jetlife.jpgJET LIFE: Jet World Order

(Mixtape, 47 minutes)

Rating: 4/5

New Orleans rapper Curren$y heads the Jet Life label/crew, and he makes a lotta music; Jet World Order is at least his fourth full-length release of the year, following official sixth album Weekend at Burnie’s and some relatively concurrent mixtapes.

Jet World Order showcases a handful of rappers associated with Curren$y, most visibly Trademark Da Skydiver and Young Roddy. Alone they aren’t always engaging (neither is Curren$y, truthfully, unless you're on your fourth joint of the evening) but their interplay makes the album worth repeated listens. Each owns a delivery that is relaxed and casual but never lazy, and like their head honcho they give a good name to “stoner” music.

Jet World Order also holds a truly fine collection of beats, from the slippery tropical funk of “Excellent” to the classy minimalism of “Lop-Sided” and the electronic gloss of “Money Piles.” This solid group holds its own in almost any context, from epic to laid-back, and ultimately Jet World Order deserves more attention than the regulation of free downloads.

themanwithfloweringhands.jpgDIXIE’S DEATH POOL: The Man With Flowering Hands
(Drip Audio, 53 minutes)

Rating: 3.5/5

Dixie’s Death Pool, a project from Vancouver producer/songwriter Lee Hutzulak, is long on atmosphere and short on songs. His latest album The Man With Flowering Hands was largely created and recorded on-the-spot over a period of several years, the “songs” taking shape as time and circumstance permitted. If I didn’t know that from reading the press release I could have easily guessed it; each time Hutzulak seems to reach a hook or melody, he retreats back into aimless noise and clatter. Only “Chuck Will’s Widow” feels pre-written.

But I find myself returning to Flowering Hands for the same reason I like falling asleep to the TV: noise can be warm and welcoming, if applied the right way. The aimlessness of the music is disorienting, but at the same time Hutzulak’s lack of speed draws us into his world, a place of no great anxiety or pressure. If his focus were narrower he could easily earn minor crossover success along the line of fellow chamber-music acolytes Grizzly Bear, but then we wouldn’t get a track like “The Passenger”: six minutes of eerie psychedelic jazz that works like a brain cleanse, complete with shortwave interjections beamed in from God-knows-where.

Hutzulak is often more indulgent than he should be but always more adventurous than anyone else in Canadian music.

fb_img.jpgHOT CHELLE RAE: Whatever
(RCA, 36 minutes)

Rating: 2/5

Nashville’s Hot Chelle Rae are a hair gel commercial first and a music group second, their image so focus-grouped and their appeal so pre-soaked for pop success that actually writing songs could be an afterthought.

But as sales drop and major labels shed their rosters, it’s fascinating to see how tightly streamlined pop bands like this are becoming. Hot Chelle Rae was born in the shadow of pop-country (guitarist Nash Overstreet’s father Paul has written hits for Randy Travis and Kenny Chesney) while singing like a third-wave emo band about hip-hop parties, all the while backed by bumper music for Radio Disney. When I was a kid crappy pop-rock bands would hop on whatever bandwagon happened to be rolling by, but now that must seem like a limiting paradigm to RCA et al. This is what music for “everyone” sounds like.

In that generic soup, some stuff rises above the rest; songs like “Beautiful Freaks” and “Radio” just try to get the party moving and succeed in the same way those Jock Jams compilations used to (Christ, I feel old) and the band’s lone hit thus far “Tonight, Tonight” isn’t the most annoying song you’ve got stuck in your head right now. A full album of intended bangers, without the sub-Owl City electro-folk of “The Only One” and “Keep You With Me,” might be less egregious.

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