In 1998 Kitty Craft released Beats and Breaks from the Flower Patch. It was different from anything else released at that time. Pamela Valfer used keyboards, samplers and drum machines to layer everything from the melodies to her voice. Her new album, Cat Skills, sounds like a continuation of Beats. The instrumentation is the same, but the songs are more varied, from the typical electronic style found on the first album to an almost gospel feel on one song.
Unfortunately, one of Kitty Craft’s weaknesses is Valfer’s voice; it becomes grating on the ears. I don’t know whether it’s her voice in general, or the fact that she layers it multiple times. Either way, after the fifth song you are forced to yell “Shut up!” to the CD player. It could be compared with Halloween candy: after a few pieces your stomach starts to hurt and you wish you hadn’t eaten any in the first place.
Her first album was tedious; you knew what was coming next. While Cat Skills keeps the listener guessing, it is not an album worthy of regular listening.
Philly’s Most Wanted
Get Down or Lay Down
The City of Brotherly Love has become a big presence in hip-hop, introducing The Roots, Beanie Sigel, Eve, Major Figgas and now Philly’s Most Wanted, who have come on to grab a piece of the pie.
Their album kicks off with a slick introduction where group members Boo Bonic and Mr. Man pay homage to the most influential rappers and groups of the ’80s and ’90s. It then kicks off on a high note with the Neptunes-produced single, “Suckas.”
“Cross the Border” is in consistent radio rotation, mainly due to the production by the Neptunes.
If you’re looking for in-depth lyricism, you’re not going to find it here. Mr. Man and Boo Bonic are all about wiping out player-haters, money, cars and pretty women, which grows tiresome as the album moves on.
Though not a bad debut offering, Philly’s Most Wanted’s lack of originality (Boo Bonic’s voice sounds strangely like 50 Cent’s) and subject matter give you something to discuss with your friends in a hip-hop conversation.
_______________________________________________________________ Red Snapper
Our Aim is to Satisfy Red Snapper
Red Snapper’s Richard Thair (drums and decks), Ali Friend (electric and double bass) and David Ayers (guitar and keyboards) strive to obtain a delicate balance between simplicity and experimentation on Our Aim is to Satisfy Red Snapper.
The music is visceral with soft acoustic guitars, deep double bass, concentrated keyboards, muted trumpets and digital drumming embraced in various admixtures and polyrhythms. While listening, you feel the organic sounds brooding deep in your guts. It’s as if the combination of jazz, jungle beat and hip-hop is a spaghetti, peanut butter, and black olive mesh in the pit of your stomach. But, for some strange reason, you like it.
Killer rhyming by London’s notorious MC Det, featured in “The Rake,” will make you feel funky. The song begins with a big ol’ house party of distorted snares and continues with lyrical dexterity and emotive melodies.
“Shellback” may induce a minor headache. While pleasantly simplistic, the song is marred by overly repetitive break-beats and instrumentation that drowns out the vocals.
You want something different that will mess with every aspect of your mind and body? Listen to this CD.
_______________________________________________________________ Enuff Z’Nuff
One of the most underrated of the ’80s glam bands, Enuff Z’Nuff deserves to be recognized for more than their frequent guest appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show. 10, the latest offering from Enuff Z’Nuff, is finally available domestically after its release overseas more than a year ago.
Enuff Z’Nuff make great use of harmonies and strong musicianship on 10. The opening track, “There Goes My Heart,” showcases the band’s Beatles/Brit-rock influence. Adding further credence to that claim, they perform a true-to-the-original cover of David Bowie’s “Jean Genie.”
Other songs on the disc include the wistful “Holiday,” which switches neatly between acoustic and electric, and “Bang On,” an up-tempo track. “Bang On” is one of those songs about rock ‘n’ roll and partying that will take you back to 1989.
The only fault with 10 lies in its production values. Donnie Vie’s vocals seem fuzzy and somewhat muted by the guitar work.
Enuff Z’Nuff’s songs are catchy and full of happy, buoyant fluff, proving that music does not have to be “deep” to be entertaining.
Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hot
Gomez isn’t an easy band to classify. They’re a bluesy/jazzy roots music act with a jam-band sensibilit–in a word, eclectic.
But with Abandoned being a rarities compilation, the eclecticism is heightened and the resulting album proves to be very difficult.
Some songs are decent. “Bring Your Lovin’ Back Here” is a great driving tune, and “Flavors” fuses loungy guitar strumming with drenched-in-flanger vocals a la The Dead’s “Rosemary,” a combination that pays off pretty well.
On the other hand, too many songs on the disc attempt to be experimental and don’t quite cut it. “Steve McCroski” tries electronica, but winds up sounding overly blippy-bloopy, like Stereolab on a bad day.
The album’s most interesting cut is the nine-minute “Buena Vista.” The jangly beginning half of the song is repetitious and doesn’t really go anywhere. But suddenly the tempo slows down and the song becomes a much-improved mellow wah-guitar jam.
