Minute music reviews

The Streets ? A Grand Don?t Come for Free Genre: British hip-hop
Release Date: May 10, 2004

Everyone knows that the United States does hip-hop better than anyone else. Even the MTV rappers have a knack for rhyming the word ?cheddar? 20 times in a row. Okay, so maybe Mike Skinner can?t flow like Jay-Z, but who isn?t impressed with hearing a line like ?We cannot have that behaviour in this establishment? in a thick British accent? A Grand Don?t Come for Free is one of the coolest albums I?ve heard this year. Miles ahead of the Streets? debut release Original Pirate Material, this album sets its tone in the first minute of the first track. With interesting choruses, melodic samples, and Skinner?s signature humor woven into every song, this is a good album to have just for the sake of diversifying your collection. If you give it a spin (and you?re new to the Streets), don?t expect the usual subjects, styles, or vocabularies found in U.S. hip-hop. Instead, prepare yourself to trip along with the choppy beats and lyrics Skinner lays down in this new release.

Reigning Sound ? Too Much Guitar
Genre: Garage rock
Release Date: May 17, 2004

Tired of the garage rock revival yet? Me neither. Reigning Sound, the brainchild of Memphis-born Greg Cartwright (The Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers), has released another rock and roll gem, Too Much Guitar. A follow up to their amazing Time Bomb High School album in 2002, Too Much Guitar has managed to imitate, embrace, and in many ways transcend the ?60s genre. Almost everything about this album screams old-school, from the lead singer?s voice to the noisy guitars, repetitive refrains, and even a good harmonica player. But underneath the obvious connections to an old-fangled genre, there is something undeniably soulful and contemporary about this album. Is it on the level of Time Bomb? If it isn?t, it?s not much worse. I?d recommend this album to anyone who thinks rock and roll is dead.

Mirah ? C?mon Miracle
Genre: Art-pop
Release Date: May 10, 2004

This Microphones-produced sweetheart has once again graced my ears with a new album, C?mon Miracle. Alternating between mellow, string-heavy ballads and driving drum beats, this album has a nice mix of sweet-sounding tracks with enough punch to keep you interested. The production on this album is impressive, but overshadowed by Mirah?s incredible grasp of emotional lyrics and melody. I?ve never heard an angel sing, but I?ve heard Mirah, and that?s good enough for me. Catch her and Xiu Xiu in Pittsburgh on October 19.

!!! ? Louden Up Now
Genre: Dance-punk
Release Date: June 7, 2004

No band has been more instrumental in bringing embarrassing white-boy dance moves back to small-venue shows than !!! (widely pronounced chk chk chk). As much as I appreciate the fact that I no longer have to be paralyzed from the neck down at shows, this album blows. Chock-full of generic beats, gratuitous profanity, and no real stand-out tracks, I find this album incredibly difficult to stomach. I?d expect to hear this blaring from a DJ booth at a club rather than a PA at Mr. Small?s. Save your money (or bandwidth) for something better, like their self-titled. Ask for it by name.