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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ 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
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
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+ 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
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+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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Aesop Rock
Bazooka Tooth
Definitive Jux

There's something grimy brewing in New York hip-hop right now. The Apple's been rotting for the last few years. Not since Rawkus' heyday (for Rawkus is now surely dead, after being gobbled up by Geffen as well as appearing on the lame Soundbombing III) has New York been alive with ferocity and unwavering intellect. That Rawkus revolution, dating back nearly a decade ago, was kick-started by futuristic mashers Company Flow. Co-Flow's leader, El-P, is responsible yet again for a revitalized metropolitan, thanks to his label Definitive Jux.

Well, Def Jux, still a baby in the world of indie labels, is hitting its stride this year. After a whirlwind 18 months that saw the emergence of the next mixmaster messiah RJD2 on last year's Deadringer, the official debuts of longtime underground champs Mr. Lif and Murs, and the critically acclaimed (albeit over-hyped) release of El-P's own Fantastic Damage, the label's truest heavyweight, Aesop Rock, drops his best work to date.

Aesop Rock, a white MC like El-P, isn't really white at all. He's not black either. It doesn't really matter what he is. Because unlike Eminem, or even Vanilla Ice for that matter, he transcends the perversity of race in hip-hop. In fact, I'd been listening to Ace Rock for two years and two albums and I didn't find out he was white till I saw the cover of his second album, Float, where his mole face is silhouetted across a stark red backdrop.

His fourth album, Bazooka Tooth, doesn't find him breaking new ground. But his rapid-fire verbosity hasn't let up one bit. His booming baritone bangs like all those times before. Nearly all of his songs require at least five solid listens to grasp the concept or at least the language. What is new here is that he has produced the album almost entirely by himself.

Blockhead and El-P largely produced Aesop's last album, Labor Days, his Def Jux debut. Their influence is obvious in Ace's own production. It's all industrial crunch and saxophone loops. Bazooka Tooth's best song, "No Jumper Cables," is reminiscent of El-P's best work, with its twisted Atari samples and crashing pulse. The beat keeps your head throbbing, but not in a dancing way — in a terrorizing way.

Aesop Rock opens "Easy" with a drolly sharp line: "If cameras are guns, one of y'all is gonna shoot me to death." That song once again utilizes the quirky sample-based bleeps coupled with dense bass. The bouncy single "Freeze," is mostly just a braggarts' bonanza. Ace seethes "you should have shot yourself in the foot when it was in your mouth" with the same intensity he layers every misshapen verse he sees fit to spit, though after 10 listens it's still unclear who he's so damned angry with.

Only on "We're Famous" is it entirely clear who he's pissed at. On the track Aesop Rock and El-P team up to denounce haters who have slept on the cracked sculptures that the Jukkies have been carving out for the last few years. El-P raps "I laugh at critics claiming, 'Hip-hop's over'/ Fuck you, hip-hop just started."

There's no question Aesop Rock makes essentially no sense half the time. The other half, he's painting abstract art all over fractured soundscapes. The music is smart and progressive; it's also pretentious and challenging. If you're sick of crunk, bling, and Lil' Jon, give Aesop Rock a chance to tell you one of his fables.

by Sean Fennessey

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