Various Artists – Khat Thaleth EP (Stronghold Sound)

Khat Thaleth brings together the poetic and musical skills of artists from several regions, including Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Iraq. Several traditional elements are incorporated in these tracks including classical folk tunes and instruments, reinforcing the connection to the regions they are from. Most songs begin with an oriental-sounding backbeat followed by the artists launching into an explosion of lyrics. The lyrics are all in colloquial Arabic, each using a different dialect. This album is an example of the creative ways in which people are using artistic and cultural forms of expression in order to expose the corruption of formal politics. Issues range from crony capitalism to the conspiracies and exploitation of the people by their local rulers. Even if you don’t understand Arabic, you can hear the tone of cynicism towards local and global politics in this music. – Katie Cunningham, April 2013

Jambalaya Brass Band – On the Funky Side

The Jambalaya Brass Band is a New Orleans brass band in the vein of other revivalists like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and they fit the bill very well. This album exudes raw energy, with upbeat solos, tight bass lines, and funky licks abound. K1 is a great overall showcase of the band’s talent, and K6 is nice with its spicy Latin tinge. No one song really stands out as exceptional, but the whole album is great fun. I’d recommend this for rotation, especially given the dearth of jazz records in there currently. – Connor McGowan, 2/19/2013