Adam Green "Friends of Mine' (Rough Trade Records)
Who else but Adam Green could pull off a love song about Jessica Simpson? With deadpan delivery and cleverly twisted lyrics, it's hard to tell if this male half of New York oddity The Moldy Peaches is serious or just pulling a fast one on his listeners with this second solo effort.
From the opener, "Bluebirds," Green takes listeners on a bizarre tour of his world where people go to bunny ranches and "everyone's talking 'bout Jesus." At times it's hard to decipher Green's meaning with his sometimes brilliant, oftentimes obscene, always absurd lyrics, but it all comes together on the title track, "Friends of Mine." Here, Green introduces us to some friends of his, who "fall in love by accident" and lose drugs during car chases.
"Friends of Mine" is an enjoyably solid effort from one of today's most innovative songwriters.
- BLAIR PAYNE
Lyrics Born "Later That Day..." (Quannum)
Laid back, funky rhythms generate the atmosphere of Lyrics Born's debut "Later That Day..." Slippery rhymes slink off Lyrics' tongue, riding the waves of lilting beats that recall everything from jazz to funk and lounge to dancehall.
From the loins of West Coast hip-hop collective Soulsides, a cooperative of Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born, "Later That Day..." is a 16-track introspective into left-side hip-hop. With guest appearances from Blackalicious, Tommy Guerrero, Lateef the Truth Speaker and Jurrasic 5's Cut Chemist, "Later That Day..." goes from heavy tracks like "Pack Up" to lounge bouncers like "Bad Dreams" to feel-good grooves like "Cold Call."
The funky background singersget tired by the end of the record. But by blending styles from across the spectrum with thoughtful and political rhymes, Lyrics Born creates an original vibe for a counterculture on the verge of the tipping point.
- ALEX KARGHER
These Arms Are Snakes "this is meant to hurt you" (Jade Tree)
Remarkable buzz has followed These Arms Are Snakes since its first show, and with good reason. Despite links to Botch and Kill Sadie, the Seattle Washington band has a sound with more sonic density, layering, composition and organization that the other bands overlooked.
Botch and Kill Sadie focused on thrash and aggressiveness, leaving much to be desired. "This is meant to hurt you" perfectly fills that void. The band captures the intensity of pioneer groups like Drive Like Jehu and At the Drive-In, but adds a less hurried, more polished instrument-first approach akin to Explosions in the Sky. Steve Snere alternates between screaming and melodic singing, but ultimately his voice is merely the background to Snakes' impressive arrangements and envelope-pushing craftsmanship.
At an intense twenty minutes, "this is meant to hurt you" is also meant to impress you.
- COSTA CALOUDAS
Kings of Leon "Youth and Young Manhood" (RCA)
Southern rockers Kings of Leon have finally delivered a long-awaited full-length debut, a rollicking roller coaster that hits you like cool swimming pool water on a muggy August afternoon. The album includes tweaked versions of four songs from the Followill family's "Holy Roller Novocaine" EP, plus seven new tracks. Almost every song is memorable and each punches its way into your head.
The band succeeds in creating a variety of tempos and styles throughout the disc, and listeners will find themselves singing along even on the fast songs if they can understand Caleb Followill's gritty rapid-fire vocals.
Currently the band is touring on Lollapalooza, expanding their fan base across the nation. Kings of Leon combines the fun of The Strokes with a tough southern snarl and relentless energy that could only be found in the members' youth and manhood.
- COREY PARKER
Josh Wink Ovum Recordings and System Recordings
Philadelphia DJ Josh Wink selects a host of different sounds on his most recent release, "Profound Sounds v2." Essentially a mix of previously recorded house music, Wink, who is a producer, label owner and remixer, carefully combines techno sounds with acid jazz, breathy sensual vocals and original beats.
The mixes are clean-cut without too much overlapping or heavy distractions, exemplified in Rithma's "Tracks for a Weirder Day."
The two-disc compilation starts off with soothing lounge music and bumps up to full energy meditative house with Wink's own "Superfreak" interlude. Minimal Man's "Make a Move" has rhythmic drum 'n' bass and vocals scattered well within. Barada's "Yard Work" meshes layers of pipes and flutes with an underlying synthesizer hook and a warping beat.
Mr. G's "Late Night Ep" would be the climax of Wink's volume 2 disc, with clever vocals about the energy, meaning and freedom of house music.
- MIKE MENACHEM