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Three critics from different musical perspectives offer competing takes on recent noteworthy albums.


Rating system:
1 = Skip it
2 = Try it
3 = Buy it

(Illustrations by James Taylor)  

Jamil the Old-School Canadian
Grew up in Toronto loving hip-hop but thinks few of today’s rappers are as compellingly inventive as mid-nineties groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang. Now sates his idiosyncrasy jones with indie types like Sufjan Stevens and Björk.

Stacey the Fashionista
Designs her own clothing line called alice + olivia. Wore leggings as a second-grader to honor Madonna and has “never given up either one.” Current favorites: She Wants Revenge, Franz Ferdinand, Nouvelle Vague remixes, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Sarah the Schoolteacher
Shares favorite indie-rock albums with her Park Slope students (they really like the Go! Team). Has been listening nonstop to the Mamas & the Papas for several weeks.

At War With the Mystics
The Flaming Lips
Another batch of catchy melodies and soundscape tangents from the eccentric rockers, whose history of producing music for audiophiles and hallucinogen lovers long predates their recent status as indie-critic faves.

Jamil: Even if this were the first Flaming Lips album I’d listened to, I’d still assume they were a veteran crew. They’re self-assured, by which I mean they’re secure enough about themselves to mess around with all the experimental noises one associates with the Flaming Lips without veering into hey- look-how-avant-garde-we-are obscurity.
Rating: 7
Best track: “It Overtakes Me/The Stars Are So Big, I Am So Small... Do I Stand A Chance?"

Stacey: Gotta love the Lips—eighties indie rock done in a groovy, cosmic, Paris’s Colette–meets– Pink Floyd kind of way. I like playing it over and over while I design mod, mini, Edie Sedgwick–inspired stuff.
Rating: 9
Best track: “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”

Sarah: The kids love this album. “The way they stop singing and just play the music, it makes me so dizzy. In a happy way,” one of them says. They don’t know the word psychedelic, but they know what it means, and they hear it here. They twirl around on the rug, saying things like “Far-out, man.” I love the songs, too; they wander all over, but with purpose, each song coming apart at times and then meshing again beautifully. “I wish all music made me feel like this,” one kid says.
Rating: 9
Best track: “Mr. Ambulance Driver”

Ghostface Killah
The Wu-Tang Clan’s most exuberant member delivers tales of street life in the lyrically euphonious—if occasionally nonsensical—style that made him famous (e.g., “I’m James Bond / in the Octagon”).

Jamil: From the time I heard him kill his verse on “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ ” (from Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, which I am proud to say I owned on cassette), Ghostface has been my favorite Wu member. I wish there was more rap like this these days: imagery that’s graphic but accessible, delivered flawlessly. I also appreciate the chorus of “Kilo”: “All around the world today, the kilo is the measure.” As a Canadian, I wholeheartedly agree.
Rating: 10
Best track: “The Champ”

Stacey: Amazing!!! Well, amazing for the next night I decide to grab a 40, blow up the two-way, and grind at 4 a.m. Songs like “Clipse of Doom” and “Whip You With a Strap” are so evocative that this is a little too ghetto-fab for my taste.
Rating: 6
Best track: “Kilo”

Sarah: Regular readers of this column may remember that the only hip-hop I own is a mix my dry cleaner made me (heavy on Kurtis Blow), but I loved this album. The stories he tells are vivid, astonishing, and sometimes heartbreaking. More than once this week, I’ve gotten so caught up trying to catch every word that I missed a subway stop.
Rating: 8
Best track: “Underwater”

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