So the eclecticism can pay off. Abandoned does have its moments. It also has more non-moments, which can be appreciated if you’re a fan of the band. If you’re not, it might be best to just steer clear of this album.
Hearts of Palm
Idaho is a collective of ever-changing members with only one mainstay, Jeff Martin. Hearts of Palm is their fourth full-length album. I thought Dinosaur Jr.-esque, woe-is-me music was no more, but apparently I was mistaken.
I really wanted to like this album. The first song is powerful enough, but after that: dirge, dirge and more dirge. The songs are less like music and more like distractions to the brain.
Basically, Idaho is one of your typical American indie bands that one would label “precious.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about indie music, but merely being indie and having a lead singer that sounds like he’s trying really hard to emote is not impressive.
The one good thing about this CD is that I now have more respect for angsty American alternative bands of the past. Following Heart of Palm’s torture session, I immediately put on the Throwing Muses.
The rule for reviewing the work of the relatives of famous artists is as follows: If they, in conjunction with their publicists and record labels, downplay the genetic connection, then review the record on its own merits. If, on the other hand, the famous parent or sibling’s name is shamelessly invoked to sell the (usually mediocre) product, then all bets are off. Let’s call it the “Roger Clinton Clause.”
Teddy Thompson, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. I was aware that Richard Thompson’s son had a record coming out ages before I ever heard the name “Teddy Thompson.” It’s not hard to understand why. This sub-XPN, Paul Westerberg-anaesthetizing garbage could be blared out of army-issue loudspeakers to end hostage crises more efficiently.
Even an appearance by Rufus Wainwright, who is actually more talented than his father (that’s not saying much; Loudon Wainwright III was hardly the smartest monkey in the zoo), can’t save the day. If Richard Thompson had heard this record 20 years ago he would have gotten drunk and eaten it.
Open Heart Surgery
With a sound similar to that of Matchbox 20 and Stroke 9, Virginwool’s debut album, Open Heart Surgery, is a relaxing listen.
The first single, “I Think Her Mother Loves Me,” is an upbeat, yet not intense song. The song begins with two band members whistling the melody, which gets mad props for uniqueness.
Open Heart Surgery encompasses each band member’s greatest musical talent. Lead singer Jordan Pouzzner carries a melodic and soothing tune. Backing him up are Gar Wilard on guitar, Adam Loewy on bass and Brett Crook on drums. Wilard’s guitar lines are rhythmic and melodic at the same time. The bass and drums are consistent throughout the CD. Another unique aspect of this album is the harmonica used in “Climbing Boulders.”
The best way to characterize Virginwool’s sound is mainstream unique.
Sing When You’re Winning
In the United States, Robbie Williams is known more for his offbeat antics–doing Tai Chi with Craig Kilbourne, mumbling incoherent banter on the Tonight Show–than his actual singing career. But Williams really couldn’t care less how he looks doing what he’s doing as long as he gets a response.
Such is the case with his latest album, Sing When You’re Winning: He’ll do anything for a little bit of love and, well, he gets mine. This album is brilliant. It is up there with Oasis’ Definitely Maybe and Blur’s Parklife as a Britpop classic.
The album starts with the bouncy “Let Love Be Your Energy” and after that, Williams goes through all types of genres–hip-hop, funk, country and acoustic ballad. “Knutsford City Limits,” with its Northern English attitude and almost Broadway buildup, demonstrates the wonderful craftsmanship of Williams and his songwriting partner, Guy Chambers.
My favorite song is the Kylie Minogue duet “Kids,” which features Williams rapping: “Press be asking do I care for sodomy/I don’t know, yeah, probably/I’ve been looking for serial monogamy/Not some bird that looks like Billy Connolly.” For someone of Williams’ “celebrity” stature, it’s good to see that he is in on the joke.
Our World Our Words
This fall, streets will be buzzin’ with anticipation about the compilation Our World Our Words, the accompanying soundtrack to the new Ronin Ro short novel, Street Sweepers.
There are few missteps if any on this mini-album. It features the all-grown-up Roc-A-Fella young gun spitting lyrical gems over the DJ Twins-produced “My Mind Right.” On the track’s second verse, Bleek adds a little more fuel to the flames concerning his rumored beef with one of QB’s finest with the line: “Your lifestyle’s written? So who you supposed to be? Play your position.”
Roc-A-Fella affilates Da Ranjahz show a glimpse of clever wordplay but give just a marginal showing at best with their mentor Jay-Z swinging a weak but bearable hook on “Arms Up.” Newly signed to the Def Jam South Imprint, Ludacris whets many appetites of the female persuasion with his many sexual images on his ode to wet dreams in “What’s Your Fantasy?” But the mix-tape gem “Bang Bang” by Foxy Brown and Capone ‘n’ Noreaga, is undoubtedly the best track.