Música: Indie Rock/Lo-Fi
After appearing on the soundtrack to the hit TV show The OC, Alexi Murdoch could have easily followed Death Cab for Cutie onto the major label merry-go-round and let a bevy of A&R folks shape him into Next Big Thinghood. Instead, the Scottish singer/songwriter's self-released debut full-length bears haunting similarities to the likes of Nick Drake's Pink Moon, hardly the way to mainstream stardom no matter how many car commercials it inspires. Nearly a third of the album will be familiar to those who already have Murdoch's 2004 EP Four Songs, three-quarters of which is reprised here, including "Orange Sky," the aforementioned small-screen favorite. ("It's Only Fear" is the sole track that didn't make the leap, insuring collector-geek status for the EP.) The remaining eight songs are, in the best possible sense, more of the same, and in the case of the first single "Dream About Flying" and the haunted opener "All My Days," they surpass the older songs. Murdoch's murmuring, Drake-like vocals and John Martyn-style acoustic guitar are at the forefront of the album, with only the most minimal accompaniment. Detractors might dismiss Time Without Consequence as the work of a Cat Stevens for the Garden State generation, but there's a always a place for hushed intimacy and delicate folk-pop singer/songwriters, and Alexi Murdoch fills the bill without the mewling self-absorption of the emo contingent.
Alexi Murdoch - Time Without Consequence  [DEX UPDATED]
Música: Post Grunge
30 Seconds to Mars are something of an anomaly on several levels. First of all is the matter of their frontman, one Jared Leto, who accomplishes a nearly impossible feat in that he is both an actor and musician, and exceeds in both fields. This is not entirely unheard of, since one need not look any further than William Shatner to find proof that this sort of thing is possible ;). But anyway, the band also stands out (note the use of the word band - this is not simply an outfit for Leto to sell his face to the public) in that on this, their debut album, everything sounds surprisingly well-crafted. That is not to say that it's a perfect album - it has its flaws, primary among them the fact that the creative songwriting runs out of steam for roughly a third of the album. Also irritating is the "concept" behind the record. Now I've nothing against concept albums, but when a band tries so blatantly to be thought-provoking and cryptic it ends up sounding rather pretentious and ultimately quite silly. Despite this, at certain points the lyrics actually come close to the lofty intelligence they crave, as on the songs "Edge of the Earth," "Fallen," and "End of the Beginning." Musically, the majority of this album is pretty average hard rock, though with some spacey technical influences and metal sensibilities thrown in for good measure. Despite all my criticism, this is a surprisingly solid release. Though the general tone of this review may seem negative (as it does to me upon looking at it), I can't help but like this CD. Sure it can be grating at times (mixing formulaic melodies and then trying to sound complex through the use of white noise or high-concept lyrics has never really worked), but it can also be beautiful. As such, it is worthy of four stars, and a place in every open-minded rock fan's collection.
30 Seconds to Mars - 30 Seconds to Mars  [DEX UPDATED... AGAIN & AGAIN !]
Música: Club Dance/Ambient Dub/Worldbeat
North African and Arabian music is given a modern, dance-inspiring twist by Brussels-born and Washington, D.C.-based vocalist Natacha Atlas. A former singer for techno-pop band Transglobal Underground, and an occasional collaborator of Jah Wobble, Atlas has continued to explore the fusion of her musical roots with Western electronic dance music. While Option magazine explained, "[Atlas] has a beautiful voice, which sounds curiously like a blend between traditional Middle Eastern singers and Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins," The Wire wrote, "buoyed by her devotional calling and the chatter of programmed beats, she swoops, glides and goes reaching for the heavens in a way that needs no translation". CMJ New Music praised her for having "explored the far reaches of the ethnotechno spectrum." The daughter of an English mother and a Sephardic Jew father, Atlas grew up in a Moroccan suburb of Brussels and was heavily influenced by the Arabic culture. In addition to learning to speak French, Spanish, and Arabic, Atlas was trained in the traditional techniques of raq sharki (belly dancing). Moving to England as a teen, Atlas quickly attracted attention as the first Arabic rock singer in Northampton. Atlas' debut solo album, Diaspora, released in 1995, featured accompaniment by Tunisian singer/songwriter Walid Rouissi and Egyptian composer and oud player Essam Rashad. Halim followed in 1997 and Gedida in 1999.
