PopMatters home | short takes home | archives
PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
10 July 2006
Dirtie Blonde, Dirtie Blonde (Jive/Zomba)
The group known as "Dirtie Blonde" could easily have been called "Brilliant Blonde", as a nod to lead singer Amie Miriello. The Stamford, Connecticut native treats her audiences to smart and snappy songwriting, as well as intriguing vocals that will make listeners say, "How did she do that?" She can go low and scratchy like Pink and Nelly Furtado ("Officially in Love"), light and mellow like Sheryl Crow ("Change the Water"), wounded and sheepish like Shakira ("My Pride"), and could probably give Alanis Morissette a good run in a screaming contest. There's even a hint of David Bowie mixed into her vocal gymnastics ("Karma Boy"). It's distinctive, innovative, and catchy. Plus, Miriello's singing suggests that Dirtie Blonde's live shows are one-of-a-kind, with Miriello taking her vocals in different directions on each outing. Yet, although Miriello has received much of the publicity -- featured as VO5's Red Hot Rising Star and in a stack of other magazines -- Dirtie Blonde is also a band of tight musicians. Consisting of Jay Dmuchowski and Sean Kipe on guitar, Dean Moore on bass, and Tim Perez on drums, along with Robin Lynch and Niklas Olovson, this crew makes the right moves at the right times, like the tempo changes in "Bend Over" and "Lonely". With a sound that rocks ("Hard Times"), pops ("What You Want"), and even goes a little country ("Bend Over"), Dirtie Blonde promises to make big waves with their self-titled debut. Highlights are "Officially in Love", "Change the Water", "Lonely", "What You Want", and "Shut Up", while "Karma Boy", "My Pride", and "Stay" radiate with genius.
Quentin B. Huff
multiple songs: [official site]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
"Walk Over Me": [media player]
Rock / pop
Mr. Beat & The Ghetto Grooves, Safe as Fire (King Alfred)
Mr. Beat & The Ghetto Grooves, signed to a local Winchester label, make fun hip-hop: light and laid-back bouncy songs that prove, through contradiction, the existence of grime in the UK. And given their relative lack of seriousness and the album's availability only as a download, their debut, Safe as Fire, is surprisingly good. They're not the great MCs by any standards, but Krispee and Mr. W are talented multi-instrumentalists with a startling knack for building grooves; while the recording quality isn't a selling point here either, it fits their style adequately: the rapper/producers throw themselves whole-heartedly into their simple, nerdy flows without a shade of irony or pretense, and the live instrumentation gives it all a fresh sound, complete with solid guitar solos at regular intervals. As a 22-minute download it has a hard time justifying its selling price, but the final impression is still that Safe as Fire is a competent, fun, and bright debut from a pair of college kids with unremarkable skills but no shortage of enthusiasm.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Fujasaki, hca (Sudd)
Fujasaki, naturally a Swede, releases his second album on Sudd -– a swirling, atmospheric interpretation of deep house sounds, with the melancholy of moments on Moby's Play but less overt. It's music for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but truth is other Scandinavians like Shogun Kunitoki are doing this in more interesting ways. A squelching beat, percussion that breaks halfway through –- these elements we've heard elevating free jazz into sexy lounge for a while now. Music's fine for sustaining a mood, but hca's a release that will have little impact. Still, on "Boys Like You Pt. 6", the tinkling melody unfolds with the leisurely sound of Hot Chip and is lovely; at the end of "Boston Revisited" there's about 10 seconds of silence. If you were quietly walking alone, or staring out the window at the gray sky, this silence takes on a character of its own: peace, solitude. It's the best moment on the disc.
"Boys Like You Pt. 6": [MP3]
"Nim Remix": [MP3]
Electronic / House
The Alarm MMVI, Under Attack (Eleven Thirty)
It's hard to criticize Mike Peters, who has battled leukemia, in the same way it's hard to criticize Karl Wallinger, but let me give it a try. The Alarm are pop generalists in the worst kind of way, in that nothing in particular stands out, which is unfortunate, considering the pedigree behind this incarnation of the group Peters' put together: Gene Loves Jezebel's James Stevenson on guitar, the Cult and Mission UK's Craig Adams on bass, and Stiff Little Fingers' Steve Grantley on drums. The song selection on Under Attack melts together in that non-descript, second-tier band kind of way, and when songs do stick out, it's for aping others' work. "Cease and Desist" finds the boys doing their best Clash impression -- right down to the song title that would have been right at home on the Clash's self-titled debut -- with charging drums and wild harmonica. Unfortunately, if you listen to the song too closely, it falls apart under the banal lyrics. Under Attack may be the album America's Alarm fans have waited 15 years for, but no one else was asking for it.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 7:44 AM