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Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releases

Alternative

Radiohead, "The King of Limbs: Live From the Basement" (Ticker Tape). Proving that its art is far more than a mere collection of studio tricks and behind-the-scenes assembly, Radiohead humanizes its recent "King of Limbs" with this full live performance from its basement rehearsal studio. The material doesn't really come to life so much as it explodes into a blend of outer-space esoterica, firmly grounded funkiness and unabridged emotional investment, particularly from vocalist Thom Yorke, who gives these performances all he's got. Available as a downloadable movie-album combo, "From the Basement" is prime Radiohead, beautifully filmed and lovingly recorded. You can purchase the Blu-Ray version through Kingoflimbs.com or download the video-album via iTunes. 4 stars (out of 4) (Jeff Miers)

***

Classical

Danielle de Niese, Beauty of the Baroque, the English Concert, Harry Bicket, conductor (Decca Universal). Part Dutch and mostly Sri Lankan, Danielle de Niese is known for putting a glamorous spin on hoary Baroque heroines on the opera stage. She celebrates the Baroque era here with 13 tracks, made with the gossamer English Concert (who graced Buffalo's Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series not long ago). De Niese's voice is not massive but it is clear and shiny. She sings as if her heart is in it. She is direct and affecting in melancholy songs by the Elizabethan John Dowland as well as Dido's lament from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas." Countertenor Andreas Scholl joins her in Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater," and Handel's "Guardian Angels, oh, protect me" also tugs at the heart, and I love the serene, unhurried "Sheep May Safely Graze." De Niese has an unbridled way of throwing herself into the joyous, bouncy "Sich uben im Lieben" from Bach's "Wedding Cantata." The English Concert follows her with alert precision. 3 1/2 stars (Mary Kunz Goldman)

*

Natasha Paremski, Brahms, Sonata No. 2, Gabriel Kahane, Piano Sonata, Prokofiev, Sonata No. 7 (Arioso Classics). It's hard to keep today's young pianists straight. Each is more glamorous than the last, and they all come with great techniques, not to mention the kind of accolades that only a handful of pianists of past generations could have dreamed of. We have, however, gotten a good look at Natasha Paremski, a native of Russia who studied with the late Earl Wild. She played Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto with the BPO a couple of years ago, and did a fine job with it, too. Here Paremski plays some enthusiastic and muscular Brahms and quirky, virtuosic Prokofiev. In between comes a sonata by Gabriel Kahane, son of pianist (and Paremski's piano coach) Jeffrey Kahane. The sonata is OK, not the worst thing in the world to listen to, nothing you'll probably want to hold onto. I like Kahane's cabaret work better. 3 stars (M.K.G.)

*

Mozart, Keyboard Music, Vol. 3, Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano (Harmonia Mundi). I like to hear Mozart played on a big modern Steinway. But Bezuidenhout does a good job with handling the limitations of his 1805 fortepiano repro. His playing can be fussy. His hands aren't always together, which drives me crazy in the bittersweet, major/minor Adagio in the Sonata in F, K. 332. On the bright side, I am grateful to Bezuidenhout for including this particular sonata, which is usually played only by students who cannot grasp its haunting qualities. I like also how he attempts improvisation, sometimes as simple as a grace note coming from a different direction from what you are used to hearing. The disc begins with the Sonata in B flat, K. 333, a fascinating piece with some weird harmonies and a last movement that is kind of like a mini-concerto. He also includes the interesting C minor Fantasia, K. 396; and a spirited performance of the variations on "A wife is a marvelous thing" from "The Magic Flute," the last solo piano piece Mozart wrote. 3 stars (M.K.G.)

***

Pop

Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Stage Whisper" (Because Music Elektra Records). No one can deny that Charlotte Gainsbourg is an interesting artistic presence in whatever creative endeavor she has going. The French artist has found time between being a fashion muse and shooting a range of quirky films to record some quirky music. She first gave the music thing a go by dueting with her father, Serge, in 1984 on a song called "Lemon Incest" and he produced her first album two years later. After a 20-year break, Gainsbourg launched "5:55," a melancholy pop album, to critical success. Her fourth album, "Stage Whisper," mixing seven unreleased studio recordings, some from her work with Beck on her third album "IRM," and 11 songs from her live performance on tour, is a somewhat flawed enterprise. Doubtless the album will get her alternative scene street cred, but that won't erase the fact that some of the songs are mismatched to her whispery voice. The fact is particularly clear on the "Got to Let Go" collaboration with Charlie Fink, where Gallic '80s synth accompanies their wails about "a deadly revolver held to your head." A bit like this song.

Not to say that the eclecto-electro lineup is without charm. Gainsbourg shows that she can be a chameleon when it comes to music too, channeling Alison Goldfrapp successfully on "Terrible Angles" -- a track reminiscent of "Train" but tinged with the despair of a floundering human being. She also does a good mix of Bjork and Kate Bush in "Set Yourself On Fire," a psychedelic trip into the '70s. "White Telephone" is like a lyre voyage to a misty vampire den, where Gainsbourg's singing acts as a hypnotizer for the unsuspecting victim. 3 stars (Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press)

*

Robin Thicke, "Love After War" (Star Trak/Geffen). Like his previous releases, Robin Thicke's "Love After War" is steeped heavily in nu-soul and R&B and focuses on love, sex and the emotions in between. While 2009's "Sex Therapy" was more carnal in content and sexual in rhythm, "Love After War" tones down the language and relies less on the tried-and-true R&B beats, as the '70s funk of "An Angel on Each Arm" and the rowdy, anthemic and slightly corny "I'm an Animal" demonstrate. "New Generation," meanwhile, seems an homage to the music and spirit of Gil Scott-Heron. "Love After War" isn't as engaging or memorable as some of Thicke's earlier work, but it's a fun listen and possibly an indication of where Thicke is headed next -- focusing more on music than on lust. 3 stars (Katherine Silkaitis, Philadelphia Inquirer)

*

Of Monsters and Men, "Into the Woods" (Of Monsters and Men). Start by imagining Bjork getting all folksy and Mumford & Sons-like, add a dash of sunny '80s pop a la Katrina and the Waves, season with a touch of Coldplay-style grandiloquence, and throw in that anthemic slow-building crescendo thing that Arcade Fire specializes in. Shake liberally. Serve with tofu and low-calorie wheat crackers. No, it won't fill you up, nor will it provide you with a full day's worth of useful nutrition. But it's a nice way to spend a cold winter's night. 2 1/2 stars (J.M.)

*

The Internet, "Purple Naked Ladies" (Odd Future Records). A side project for erstwhile Odd Future members Syd Tha Kid and Matt Martians, the Internet is a dance-soul-hip-hop-electronica project, and "Purple Naked Ladies" is a long-player that offers a mostly delightful cross-section of current electronic music styles. That means abundant auto-tune on the vocals -- in this case, applied in an ironic, self-aware fashion -- and plenty of chirping samples, trebly drum machines, ghosted-in, dub-based vocal mantras and not much in the way of harmonic development. Modern dance pop with an alternative sensibility, then. Fun. 2 1/2 stars (J.M.)