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taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

taking a listen

reviews of local & state music CDs

MIDTOWN DICKENS — Lanterns

They might come from rather rag-tag, humble musical beginnings, but the Midtown Dickens (www.myspace.com/midtowndickens) have traipsed along to turn out a uniquely personable hybrid of old-time, anti-folk and naturalismo that is built upon their charismatic exploration of the everyday and ordinary. With their downy, yet unrefined three-part harmonies and love of incorporating every instrument they can get their hands on, they’ve created the perfect follow-up to they well-received debut Oh Yell! with Lanterns. It won’t officially be released until Sept. 15, but the album’s breezy textures and ambiance lends itself much closer to the midsummer porch nights that involve sipping brown liquor on a front porch or around a campfire than early sunsets and chilly evenings. “Best Summer Ever” even alludes to the times to come with the portentous line “whether or not we know it yet.” While many contemporary derivatives of old-time string bands tend to lose themselves in obscure lyricism and pretentious sonic experimentation, the Midtown Dickens do just the opposite. They take the themes of traditional string music and earnestly reformat them into easily accessible and relatable stories about going to the fair, being afraid of the dark or working tedious jobs. What makes the album truly interesting is the pervasive use of quirky instrumentation; circus-y trombone drones, wobbly saw or the clickety-clack of spoons, to provide accent to what are otherwise a buoyant collection of tales of everyday life.

81/100

TY BRU — Heart Core Hip Hop

Those accustomed to the rough, rugged and raw persona that rapper Ty Bru (www. myspace.com/tybru) invoked on his previ-ous efforts might be a little taken aback with his latest release Heart Core Hip Hop. Like the name implies, the expansive 24-track effort comes from a vastly different place than his smokin’-and-drinkin’ joints of the past. There is a lot of nuance to be drawn from the album’s title, but that the content is soft is definitely not a part of it. It’s a deeply personal collection of stories about everyday trials and tribulations evocative of Everlast’s solo debut, but Bru takes a few more stylistic plunges in this one. He’s on point while in his hip-hop comfort zone on tracks like “I Won’t Back Down” and “April Showers,” but the croons come off as a little more uneven. He overreaches a little on the chorus of “Carolina I’ll Come Running,” but it still works when paired with the song’s melancholy rhymes and minimalist beats. Unlike his Mightier Than The Sword label’s penchant for expansive collaboration, few guests populate what is truly a narrative of Bru’s own being. Jeremy Johnson, J. Timber and Derek Chase Allman all show up to provide powerful backing vocals on three of the album’s strongest tracks, but Bru handles himself well as the album’s main focal point.

73/100

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