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13 July 2006

Lupe Fiasco, Touch the Sky (Hosted by DJ E. Nyce) Mix Unit
For rival emcees, Lupe Fiasco's Touch the Sky mixtape could be the jab that precedes the knockout punch. For hip-hop fans, the mixtape is a snack before dinner, as the rapper adds the finishing touches to his upcoming full release, Food & Liquor. The purpose of the snack isn't to satisfy you; it's just something to hold you over until it's time to really chow down. As snacks go, Touch the Sky is a mammoth 29-piece bucket of rap -- an hour and eighteen minutes of rhyme. Lupe Fiasco holds his own over popular beats, as on "Lu Myself" (playing off the title and music of Eminem's "Lose Yourself"), "Ignorant Freestyle" (rapping over a sped-up sample of the Isley Brothers), and Kanye West's "Touch the Sky". His rap skills are generally impressive, but are even more so when he's focused on the content of his rhymes rather than structure, which is also tight. On "The Twilight Zone", he weaves a hip-hop Alice in Wonderland, where nearly everything is personified, like shoes that talk and a television on death row for "killing BET and CNN over a dice game". The widely regarded "Conflict Diamonds" offers 24 karats of conscious rap, as Fiasco forces us to consider the consequences of our love for bling at the intersection of politics, economics, and materialism. Also, battle rhyming doesn't escape his reach on songs like "Switch Science Project" and "Gemini - Southside". Although it's heavy on interludes, the mixtape seems to be working as a promotional tool. MTV's Wild 'N Out, hosted by Nick Cannon, ended an episode with a clip of the song "Kick Push", and BET regularly airs commercials for Lupe Fiasco ringtones. [Insound]
      — Quentin B. Huff
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Lupe Fiasco - Kick Push

Lane Steinberg, The Return of Noel Coward's Ghost (Cheft)
Tan Sleeve member Lane Steinberg starts off talking briefly about Buffy Saint-Marie before getting its pop mojo working with the trippy rocker "Bottlenose Dolphin (Thanks For The Milk)" that sounds like it came straight from the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack. Meanwhile, tracks like the psychedelic-tinted "Face Down" bring to mind The Byrds. There are 20 songs here, well 17 actually not including some brief interludes. Steinberg seems caught in a lovely little time warp, with his delayed harmonies working off his lead on "Gain Luster" for roughly two minutes while "YamYam" is a waste of one moment in time. But throughout the record, Steinberg shines with "Let's Touch" that sounds like a rollicking Joe Jackson while XTC is heard in the rather lush, melodic "Something Is Waiting for Someone" and "Eye for the Ladies". A couple don't gel as well, particularly the ordinary "Bare Walls". Steinberg does shine though on the ambling, Beatles-esque "Beautiful Day, Take Me Away". [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MySpace]

The Riverboat Gamblers, To the Confusion of our Enemies (Volcom Entertainment)
The super-charged pop punk here may not break any new ground, and by all reports, it's a pale shadow of this Denton band's live show. Still, if every Warped band was putting this much oomph into their three-chord bangers, we'd all be less inclined to toss around terms like "mall punk". The best cuts -- "The Biz (Loves) Sluts", "Don't Bury Me... I'm Not Dead Yet" -- here have the celebratory anarchy of early Green Day, the fierce chord-chugging fun of Bad Religion. There's a goofy sense of humor at work, too, as when a song, called "The Gamblers Try Their Hand at International Diplomacy", incorporates the not-very-Kissinger-worthy sentiment of "I'm sorry for harshing your vibe", into its chorus. But mostly, this is an album you could love with your brain turned off, all body-pummeling guitar riffs, jackhammer drums and five guys shouting "hey" in unison. A guilty pleasure is still a pleasure, right? [Insound]
      — Jennifer Kelly
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Punk / rock  

The Riverboat Gamblers - in the studio

Tomihira, Play Dead (self-released)
I can't escape the feeling that Tomihira is just another indie-rock band who was inspired by Joy Division and The Cure and now must write songs like them. If debut album Play Dead is any indication, Tomihira's songs aren't bad -- at least, not in the kind of way that makes you want to convulse in a writhing heap on the ground -- but they're so indistinct and uninspiring as to make them seem bad. That the song titles read like an over-emotional high schooler's blog post titles ("I Hate the Fucking Rules", "Loveubye", "Color of Destroyed", etc.) doesn't help. And really, when you give a song a title like "I Hate the Fucking Rules", it should do something other than mope along aimlessly until it ends. The one exception to the pointlessness is "All to Be Undone", which still mopes, but happens to do so in a fairly majestic, synth-augmented sort of way. It's lovely, really, something the rest of Play Dead can only aspire to. At the very least, there's enough potential here to court a few indie-label dollars for a second album -- a second album which would almost certainly be an improvement over this one. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
multiple songs: [MySpace]
"All to Be Undone": [MP3]
"World Class": [MP3]
Indie / rock  

.: posted by Editor 8:06 AM

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