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MP3 Boister - Sister City

Cabaret of the 3rd Millenium.

18 MP3 Songs
POP: Quirky, WORLD: Western European

BOISTER is part of the burgeoning Baltimore music scene that has nurtured the likes of TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Celebration, Wilderness, Lungfish, Cass McCombs, Entrance, and More Dogs. Boister (according to Radar magazine) “meshes diverse traditions into something distinctly other, leaving critics groping for adjectives.” The press has been especially enthusiastic in France, where Jade magazine called Boister’s 1997 debut disc “the album of the decade” and critics lined up to praise the group’s subsequent recordings (Song of the Smoke, Pieces of Milk, and Les Foules en Amour), comparing vocalist/keyboardist Anne Watts to the likes of Edith Piaf and Tom Waits. The band’s music has also gotten airplay in the U.S., on radio stations such as WXPN in Philadelphia, and throughout Europe.

Boister is currently promoting its much-anticipated double album, Sister City, the band’s most artistically ambitious release to date. Comprised of songs ranging from the eerie, mysterious “Demons Come” to the rambunctious, frenetic “Math Polka,” Boister explores the full range of its influences, including the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Thelonious Monk, and Wilco. Marc Anthony Thompson (aka Chocolate Genius) says of Sister City: “Really beautiful. It makes me sway.” Three songs from Sister City, in the first month of its release, have been featured on NPR''s Morning Edition.

Boister’s spirited live shows have quickened pulses up and down the East Coast, and the band has appeared at a variety of venues, including the World Café, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian, Toronto''s NXNE Music Festival, and numerous college campuses.

Toronto''s Being There Magazine has this to say about Sister City:

"Back in June, during Toronto''s North-by-Northeast music festival, I had the pleasure of witnessing a brief set by a very fascinating musical act out of Maryland known as Boister. Fronted by the accordion-wielding Anne Watts and consisting of several other eccentric and talented musicians, the band impressed me with its style, eclecticism and a French Led Zeppelin cover.

Boister''s new album, Sister City , captures so much of what I enjoyed about that evening: great vocals, unique instrumentation, and a gamut of styles that seem endless.

Let''s start with the vocals. A few lines into “Demons Come,” Sister City ''s opening track, you''d swear you were listening to Chrissie Hynde or Lucinda Williams. But quickly you''ll come to the realization that the music Boister plays is radically different from either of these relatively accessible singers, not to mention most of the music you''ve probably heard before.

Sister City covers a great deal of musical territory, some of it more accessible than others. Boister seems to revel in its ability to morph and manipulate song structure, melody, and tempo. “Demons Come” may start out with a relatively basic melody and chord structure, but things start to get a little weird before too long. But then comes in the familiar tune “When The Saints Go Marching In” to remind us that this is music, that universal language which we are all familiar with more than we''d like to admit sometimes. And while things get a little crazy and experimental with “Chaim” and its unique approach to melody and rhythm, the following song (“Whiskey Song”) has an air of familiarity to it, recalling the classic Brecht-Weill compositions that we''ve all heard a million times.

Sometimes the music changes completely within a single song. “Letters Underwater” starts off slow and beautiful like Hejira -era Joni Mitchell before the drums charge in, speeding up the tempo and changing the song entirely. By the time Watts enters with her vocals, we''re at CBGBs or something! It''s very interesting. Elsewhere, things get funky on the second of two versions of “Go And Let It Go.” This album may be all over the place, but it''s all in a very good way.

While Watts'' voice is central to much of Sister City , some of the best tracks on the album are instrumentals. This isn''t too much of a surprise, since original film scoring for silent movies is on Boister''s resume. Instrumentally the album is loaded with instruments that are underutilized in modern music: the accordion, the clarinet, and the trombone to name a select few. Close your eyes, and the accordion in “Amble” takes you to Paris. When the rest of the band joins in, we''re suddenly walking down a busy street in the 1920s. The group is extremely talented at creating images with their music that beg you to get lost. Further on we have “Math Polka,” which is more of a late-night, drunken romp highlighted by Craig Considine''s trombone.

Sister City is a bit overwhelming simply because – at an eighteen track album spilled onto two discs – there is so much to absorb, all of it quite different from anything else you''ve probably heard before (despite airs of familiarity here and there). But eventually the whole thing will grab you like a sponge filled with great music and soundscapes. It took me I don''t know how many times of listening to it front to back to write this review, and I''m still figuring some of it out. Is that not a sign of a worthwhile album or what?"

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