Amanda Blank I Love You (Downtown)
Incorporating new wave, '80s dance music and Brit-pop into a rap beat is something relatively new. Within that realm, the contributions to hip-hop made by artists like M.I.A. and Santigold are unquestionable. Amanda Blank is cut from the same cloth as these pioneers, but it’s tough to make the case she brings anything new to the hipster-hop genre. Her rapid-fire raps are impressive, and she's got all the swagger a successful MC needs. But I Love You comes off as largely unoriginal and contrived. The Philadelphia-born wordsmith has the talent to branch out and find her own schtick in future offerings.
Eyedea & Abilities By The Throat (Rhymesayers)
In a project where two components possess superior talent, finding room to showcase everything there is to offer becomes the chief challenge. Eyedea can fit his lyrics into the tightest crevice. No matter the beat, he never sounds uncomfortable, and he’s able to adjust his vocal arrangements to hug abstract rhythms. Abilities decides to go with grunge guitar and organic drum samples on this record—which makes it seem like Eyedea is the lead singer of a band, rather than the rapping half of an MC/DJ duo. There are a few instances when Abilities cuts loose with a scratch solo, but for the most part, he's rarely the focal point. That's a shame, because both artists deserve equal amounts of limelight.
Mew No More Stories (Columbia)
This album's full title is incredibly long. No More Stories / Are Told Today / I'm Sorry / They Washed Away / No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I'm Tired / Let's Wash Away is as obnoxious as they come. The record's songs are anything but. Supremely accessible and gloriously lavish, tightly woven guitar ties around Jonas Bjerre’s dreamy vocals. There's a tactfully seductive quality about Mew's cleverly off-kilter prog-rock. Soundscapes appear to stretch on for miles, but most actually wind up in a few minutes. Mew maintains feisty creativeness, without intimidating potential subscribers.