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The Blueprint2:The Gift and the Curse
Def Jam

The Blueprint2: The Gift and the Curse is one more reason Jay-Z stands alone as the most consistent hip hop artist today. The double CD picks up right where last year’s classic, The Blueprint, left off, sticking to Jigga’s recipe for success: radio-friendly party jams, with a dash of vivid stories and a sprinkle of clever rhymes.

And while those qualities might be Jay-Z’s gift, as the title of the album suggests, they are also the curse. If all you know about Jay-Z is “Big Pimpin’,” or “Can I Get A … ,” you’re missing out on what makes Hova the top dog. Jigga addresses his detractors on the Timbaland-laced “The Bounce.”

“For those that think Hov’s thing is bling-blinging/Either haven’t heard the album or don’t know English/They only know what the single is and singled it out/to be the meaning of what he’s about.”

Cuts like the sing-songy “Diamond Is Forever,” and the dance floor-filling “2 Many Hoes” have just as much mass-appeal as any of Hova’s past hits. But the gems, as with all Jay-Z albums, are the ones that will never get any rotation on radio stations … at least not around here.

Rather than spit lyrical darts at his foes, Jay-Z gets subtle shots over haunting flutes on the ingeniously crafted “The Blueprint2.” Jigga’s flow wraps perfectly around the soulful, Kanye West-assisted “Some People Hate.” On the fictitious “Meet The Parents,” Jigga assumes the role of cinematographer as he fashions a gripping tale about a father/son relationship.

Critics claim Jay-Z makes the same album over and over. Is he reinventing the wheel? No. Jigga sticks to primarily the same nucleus that he’s followed for the past seven years. His subject matter may center on women, money and braggadocio, but it’s not always what you say; it’s the way you say it.

Contact Brandon Wrightat

David Gray
A New Day at Midnight

David Gray’s A New Day At Midnight is filled with lyrics that scream purpose. On this, his seventh compilation, the Brit singer-songwriter reveals his spirit with positively upbeat songs.

From the minimalist love plead of “Caroline” to the guarded imploring of “Last Boat to America,” Gray explores a modern man’s sensibility through music that appeals to a wide audience.

Crediting Bob Dylan as a crucial influence while growing up, Gray is not afraid to step into a folksy place on “Easy Way to Cry,” where meaning is not hidden but celebrated instead. With lyrics such as “Faith gone from your eyes/Each word it flies/Straight to the heart and I know/Watching you go/There ain’t no easy way to cry,” Gray lets his vulnerable side resurface once again. The sound of a guitar, a violin and this song smoothly accompany Grey’s voice as it guides the listener to a finer state of mind.

On the album’s ninth track, “December,” Gray sounds haunting as he questions the ever-changing, ever-passing track of time. With his deep, soulful voice and optimistic themes, David Gray’s work has been compared to the singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel’s insightful lyrics.

This Brit’s early material was appraised for its sensitivity as well as anger. Nevertheless, with an enhanced sound, along with a splendid libretto, his new album is a cut above his older material.

Contact Vanessa Garnicaat

The Best of: 1990-2000

Even better than the real thing may have been what U2 was going for when it released U2: The Best of 1990-2000. However, making a quarter of the CD remixes was not the way to accomplish that.

If the band was trying to top itself by including remixes of old favorites, it surely missed its mark. For newcomers to U2, the changes in the remixes may not even be noticeable. But for die-hard U2 fans, this compilation is just disappointing.

Old obligatory favorites, such as “Mysterious Ways,” “One” and “Stay (Faraway, So Close)” are of course present. However, U2 cannot just release a song and let it stand alone.

Perhaps the band should have taken a cue from The Cure, an English “goth” band that released Mixed Up , a CD that, as its name implies, was all new mixes of the songs. No surprises there, and everyone knew what they were getting when they bought it.

There are few good songs on the B-sides disc. “Your Blue Room” and “The Lady With the Spinning Head” are two great scores. Though the latter is a remix, it is barely noticeable. However, out of the 14 songs on the second disc, all but four are remixes, and to make matters worse, five are duplicates from the accompanying disc.

If you get the album with the B-sides, then you may overspend for this collection. The few gems on this extra disc were certainly not worth the extra $10. Buy a used copy of Passengers if you want U2 material that is different but still quality and certainly not a collection of remixes.

If you’re looking for a decent U2 album, you may want to leave this one behind. The album is available sans B-sides, and that should be good enough for most people.

Contact Michelle Demeterat

The Burning Brides
The Fall of the Plastic Empire

If musical theft could be punished by imprisonment, the Burning Brides would have handcuffs permanently fused onto their wrists.

