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New and noteworthy

MUSIC | Reviews of four albums

New and noteworthy
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George Orwell 1984


You’d have to go back to Spleen’s T.S. Eliot Reads The Waste Land and The Hollow Men to find a soundtrack to zeitgeist-defining literature similar to this one. Nino Auricchio (Winston Smith) and Paul Borg (O’Brien) don’t recite much from Orwell’s novel, but as titles such as “Doublethink (A Study in Newspeak)” and “Telescreens” suggest, what they do recite gets straight to the point. Mainly, however, Auricchio and Borg—the latter of whose nickname really should be “Cy”—utilize synthesizers and other electronic whiz-bangery more “mode” than “depeche” to conjure a chilly approximation of how dystopias sound. Here’s hoping that they get around to Brave New World.

Blues & Bach: The Music of John Lewis 

Enrico Pieranunzi Trio & Orchestra

There’s no blues as such, no Bach at all, and Vernon Duke wrote “Autumn in New York.” So the title of this elevation of eight Modern Jazz Quartet songs into the realm of orchestral jazz is a shade-of-red herring. But Lewis did write seven of them, and he loved both Bach and the blues so much that he once composed an MJQ album with the non-red-herring title of Blues on Bach. Listeners enamored of the originals will miss Milt Jackson’s vibraphone. They’ll also enjoy the reimagining.

Small Comforts

The Chairman Dances

The comforts of these minutely observed chamber-­pop vignettes are small but significant: family Zoom calls, plums savored á la William Carlos Williams, the most pathetic baby shower ever—and, in “Alone at Waverly,” a retiree who has outlived his wife and maybe his own usefulness. If pure religion involves empathy for widows, surely the same goes for widowers.

World Record

Neil Young with Crazy Horse

Forty years ago, Neil Young fans who couldn’t relate to Trans still had to admit that “Like an Inca” was a stunner. Now, Neil Young fans who can’t relate to their hero’s Mother Earth worship will still have to acknowledge the magnificence of the 15-minute “Chevrolet.” It’s not a barn burner (more like an airier “Like a Hurricane”). Neither does it pass environmentalist muster. (Chevrolets run on fossil fuels, do they not?) So although at its dopiest this album could’ve been called To Greta Thunberg With Love, it rocks when it has to. And just as Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” isn’t really about paved parking lots but about getting jilted, a lot of these songs aren’t really about ecodisaster but about getting old.

Jonathan Rundman

Jonathan Rundman Handout


In the last 25 years, singer-songwriter Jonathan Rundman has released over 10 albums, received ordination into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and become a touring partner of the Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara. (He was also ­profiled in WORLD in 2000, although one suspects that he ranks that milestone somewhat lower than the other two.) In celebration of that productive quarter century, he has just released a 25th-­anniversary edition of his super-catchy third album, Recital.

The hooks waste no time in reeling you into the vignettes, each of which is so sharply etched that even if you go in blasé you’ll come out caring about their subjects. A bully’s long-suffering mother, a midsized town in Wisconsin, the resurrection of the body, a drum with a personality of its own—all of them take on three dimensions. And the ELCA’s liberal leanings notwithstanding, it’s Nixon and Reagan that Rundman fancies meeting in “that White House in the sky.” —A.O.

Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.



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