A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:

Heat, South by Southwest. One of the three best out of 135 acts I saw at the festival in Austin, Texas. This Montreal group stood out with clear vocals delivered with Lou Reed-like aplomb, gliding from song to speech, and backed by fine musicians.

Lite, SXSW. The ferocious attack of this amazingly disciplined Japanese band had the crowd on its feet. Actual vocals, too, but no words.

Jacco Gardner, SXSW. Musical, ethereal, haunting, maybe a bit precious at times, with the slightest Dutch accent. His songs are comparable to the best psychedelics of the Beatles.

Paul Clabo, Minneapolis

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The Sounds of Blackness, the Ordway. The mighty Grammy-winning Sounds gave the new concert hall a workout, doing spirituals, African songs, gospel, classic R&B by Stevie Wonder and the O'Jays, originals and a Sly Stone medley. Jamecia Bennett, Pat Lacy and Billy Steele all had outstanding solo turns.

José James, "Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday." What a fresh, sophisticated and modern way to interpret the songs of Lady Day. This is another in a series of impressive, adventurous albums by the Minneapolis-born jazz singer. He deserves more national recognition.

Brandon Flowers & Wayne Newton interview, Billboard. The Killers frontman and the swingin' icon chat at Newton's estate about Las Vegas, where they both live. Their best exchange is about vehicles. Newton: "I really love Rolls. This one was Liberace's; this was Johnny Cash's. What are you driving?" Flowers: (Points out window.) "That brown truck — I've got three boys." Newton: "Trust me, I understand."

Jon Bream, Star Tribune