Natacha Atlas - 3 Albums [1995-1999] [DEX...DOWN]
Música: Alternative Adult Pop Rock/Alternative Folk/Indie Rock
Folk-rock duo Tegan & Sara first burst onto the Canadian music scene in 1998, when they earned the highest score in history at Calgary's "Garage Warz" competition; their quick rise didn't stop, for their melodic acoustics and charming stage personas led to a slew of dates with Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair that same year and a record deal with Neil Young's Vapor Records in April 2000. Natives of Calgary, these twin sisters transpired their music interests from the likings of their parents. Tegan & Sara began playing piano at age eight, and in their teens they were skanking around in their own punk bands. This Business of Art, which was produced by singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman, marked their debut in mid-2000 and summer tour with Neil Young and the Pretenders followed in July. Two years later, Tegan & Sara released If It Was You.
Tegan and Sara - 3 Albums [1998-2000] [DEX UPDATED... AGAIN & AGAIN]
Música: Indie Rock
Nina Nastasia's first outing is a captivating, melancholic affair of precision and emotional clamor and stands as a fantastic sibling to her essential sophomore album, The Blackened Air. Dogs has a calming atmosphere, occasionally flirting with dissonance, and stands as a remarkable work of minimal building by repetition to support Nastasia's pitch-perfect voice. It is a rare group who can pull off such a fluid shift from composed sophistication to raw, dangerous, and sinister energy and not only continue to be engaging, but make ascending demands so confidently as to require full attention for the span of 40 minutes without interruption. Hypnotic, luscious, and timeless, Dogs is an album whose freshness and immediacy will never falter.
Música: Experimental Post Rock/Ambient Dream Pop/Indie Electronic
Broadcast is down to two members now, Trish Keenan and James Cargill. They definitely have their own sound. It's sort of this 1960s sound that never existed, and 1984 futuristic vibe. Tender Buttons is a novel by Gertrude Stein. It is one of the most difficult books and I am not sure that anyone ever figured out what it meant. So Broadcast has created word and sound collages. Things are really stripped down. In songs like "Black Cat" moogs go wild and there is something claustrophobic too. Of course there are some quiet folk moments in songs like "Tender Buttons" and "Tears in the Typing Pool." The song "America's Boy" almost sounds like Ladytron. There is interesting phrasing in "Corporeal." The beats are simple. The synths are out of control. The vocals remain the same. Broadcast is good at what it does. If it was easy, other people would be making good records. I guess they mourned Dr. Robert Moog's recent passing away. This is a tribute that these sounds will live on.
Música: Funky Breaks/Club Dance/Turntabilism/Alternative Dance
The Avalanches are a DJ's dream come true -- six Aussies who took hundreds of sound snatches, and wove together a wildly playful kind of electronica. Their first (and so far, only) album, "Since I Left You," is a tangle of the delicate, the weird, and the incredibly danceable.
It kicks off with the sparkling "Since I Left You," but the best is yet to come. The Avalanches manage to attain both a typical "sound" and plenty of originality in their songs, such as the bleeps-and-horns "Different Feeling," the knob-twiddling basslines of "Radio," the sputtery dance number "Live At Dominoes," and the interference-laden Rastafarian rock "Flight Tonight." But with all the dance tracks, the Avalanches have their softer side: the delicately upbeat "Two Hearts in 3/4 Time," the swaying "Electricity," the brief and staticky "Pablo's Cruise," and the gauzy, multilayered "Etoh." It rounds off with the majestically languid "Extra Kings," which has a long sweep of distortion and chaos in the middle. It's almost too easy to dance to the Avalanches. They take almost a thousand mismatched sounds and manage to cobble them into some really brilliant music. What's especially brilliant is the way these patchwork dance tracks manage to find solid, simple grooves, and stick to them right to the end. "Since I Left You" isn't perfect -- at times the fragments don't quite mesh together. Some parts are pure chaos, but oddly they don't mar the overall sound; instead, they enhance it. Scattered in amongst the melody is the sound of video games, horses, discos, golf instructions, flutes, pianos, and seagulls -- it adds a strangely whimsical sound to the dance music. The vocals tend to be samples repeated over and over, just under the surface of the music. Among the vocal snatches are the ethereal "Since I left you/I found the world so new!" or determined "Book of flight tonight." So the lyrics are often quite simple, except for the hysterically funny "Frontier Psychiatrist" ("Lie down on the couch, what does that mean?/You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut!"). "Since I Left You" takes hundreds of random sound fragments, and turns them into a mosaic. Fun, playful, fast and hypnotically bizarre, this is a must have for fans of quirky music.
