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…right here:

Books:

Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker (Graphix/Scholastic)
Scholastic is really putting their graphic novel foot forward, and this first installment in an ongoing series from writer/illustrator Jake Parker is proof. Parker, an animator at Blue Sky Studios, has created an action/adventure sci-fi hero in Missile Mouse, a pint-sized secret agent who packs a big punch. The storytelling is fairly straight forward  for the genre (good versus evil, inter-galactic war, surprise double-crosses, et al.), but Parker’s illustration work is what really makes this book pop. His background in animation is apparent; with clean lines and solid coloring, each frame looks more like an animation still than it does a comic book panel. The humor is definitely there for kids–which is appropriate since the book is geared toward eight- to twelve-year-olds–but I do wish there was some subtle adult humor peppered throughout.

The Customer Is Not Always Right by A.J. Adams (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
A quick-read coffee table book that collects the best material from the website NotAlwaysRight.com. If you’re not familiar with the site, the gist of it is this: People email in recent on-the-job humor/horror stories, and bored worker bees visit the site daily to remind themselves that they’re not alone. The stories focus on the service and retail industries, as well as any other 9-to-5 where pain-in-the-ass customers are a factor. It’s not a hilarious read–I’d say there are more misses than hits here–but the occasional funny/tragic anecdote does pop up, reminding me of why I haven’t had a “real” job in nearly a decade. If you’re looking for a book to throw in the drawer next to your toilet (after all, that’s where I read it), this is an appropriate title for future sittings.

CDs:

Slug, Murs & Aesop Rock “Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez” (Rhymesayers)
In 2002, Slug (of Atmosphere) and Murs created a sex-inspired love letter to actress Christina Ricci. From that moment on, “Felt” was born. Three years later, in 2005, they returned to the world of love letter writing, this time aiming Cupid’s arrow at the heart of Cosby kid Lisa Bonet with “Felt 2.” And this year, the duo returns with the third installment in what has now become the “Felt” trilogy, now passing the tribute torch over to actress Rosie Perez. For the production of “Felt 3,” Slug and Murs turned to their good friend Aesop Rock for production. (The first “Felt” was produced by The Grouch of Living Legends, the second by Ant of Atmosphere.) But while I’m a fan of this disc’s entire creative team, I feel like something is missing from this third chapter. Or, more accurately, there’s too much. Unlike its predecessors, “Felt 3” feels very heavy-handed both in what it is saying and how it is put together. Because of this, it’s missing a beat in both substance and style. With that being said, the collective talent of this trio is still worth the price of admission, but having the “Felt” label on the album set up an expectation for me that was never truly fulfilled. Oddly enough, I feel like if they had released this album strictly as a Slug/Murs/Aesop joint side project, sans all things “Felt,” I might have had a very different reaction to it. Instead, I was left thinking, “Is that it?” Guess I’ll have to wait for “Felt 4: A Tribute to that Robot Chick from ‘Small Wonder'” to get my next “Felt” fix.

Various Artists “In The Christmas Groove” (Strut Records)
I’m not really a fan of most Christmas music. Sure, there are a few exceptions to the rule (Elvis, the Muppets with John Denver, etc.) but, for the most part, it’s just not my thing. This collection of rare funk holiday tunes from the sixties and seventies, however, is the exception to the rule. Why? Because unlike most other holiday music, these songs don’t scream Christmas. In fact, most of these songs can be listened to year-round, whether Santa’s coming to town or not. Not all of the songs are A-plus material (Wild Honey’s “Angels Christmas” is laughable, especially when they sing about seeing the angels of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy), but almost every other song on the disc is good music; the fact that it’s also holiday-themed is just a bonus. If you want a taste, track down “Home On Christmas Day” by Captain Elmo McKenzie & The Roosters.

J Dilla “Dillanthology” (Rapster Records)
This three-disc tribute to the late and great J Dilla is a pretty thorough look at an impressive career. The first disc collects thirteen tracks of Dilla’s famous production work, from The Pharcyde and The Roots, to Common and De La Soul. If hip-hop is a genre you’re deeply into, chances are you already own a lot of these songs on full-lengths. If not, this is an appropriate sample platter of what Dilla was capable of in the studio. The second disc collects a dozen Dilla remixes of tracks from Slum Village, The Brand New Heavies, and Busta Rhymes, among others. But for me, the two stand-out tracks are his remixes of Four Tet’s “As Serious As Your Life,” and DJ Cam’s “Love Junkie.” Both songs are a nice break from Dilla’s norm, and it’s refreshing to hear what else he was capable of beyond the realm of straight hip-hop. The third disc collects fourteen tracks of Dilla’s solo work, including songs from his team up with Madlib (known as Jaylib). Again, if you already own J’s solo albums and the Jaylib album, chances are you already own most of this work. But what’s really great about this set is that all three albums are sold individually. So, for example, if you already own most of what’s on the first disc but really want the second disc, no problem. If you are a rabid Dilla fan and already own all of his work, you might want to sit this one out. But if you’re looking for a solid retrospective that touches on each and every facet of who he was as an artist, this set’s for you.

