New Music

Aaliyah

I Care 4 U

(Universal)

Released just over a year after Aaliyah’s death, I Care 4 U is not only a “greatest hits” compilation, but a comprehensive representation of the singer’s life and personality as well.

Besides including many of her most popular singles (mostly from her later albums and soundtrack appearances), the album also features six previously unreleased tracks. Though songs such as “Miss You” and “Come Over” (a duet with R&B artist Tank) equal any of Aaliyah’s previous recordings, the Timbaland-produced “Don’t Know What To Tell Ya” is a mediocre inclusion. It is no rival for collaborative masterpieces such as “One In A Million,” “I Care 4 U” and “More Than A Woman,” all included on the album.

As she was also lauded for her dancing abilities and lively performances, the album comes with a DVD that features her most popular music videos.  “Are You That Somebody” shows another dimension of famous choreographer Fatima Robinson’s creative talent—a valuable inclusion for every Aaliyah fan.

I Care 4 U counters the notion that new albums with posthumously released material are necessarily cash-in projects. The album gives music lovers saddened by Aaliyah’s sudden passing another chance to commemorate her life and artistry.- —Cassandra Cummings

The Microphones

Mount Eerie

(K Records)

After delivering The Glow, Pt. 2, an off-kilter pop album that topped many “Best of 2001” lists, critical darlings The Microphones have promptly returned with their follow-up. A considerably darker affair, Mount Eerie is a challenging five-song concept album of meditations on death. Central Microphone Phil Elvrum sculpts an appropriately chaotic mélange with his frail, wavering voice, delicate guitar acoustics and haunting background vocals provided by labelmates Mirah and Calvin Johnson. Most prominent, however, are the constantly booming percussion and out-of-sync drum loops, which evoke (respectively) Mount Eerie and the narrator’s phobias surrounding it.

Seventeen-minute opener “The Sun” sets the tone for the rest of the album, working gradually from silence into frantic tribal beating that is suddenly interrupted by Elvrum’s acapella bleat. Abrasive feedback makes the transition into “Solar System,” only to morph into the welcome sounds of a running river and melodic, lightly strummed guitar. The album’s climax hits with the title track, where layers of dramatic vocals mix with jarring drum loops in an almost sacred blend that recalls Radiohead’s Kid A. Like that unconventional and somewhat unsettling album, Mount Eerie constantly defies expectations. —Christopher A. Kukstis

The Sea And Cake

One Bedroom

(Thrill Jockey)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with One Bedroom, the latest from Chicago post-rockers The Sea And Cake. Each of the album’s ten songs is the logical continuation of the band’s brand of blissful, heady pop. Sam Prekop’s vocals still melt into the guitar lines, and there is still that straight and clean guitar strumming that provides rich harmonic landscapes for downright beautiful melodies.

It’s hard, though, to advance beyond perfection, which was The Sea And Cake’s self-titled 1994 debut. That is, the band hasn’t changed much at all. Those who liked the formula The Sea And Cake have used from the beginning will probably enjoy One Bedroom—particularly the opening track “Four Corners” and its wonderfully tight instrumental, as well as John McEntire’s impressive drumming on “Hotel Tell.”

Anyone hoping for more than a recapitulation of 2000’s stunning Oui, however, will probably be disappointed this time around. The Sea And Cake fan knows quite well how the band can play, what they play and how perfectly they play it. But at this point, one would almost rather hear the band fail in the midst of an experimental disaster than stagnate in One Bedroom’s complacency. —Roger Rossier

Out Hud

S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.

(Kranky)

There’s a lot of pressure to give Out Hud’s first full-length effort S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. a flattering review. With several obscure vinyl releases over the past years, the band has built a cult following of indie hipsters and has accrued plenty of critical hype.

Indeed, S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is pretty good. Along with Phyllis, their trusty drum machine, the Sacramento-turned-NYC based quartet breeds unique and complex instrumental rock that might be described as post-rock given the remix treatment by disco-nouveau duo Metro Area. Though indie heads inevitably hail Out Hud’s music for being “danceable,” the band is neither as danceable or as explosive as their parent group !!! (pronounced chik-chik-chik).

Yet the tracks on S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. are quite enjoyable in their own right. “Dad, There’s A Little Phrase Called Too Much Information” speaks to the band’s keen sense of texture and musical climax. The skillful interplay between Pope’s guitar, Molly Schinct’s electronically tweaked cello and Vandervolgen’s synth work is breathtaking. “The L Train Is A Swell Train And I Don’t Want To Hear You Indies Complain,” the twelve-minute genre-jumping epic that has garnered the most hype, exploits Schinct’s cello to pleasant effect at its conclusion. “Hair Dude, You’re Stepping On My Mystique” is perhaps the disc’s most exciting track and an embodiment of the band’s versatility.

S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is a beautiful and worthwhile listen, and quite original at that. Fans of !!! might bemoan the band’s relative lack of energy, but the album is sure to land more than a few “best of the year” accolades. —Roger Rossier