Peter M. and Corey S. for their suggestions. Another seven reviews--Round 12.5--are on their way soon.
G-Side, "Came Up"
AM: The violin loop is gorgeous, and these guys sound hungry. I can't really improve upon those ten words except to say: whatever real hip-hop may be, this is a fine example of it. 4/5
NS: Violin samples have often figured more prominently in southern hip-hop than on the coasts, and that may be because on a certain level southern artists are more comfortable drawing on regional blues and country sounds. Anyway, this track is a great introduction to G-Side, who are rapidly becoming one of my favorite new groups. 4/5
Low, "Try To Sleep"
AM: A gorgeous lullaby--and another entry in the Jason Pierce/Sparhawk family mutual appreciation songbook--until you listen to what Alan's saying. He's still got problems, but they're not of the songwriting variety. 4.5/5
NS: The song's title may unfortunately be a little bit more than a performative gesture--I've always thought terms like "slowcore" were stupid, but this is a slow, chimy motherfucker of a song. Sparhawk nails the vocals, but nothing else jumps out at me. 3/5
Cut Copy "Need You Now"
AM: Again cribbing from 80's dance music, but this time without the exuberance. This linear tune takes its time, never managing to assemble anything satisfying. 2/5
NS: I had an argument with my roommate the other day about vintage synths (yes, I live that kind of life). I said I had finally had enough of bands which fetishize a certain type of 80s sound, particularly the groups that people seem to like inexplicably (Cabaret Voltaire, Erasure). This song is only timeless in the sense that, no matter what year it came out, I would still find it tiresomely retro. And I generally like Cut Copy, which suggests I might be getting really old. 2.5/5
Das Racist, "Swate (Feat. Lakutis)"
AM: The beat's the sort of thing that MF Doom used to gravitate towards, which gives us a continuity of sorts in smartass underground rap. The weird (Bollywood?) samples and Ernest references are pretty cool, but, as any Doom fan can tell you, getting high all the time does not correlate with perfect quality control. 3.5/5
NS: This is probably the best track I've heard yet from Messrs. Racist (for me, "Luv It Mayne" maybe comes close), due 90% to Mike Finto's multi-tiered B-Movie beat. I find Das Racist's shtick hard to take some times (i.e. jokes of "White people do this, Indian people do that" variety), but this seems mostly reasonable. Plus, I might be crazy but I think I hear monster noises from Half-Life 2. Sweet (yeah, that's how I say it). 5/5
Britney Spears, "Hold It Against Me"
AM: Brit asks for forgiveness, wondering if she's coming on too strong, but the real sin of "Hold It Against Me" is that it doesn't hit hard enough. Co-producer Dr. Luke has said that this sounds nothing like his other productions, but that's disingenuous--this only works because it sounds like everything else he does. 3/5
NS: Reviewing a new Britney Spears track requires a balance between longstanding critical prejudices and basic ethical responsibility. I don't want to keep harping on the same point, but she keeps sucking. "Hold It Against Me" is very much of the Gaga school of goo-goo synths, making me long for the days when Ms. Spears' jailbait antics were at least accompanied by some slap-bass, or anything really besides this pre-recorded mush. Yick, this song sucks. 1/5
William Tyler, "Terrace of the Leper King"
AM: "Leper King" deftly explores its knotty landscape, evocative of medieval times or Middle Earth, maybe both. I wish the brass would've stuck around for longer, but Tyler's wandering guitar traces its own path. 4/5
NS: This is a long, plaintive acoustic piece from an expert Nashville guitarist, rich and restless enough to sound like an outtake from one of Jimmy Page's Bron-Y-Aur open-tuned epics. Don't confuse this for a wankfest like "Classical Gas," though. Tyler plays fast, but he knows how to write and he knows how to build six-string harmonies, and like the best Nashville players, he knows not to distract from the power of his own composition. 4.5/5
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, "Belong"
AM: The pedal hopping of "Belong" ditches the bookish popcraft of TPoBP@H's first album. Something's lost, for sure, but I won't pretend like I'm not enjoying the crunchy, Pumpkins-indebted riffage. 4/5
NS: I hear a bit of early 90s Britrock shuffle in this otherwise straightforward patented POBPAH anthem. The instrumentation leans a little bit too heavily on periodic bursts of distortion, and who knows what the singer is going on about, but I like how all the parts come together at the end. 3/5
Update: regarding the proper acronym for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, the band have informed us that they prefer "PAINS"