Sonic Reducer

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Ghostface Killah’s come a long way since his contributions to Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. These days, the MC is a polished, flamboyant rhyme-sayer who consistently pounds the beat with vicious ferocity. The production on The Big Doe Rehab occasionally holds him back—as in "Toney Sigel a.k.a. The Barrel Brothers," when distorted guitar is a major distraction—but Ghostface usually sticks to low-key, soulful grooves with a minimum of tacky drum machine-based beats. Most impressive about the album is Ghostface’s unique ability to take now ho-hum subject matter like crack slinging and guns and make his narratives engaging. (SM)

Bob Collum and The Welfare Mothers Set the Stupid Free (Not Lame)

Pop-rocked Americana with little deviation, Bob Collum‘s lyrics are surprisingly straightfaced given the name of this album. No matter. The words and instrumentation are well-done, and there’s such genuine feeling behind it, Collum never comes off as hokey. Lamenting and sweet, he gently presses his subjects into releasing truth juices in every track. But don’t expect anything unusual outside of the lyrics. The Welfare Mothers hold it down, but their work is pretty plain Jane. (MD)

The Shondes The Red Sea (self-released)

There appears to be a dash of ill-deserved hype surrounding the release of The Shondes‘ debut album. The Brooklyn four-piece’s string-laden, politically bound rock is amazing, but the vocals are mixed with entirely too much volume, and, forfuckssake, the female vocalists make excruciating noises. They may be going for some haphazard Sleater-Kinney sort of thing but fail nonetheless. Ditch that crap and The Shondes has a fighting chance at being good. (JCC)

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