By CAROL RATELLE LEACH
Your search for the sublime can be satisﬁed with Patricia Hampl’s resplendent new Blue Arabesque (Harcourt, $22). The St. Paul author has for many years been inspired by a Matisse painting she saw at the Art Institute of Chicago; it was the subject of the title poem in her ﬁrst collection, Woman Before an Aquarium. Now she uses the portrait as a starting point for wide-ranging consideration. Hampl writes engagingly about color and collecting but also the nature of the contemplation she ﬁrst experienced at a high school retreat in the Louis Hill house. This leads to Jerome Hill (son of Louis and grandson of James J.), who became a ﬁlmmaker. “Like all true memoirists, [Jerome] Hill is drawn more to shards than to stories, images rather than narrative,” Hampl writes. She might as well be describing her own luminous work.
BILL MIKE BAND
Finally, an old-style, hyper-melodic guitar monster breaks through our oft-grungy underground. Session giant and all-around positive force William Michel (Bill Mike) guides this wildly creative power trio to progressive pop heaven. Better News is 30 minutes of sparkling scorchers, like Living Colour tempered by Rush. On the mic, Mike’s heartfelt vocal messages sometimes fight for air against the musical tsunamis. Best to think of his free-verse philosophy as just one more sonic stripe in a rainbow of rock. —JIM MEYER
What if the Ramones had a Saturday cartoon show? This three-girl foursome was once the musical meat of the Sandwiches, the beloved costumed pop-rockers. Ten years on, they’ve ditched the Viking horns and angel wings but retained the airy, upbeat tunes, adding a little lazy surf and dark psychedelia for contrast. “It’s an all-out war/on the ones that bore,” sings affable singer-drummer Jimmy Sexton, while Jennifer Loupe on oboe and organ adds a light touch of class and radio hooks galore. —JIM MEYER