Magazine article The New Yorker

[ Pop Notes ];

Magazine article The New Yorker

[ Pop Notes ];

Article excerpt

Basement Jaxx, "Kish Kash" (Astralwerks)--The third release from the British producers Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton features guest vocals from the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, JC Chasez, and Me'shell Ndegeocello, who sets forth the album's mission on the second song, "Right Here's the Spot": "I wanna make you dance . . . I'm going to get to you." Ratcliffe and Buxton know how to deploy the bells and whistles of contemporary dance music, and they're also capable of surprises, as they demonstrate in "Supersonic," which is enriched by the throaty growlings of the sixty-five-year-old Jamaican cabaret singer Totlyn Jackson.

Vic Chesnutt, "Silver Lake" (New West)--Chesnutt is one of pop music's most emotional singers: he can do anguish and resignation better than almost anyone. He's also a fearless songwriter whose odd, prolix lyrics would be rough going were it not for his beautiful melodies. This is one of Chesnutt's rootsiest efforts, and also one of his strongest, containing everything from a ballad written from the point of view of a Styrofoam cooler to a reminiscence of his own convalescence from a car accident that left him paralyzed. The gospel-tinged closer, "In My Way, Yes," is especially moving.

Dizzee Rascal, "Boy in da Corner" (Matador)--One of hip-hop's greatest strengths is its ability to communicate a sense of place, whether N.W.A.'s Compton or Jay-Z's Marcy Houses. This debut record, which won England's prestigious Mercury Prize, is firmly rooted in East London's council tenancies. While it marks the emergence of an immensely talented rapper with a minimalist, garage-inflected production style, what stands out upon repeated listens is the writing, particularly in the teen-pregnancy anthem "I Luv U," which was first released when Dizzee Rascal was only sixteen.

Kelis, "Tasty" (Arista)--An unholy cross between Beyonce and Bette Davis, Kelis hybridized modern R. & B. and vintage rock-soul on her debut, "Kaleidoscope," back in 1999. But "Kaleidoscope," with its barbed, strange bunch of Neptunes songs, didn't sell, and her follow-up, "Wonderland," wasn't even released Stateside. "Tasty" marks Kelis's triumphant return, both with the Neptunes (they provided her with the single "Milkshake," which is as catchy and as lascivious as early-eighties Prince) and without them (elsewhere, the singer collaborates, usually to great effect, with Raphael Saadiq, Andre 3000 of OutKast, and even her fiance, Nas).

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, "Hearts of Oak" (Lookout!)--In an era when the general populace has been hoodwinked into thinking that corporate acts such as Good Charlotte represent the new face of punk rock, bands like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists stand out. Leo's lyrics are politically passionate and tongue-twistingly erudite, and the Pharmacists serve up a heavy dose of both hardcore intensity and New Wave melody.

The Libertines, "Up the Bracket" (Rough Trade)--Public drunkenness, squabbling, even accusations of burglary: this English foursome got as much attention for living up to their name as they did for their music. That's a shame, because the group recalls the Clash, the Kinks, and other rebellious British masters while managing to forge an utterly original sound. Their debut record rockets from the sweet shuffle of "Radio America" to the edgy and dramatic "The Good Old Days" to the rueful anthem "What a Waster."

Shelby Lynne, "Identity Crisis" (Capitol)--Opening with the beautifully sung, subtly bitter "Telephone," Lynne's new album forgoes the sleek production of her previous record in favor of a more homespun sound. Lynne wrote all the songs here. They range from country ballads ("Lonesome," which sounds like a lost Patsy Cline gem) to gospel-tinged rave-ups ("10 Rocks") and tough rock numbers ("Gotta Be Better"). Her vocals, pushed way out in front of the mix, are reminders that an intimate connection between performer and material makes for an intimate connection between material and audience. …

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