Far be it for us to tell you what to stuff into your loved ones' Christmas stockings, Chanukah satchels or Kwanzaa cubbyholes, but music is always in good taste – and we've heard some killer CDs lately. You remember CDs, right?
Keyboard-bashing troubadour Darius Holbert, aka Dariustx, was born in Dallas but currently makes his home in La-La Land. We first heard what someone else called his "Southern piano-driven brokedown junk" when a friend played us the sparkling "Wives of the Circle 5," a song with a chorus so gobsmackingly good that it stayed in our heads for days at a time. On his new disc, The Revelator and the Twilight (82music), Darius and his trio continue to hit the sweet spot with a sonic sauce that suggests equal parts Ben Folds, Billy Joel, Randy Newman and The Allman Brothers, some very tangy lyrics, and inspired musicianship.
The name Bonerama might suggest some kind of pornographic equivalent of Cinemascope, but in fact it's the name of a formidable trombone collective. With four 'bone players, a sousaphonist, guitar, bass and drums, they inhabit their own brassy subgenre. On their new live disc, Bringing It Home, Bonerama adds a surprisingly sharp rock edge to their kinetically funky originals and covers of material by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin (with a saucy, wah-wah-enhanced 'bone aping Robert Plant's vocal), The Meters and Thelonious Monk. Any band that can throw down on Monk's "Epistrophy" and Zep's "The Ocean" with equal aplomb deserves mucho respect – no bones about it. (Note: If you're looking for them online, make sure you use the "dot net" address, not "dot com," or you'll be in for a nasty surprise.)
We've praised the finely hewn, emotionally charged songs and powerful singing of Patrick Park before, but his sophomore album, Everyone's in Everyone, confirms that the man is one of the great songsmiths of our time. You might've heard his "Life Is a Song" on the series finale of The O.C., and that gorgeous ditty is a pretty fair indication of the Colorado-bred Park's power; eschewing the preciousness and self-consciousness so rampant in acoustic pop these days, he turns out consistently engaging compositions that sound utterly timeless. Witness the stirring "Arrive Like a Whisper"; the righteously furious "Pawn Song" (arguably the best protest song of the last two decades); the intimate "Here We Are"; the twangy "One Body Breaks," with its insinuating pedal-steel lines; and the unforgettable title track, as deep and reflective as a river. Inhabiting a musical landscape that sits in a haunting, semi-rural valley halfway between John Denver and X, and showcasing superlative fingerpicking and a voice steeped in sorrow and mystery, Park has raised the bar for all contemporary pop songwriters. Pick up his earlier album, the devastating Loneliness Knows My Name, as well as the assorted EPs, live discs and other offerings on his site.