The Avalanches - Since I Left You  [DEX UPDATED... AGAIN]
Música: Underground Rap/Left Field Hip Hop
With even commercial rap's fortunes on the decline during 2007 and Rjd2 going indie rock, the rap underground must have seemed like a lonely place to El-P. Perfect time for a community album featuring contributions from most of the Definitive Jux community as well as some expertly fitted outsiders (the Mars Volta, Nine Inch Nails, even Cat Power). As a producer, El-P's only gotten better since Fantastic Damage. If a Bomb Squad production made it sound like the Apocalypse was nigh, El-P's tracks come post-apocalypse — no less heavy but dark, dusty, and brittle, marching numbly like an army of the popping and locking dead. I'll Sleep When You're Dead is definitely the best-produced and most powerful Definitive Jux record since Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein — which makes it the best in underground rap during that time. Meanwhile, El-P's improved as a rapper as well. Although what he's trying to say or mean exactly is often in doubt, he's better than any of his past CoFlow compatriots at matching the air of doom inherent in the sound ("I might have been born yesterday, sir/But I stayed up all night"). By the time Chan Marshall of Cat Power wraps up the record — playing a sampled soul siren — I'll Sleep When You're Dead is revealed as one of the most powerful hip-hop albums of 2007. While Public Enemy exposed the hypocrisy and greed of the '80s, El-P reflects his era just as well; the sense of stress is palpable, an "after the end of the world" feeling that's waiting anxiously for something else to be born.
El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead  [DEX UPDATED]
Música: Urban/Contemporary R&B
With an overabundance of ballads and swagger, cool crooner Lloyd's second effort is just too narrow to recommend to the casual fan of smooth, pillow-talk R&B. The redundant songs start rearing their heads about track number four, with tales of heartache, seduction, and sweetness repeated as if every day were Valentine's Day. On the other hand, Street Love is actually a much stronger effort than his debut when you tally the number of highlights. Even more important, by never letting the singer out of his comfort zone, the album defines its artist and lays a solid foundation for a long career, even if it just looks like singles and guest appearances on hip-hop tracks at this point. The forced thug posturing is gone and replaced by sweeter lyrics and an entirely convincing playfulness that allows for lines like "Is there something you're not telling me?/Are you the daughter of Frankie Beverly?" ("Get It Shawty") along with a flippant guest shot from Lil Wayne ("You," which samples Spandau Ballet's "True" by way of P.M. Dawn). Producer Jazze Pha offers a winner with his soulful and polished "Certified" while J Lack (James Lackey) gives the album its most creative moment as he lays broken soul music across "Hazel." Much of Street Love paints Lloyd as a replacement for another J Lack client, Usher, which is much more possible that the half-thug/half-Romeo role he played on his debut. Lloyd is more comfortable, committed, and believable on Street Love, and if taken in small doses, you can add satisfying to the list.
Música: Urban/Contemporary R&B/Pop Rap
R. Kelly's rep could be considered controversial at best, but that's not to say the man who does for raunch what Beyoncé does for backsides (that is, caused the masses to arrive at a more multidimensional consideration) is not a fascinating artist. On Double Up, arguably his most sex-crazed, diabolically sleazy CD to date, Kelly grunts like a monkey, envisions a hot and heavy interplanetary romp, and indulges in NC-17-rated rhymes. Stylistically, the self-described king of R&B kicks up a hip-hoppy storm, spitting rapid-fire rhymes and tossing the 'n' word around too freely. But then there's the saving grace: that voice. Throughout a couple of inspirational numbers and collaborations with friends such as Usher ("Same Girl") and Nelly ("Tryin' to Get a Number"), Kelly does what he did so capably on the megahit "I Believe I Can Fly": he reaches even reluctant listeners with deep-seated sincerity. Even when he doesn't, he still knows how to capture catchy--first single "I'm a Flirt," for example, locks it up with a whisper and a wink.
R. Kelly - Double Up  [DEX UPDATED]