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New releases from Jake Shimabukuro, The Pop Group, and Game Theory

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Jake Shimabukuro
  • Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro

Nashville Sessions

JS Records

File next to: Michael Hedges, Joe Satriani

Though usually associated with Hawaii-an music and culture, the ukulele has been gaining wider acceptance and credibility as a musical instrument suitable for other genres. To the uninitiated, "ukulele virtuoso" might seem a kind of joke, but there's no doubt as to Jake Shimabukuro's astounding facility on the four-stringed instrument. He's also undoubtedly prolific: Nashville Sessions is his 22nd solo album since 2002 (though half of those are Japan-only releases). This latest finds him fronting a power trio, and — thanks to inventive use of effects — he often sounds more like an electric guitar shredder fronting a jazz-rock band. The interplay between him, bassist Nolan Verner and drummer Evan Hutchings is often thrilling; Shimabukuro allows spaces for the rhythm section to display their chops, and ambitious tunes like "6/8" show the trio's passion, grace and fire. — BK

The Pop Group
  • The Pop Group

The Pop Group

Honeymoon On Mars

Freaks R Us

File next to: James Chance, Chrome, mid-period Clash

The Pop Group and The Slits were representatives of a post-punk, dance-friendly political movement in the early 1980s that tried to puncture myths of Reagan and Thatcher. When Mark Stewart reunited the Bristol-based Pop Group's members in 2010, the band used Kickstarter to fund elaborate, overpriced reissues of classic works, as well as the 2015 studio album Citizen Zombie. Honeymoon On Mars follows this trend in vinyl and CD deluxe editions, with the band sounding more adventurous and politically explicit, even if the dance beats are toned down. Still, the power of tracks like "War Inc." and "Burn Your Flag" is muted by lyrical predictability. You can hardly fault Stewart and his cohorts for trying to make money, but this attempt to modernize their anti-capitalist sound and approach largely falls short of the mark. — LW

Game Theory
  • Game Theory

Game Theory

The Big Shot Chronicles

Omnivore Recordings

File next to: The Three O'Clock, Guided by Voices

The late Scott Miller's quirky band Game Theory was one of most criminally overlooked groups in the 1980s "college rock" genre. But Miller and his ever-changing lineups didn't make things easy for fans; while Game Theory's jangle quotient was consistently high, Miller's songs often displayed a heady, angular approach that rendered many tunes something short of radio-ready. Moreover, the group's sound changed from album to album. For The Big Shot Chronicles, Miller worked with like-minded producer Mitch Easter; its single "Erica's Word" is among the group's most well-known tunes. As with previous Omnivore reissues, this more than doubles the content with copious alternates, outtakes, rough mixes, covers, live tracks and demos. The result is a definitive must-have, equal parts idiosyncratic and inviting. — BK

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