Devils We Know

Serge Gainsbourg, Lara Croft, blue-collar rapper, Saharan exile—meet Cops

Blue Collar
J/All I Do

Cynics will dis Kanye's buddy as this year's socially responsible faux mainstreamer even though anybody who rhymes "I'm down like syndrome" and "I should be lynched I'm so high-strung" isn't guarding his p.c. ratings. Word-slinging about day-to-day struggle and bullets gone astray, he either knows whereof he speaks or hires good researchers, and his beats lively his facts just right—only things that sound faux are the street tracks in the middle, one posse and two sex. Kanye bumps up two songs. But the decisive guests are Chris Rock preaching to the heathens and ODB partying from the grave. A MINUS


December Underground

Never let it be said that the youth of America can't recognize quality. These guys are spectacularly expert—with their dybbuk-or-angel vocal switchoffs, compulsive tempo shifts, dramatic dynamics, and multiple melodic and rhythmic elements, they're as exhausting to listen to as Stan Kenton, and with almost as much insight into the human heart. They predicate their worldview on their inability to win the love of Lara Croft, who led them on in a summer romance they now realize was an amoral farrago of lies and deception. So they consign her to many different hells, from ordinary suicide to my favorite: "Watch the stars turn you to nothing." And she thought she was so great. C PLUS

Additional Consumer News


Dirty Pretty Things
Waterloo to Anywhere (Interscope)
Carving out a punk alternative after the collapse of Albion's dream ("The Gentry Cove," "If You Love a Woman").

Howe Gelb
'Sno Angel Like You (Thrill Jockey)
Finally the influence reverses, providing Uncle Neil the chorus idea for his own 2006 album, only this one's about love in the desert or something ("Get to Leave," "That's How Things Get Done").

The Shys
Astoria (Sire)
Hundreds of young bands still make their generic stabs at short-fast-catchy, and every so often a good one gets lost in the crowd, on a major especially ("Never Gonna Die," "Astoria").

Katamanto Highlife Orchestra
(Katamanto Music/the Orchard)
Cheerful Africans and cooperative Danes re-create charming old Ghanaian style ("Mahunumu," "KK").

Will Kimbrough
Americanitis (Daphne)
Rolling out licks, turns of phrase, satire, and persuasion, country cat tries to create a country he can be proud of ("I Lie," "Act Like Nothing's Wrong").

Towers of London
Blood Sweat & Towers (TVT)
If you still don't think the world is going to hell, remember that once Slade defined bombed-out desperation ("I'm a Rat," "Start Believing").

Peter Gammons
Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old (Rounder)
Right, the Boston sportswriter, who enlists Theo Epstein on a Clash cover and seven actual Red Sox on "Wake Me, Shake Me" ("NyQuil Blues," "Model Citizen").

The Raconteurs
Broken Toy Soldiers (Third Man/V2)
Jack helps Brendan with his problems, remains stuck on his own ("Steady as She Goes," "Intimate Secretary").

Todd Snider
That Was Me 1994–1998 (Hip-O)
The country-rock highlights will sound brighter live and acoustic, but other moments shine loud enough ("Late Last Night," "Margaritaville").

Nuru Kane
Sigil (World Music Network)
Dakar-born neotraditionalist links to Morocco for the discriminating world muso ("Talibe," "Niane").

Band of Horses
Everything All the Time (Sub Pop)
Echoed melisma and felt folk-rock drones for Generation Sad ("First Song," "Weed Party").

Buck 65
Strong Arm (
Richard Terfry gives his fans a mixtape ("Track One," "Track Two").


Neko Case "Margaret vs. Pauline," "Star Witness"
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-)

Mamany Kouyat "Fatou Nana"
From Dakar to Johannesburg (Playasound)

T.I. "What You Know"
King (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

Dave Alvin "Don't Look Now"
West of the West (Yep Roc)

The John Doe Thing "Bad, Bad Feeling"
For the Best of Us (Yep Roc)

Soul Asylum "Fearless Leader"
The Silver Lining (Columbia/Legacy)


Brendan Benson The Alternative to Love

CocoRosie Noah's Ark
(Touch and Go)

Liars Drum's Not Dead

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