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Underrated/Overrated

March 27, 2011

Colin Stetson: There's no easy way to describe this Canadian artist's new solo album, "New History Warfare 2: Judges." He's a baritone saxophonist, but this sounds unlike any jazz you've heard with songs constructed from a dizzying array of circling wails, growls and valve thumps that coalesce into odd grooves and soundscapes that seem mechanized, yet alluringly organic. Laurie Anderson also adds some spoken word, taking an otherworldly mix even further out.

Anthony Bourdain's social consciousness: Now with six seasons of "No Reservations" under his belt on the Travel Channel, odds were pretty good that this uber-celebrity chef would soon overstay his welcome as TV's sarcastic chef du jour. Weirdly, his newest season might be his best, with startlingly unfiltered visits to Haiti, Cambodia and Nicaragua that run long on genuine reflection and short on foodie-baiting snark. Who knew sincerity was still on the menu?

Resurrecting 'Arthur': If anyone is qualified to portray this 1981 comedy's wealthy English playboy running amok in New York City it's Russell Brand, but there's no way of avoiding the inevitable question of "Why?" Dudley Moore's sweetly daffy drunk from the original seems awkwardly dated now, but that's precisely why it doesn't need a remake, especially given the cast included the perfect Sir John Gielgud and a quirkily endearing Liza Minnelli. Stop it, Hollywood.

The rise of Jessie J: Fresh off a recent "Saturday Night Live" appearance weeks before her album was released, this British pop singer has a nice enough voice, but her image seems about as calculated as a quarterly earnings report. Give Amy Winehouse Nicki Minaj's haircut and run her full speed into Katy Perry and you've got Jessie J, whose disposable new single, "Price Tag," is already racing up the charts. Again, the hills are alive with the sound of marketing.

Chris Barton

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