Frank Black Fast Man Raider Man (Back Porch)
My little music lover's heart was looking for something. I didn't quite know what it was. Turns out it was Frank Black. Tip your hat to Black—him and his crazy tunes, his newly affected drawl. This review goes out to anyone yearning for a the right kind of alt.country, the kind with lyrics that nearly sing themselves, the kind with all manner of instruments just about calling out to your Southern bones. Most folks say you've got to give Frank a little time to settle into your mp3 player, to get comfy in your headphones. But not this double-disc release. This one moves right on into your head, pulls up a barstool behind your eye sockets and warbles at your ears from the inside.
Mr. Lif Mo' Mega (Definitive Jux)
Mr. Lif looked through oval spectacles at his clipboard: Sturdy beats? Check. Pioneering production? Check. Smart, specific rhymes? Check. A heart? A pulse? A center? Check, check and check. Lif built his hip-hop house with all the usual materials, but it's his topic choices that paint it in new colors. Add to that the perks of storytelling skills and seriously talented friends (El-P, Murs, Akrobatik and Aesop Rock), and this release starts looking more like some kind of palace. "Washitup!" and "Long Distance" are the ugly rooms, the ones you close the doors to when company comes over. But other than that, the house that Lif built is one worth visiting.
Cracker Greenland (Cooking Vinyl)
Man, what happened to Cracker? Remember them? The moody, ambiguous and sometimes funny band that brushed up against commercial success with "Low"? Well, they're still around, stuck in the ’90s with the country-grunge thing they had going on back then. Greenland could have just as easily been called Songs from your Flannel-Filled Youth. Some tracks are fairly listenable. "The Riverside," "I'm So Glad She Ain't Never Coming Back" and "Better Times Are Coming Our Way" are decent—but not decent enough.