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Honeyhander, Woolly Mannerisms (Strictly Amateur Films) Rating: 8
Honeyhander's EP is one of those where you're raising a Spock-ian eyebrow initially, but once the warm electro pop grooves that sound like gorgeous collage of Erasure and Depeche Mode mixed with Metric, you get an extremely adventurous bit of work. "Wear Out Your Muscles Mary" is a perfect example, as Honeyhander also has a bit of Primal Scream's swagger about them. It's this wall of sound that makes the time fly by, particularly on the swirling guitars and hi-hat tempo of "Professional Poise". It's a very impressive tune but pales compared to the quirky yet infectious groove on "Our Connoisseurs Are Feeders", which seems to blend Nine Inch Nails with Smashing Pumpkins. The quintet also makes the most of "Porcelain Veneers", although its opening sags. Honeyhander nails the finale "Hiding Small Children in Cabinets" with a militaristic-cum-Blood Brothers hue. It's a very challenging yet worthwhile release that could be the straw the broke the sheep's back for this Rhode Island crew.
Ebony Eyez feat. Slim and Q of 112, "Take Me Back" [single] (Capitol) Rating: 7
Based on the presence of 112 members Slim and Q, I was prepared to hate this -- I can only deal with so much crappy modern R&B at one time, and I've already heard this year's quota of R Kelly. Much to my surprise, "Take Me Back" is actually nothing like a slow-jam: instead, it's an unannounced single to Shaggy's execrable "It Wasn't Me". Basically, Ebony has found her man in a compromising situation, and despite her man's pleading to take him back, she isn't having anything of it. It's been a while since we had a female rapper willing to dish it out to the juvenile players and wannabe pimps on their own level, and Ebony Eyez comes out of the gate spitting fire like Eve with a belly full of fire. "And if you wasn't feeling this," she chastises: "You shoulda let me know / No need to keep me holdin' on / You need to let me go / Instead of listening to another sad love song / I'd rather get my club on / And you can get the fuck on gone.
The Teenage Prayers, Ten Songs (self-released) Rating: 7
Solomon Burke liked the Teenage Prayers' live version of his song "Goodbye Baby" so much, he flew them out L.A. to record it. The song rounds out the Prayers' debut album Ten Songs, a rough-edge soul bloodletting from New York's indie rock scene. Most of the album is full of understated slow boilers, the kind of oily soundtrack that echoes in the wee clean-up hours following a sweat-drenched soul revue. The percolating "Brown Bottle" spins strands of the Band and Otis Redding around in a patient circular progression, while "Oh" and "Annihilation" are all hushed pleas, shimmering organs, and palpable conflict. The band rocks, knocked-kneed and vibrantly sloppy, on "Center of the World" and "Acetylene Summer", but does so with restraint and poise; there's no build-up and release, instead only a maintained burst of energy. Burke must have sensed that waft of tension in the Teenage Prayers' irony-free delivery -- their calculated smoke signals suggest they're searching for the secrets of the real showmen, not just fanatically aping them.
Jamesy P, "Nookie" [12" single] (Universal) Rating: 3
The post-script to Jamesy P's soca chart-burner, this single is notable for its indie outreach effort. Everyone's favorite Sri Lankan beat ryder M.I.A. adds a verse while Jabba channels Fat Man Scoop over a meatier remix. Their contributions are also added to the original's shiny happy people riddim, but excessively in three variations: radio, extended and Jabba-only edits. Rounded out by a UK mix that reeks of Bridge and Tunnel guido grease, this 12 can hardly catch Pitchfork praise. Maybe if it hit during Carnival season, it'd stand a better chance?
Clark the Band, The Woods (Zunior) Rating: 8
Clark The Band is the core trio of John Tielli, Matt Gagnon and Andrew McCormack. However, with the additions of members of Arcade Fire, Wooden Stars and Local Rabbits, it's definitely a group effort with "Metropolis", eerily recalling the best days that Canadian institution The Rheostatics as it gains steam with its subtle "beep beep" throughout. Think of a roots-oriented version of Stars and you should get the picture. From there, the group nails "The Metal Boys" with the poppy panache of The New Pornographers. The lyrics are as ideal as the music, particularly on the mid-tempo flair of "Camera" and the deliciously infectious "Won't Give Up to Midnight". Tielli and crew also show their mastery on the rambunctious, boogie-brimming "Prayers for Shelter" as well as during the jerky, art rock of "Bite" that packs a lot of, er, bite. The only clunker is the melancholic "The Animals and Us".
The GoStation, Quiet Zone EP (Edge Delay) Rating: 6
New York quartet the GoStation navigates familiar territory on its first official release, the EP Quiet Zone. It's a suitable title for a record given the subtle sonic release of the five tracks, each which seems to be well-acquainted with a Britpop self-awareness. While this brand of familiarity can occasionally breed disapproval, the GoStation are throwbacks of an agreeable kind, reviving Clinton-era alternative sounds that flooded the briefly shifting radio airwaves. The GoStation keeps their influences close at hand, but the EP is a remarkably solid stab at mid-'90s Manchester sounds, from the crooning crescendo of "C'mon" right down to the final hiss of the guitar on "The Way of the World." This record won't arouse much hipster-praise -- it's too rooted for that sort of buzz -- although it is a capable launch for band reliably echoing the recognizable.
Avenue D, "Do I Look Like a Slut?", (*69) \ Rating: 4
And here we have yet another electro club track built off the chassis of Kraftwerk's "Numbers" -- but this is masterminded by godfather Larry Tee, so he can get away with it. I don't know if I'll be so willing to forgive the sub-Fannypack rapping on the part of Debbie & Daphne D -- this is kinda funny, I guess, if you like hearing two patently disinterested women blather on about the type of guys they let "stick it in". The mixes would make a plate of gouda seem less cheesy -- they seem to have been designed specifically for the kind of club nights you or I wouldn't be caught dead at. I do give Robbie Rivera extra points for his funky slice of old-school garage action, otherwise there's not a lot here that stands out. Peter Rauhoffer seems to be channeling 1991 with his "Sluts on the Runway" mix, which could probably moonlight as a RuPaul b-side on its day off.
Lil' Wayne, "Fireman" [12" single] (Universal) Rating: 5
"I put everything I had into this song, and now the video, hopefully as an inspiration to everyone who wants to see New Orleans come back bigger and badder than ever." "Don't be surprised if she ask where the cash at / I see she wearin' the jeans that show her butt crack / My girls can't wear that; why? That's where my stash at." "Yep, I'm in love, in love, in love." What the fuss over Young Wheezy? Cos fans fiendin' for cracked voice crackling like a lit crack rock over a fire siren and acid reflux bass? Nope, it's just more of that drayma. For the post-Survivor, not-quite-an-Ultimate Hustler set.