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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

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Basement Jaxx

The combination of dance music and pop is usually less than viable, though perhaps catchy — it lacks (good) dance music's drive on the one hand and (good) pop music's universalist appeal on the other. When someone says "dance pop," I generally think of someone like Amber, or some crap Madonna remix, or — worst of all — hi-NRG gym fare. I won't blame you for being skeptical about this announcement, but Rooty is one of the best albums of the year in both categories. Which makes it, for my money, one of the best albums of the year, period.

What makes this even harder to believe, perhaps, is that Rooty's not all that original; in fact, it's a pretty faithful reprise of 1999's wildly successful Remedy. But where Doddering — sorry, Daft — Punk fell into the common sophomore snare of rehashing their debut sans the verve that made the first album so exciting, Basement Jaxx (who, curiously, haven't graced anywhere near the number of magazine covers their cross-Chunnel-chums did only a few months ago; perhaps, after Air's media ubiquity, merciful editors decided that the public had had enough of dance-music duos?) approach their original formula with a critical eye, and make it better.

It's a neat trick, especially given the obviousness of the trope: take a monster hook, some fat disco flange, big-assed bass and plenty of funky yodeling. It's no different from the formula that made Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Bores such big hits, but something's different this time around: Basement Jaxx have soul.

More than one critic has picked up on Rooty's debt to Prince, and with good reason. Like Glasgow Underground disco-house maestro Romanthony (who had the misfortune to guest on Daft Punk's single "One More Time"), the Jaxx pay homage to the short and funky one with equal parts admiration and parody. The title "SFM [Sexy Feline Machine]" even sounds like a Prince track, but it shimmies and jerks so sleazily, with a battery of funked-up voices shot into the mix from all corners, that you know they mean it.

"SFM" also displays the Basement boys' rhythmic sophistication, their beats shuddering as irregularly as Timbaland's. And yet it's not all jiggy itch — "Broken Dreams" is happy to drop a sunny '60s snare rhythm, the kind you might expect to hear on a Nancy Sinatra record, while their signature disco-house tracks like "Just One Kiss" and "Romeo" are propelled by the force of slightly syncopated 4/4 beats. Traditional, sure, but masterfully executed. And it's been years since anyone's wielded a hard-rock break as successfully as "Where's Your Head At."

Not to mention that they're fabulous songwriters. The prismatic bridge of "Romeo" elevates the track from a feel-good (but vacuous) romp to something sadder, more soulful, more real. These guys know contrast: the aforementioned collage of vocals on "SFM" is employed over and over; "Breakaway" uses at least four different vocal perspectives, and quite likely more, until it sounds like a world of characters (all half-cartoons, but all the funkier for it) have invaded the song and set up camp for the duration of the party. Who cares if they weren't invited? They're inviting you, aren't they?

I can't stress how goddamned fun the album is. I listened to it for the first time at my desk at work, and it didn't work at all — the energy sounded forced, the vocals way too giddy; they exacerbated my already raging refresh-rate headache. A week later, when I drove six hours south to Santa Barbara, I tried again, and it clicked: the beats seemed made for unspooling landscape and freeway haze, the lyrics ("Just-one-kiss... and we'll be flying hiiiiiiigh") fine-tuned for singing out the open window, like a shield against the onrush of coastal California air.

Do I sound ecstatic? Ok, maybe I am: I wouldn't be at all surprised if Rooty has jacked my soul and turned me into a starry-eyed evangelist. My dance-pop-hating friends and family can try to deprogram me, if they see fit, but I'm warning them: I'm pressing play on this baby, and unless they're more staid than, say, Warren Christopher, they're gonna be sailing down the freeway with me, howling at high volume.

by Philip Sherburne

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