April '03

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Ani Difranco
Righteous Babe Records

As outspoken as she is prolific, Ani Difranco’s fifteenth album in thirteen years reaffirms her poetry as political commentary and her music as crisp and catchy. With her five-piece band and trumpet trio, Evolve feels more jazzy and refined than her traditional solo albums.

Tracks such as “o my my” with its playful piano and bass line competition, and “shrug” with its wailing clarinet over a restrained piano, showcase Difranco’s adept arrangement skills not obvious in her usual solo guitar pieces.

“serpentine” starts off with a three-minute solo guitar jam by Difranco and runs another seven with political speech. She says, “Conjugate liberty/into libertarian/and medicate it/associate it/with deregulation/we won’t even know we’re slaves/on a corporate plantation.”

And, as the owner of her own record label, in “serpentine” Difranco even takes on the music industry. “The music industry mafia is pimping girl power/sniping off sharpshooter singles from their Styrofoam towers.” Difranco is self-written, self-produced, self-mixed. Sing on, righteous babe. – Jessica Chapman

So Long, Astoria

The Ataris

As post-punk rock bands scramble like roaches to major labels, the chances of original sounds and ideas making it intact has become fifty-fifty. But when the sound does remain honest and whole, as it does on the Ataris wonderful major debut So Long, Astoria, the point of moving to a major is clear: a better product and a wider audience.

The Ataris are the quintessential punk-pop type band in a category with radio darlings Jimmy Eat World and The Used. Their songs are as catchy and, moreover, as poignant as their counterparts. The title track kills out of the gate, a blistering ode to what it means to be in a rock band.

The relatively straight road that is So Long, Astoria has its political stops along the way as well. “The Hero Dies in This One” gives Astoria, the city, a spotlight, so the listener can see the destruction that takes place in a town when factories and plants dry up and move south. “Radio #2” tells the listener to take back the airwaves from corporate dominance, something The Ataris now fill at certain stations. Ironic? No matter. When you have released one of the best albums of the year, one ironic slip-up is allowed. – Ron Knox

The Lost and Found 2nd Ed.

Instinct Records

Bands have been playing covers since before the saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” took hold with mixed results. While remixes and digitally sampled tracks of everything from Metalica licks to audio from old Star Trek episodes are woven into crappy pop or hip-hop songs and flung across the airwaves like something a monkey might throw at the zoo, the formula for a good cover has changed little: take a good song and play it differently. That’s it.

While Rasputina, the self-described “psuedo-classical positive goth” cello band does just that on The Lost and Found 2nd Ed., something here still smells a little simian. While a bunch of cellos playing Fogerty’s “Bad Moon Rising” or Gilmore’s “Wish You Were Here” sounds like, well, a bunch of cellos, there’s little else to catch the ears. A marvelously creepy version of the childhood classic “This Little Piggy” almost makes up for an otherwise boring hodge-podge of already over-used covers, but with just seven tracks, at least three of the little piggys might be left out in the cold. – Brandon Whitehead

The Art of Losing

American Hi-Fi
Island Def Jam Music Group

The Art of Losing proves to be an encore to American Hi-Fi’s 2001 self-titled debut. Stylistically and lyrically, the material between the two albums could easily be interspersed between the two albums with no one the wiser.

The subdued yet energetic introduction of “Save Me,” the fourth track on the album, proved to be a nice change from the guitar-heavy rock and drumming styles of the first three songs. The next three tracks are similar to the first three, but the heartfelt “This Is The Sound” makes up for it and more with its sweet lyrics and lighter-in-the-air waving back and forth feeling. Best for a laugh is “The Breakup Song,” which whines, “I’m counting on UFOs to beam me up; I just don’t know how long I can take this shit.”

Also of note, the CD acts as a key unlocking their official album website, giving fans access to the music video of The Art of Losing and exclusive scenes from the making of the video. Although the video representation of the song was interesting to see, the band’s website is not the most user-friendly. – Jessica Chapman

There's No Stopping...

Stopping Power
SRA Records

Local three-piece power-mongers Jeff, Kyle and Ray (who needs last names…) have slung together a brick s**thouse of a little CD with six shells of magnum-caliber rock that proves you can never have to many amps in the room. With titles like “Danny Partridge” and the aptly named “Punk Rockin’ Tonight,” this trio continues to prove that punk should be loud, sloppy and short.

Unfortunately, the recording quality is also at a punk-standard level (one good microphone, one not so good microphone, and not much else), but that’s really no reason to tell these boys to stop the power. – Brandon Whitehead

I Am The Messiah

MC Honkey
spinART records

While the moniker of “white rapper” often seems to equal “lame-ass crappy rapper,” the sound-scape stitched together by MC Honkey(which consists of Sir Rock-A-Lot, Sir Whacks-A-Lot and apparently several others Sirs…)for their new album I Am The Messiah picks carefully from the slim salad bar of decent Caucasian MCs.

Tracks like “Sonnet No.3” and “The Object” have a definite Beastie Boys flavor with fast beat changes and hypnotic lyrics, while “A Good Day To Be You” with Koool G Murder evokes some kind of bizarre Moby remix performed by Leonard Nemoy on anti-depressants.

Still, most of the tracks are fairly crisp, and a funky little video spoofing a variety of musical superstars is also included, just for S&G’s. – Brandon Whitehead

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