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Nov. '04

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Handsome Boy Modeling

White PeopleAntlantic/Elektra

"Being handsome means never having to say you're sorry," or so say the liner notes of Handsome Boy Modeling School's latest, White People.

And just as the pretty people get all the breaks, the talented musicians get all the hooks. The Modeling School's über instructors, Prince Paul and Dan "The Automator" Nakamura — working under the pseudonyms Chest Rockwell and Nathaniel Merriweather, respectively — have mined an album's worth in collaboration with some of the finest musicians in rock and hip hop.

So is it possible that one of the most rock and roll releases of the year is... a hip-hop album?

While it might be a stretch to make such proclamations, Prince Paul and the Automator aren't above such hyperbole on booming tracks like "Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) Part 2." And like the skittish magic Prince Paul produced on De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising and the Automator brought to Kool Keith's Dr. Octagonecologyst, they sprinkle pixie dust over the soulful delivery of Cat Power on "I've Been Thinking," as nimbly as they emphasize the folky groove of Jack Johnson's guitar on "Breakdown."

The unfortunate consequence of making a classic like 3 Feet or Dr. Octagonecologyst is that it has been difficult for De La Soul and Kool Keith to top it; the upside is that these were just the first swings of producers Prince Paul and Dan the Automator's extended hit list. —Gillian Titus (Posted 11/19/04)

The Trashcan Sinatras


It must be the rain. How else to explain the exquisite "twee mopiness" of such Scottish indie-pop acts as Belle and Sebastian, Aztec Camera, and the Trashcan Sinatras?

The Irvine, Scotland-based Sinatras' latest, the perfectly titled Weightlifting, is a mesmerizing follow-up to its 1996 release, A Happy Pocket, and proof that there is a direct correlation between bad weather and finely crafted music.

The band's harmonies elevate you to another realm. The perfect mix of acoustic guitars, strings, and horns — it's baffling how these guys have managed to stay under the radar of popular music since their inception in 1987.

Since the band's first release in 1990, it has made four albums on four labels, which could explain the lengthy periods between recordings. However, the longer wait has made the payoff sweeter when listening to such George Harrison-tinged tracks like "All the Dark Horses" and the title cut.

The highlights include the Beatle-esque swirling pop exhilaration of "Usually" and the bruises-and-all breakup ballad "Leave Me Alone." There are no bloated b-sides, no filler. Every song sounds like a single, and after eight years, you would assume there would be a few.

The best music is found when you least expect it, and this is easily one of the best (and most under-appreciated) CDs of the year. —Gillian Titus (Posted 11/10/04)

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