Sonic Reducer: Kate Nash, Benny Anderssons Orkester, Putumayo Presents South Africa

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Kate Nash’s second offering is more complicated than 2007’s Made of Bricks . Her pop songs are still centered around straightforward, pedestrian lyrics—“Barbecue food is good, you invite me out to eat it, I should go”—delivered in a clear voice, with a cute British accent. However, the music is all-around more complex and slightly grittier. Even the popular single “Do Wah Doo,” which features a chorus that is pure hook, is layered with background singers, piano, tambourines, strings and garage-y guitar riffs. Some tracks are clearly punk-influenced, some reference ’60s girl groups, some weave both together. She still has plenty to say about sex, jerks and bitches, as well as how insecure and goofy all three can make her feel. (SO)

Benny Andersson Band Story of a Heart (Decca)

Bet you didn’t know this ABBA superstar had a solo project. In the mid-’80s, Andersson decided he wanted to make original music inspired by Swedish folk, Celtic folk and American ’50s standards, with classical thrown in for good measure. In Sweden it’s known as Benny Anderssons Orkester, which is fitting: The band has 16 members including string, brass and wind sections. Story of a Heart is a compilation of songs from his band’s three Swedish releases. The album veers from plucky waltzes to marches to soaring musical-theater-style epics. Roughly half the songs are instrumental—these are the better ones. The album could be the soundtrack for a romantic comedy set in the rural hills of Sweden. (SO)

Various Putumayo Presents South Africa (Putumayo)

World music label Putumayo produces a seemingly endless stream of global music that both educates and entertains. Its latest installment explores the diverse musical realms of Africa’s southernmost nation, offering listeners examples of kwela, mbaqanga, township jive, Afropop, R&B and reggae. “Orlando,” by late activist and singer Miriam Makeba, is the exceptional track here, but as a whole the album is as relaxing as sunbathing on a tropical beach (while pondering the nature of racial oppression). (JCC)

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