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11 April 2006

Gram Rabbit, Cultivation (Stinky) Rating: 7
Gram Rabbit commences its sophomore album with the languid psychedelic dustcloud of "Waiting in the Kountry", perfectly evoking the desert in both sound and lyric. The connection is appropriate enough -- the band comes from the arid expanses of the Joshua Tree, after all -- but Gram Rabbit resists any attempt to pigeon-hole it according to some notion of the "desert sound", whatever that hybrid of everything from inspirational namesake Gram Parsons to Kyuss might be. Instead, the band moves fast to deploy an impressive stylistic variety, from the demented disco bounce of "Bloody Bunnies (Superficiality)" to the straightforwardly rocking "Sorry". Singer Jesika von Rabbit makes for an enticing frontwoman, though musical leader Todd Rutherford delivers a highlight when he steps up to the mic on the countrified folk number "Angel Song", and the whole band presents a rather spiffy, sharply-dressed image. Though the album loses some steam at the end, with a few by-the-numbers efforts like the prosaically-titled "Follow Your Heart", Cultivation is a strong, rewarding album by a band that's already built up a sizeable buzz in Southern California and is clearly ready to take it to the next level. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
"Bloody Bunnies": [real]
"Angel Song": [real]
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Dept. of Energy, EP (Roam) Rating: 6
Now that quirk-pop band Dear John Letters is now defunct, singer/songwriter Robb Benson has moved on to... yet another quirk-pop band! The shock that Dept of Energy sounds remarkably similar to his first band isn't unexpected, but the five-track debut EP is certainly a worthwhile look. While sometimes Benson's lyrics can be extremely overwrought and sometimes a bit pretentious, he can still write a few zingers, as best seen on the relationship drama of "I Remember What the Light Felt Like": "We both laid staring at the ceiling/ feeling empty/ or maybe it was sad and angry at the same time/ not at each other but at the way things work out sometimes" -- a great line despite the fact that the guitar-strum buildup leads to a chorus that sounds dated the second you hear it. Often the band feels that simply because they have Ego Band USA's keyboardist Ty Bailie on board, they should use him at every moment. The keyboards actually wind up killing songs like "Song from John Volutine" and "I Remember...", but plays a strong role on songs like the excellent multi-part "Summer" and the straightforward rocker "One Last Wish for Claire Grogan". Yet, the real surprise is on closing ballad "Lemon" -- just Benson's voice and a solo piano is all that's needed to make the most memorable song on the whole LP. The band still has a ways to grow away from Dear John Letters, but at this rate, the Dept of Energy's future looks bright. [Insound]
      — Evan Sawdey
"Summer": [MP3]
"Cowboys & Aliens" (8-track demo): [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Playaz Circle, "U Can Believe It" f/ Ludacris [12-inch single] (DTP/Universal) Rating: 7
I'll say it again: the '90s are back. With Swizz Beatz helming a handful of today's hits ("Check On It", "Touch It", "Spit Your Game"), it only seems appropriate that Buckwild, another NYC favorite (O.C.'s Word... Life..., Organized Konfusion's "Stress"), be able to cover his share of bases. With high-profile spots on 50 Cent (the "4th Chamber"-esque "I Don't Need 'Em") and The Game (the reflective closer "Like Father, Like Son") records, Buckwild seems to have found his niche in the industry: providing the "soulful" and "dark" flavors to hit albums. This time, he crosses the Mason-Dixon and reaches out to Ludacris' camp, Disturbing Tha Peace, and dishes a buttery cut for the duo Playaz Circle. In the same way Beanie Sigel's "Look At Me Now" echoed hauntingly around its floating vocal, "U Can Believe It" lingers in the air to the tune of a lush Tom Brock sample. While Buckwild's use of whole notes and tension are apt for dexterous emcees, Dolla Boi, the somewhat questionably named Tity Boi, and Luda style with finesse to lend the track a proper swagger. The effort even trumps Buckwild's previous collaboration with PC, "You Ain't Got Enough", on Disturbing Tha Peace, perhaps signaling another possible route for the producer: soul patrol? [Insound]
      — Dan Nishimoto
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 8:46 AM

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