Local CD round-up

Potential-packed hip-hoppers, tiresome rockers and a groovy four-piece

PHOTO COURTESY PRINCESS RECORDS

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY PRINCESS RECORDS

Hyder Ali ALBUM: âÄúCareless TalkâÄù (EP) Label: None Somewhere, Slug is smiling. Despite a recent trend in harder-edge, more mainstream-oriented Twin Cities hip-hop (Muja Messiah , St. Paul Slim , etc.), Hyder Ali is proof that in the early part of the decade kids bought up, absorbed and now mimic the hyper-sensitive, landmark Atmosphere record âÄúLucy Ford.âÄù And considering the almost shocking quality of Hyder AliâÄôs debut EP âÄúCareless Talk,âÄù thatâÄôs hardly a bad thing. A four-piece hip-hop group whose members man their own instruments, Hyder Ali functions on two planes. Firstly, they lay a lush foundation with spacey drums, loping bass, moaning guitars and haunting loops. In that respect, they are in the same vein as former scene favorites Halloween, Alaska . Secondly, they stand out due to their vocals. Emcee Eric Blair is a formidable rapper. His flow conjures Felix of the Heiruspecs if he was a post-grad in need of anti-depressants, but it works. The most promising aspect of âÄúCareless TalkâÄù âÄî and, in turn, Hyder Ali âÄî is the groupâÄôs remarkable ability to play their emotive musicality off their emotive rapping. ItâÄôs a back-and-forth that is undoubtedly moving and beautifully seamless. They realize their strengths most on tracks like the sprawling, aching chemical dependency lament âÄúSunriseâÄù and the piano-heavy instrumentation-fest âÄúPaper Dolls.âÄù BlairâÄôs lyrical bleakness could use a healthy dose of SlugâÄôs self-deprecating humor to keep the woe-is-me vibe in check, but Hyder Ali have crafted an extremely promising and rounded debut that proves Minneapolis and emo-rap will be kin for a long time to come. 4 of 5 stars. The Honeydogs ALBUM: âÄúSunshine CommitteeâÄù (EP) Label: Princess Records If The Honeydogs excel at one thing, itâÄôs being painfully average. Seriously, it takes a certain degree of skill to neither wow nor suck so consistently. And to do so for 15 years? Kudos âÄî no, scratch that âÄî shrugs are in order. And with that, the seven-piece rock outfit enters 2009 with their uncharacteristically upbeat EP âÄúSunshine Committee.âÄù The Honeydogs are âÄî and always have been âÄî essentially a vehicle for frontman Adam Levy. And as far as frontmen go, Levy would be, in keeping with the groupâÄôs famed mediocrity, firmly a six out of 10. His vocals recall any number of Cities 97 alt-lite acts and his lyrics possess occasional wit but are more often cliché-wrought duds. On âÄúSunshine Committee,âÄù Levy and his regrettably safe band of bar rockers riff and meander through six tracks of whatâÄôs being billed as a âÄúcheeryâÄù Honeydogs sound. The instrumentation is by-the-numbers tight throughout, but the only track that isnâÄôt a forgettable pop-rock throwaway is the unfortunately titled down-temper moper âÄúFiber Optic Paramour.âÄù Adam Levy gets a lot of props round these parts. And, really, he should. A scene staple, his other projects include the childrenâÄôs music group Bunny Clogs and âÄî as a bit of a departure âÄî his rowdy cover band Hookers and Blow . Both those side projects are heavy on concept, and in turn, Levy is more guided and less bland than he is with his flagship Honeydogs. ThatâÄôs not to say Levy should axe the outfit âÄî theyâÄôre not outwardly âÄúbad,âÄù after all âÄî but âÄúSunshine CommitteeâÄù is further proof thereâÄôs no reason for Minneapolis to get excited whenever The Honeydogs periodically rear their heads. 2.5 of 5 stars. Black Blondie ALBUM: âÄúDo You Remember Who You Wanted to BeâÄù LABEL: None Black Blondie, a Twin Cities four-piece alternative R&B outfit, relentlessly gigs. If a fan of local music has not heard their recorded music, theyâÄôve surely seen the name printed on countless telephone poles throughout town. Frequently heralded âÄî and justifiably so âÄî as one of the citiesâÄô premier live acts, Black BlondieâÄôs debut LP âÄúDo You Remember Who You Wanted to BeâÄù takes a stab at capturing that live sound and does so with positive, albeit slightly mixed, results. The group, which formed in 2006, is headed by the immensely talented Samahra Linton . While the band more than carries their weight with their atmospheric, trippy and groove-heavy stylings, itâÄôs LintonâÄôs soulfully impactful vocals that immediately rope listeners in. As a whole, Black Blondie is a formidable beast that dabbles in R&B, jazz, soul and hip-hop all with an underground energy. âÄúDo You Remember Who You Wanted to BeâÄù is a strong debut. The discâÄôs opener, âÄúHunger,âÄù possesses bass-y and urgent verses that are quickly transposed with a burst of a flowery, hooky chorus where LintonâÄôs charisma oozes. Another standout is âÄúFor the Taste.âÄù With the same trick of pop supplanting urgency, its retro R&B moments come off like nostalgic bits of candy. Towards the end of the album, guest Muja Messiah destroys a verse on the trip-hop channeled âÄúDirty Ashes.âÄù Black Blondie is at their best on âÄúDo You Remember,âÄù when they retain focus and reign in LintonâÄôs impressive voice. Too often, the band treads water while the vocals stretch themselves in no particular direction. The solid moments, though, far outweigh the boring and, as a debut, the record showcases four individuals deeply steeped in equal parts soul and creativity. 3.5 of 5 stars.