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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
21 March 2006
Various Artists, Catch Records Presents: The Cuis-N-Art (Catch) Rating: 6
The Cuis-N-Art showcases just what Catch Records does best: hardcore street-gangsta tracks by artists ranging from virtual unknowns to old-school names like Masta Killa and Black Moon's Buckshot. Catch Records actually shares a number of these artists with Duck Down and Nature Sounds, but their focuses are different: while Nature Sounds encompasses everything from keep-it-real hustlers to the more experimental noodlings of artists like Ghostface and DOOM, Catch Records casts its eye directly on the streets and takes a generally harder-edged approach. The rising star of the Catch Records line-up is clearly Warbux, with three tracks (plus a feature) here and a debut album just around the corner. "You Ain't Rich" is catchy, with an oddly Eminem-esque chorus, and he even sings a bit on the refreshing "So I Told Her". Overall, the compilation's production encapsulates its vision well, with all the sounds you'd expect from a street showcase: there are ominous bangers, there are sustained strings, there are sped-up samples, there are bouncy anthems. "Chains" is a highlight, backing R.A., Masta Killa and Killah Priest with a jaunty sax lick and dense rhythm section; Warbux's "Buck 'Em" sounds like a track from Illmatic if that album's jazzy-haze mood slowly turned sour, until the woozy horns kick in with discordant mallet percussion and a simple, punchy rap hook. Rich Mo's politically-incorrect "Girly Mouth" is a laid-back, catchy throwback to playground gender taunts, and album-closer "No Father" is a tough, soul-edged banger embellished with flute riffs that turns completely around in the choruses, softening at the edges into the hip-hop soundtrack to a pastoral morning. While some of the more forgettable tracks can blend together into an empty, bland-gangsta mood, The Cuis-N-Art has its definite strong points and represents the label well.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Annie Keating, Take the Wheel (Annie Keating Music) Rating: 8
The follow-up to 2004's The High Dive has Annie Keating sounding like a combo of Kathleen Edwards, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch on the bluesy, warm, toe-tapping country vibe of "Finish What You Start". Meanwhile, "Half Light" conveys a deeper, darker feeling along the lines of Edwards and Lucinda Williams. Ditto for the light, barren folk she delivers during the gorgeous title track with its pedal steel accents. And she is able to mine this vein perfectly with the alt.country hue on "Red Guitar", in no hurry to finish this song perfect for long nighttime drives to nowhere in particular. The first highlight is the tender, sway-filled "Waiting Game" that slowly builds. Another pleaser is "Sweet Leanne" which seems to use the throwaway riff from Dylan's "Most of the Time" to great effect. One slight miscue is the ordinary roots-pop of "Altitude". However, the Lanois-like production on "Burn" is fantastic, growing with each verse. Keating has a knack for writing clever, thoughtful songs, and this album does nothing to disprove that fact. If only all albums came off this well....
multiple songs: [clips]
The Morning After Girls, The Morning After Girls (Rainbow Quartz) Rating: 6
This Melbourne, Australia-based coed outfit adheres to that familiar old adage: "There isn't anything new under the sun but if you incorporate your influences wisely there really needn't be". As you listen, you can almost see the names scrolling before you: SonicYouth, Jesus and Mary Chain, P-Furs, Velvets, the Slowdive/Chapterhouse/Ride axis... this is an album that literally could have come out in 1989. That doesn't make it redundant, necessarily; the Girls know how to swirl up some badass guitar noise ("Run for Our Lives") or create languid concoctions like "Chasing Us Under" for those who think that the Velvets' "Sunday Morning" is the Perfect Song. In short, plenty of sounds and chord combos you've heard before, but a whole lot better than Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
"Straight Thru You": [MP3]
"Hi Skies": [MP3]
Olga, Now Is the Time (219 Records) Rating: 4
Olga, usually accompanied by a small band, performs an idiosyncratic music in that space between folk and blues. A small turn one way and she'd be a singer-songwriter with more rustic lyrics; a slight lean the other and she'd be a standard country-blues singer. Staying on that line becomes her biggest strength; she never strays far from an at-home pick-up, yet she manages to travel a little in her sound. Unfortunately, her songs just don't captivate enough to keep this disc entertaining on multiple listens. Once you're past the dobros and the mandolins and other signifiers (like the regional song titles), you aren't left with anything overwhelming. A few numbers, like the bookends "Now Is the Time" and "GDTRFB" and Memphis Minnie's "What's the Matter with the Mill", suggest something better in here, but it never works its way out.
"Gotta Keep Moving": [MP3]
"Now I Know": [MP3]
.: posted by Editor 7:50 AM