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Listening Log

July 20 - 26, 2006



The Rakes
(V2/Dim Mak)

The propulsive, jittery guitar tunes on this English debut lie somewhere between countrymen Wire and the Buzzcocks, albeit often bigger and fuller (which isn't the same as better) than its forebears. They rival the more hyped Arctic Monkeys as British rock export of the year and zero in on the same subject: city life for twentysomething singles. Among the differences is that the protagonists on Capture/Release are gainfully employed but still seem to have less money. The Rakes' take on this world isn't as grandiose or wordy, but their shorter, sharper songs have more musical juice and, ultimately, more smarts. Bonus points for being the rare CD-age album that gets better as it goes, perhaps peaking with the U.S.-only bonus track "All Too Human." ("Strasbourg," "22 Grand Job," "Terror," "Work, Work, Work [Pub, Club, Sleep]") -- Chris Herrington

Grade: A-

Mo' Mega
Mr. Lif
(Definitive Jux)

Alongside MC partner Akrobatik in the group Perceptionists, Boston's Mr. Lif was responsible for one of indie hip-hop's greatest moments with 2005's Black Dialogue. This was also a high-water mark for a label -- New York indie Definitive Jux -- whose considerable reputation has been at odds with its variable quality. Unfortunately, the solo album Mo' Mega is more the Def Jux norm, with label chief El-P's relentless fun-free production a poor match for Lif's sometimes monotonous flow. Mo' Mega lacks the humor, simplicity, and song-to-song clarity of Black Dialogue. But despite its flaws, it's still an above-average hip-hop record. Lif's politics are more unhinged and less programmatic than ever on "Brothaz," where a verse that starts with the predictable "The Bush administration's worth nothing" ends with an unexpected tantrum: "Fuck Clinton too/You ain't really down because you live Uptown, bitch/Rwanda!" Elsewhere, Mo' Mega is at its best when alternate producers can add some funk counterpoint to Lif's flow, as on the acrobatic duet "Murs iz My Manager" or Lif's own reggaeish "Washitup!" ("For You") -- CH

Grade: B+

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