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Yellow Ostrich Strange Land (Barsuk Records) Yellow Ostrich singer-guitarist Alex Schaaf, who recorded 2011’s The Mistress alone in his Appleton bedroom, is the kind of guy who once relied only on his boyish voice and a drum machine to make one EP (Fade Cave) and drew lyrics exclusively from an actor’s Wikipedia entry for another (The Morgan Freeman EP). Now relocated to New York City, he has expanded Yellow Ostrich to a three-piece indie outfit that plasters the image of a faceless head of hair on its album cover and uses text-speak in song titles (“I Want Yr Love”).

Despite all that, Yellow Ostrich doesn’t make typical indie-rock fare. For example, multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez plays at least 11 different kinds of horns throughout Strange Land’s 10 lush, rhythmically compact songs, which often focus on how things are not always better somewhere else. Might Schaaf be drawing comparisons between Appleton and the Big Apple?

Yellow Ostrich will perform at the Cactus Club on Sunday, March 11.

—Michael Popke


Various Artists Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology (Profile/Legacy) Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” may have been the unlikeliest influence on early rap, but the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” runs second. The opening cut on this survey of Profile Records, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde’s “Genius Rap,” borrowed the Tom Tom Club’s tinker-toy funk for its backing track. Like “Genius,” the early tracks on this two-CD set boast a naïve exuberance that came in part because the boundaries of rap and hip-hop had yet to be defined. By the time of Run-D.M.C.’s 1986 remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” the music had emerged from the streets to become the latest sound of young America. As for Profile, the initially uncertain brainchild of a pair of Jewish kids from New York City, the label followed the path of groundbreaking indies throughout the 20th century—absorption by a mainstream industry conglomerate and loss of identity.

—David Luhrssen


Peter Mulvey The Good Stuff (Signature Sounds) Milwaukee expatriate Peter Mulvey, who busked in Boston as he established his career, continues to perform songs by other writers on his nationwide tours. Mulvey devotes his 15th CD to some of his favorites, lending a softly creased and folded voice to the despairing resignation of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” the barstool lament of Willie Nelson’s “Are You Sure?” and a dozen other numbers. Recorded in a white-hot session with a crack team of sidemen, Mulvey manages to make the songs his own.

—David Luhrssen

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