Listening Log: Art Brut, Brother Ali, Pains of Being Pure at Heart

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Sardonic Brit rock, charismatic indie rap, and catchy college pop are on tap for my second Listening Log:

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Art Brut vs. Satan — Art Brut (Downtown): After spending a lot of time on girlfriend problems with album #2, Art Brut singer/stand-up comic Eddie Argos leads his noize-tune cohorts back to the diversity of topics that animated the band's great debut, Bang Bang Rock and Roll. Here, the band offers spirited defenses of arrested development and sloppy recordings and focuses their deadpan aim on Stuff They Like (public transportation, the Replacements, D.C. Comics) and Stuff They Hate (employment, U2, the general populace). Rousing chorus: "The record-buying public?/We hate them!/This is Art Brut vs. Satan/Don't worry/We can take them!" ("Demons Out!," "The Replacements," "Alcoholics Unanimous")
Grade: A-

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The Truth is Here — Brother Ali (Rhymesayers): This nine-song, 34 minute "EP" sounds minor less because of its length than because of its lack of major songs. Minneapolis rapper Ali boasts one of contemporary pop's great voices and is a songwriter that can match moralistic weight and earthy humor like few others. But the most serious and most political songs here don't achieve the gospel gravitas this devout Muslim with a preacher's delivery conjures at his best. Instead, the lighter, more off-the-cuff stuff connects more: A freestyle-like tour-diary opener where Ali remembers shopping for drawers at a Cali Wal-Mart with "the lord Rakim" and announces the impending birth of a daughter. A love-man declaration that peaks with the following romantic promise: "If I ask you to dance/Then we gonna actually dance/I don't just rub my pecker on the back of your pants." ("Real As Can Be," "Baby Don't Go")
Grade: B

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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland): These sensitive young things spin more daring variations on collegiate sex than Vampire Weekend — doing it between the library stacks, making time with a prof — and would have fit right in as the house band on Gilmore Girls. In other words, they're smarter, sweeter, and dorkier than your average blog-rock hype-of-the-moment. They also rough up their twee with shoegazer noise and "Be My Baby" beats. ("This Love is Fucking Right!," "Young Adult Friction," "Everything With You")
Grade: B+

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