Issue: #356



  • Cynthia Hilts "Second Story Breeze," Blond Coyote
  • Sunny Day Sets Fire "Summer Palace," IAMSOUND
  • Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band "The Whole Fam Damnily," SideOneDummy
  • George Duke "Dukey Treats," BPM/Heads Up/Concord
  • Jim Photoglo "Is It Me?," Grifftone

Eminem "Relapse," Aftermath/Interscope/Universal

The mastermind behind the biggest disses of the early 21st century, Eminem, has come off his five year hiatus in what the world, lovers and haters alike, pray to be the most ostentatious and outlandish record to ever be released.

Relapse's opening, a nightmare-ish scene of Shady's drug abuse counselor pushing the recover-ie back into using, pushes right into typical Eminem fashion of offensive renditions of what most of the world has come to be called "hip-hop" but looks more like a freakshow coming from his mouth. No one is safe from his attacks, exacerbated by his colossal Oedipus complex, but the real question is: is that enough this time?

Relapse, still proving Eminem's gift for story-telling, falls short in his actual ability to create the hook driven and infectiously uncomfortable lyrics,
measuring the album a few steps below his using-years.

Jonell Mosser "Trust Yourself," Better Angels/Federal/Universal

Blues-inspired country. Heavy on the horns, heavier on the wails, and next to no honky-tonk from beginning to end.
Think pop singer over big-band country. Jonell Mosser's voice, full and rich, gives texture and emotion to the entire thing. Impressive.

************BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK********************

The Black Eyed Peas "The E.N.D.," Interscope/Universal

Where does a platinum-selling hip-hop act go after covering all the ground they can in a career? Electro-pop, duh. The E.N.D. tackles the flavor of Depeche Mode in typical fashion of and cohorts, fastening their sound solely for energy and dance-ability.

Vocoder's, digital beats, and space-age sound loops perpetuate the album all over the universe, almost reimagining 2001: A Space Odyssey for the actual twenty-first century.Ê One of the catchiest albums of the year. One of the most interesting albums of the year. And, again,
Black Eyed Peas have defied all logic and released another perfect album.

************BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK********************

Duke Robillard's Jumpin' Blues Revue "Stomp! The Blues Tonight," Stony Plain

Big band blues. Put on your swingin' shoes, get your partner ready, and put on Stomp! The Blues Tonight, and don't let the fun stop. Huge sounds coming from one disc, this record reveals how great this genre can actually be: from the screams of Robillard to the full orchestra horns which take up a majority of the sound waves of this recording,
this album is one to save for a great night.

************BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK********************

Spring Creek "Way Up On A Mountain," Rebel

Bluegrass for the new millennium. With so many miserable excuses out there, Spring Creek brings us something fresh, shiny, and... well, remarkable.

Songwriting on Way Up On A Mountain provides the backbone missing from so many of the contemporaries, provoking the icy-country heart in all of us to finally open up again. So, with style and brilliant musicianship, Spring Creek is reviving hope in music.

******ARTIST TO WATCH!!!*******************

Various Artists "Dots To Connect: Music of the Prids," Five03

Tribute to the powerhouse indie rock band The Prids. Dreamy indie-rock that they were known for, the tribute album serves to be the same but more of what the band chose to revel in.

Drone and dreamy soundscapes, weird but still intriguing song-structure, and the awesome vocals that gave the band their signature sound, this tribute album is really only for those who cared about the band to begin with. Artists on here include A Place to Bury Strangers, Bell Hollow, Sot Tags, Swann Danger, and The Suffocation Keep, to name a few.

******ARTIST TO WATCH!!!*******************

The Flaming Lips "Christmas On Mars CD/DVD SET," Warner Bros.

So, technically, this is a soundtrack to the DVD: a film that would come out of the Flaming Lips secret vault. All I know is that there is costumes, drug references, and lots of the Flaming Lips.

Oddly enough, the soundtrack itself isn't quite normal Flaming Lips. I'd say orchestral, but it lies closer to harsh noise: sounds, tones, but no real music. I know that there is a type of person who throws themselves off bridges for this band, so I'm sure you already know if you want this or not.