The Burning Brides are the boyfriend/girlfriend duo of Dimitri Coats and Melanie Campbell, recently joined by drummer Jason Kourkounis. They can best be described as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club fronted by a screaming Stephen Malkmus. Coming straight out of Philadelphia, The Brides sport their debut album, The Fall of the Plastic Empire, which is a conscious homage to the New York and Philly vintage rock scenes.

The opening track of the album, “Plank of Fire,” is an energetic attempt at glam-rock laden with wild screams and winding guitar chords. The next tune, “Glass Slipper,” is one minute and 44 seconds of racing guitars and hand-clapping combined with simple vocals, which give way to a violently brisk guitar solo — short, sweet and pissed. The third song, “If I’m A Man,” is a hypnotic tune with a rolling baseline that shoves its sarcastic male-power ideals into the listeners’ ears.

These songs demonstrate the musical path and attitude of the record. The Brides throw in a couple of poppier tunes “Arctic Snow” and “Rainy Days,” which make the redundant anger on the album easier to swallow.

The Fall of the Plastic Empire is the musical equivalent of playing an album each from the Stooges, Hives, Strokes, White Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club simultaneously — a stimulatingly eccentric experience, but one leaning toward musical excess that produces a shortage of original and essential sound. The Brides are not after an original sound anyway; they just want to play some vicious, skull-cracking rock ‘n’ roll. What’s wrong with that?

Contact Nick Margiassoat

Dave Matthews Band
Live at Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado

For those who are unfamiliar with what it’s like to hear Dave Matthews Band live, Live at Folsom Field Boulder Colorado gives a bad impression of the band’s musical talent.

The set list and vocals don’t compare to the band’s past live albums that debuted at the top, whereas this one started at No. 9, the lowest of all other releases. Two of the top live releases,Live at Red Rocks, which debuted at No. 3, and Listener Supported are an example of DMB’s better concerts. It’s not just the sales that prove this true. The set lists for these concerts show off the band’s musical talent with a mix of some of its more reputable songs better than Live at Folsom Field does.

“Warehouse,” arguably one of the best DMB songs to hear live, is played in stop time, a different version from the studio recording and a better version if it were played right. It seems that the notes were played at a higher pitch and Dave forgot how long he wanted to play each measure before stopping so the crowd could scream.

The one thing this song does well is show off violinist Boyd Tinsley’s ability to grab the audience’s respect in the middle of a song with his infamous jamming.

Another great song heard live that allows Tinsley along with drummer Carter Beauford to raise the energy level is “Tripping Billies,” a song unfortunately left off this album.

Because the CD comes from a July 11, 2001, concert, it is understood that a majority of the songs are from Everyday, the band’s weakest album lyrically.

One song from Everyday that works on the live CD is “What You Are,” a song much more appreciated after hearing it live. The darker side of the band comes out with the angry tone of Dave’s moans followed by the rush of instruments that represent the band’s edge in songs like “Don’t Drink the Water” and “Halloween.” And a perfect chance for fans to hear DMB’s best, the unreleased song “JTR,” is a setback because the new, slow tempo doesn’t work with the upbeat lyrics.

If only RCA waited one more year to release a fourth live album of the Dave Matthews Band, the set list would have had it all. Releasing an album from the band’s Summer 2002 tour would have given listeners a taste of the latest album, Busted Stuff, while revisiting some of the band’s first songs and testing out unreleased lyrics.

Contact Grace Agostin at


The Michigan metal band Taproot has been tabbed by critics to be on the verge of being nü-metal’s newest big act.

Taproot’s sophomore album from Atlantic Records, Welcome, puts the four-piece act at the forefront of the new breed of “post-Korn” metal bands. The band’s debut album, Gift, was enough to grab the attention of the rock world with its heavy sound. With Welcome, Taproot moved in a more melodic direction, using a new two-guitar set and complementing the music with more emotionally-driven lyrics.

It should not be inferred that Taproot has completely abandoned its metal past. Many of the tracks such as “Myself” and “Fault,” offer crushing guitar riffs. Welcome moves Taproot toward the musical style of inspirations Tool and Pink Floyd. The album is produced by Toby Wright, the genius behind Alice in Chains’ breakthrough record Jar of Flies. Richards’ vocals on the record vary from an Alice In Chains-like melody to blasts of nü-metal screams. Welcome exhibits much of the same self-depriving lyrics found on Gift. In “Breathe,” Richards cries: “Jealousy is raining down on me right now/As the fear of losing you is setting in.”

The jewel of the album is the hit “Poem.” The song showcases Richards’ inspirational and melodic musings, draped over a metal core. Richards sings: “This song is a poem to myself, it helps me to live/In case of fire, break the glass and move on into your own.”

Welcome is an evolution from the booming, yet, at times, generic nü-metal scene. Instead of creating an album shaped from the nü-metal cookie cutter, Taproot instead brings a more melodic voice to the scene while clinging to the metal that had raised the eyebrows of metal leaders such as Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst.

Contact David Wilsonat