Still getting free stuff,

-Shady

…these CDs right now.

I admit, I got burnt out on reviewing a ton of CDs every month, and I know my reviews probably reflected that sentiment. So instead of reviewing everything I receive (which, in the past, would result in a lot of “eh” reviews) I’ve decided to just publish reviews of music that I’m honestly enjoying.

If you know me, if you love me, if you trust me, check out this music for yourself.

Each artist’s name is linked to their website, so click on it to learn more.

Right now, I’m diggin’:

J. Tillman “Year In The Kingdom” – Soft and subtle singer/songwriter folk that whispers more than whines, Tillman–who joined the Fleet Foxes last year–has created an album that serves as the perfect anthem for autumn.

Upsilon Acrux “Radian Futura” – Six tracks of lyric-less experiments in sound/noise that ride the line between prog rock and free improvisational jazz. Definitely not for everybody, but music nerds looking for a new fix will eat it up.

Cymbals Eat Guitars “Why There Are Mountains” – From the school of Pavement and Modest Mouse comes this debut from the NYC-based quartet. And while they may not take as many chances as the aforementioned acts (give them time, it’s their first album), I’m definitely interested to hear what’s coming next from them.

The Antlers “Hospice” – A high-concept remastered debut that tells the story of a terminally ill and mentally abusive patient, and what toll that takes on the living they leave behind. The entire album is great, but its ninth track, “Wake”, is about as close to perfection as you can get.

Fitz & The Tantrums “Songs For A Break Up: Volume 1” – Sixties-era soulful crooning at its finest, Fitz and his gang of Tantrums have turned lost love and heartbreak into a wonderfully crafted five-song EP. Interesting side note: ex-Soul Coughing bass player Sebastian Steinberg is a Tantrum.

Sleepy Sun “Embrace” – As beautifully haunting, gray and dreary as the city they now call home (San Francisco), “Embrace” is the type of album you put on in the early morning hours of a rainy day, and leave on “repeat” until you call it a night.

APSE “Climb Up” – A lo-fi full-length that invades numerous genres just as easily as it does ears. With a musical approach as unique as their sound, the album keeps listeners waiting, guessing and anticipating for each of its dozen tracks.

Project Jenny, Project Jan “The Colors EP” – A five-song release that feels more like a full-length than it does an EP. Featuring a stellar cast of guest performers (Fujiya & Miyagi, Mixel Pixel and Clack Singles Club, to name a few), this disc is more than enough to tide listeners over until their sophomore album is released later this year.

White Rabbits “It’s Frightening” – Produced by Britt Daniel of Spoon, this sophomore release breaks free of the all-encompassing indie rock mold, creating a wonderfully-layered and genre-defying gem in the process.

Dynas “The Apartment” – Originally released by Rawkus as a digital album back in 2007, “The Apartment” calls back to the era of classic hip-hop in both its style and set-up (like De La Soul before him, Dynas mixes tracks with skits). With production from DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Spinna and the late J Dilla–and with a guest spot from Slick Rick–this album is a modern-day take on a nostalgic hip-hop sound.

The Builders and The Butchers “Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well” – Old-timey instrumentation (banjo, mandolin and piano) blended with the appropriately whiny voice of lead singer Ryan Sollee (THINK: Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes), culminating in eleven rambling relics of vintage Americana.

The Devil Makes Three “Do Right Wrong” – Read these lyrics: “Here she comes, just a skin-and-bones skeleton / She’s a fool for the crack cocaine / She got a baby living right outside the city, man / She don’t even remember his name / Well, his name is Adolf Hitler Albert Einstein Jesse James / All hail! All hail! / To the greatest of sales / Everything inside’s got to be sold / All hail! All hail! / It’s to work or to jail / Man, they’re closing them doors on the world.”

Now that you’ve read them, listen to them:

Fucking awesome. The best CD in this batch of music. For an extra special treat, I leave you with a video of The Devil Makes Three performing live. Enjoy!

More diggin’ to come,

-Shady

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Old Poop!