Need a good night's sleep? Check into Moby's "Hotel," because the sample-free album (which comes with a bonus disc of ambient music) from this try-anything-once electro-whiz is the equivalent of two Tylenol PM with a codeine chaser.
Playing everything but drums and singing quite a bit, Moby is exposed as a techno-pop dullard once he's without the colorful "found" sounds of field recordings and ghetto-fabulous beats to base his compositions around. His flat, monotone voice can't carry sparse ballads like "Love Should" or surging guitar rockers like "Raining Again," both of which employ a rain-as-sadness metaphor one might learn from a correspondence course on songwriting.
Another gripe about Moby's "Hotel": the walls are too thin. Guests are subjected to the host having phone sex with guest vocalist Laura Dawn in the trance-like "I Like It." You'll want an early checkout.
Vice, sss 1/2
Every 10 years or so comes a new flowering of U.K. guitar pop, and with Franz Ferdinand, the Futureheads, and the recently disbanded Libertines, we're in the midst of one now. Add Bloc Party to the list.
"Silent Alarm," the multi-racial London band's debut full-length, contains trace elements of each of those bands, and like them, it looks back to the Gang of Four, early XTC, and other post-punks for inspiration. But Bloc Party also has a fondness for ringing, U2-style guitars, and each song on "Silent Alarm" resonates with thrilling power.
"Like Eating Glass" opens the album with tense, tremolo guitars before thunderous drums kick in and vocalist Kele Okereke cries, "It's so cold in this house." "Glass" explodes with cathartic bitterness, and each song on Silent Alarm is a similarly sharp firecracker-blast.
'RUN THE ROAD'
Quick -- name five great British rappers. Difficult, isn't it? Not if you've got a copy of "Run the Road," a compilation documenting the current explosion of the aggressive London street hip-hop style known as grime. There's at least 16 top-notch rhyme-slingers on the disc, from the gruff-voiced Wiley and boyish Kano to the brash, bratty Lady Sovereign. They spit fire through thick British accents -- often tinged with Jamaican patois -- over grime's sonic signatures: minimal production, gunshot beats, icy synthesizer stabs, and tinny bleeps and bloops.
Dizzee Rascal, the subgenre's first breakout star, contributes "Give U More," which sounds like a video game fighting itself, while The Streets, another act making waves outside the U.K., offers a guest-filled remix of the punky "Fit But You Know It." All of it is just as exciting as anything coming out of America right now. Maybe even more so.
It's only fitting that the first track on the Jeremy Ellis' new album is the heavily salsa-influenced "Take Your Time." The native Detroit broken-beat specialist (it's a mix of hip-hop and house beats but put in a blender set to chop) spent three months in Puerto Rico developing a Latin percussive perspective for his sound, only to lose his first batch of songs on the way home. Fans of Ellis (who also performs as Ayro) will be happy that he didn't rush a second effort.
Borrowing '70s Stevie Wonder harmonies for "These Passing Days" and the title track, Ellis pays a proper and somewhat-daring homage. He's no slouch on keyboards either, as he shows in a take on Mozart's Sonata in C major ("Sonatina in C-Variations"), with musical mechanics not usually associated with an album made to keeps hands clapping.
But it's the immersion in that Latin vibe thing that makes this album a treat for a larger audience than Ellis' earlier dance works. Listen closely and take your time.
'HEARD IT ON THE X'
Los Super Seven
The third incarnation of Los Super Seven finds the ad hoc roots supergroup paying tribute to border radio, the powerful outlaw stations that once blasted a wild cornucopia of sounds and helped shape the musical tastes of many of the artists here. "Heard It on the X" offers a tasty if too-brief sampling of those sounds.
Freddy Fender and Rick Trevino continue the Spanish-language approach of Los Super Seven's first two albums, but most of "X" is in English. Delbert McClinton delivers smooth R & amp;B ("Talk to Me") and raw blues ("I Live the Life I Love"); Lyle Lovett swings nimbly through "My Windown Faces the South"; and John Hiatt rides the chugging Tex-Mex of Doug Sahm's "I'm Not that Kat (Anymore)." Raul Malo's "The Song of Everything" is majestically atmospheric pop, and rock is represented by Joe Ely's "Let Her Dance" and Ruben Ramos' take on the ZZ Top title song, which is itself a tribute to border radio.
They're not really siblings, but they are an inspired pairing. The principals of the Hacienda Brothers are Dave Gonzalez, former front man for The Paladins, and Chris Gaffney, a Dave Alvin accompanist and singer-songwriter in his own right.
Dan Penn, the country-soul great, produced this debut, and he helps the Haciendas develop their own brand of soul-tinged country, something Penn dubs "western soul." With Gaffney doing most of the singing -- in a voice full of weathered character -- they drop chestnuts like Mel Tills' "Mental Revenge" and Fred Neil's "I've Got a Secret" among fine originals that range from the twang-fired instrumental "Railed" to the moody "Walking on My Dreams" and the barroom lament
Alto saxophonist David Sanborn remains reliable with his startling sound, set in an orderly, R & amp;B world. But his ability to convey emotion is also a constant, and that makes this CD, with Philly native Christian McBride on bass, a reasonable ride.
Sanborn, who played Woodstock with the Paul Butterfield band and grew up in St. Louis playing lots of blues, still carries a soulful, chitlin' circuit orientation amid all the smooth jazz accessories of this recording. He joins with some heavyweight jazz players here, including pianist/organist Larry Goldings, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, guitarist Russell Malone and drummer Steve Gadd for an outing that fits in both the smooth or straight-ahead jazz realms.
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