Recordings

Belle and Sebastian
Tigermilk
Matador

It’s been a long time coming, but U.S. fans of this Scottish cult favorite can finally get their hands on a CD version of the duo’s 1996 vinyl-only debut. A mixed bag, this disc showcases the pastoral popsters’ strengths, while revealing a few flaws (most of which are no longer an issue). The record kicks off with the subtle epic "The State That I am In," which marries a kind of theological soap opera to a classically catchy pop song. In "We Rule the School," singer Stuart Murdoch instructs listeners to "do something pretty while you can" over music that sounds like the Velvet Underground playing Pachelbel’s "Canon." Only on such tracks as "You’re Just a Baby" do the band’s ’60s folk-rock leanings sound mannered and forced. I would still recommend If You’re Feeling Sinister for the uninitiated, but for disciples, Tigermilk will offer welcome insight into their reclusive heroes. —Michael Giacalone

Slipknot
Slipknot
Roadrunner

With choke-hold guitar riffs, sputtering bass drums and an outspoken vocalist who can both scream and rap at a breathtakingly rapid pace, Slipknot takes today’s tired metal/hip-hop hybrid to a whole new level: absolute turmoil. The nine members of this Iowa-bred powerhouse (who dress identically and use the pseudonyms 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) run a heavy-as-hell, boot-stomping factory of metal, hip-hop, hardcore and savage noise. With two guitarists and three percussionists, along with a bassist, vocalist, DJ and sampler/media technician, Slipknot is like a small army pillaging everything in its path with machine-gun beats ("Prosthetics") and fuck-all lyrics ("Surfacing"). Throughout the 15 tracks, guitars screech in horror and animosity abounds. With the exception of a few awkward samples, Slipknot rarely pauses to take a breath. By the time the mayhem reaches the eight-minute finale, "Scissors," any notions of happiness have already been obliterated. —Kenyon Hopkin

Gospel Gangstaz
I Can See Clearly Now
B-Rite Music/Interscope

While the idea of three former gangbangers coming together to spread the word of God through hip hop might seem slightly contrived, don’t be misled: These L.A. rappers have real skill. Tracks like "Once Was Blind" and "Operation Liquidation" prove that the double Gs can preach to the masses in a fun- and flava-filled way. And although their backgrounds practically guarantee them a strong West Coast following, their melodic style should earn them respect nationwide. In fact, the group has a unique opportunity to introduce gospel to hip-hop fans. The best of the bunch here is a remake of Rene and Angela’s "I’ll Be Good," which features labelmates Nu Nation on backing vocals. Other must-hears include "Whatcha Gonna Do" and "They Don’t Believe That I’m Saved," both featuring emcee Alicia Tyler. —A.J. Woodson

Freedy Johnston
Blue Days Black Nights
Elektra

If misery really does love company, than Freedy Johnston must never have a moment to himself these days. His fourth full-length runs the emotional gamut from depressing to devastating, focusing on the lonely embarrassment of a garbage-barge captain, the maternal loss of an abandoned son and the trampled hearts of numerous jilted lovers. Of course, Johnston has always written gut-wrenching lyrics. But in the past he has counter-balanced such tracks with quirky, upbeat pop gems—making his albums accurate reflections of life’s cyclical nature. This time around, the only remotely optimistic entry is "Changed Your Mind," in which a co-dependent loser finally tells off his ex. "Shiny Happy People," this is not. These songs are as hauntingly brilliant as any he has ever recorded, but presented en masse it will be difficult for listeners to see their beauty through all the tears. —Valerie Acklin


LI Sounds

Error Type: 11
The Crank EP
Crank

"I Wonder How" kick starts this record with so much sneering radio friendliness that even the most deaf-to-K-Rock ears will be won over. It is a song so instantly simple, sad, grand and fun that I can’t help but feel childishly exhilarated and even a little guilty when listening to it—kinda like eating too much chocolate. The four tracks that follow are laden with the same driving surges and emotional drifts, or a dynamic parrying of the two. Though frontman Artie Shepherd sometimes wanders into vague lyrical territory, such dull moments only make the important ones shine twice as brilliantly. Sparse as they are spectacular, the majority of the words here are truly poignant. When paired with delicately intense melodies, they linger on in the memory well after the CD ends. Forget out-of-towners like Promise Ring and Piebald—here’s proof that a Long Island band can produce as close a thing to "indie rock" perfection as humanly possible. —Artie Philie

 
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