************LATE BUT GREAT***********

Sexmob Meets Medeski "Live in Willisau 2006," Thirsty Ear

Avante-garde jazz from Sexmob and Medeski makes for an interesting album, if nothing else. While not the "most out there" thing I have heard, a lot of this is pretty weird, with endless trumpet wails, a bit of acid jazz (inherently "out there"), and some fairly non-sensible keyboard lines, this entire record is crafted for those who like these sorts of things. For the average music listener, this is just going to sound like garbage.

************LATE BUT GREAT***********

Various Artists "Bubba Sparxxx and DJ Greg Street Presents: The New South," E1

New voices in hip-hop is either what the world needs, or exactly what will push everything off the edge. The New South, if according to Sparxxx's plan, will shine light on some of the most talented emerging artist in "Southern-Hop".

Most of the names on here are unrecognizable, leading to the realization, about halfway through the first listen, that that is probably for the best. The New South marks all of the flaws of hip-hop: the lack of lyricism, the lack of inventiveness, and the complete and utter reliance on pitcalls and spoiled egos. Master P is rockin' this like the new drug, while Eazy is rolling over in his grave.

**************MIGHTY MIGHTY**********************

Kleerup "Self-Titled," Astralwerks/EMI

Electronic producer Andreas Kleerup has released his debut solo album, with surprising success. While not my cup of tea, the record's completely digital and (virtually) instrumental approach creates an album of beauty, rather than hooks andÊ excitement. Great album to relax to.

**************MIGHTY MIGHTY**********************

Raquel Bitton "Boleros," Sparrow

Bitton has blended the traditional styles of Latin and French jazz, and with the power of her remarkable 28 piece orchestra, Boleros has shaped up to be more impressive than you can imagine.

Powerful hitting originals, coupled with Bitton's vocal style which could be none-but-her-own, creates the textured landscapes which just scream out for dance and wine. This album covers all bases.

***********LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL*****************

Alice Cooper "Along Came A Spider," Nightmare/Steamhammer/SPV

In comparison to Manson's new album, the artist that rejuvenated shock-rock in the late '90s, Alice Cooper's Along Came A Spider looks like an adolescent attempt to be "creepy", relying on goofy thematic lyricism rather than anything grim in the slightest.

Remember when KISS was considered scary? This is about the same: gimmicky costumes coupled with bad hard rock and, realistically, the same sex appeal-over-substance approach that the late rockers took. Worthy of note: KISS worked in the '70s. While Bob Dylan can make a comeback, Cooper, you are way out of luck.

***********LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL*****************

Llego...Van Van "Van Van is Here," Harbour Bridge/Time Warner/Atlantic

Cuban Los Van Van perform timba as it should: upbeat, fun, and high as hell on pure energy. Van Van is Here does not let down for a moment, consistently constructing their songs into movements which flow from beginning to end rather than the rock-tradition of new melody after the new melody.

No, this album allows for all, focusing on the music and the emotion before anything else. While not something I hear much of, timba is always a treat, especially from the best.

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

********Shelton's Single of the Week: "El Negro Esta Cocinando,"******

Neon Horse "Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance & Delusion," Tooth & Nail

Project 86? Starflyer 59? Stavesacre membersÉall in one band? Neon Horse is new-wave for the present day. Sassier than the dead genre, the band relinquishes its notions of what should be and focus more on what they want to do.

Sometimes this works out: moments feel like the synth-driven rock which took the world by storm with acts like The Faint and The Red Light Sting. Other points fall a bit shorter, coming across like the newest Aquabats album. All greats have low points, but don't let it discern you: this band more than makes up for it.

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

Sarah Jarosz "Song Up In Her Head," Sugar Hill

Bluegrass prodigy Jarosz is making her way up the ladder of status in country power. The dark textures of Song Up In Her Head layers stringed instrument upon stringed instrument, which, while almost overwhelming at points, breaks in just the right places ("Edge of a Dream", for instance), giving everyone room to breathe before tumultuous waters begin again. Song Up In Her Head is a rollercoaster ride of emotion, and I'd want no one beside Jarosz at the helm.

No, this album allows for all, focusing on the music and the emotion before anything else. While not something I hear much of, timba is always a treat, especially from the best.

