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ěkapi, Where's the Beef? (Inflatabl Labl) Rating: 5
Welcome to more fun from the world of found sound! ěkapi (real name: Filippo Paolini) is obviously very fond of his sampler and his computer, and he's put together no less than 23 tracks (in under 50 minutes) of playful sampled oddness. The CD's called Where's the Beef?, and its stylized album art features a cartoon hand sticking out of a bowl of soup. The music largely matches the aesthetic of the title and art, using whatever sounds ěkapi has found to put together something that sounds like a cross between big band and soundtrack music on an occasionally skipping record player. The result is something that actually sounds like music rather than performance art pastiche, a rarity in the genre. Unfortunately, it has a rather short attention span, alternating throughout the album between tracks over three minutes and tracks that hover closer to one minute, and barely bothering to develop a single idea even over the longer tracks. The "intro" features the 20th Century Fox theme as played by a polka band, there's an ornery sheep, and even a couple of legit attempts at bona fide atmosphere ("La fuga di Sandokan", for one). And really, how can you resist a song with a title like "Diuretic Jazz"? It sounds exactly the way you'd think it might, naturally. Mostly, Where's the Beef? is a fun but inconsequential goof on orchestral maneuvers. If found sound is your thing, though, you'll totally dig it.
Hush Collector, Flowby (Candy Cone) Rating: 5
This four-song EP is a rather good offering of world weary Americana thanks to the great pipes of singer and multi-instrumentalists Poppy Gonzalez and Katie Mummery on the light, evocative title track that recalls the Cowboy Junkies mixed with Dido. There's a arty yet roots-filled mix on the ensuing "Mountain Song" with the hushed, sultry and sensual harmonies leading the way. The problem with short EPs is that generally they don't show enough of a band to make you greatly enthused. "If You Don't Matter" is almost too slow and jazzy for its own good. But the best is saved for last on the catchy "I Go Blind" that recalls The Waifs or Be Good Tanyas.
Pants Pants Pants, Pop Songs to Make Us Famous (self-released) Rating: 5
While the Internet has had a profound impact on how music is distributed through the culture, it's harder to say that Internet culture has so deeply affected music. Yeah, we all know the phrase "dot com", but then Internet is populated with its own symbol sets, tropes, in-jokes, and posturing, and it's difficult to make these things translate as songs without them becoming as painfully blunt as Britney Spears's "Email My Heart". But Pants Pants Pants, a rural Virginia band of self-made miscreants, manages to make Net nerd music that sounds appropriate. It's a dash of sysop humor, a pinch of hip-hop influence, a slab of irony, and a half-rack of electronic dance music. While tracks like "Born in the BBS" and "Hovercraft Traffic Music" make mostly-serious attempts to be straightforward, bits like "Sensible Gangsta" (a G-rap about a stock-investing, market-watching playa) and "Fear Factor" (about the show... and spiders) are pop culture send-ups. Possibly the one moment that achieves a solid balance between the two is "Zupakraut", a dance/rap track that revels in krautrock while rapping in fluent German. Like all Internet memes and fads, Pants Pants Pants are more novelty than depth, but plenty of great bands have made a sense of humor and stylistic schlock their stock in trade. With homemade albums and videos, Pants Pants Pants makes a stab at being the B-52s of the wifi set, and while they're a ways off from perfecting it, they're certainly worth a click-through.
Hayes Carll, Little Rock (Highway 87 Music) Rating: 6
Hayes Carll's latest album is filled to the gills with songs that he has no business singing -- they're too world-weary and too strong for someone his age. The slow but catchy "Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long" brings to mind Steve Earle and John Hiatt to mind with a harder, more pronounced Southern drawl. Just as potent are the tender, ballad-based numbers such as "Take Me Away" (featuring Allison Moorer) and "Long Way Home that resembles Kevin Welch or Kieran O'Kane. The rap of "Down The Road Tonight" however is an acquired taste as is the quirky, ambling "Good Friends". He nails the stellar mid-tempo toe-tapper "Hey Baby Where You Been" however that could be on Earle's El Corazon album while the haunting "Rivertown" falls in line with a twangy Dolorean. Carll's knack for crafting great songs is in abundance with this record, especially on the delightful groove found on the alt-country blueprint "Leave Here Standing".