is only hinted at and brass or high-pitch percussion replaces the Casio, Universal Mind Control stays afloat. Otherwise, it's a bunch of club bangers with no bite. (SM)