**************** NEW ALBUM OF THE WEEK**********

***********Shelton's Single of the Week: "I Can't Love You Now,"*******

David Nail "I'm About To Come Alive," MCA Nashville/Universal

Nail brings a fresh new voice to country. Stadium country, albeit, but unlike all the rest of the rock-star wannabee's who have taken country hostage, David Nail's songwriting more than makes up for the pitfalls of other artists of our times.

Heavy on strings, accenting Nail's unwavering voice, songs portray the wills of the story he's telling. The adventurous nature of not-writing-solely-about-love has made I'm About To Come Alive feel like a classic before its time. Country musicians worldwide, take heed! You have heard your strongest competition! Now, if only more musicians could sound like thisÉ

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

A Camp "Colonia," Wigpower/Nettwerk

The critics, across the board, are wrong on this album: Colonia is absolutely breathtaking. Nina Persson, frontwoman for The Cardigans and mastermind behind A Camp, is, up and down, a musical genius.

Songs flow between melodies and harmonies and feel as if they were created by a higher power to be that way. They are just that perfect. Pop music for the twenty-first century, A Camp is a mesmerizing treat in the long line Persson's work: all of which impeccable.

*********Shelton's Single of the Week: "Stronger Than Jesus,"********

Elvis Costello "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane," StarCom/.Hear/Starbucks

This album makes me sad. Not that Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is a bad release, but more so that this isn't the Costello that I fell in love with. Elvis, where is "Radio, Radio"? "Alison"? Where is the punk, "I don't give a fuck" attitude that made you what you were so long ago?

Country songwriting doesn't treat you poorly, Costello, but why settle for second best? With collaborations from T-Bone Burnett, and songs that sound as if they have been in the works for years, I just wish that this album was written by anyone else who would mark Secret, Profane & Sugarcane as a huge accomplishment, rather than a waste of ability.

"SO NICE GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE" (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

Rock Plaza Central "...At The Moment of Our Most Needing, or if Only They Could Turn Around, They Would Know They Weren't Alone," Paper Bag

Indie-folk, in the tradition of acts such as Neutral Milk Hotel or Lucero, is the definition of hit-or-miss. When it's on, it can be some of the most powerful music ever written. When offÉwell, we can just hope that doesn't happen.

Rock Plaza Central, despite a name that belongs in the used bins, flirts the line between success and failure. Moments, like "O Lord, How Many Are My Foes," shows an emotional base which perpetuates the album to places that few could hope to create through music. Solid melodies, breathtaking lyrics, and accompanying harmonies which are on the verge of tear jerking.

Others, like "A Mule on Fire", just leads to boring songwriting. While inconstant in quality from beginning to end, the high points more than cancel out the low. You know what that means? Go. Buy. This. Record. You won't be sorry.

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

Najee "Mind Over Matter," Heads Up/Concord

Upbeat smooth jazz has never been my thing, and still really isn't. Though, I can hear when someone is doing it right, which Najee most certainly is. Soothing melodies exude straight from this recording. Insanely calming.

But if nothing else, the album has more than enough of stops and starts to at least make it interesting. While I can't say I would ever listen to this again, it stands out against the rest of the genre, which is saying a lot.

************POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK*******************

Dave Matthews Band "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King," Bama Rags/RCA/Jive/Sony

Big band jazz-fusion. I really hate this band, everything they have ever done. Dave Matthews Bands answers the age-old debate of whether talent makes a band. No, it doesn't, it just makes for intense music that doesn't necessarily sound good.

Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, while aesthetically pleasing, feels like a miserable drug trip of outlandish travels: massive buildups of truly solid songwriting cut-down by any lack of substance, and a huge amount of uncomfortable boredom that comes from the irrelevancy of bands that do not have any desire to write good music. This is a waste of wax.

***************If You Like Music You're Gonna Love This******************


Artist: Ben Harper
Song: "Black Rain"

You left them swimming for their lives
Down in new orleans
Can't afford a gallon of gasoline
With your useless degrees and contrary statistics
This government business is straight up sadistic

Now you don't fight for us
But expect us to die for you
You have no sympathy for us
But still i cry for you
Now you may kill the revolutionary
But the revolution you can never bury

Don't speak to us like we work for you
Selling false hope like some new dope we're addicted to
I'm not a desperate man but these are desperate times at hand
This generation is beyond your command

And it won't be long
'til the people flood the streets
To take you down
One and all
A black rain is gonna fall