Incubus

A Crow Left of the Murder

At any given Incubus show, a concertgoer could run into a vicious teenage headbanger, a 30-year-old, beer-drinking male and an 11-year-old girl enamored with Brandon Boyd's exposed abs. The band's success lies in its ability to transcend fan bases. A Crow Left of the Murder finds Incubus at an evolution or an identity crisis, depending on the loyalty of the listener. Tracks such as "Talk Show on Mute" and "Agoraphobia" could have easily found their place on Morning View, the latter of which will likely see radio play -- an anthem for those plagued by the fear of the outdoors. Contrastingly, "Sick Sad Little World" and "Priceless" return to the band's roots, but never punch quite as hard as songs from their early albums do.

In the end, A Crow Left of the Murder succeeds in its mission to appease the original hardcore fans while retaining the pop-craving crowd, but the variance of styles could either be described as wonderfully eclectic or simply schizophrenic.

Kevin Lo

Air

Talkie Walkie

Combining the organic with the synthetic acoustic instruments with synthesizers Air hit its stride on 1998's Moon Safari. But like all gaseous pop groups in the industrialized Western world, Air became polluted. Its 2001 release, 10,000 Hz Legend, attempted to alter the working formula to break boundaries, innovate, experiment. The resulting m‚lange, devoid of sonic unity, was a critical belly flop.

Talkie Walkie marks a return to the old Air: fizzy grooves, tasteful acoustic guitar and carefully placed synthesizers. It sounds like modern visual art Salvador Dali, or Picasso's surrealist movement. By track five, the album starts feeling monotonous, but it redeems itself with later tracks, such as "Biological" and the album's tour de force, "Alpha Beta Gaga." Light and bubbly.

Jon Levin

Barbershop 2: Back In Business

Soundtrack

Underwhelming. Far more should be expected from a lineup that includes notables such as Mary J. Blige, Floetry and Andre 3000. This album continues a long-established trend of slapping formulaic R&B and hip-hop tunes on a disc, pasting a movie's title on the cover and then letting the public lap it up like a dog laps up a puddle on a hot Philly day.

However, the biggest disappointment is from the artists who fail to appear at all on this disc. Neither Ice Cube nor Queen Latifah, both of whom appear in the film, contribute a song for the album. Perhaps they recognized the mediocre offerings that constitute "songs" on this disc and steered clear. G-Unit's "Unconditionally" is the only semi-memorable cut on the album. The rest of the tracks are bland b-sides picked from the R&B bargain bin. Buyers beware the public should wait to do the same with this compilation.

Will Fenton

Elephant Man

Good 2 Go

Hoping to attract the U.S. audience like countryman Sean Paul, Jamaican native Elephant Man has unleashed a reggae-rap extravaganza, Good 2 Go, on the world and we're all the worse for it. Mixing urban beats, island-flavored reggae rhythms and a lickity-split lyrical discharge, Elephant Man appears to be Jamaica's answer to Busta Rhymes.

Ultimately, Elephant Man's attempts to harvest a number of influences spawn a very thin, unrewarding album. Save the bouncy, opening single "Pon de River Pon de Bank" and the toned-down closer "Mexican Girl," the album leaves the listener floating somewhere between indifferent and irritated. "Fan Dem Off," for example, is a straight rip-off of "Eye of the Tiger," while "Signal de Plane!" brings back memories of the beginning of the TV series Fantasy Island. If Elephant Man hopes to capture the American airwaves, referencing 1970s pop culture isn't as good a route as, say, putting thought into songwriting.

Jim Newell

The Elected

Me First

Me First, the debut album from The Elected, had indie darling written all over it before it was even released. The band includes Rilo Kiley members Blake Sennett, Mike Bloom and Jason Boesel and Ozma member Daniel Brummel. Additionally, the group enlisted the help of members of Arlo, Azure Ray and The Postal Service, among others, to help create this album.

Me First is difficult to pinpoint influence-wise, sounding like The Wizard of Oz soundtrack, a folk festival and a triumph of melody with a country twang with a lullaby thrown in for good measure. The lyrics, written by Sennett, are personal and sung softly and intimately, mentioning names, places and events that can only be of a private nature, but yet are not extraordinary. Luckily for the band, the result was still more fabulous than disastrous. Add personal telephone messages and song titles such as "My Baby's a Dick," and what you've got is what sounds like a sweet and demented carnival ride through the world of The Elected.

Eugenia Salvo


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