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Tram

Heavy Black Frame

Jetset Records

In the past couple of years, the New York label Jetset has not only worked with such legendary outfits as the Jesus Lizard and the Go-Betweens but has also helped bring releases from important UK newcomers like Mogwai and Prolapse to these shores. Jetset’s latest find is Tram, a quintet from London specializing in spectral, haunting, lazy-day music situated halfway between the downcast solemnity of Red House Painters and Low and the chamber-pop elegance of Tindersticks and latter-day Talk Talk. Main songwriter Paul Anderson sings subtle, open-ended observations, while all around him guitars and drums shuffle and echo. Delicate keyboards, strings and woodwinds only add to the intoxicating, gauzy texture. Tram’s wondrous and highly recommended debut is so self-assured that it should soon earn the group a place among the pantheon of England’s indie elite. —Theo Cateforis


Hot Boy$

Guerrilla Warfare

Cash Money

The New Orleans rap scene has been on fire since Juvenile blew up earlier this year with the hit "Ha." Now he returns, along with his crew the Hot Boy$, brandishing lyrics and beats so tight they rival Dr. Dre’s Chronic. Each of the emcees (Juvenile, B.G., Lil Wayne and Young Turk) brings his own special ingredient to this 17-song gumbo mix, saturated with hot Southern twang. Lyrics are solidly constructed to create compositions that detail street life in New Orleans, and the band’s sing-songy style bounces perfectly over the tracks, thanks to Mannie Fresh’s slick production. While the majority of the album is hot, "’Bout Whatever" is one jam that’s guaranteed to get you amped up. Other bangin’ tracks include "We On Fire," "You Dig" and "Boys At War." —Moses Miller


Gay Dad

Leisure Noise

London

As the latest British buzz band to take the media spotlight, Gay Dad doesn’t attempt to break new ground on its debut disc. The ambiguously named quintet does, however, manage to compile a slew of sing-along, radio-friendly singles that successfully draw from England’s rich rock history. And despite rumors that the band is actually the result of a pre-manufactured marketing scheme thought up by frontman and former music journalist Cliff Jones, the group manages to mix both classic and modern influences with calculated precision. James Risebero’s lavish keyboard arrangements—which run the gamut from dignified strings to quirky sound effects—anchor the album’s full sound, while the confident vocals of Jones pay obvious respect to Queen. At first, Leisure Noise seems to fall slightly flat in the ballad department with the dull Americanized "Pathfinder," but it recovers magnificently with the gorgeous "A Different Kind of Blue" just one track later. From the Jesus and Mary Chain-sized guitar riffs that jumpstart "Joy!" to the glam-pop of "To Earth With Love," this record proves that Gay Dad has positioned itself wisely when it comes to music. Now let’s just hope the hype doesn’t swallow the band whole. —Kenyon Hopkin


Jim Allen

Straight Time

Prime CD

On his second album, Bronx native Jim Allen broadens the folk/blues base of his debut by incorporating a distinctive country twang to another batch of his stunning songs about everyday life. Unlike the clones falling off the Nashville assembly line, Allenmaterial mates darker-edged lyrics with the traditional sounds of fiddle and steel guitar. Despite his city-slicker credentials, this urban cowboy’s country material chugs along with nary a forced note. "Don’t Let Me Down" and "Nobody" are the kind of hard-luck, honky-tonk tunes normally associated with Waylon Jennings, while "Conjunto" is a delightful slice of Los Lobos-inspired Tex-Mex music. He’s at his best, though, when he gives center stage to his whimsical side. With lyrics reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s sly humor, he tackles topics ranging from the dead-end job drudgery ("Work") to a search for reclusive singer-songwriter Fred Neil ("Fred"). Wife Barbara plays drums and provides the inspiration for some of Allen’s most impassioned singing, which help make ballads such as "To Keep You Warm" and "A Pearl in the Ocean" truly moving works of art. —Dave Gil de Rubio


LI Sounds

Brother Stump

Broke

If there were an award for the band showing the most development from one album to the next, Brother Stump would win it. Stump’s 1997 record, The Music Formerly Known as Rock, was a heady pastiche of jam teasings, jazzed rhythms and husky vocals. Their latest outing builds on that foundation with better songwriting and more impressive playing, making their sound even more accessible to discerning ears. Frontman Pat Campion now shines in the role of funky preacher man on tunes like "Ask Me" and "This Thing of Ours," while Mark Calderon’s quad stringing and Scott Foley’s impressive drumming fuel Stump’s textured underbelly. The talented horn section and special guests like key-master and violinist Jason Crosby and Sunburst Jalopy’s ax-wrangler Bobby Sexton create big spaces and rhythms for Mark Matuza’s guitar to snake around. The album is undeniably infectious from start to finish, pushing Stump back to the top of the Island’s musical food chain. For more info, contact Brother Stump at 516-889-0708. —Ian D’Giff

 
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