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Amilia K. Spicer, Seamless (Free Range) Rating: 8
Amilia K. Spicer's Seamless, first released back in 2003, is a spellbinder. As on her previous Like an Engine, the songs here are unabashedly sensual. Sex suggestion is all over the place, yet without a closer-than-close listen, you'd never know it. Spicer's ultra-feminine lustfulness reveals itself so delicately and smartly that Seamless works both as sultry accompaniment to a summer meal and raging therapy with the power to quell some love-aggression. The key to her weird double play is Spicer's controlled songwriting. She's clever, but not too clever; always real, occasionally deeply dramatic, and sometimes quite funny. "Wasted" and "4:08" are great examples of Spicer's fun side -- both coolly addictive with rich ideas behind the jumpiness. And "Route 15" is a nice sad song about growing up and resisting regrets. It's also got a killer final line that resonates throughout much of these tracks and, indeed, Spicer's career: "I wake with a start / Holding my hand to my heart / Pulling what's inside out."
Services, Your Desire Is My Business (A Touch of Class Recordings) Rating: 6
Services are an odd lot: mixing rock with electro and basically anything under the kitchen sink. As a result, you're probably going to enjoy some tunes and cringe during others. "Element of Danger" is a jerky kind of track with a decent tempo and backbeat. It takes quite a while to get into though. "Alive" has a great groove from the onset that is quickly addictive, resembling a cross between Depeche Mode, Buck 65 and The Prodigy. Meanwhile "Cemetery" is a rowdier tune with jungle hues and a sample of guitar riffs. But as it evolves it brings to mind a Primus b-side. The oddness of the record is its greatest strength, as "Get Down" is a hymnal ditty turned nu metal rap. Think Deerhoof without as many bizarre moments and you get the gist of this album, particularly on the Devo-ish "The Chops" and the harder rock feel on "Expensive Shit" and "Yeah, The Ocean". Bizarre but in a refreshingly non-stale manner.
C, Universum (Free Dimension) Rating: 5
This is where I reveal one of my deep-seated biases when it comes to reviewing music: Anything that features a xylophone gets bonus points. Indeed, C is more than just a letter, more than simply the symbol for carbon on the Periodic Table, C is the name of a band that plays instrumental rock music. On Universum, C provides a brand of instrumental rock that actually, yes, rocks out on a regular basis, even as it incorporates things like spoken word samples and the aforementioned xylophones. Universum avoids the trap of thinking too hard about what it is, concentrating instead on being something a little more visceral, something that aims for the heart and the adrenal gland more than it does the head. At the beginning of the fiery "Expellant", an uncredited female voice says, "rarely do I feel compelled to write, except in times of love and hate," and it's likely that no better words could have been chosen for the aim of the band during the creation of Universum -- even when it's being tripped up by forced syncopation or annoying noise, Universum at least sounds as though it's trying to evoke something. Unfortunately, C falls too often into repetition, trying to drive whatever mood it is that they're trying to convey into the listener's skull over, and over, and over again, a method that tends to work better when there's a vocalist to rant over the top. C brings the feeling, they just don't quite have the technique to turn that feeling into something deeply felt by the listener.
Lost Tricks, Lost Tricks (self-released) Rating: 5
The Lost Tricks EP is piano pop as sung by an emo voice. Starting with the catchy, if not repetitive, "Freeman" and moving to the boring, slow "12", the band never displays its true colors. What do they really sound like? I have no idea. What we have is five disjointed songs, none of them spectacular. There are fantastic sections. The best are the choruses of "2nd Chance", which relies upon a space-funk synth and bass line and "All Around U", which has an impossible-to-shake melody, despite the spelling-impaired title. But mostly, it's not striking. Each of these songs is available for free download on the band's website, so there's no risk. But don't be shocked if you're not entirely impressed.