Dirty Pretty Things, "Waterloo to Anywhere"
Overshadowed in the publicity department by his illegally inclined ex-bandmate Pete Doherty, Carl Barat makes his own bid for post-Libertines success with "Waterloo to Anywhere," a record that Rolling Stone (rating: 3.5/5 stars) notes "sounds a lot like the Libertines" -- which is to say "catchy, noisy, beat-y, quick."
England's venerable New Musical Express (rating: 8/10) also praises the album, writing that "the Gin Palace swagger of the Libertines' debut remains in place" on this "smart; savvy; insanely resilient" album. But certain online sources had a more muted response, with Pitchfork (rating: 7/10) complaining that "Waterloo" was "at times too sprawling/self-important" or "self-consciously dirty."
Stylus (rating: B-), another online music site, dug the album's influences (the Clash, the Jam), but feels the album lacked the "two friends against the world" frisson that Barat's relationship with Doherty had lent to the Libertines, and that the new album's sound of "one man railing against the world" fell short of Barat's former glories.
Rick Ross, "Port of Miami"
"Port of Miami" is the debut album from Rick Ross, a Jay-Z protégé, and the man who made a big splash earlier this summer with the radio hit "Hustlin'." Over the course of a full album, Time Out New York (rating: 3/5 stars) explains, Ross illuminates his home base's "seedy underground" with some "high-gloss shine." But according to the New York Times, even with the help of star producers like Jazzee Pha and DJ Toomp, Ross "never quite becomes the unstoppable force he plainly wants to be."
The reasons for that might have something to do with the rapper's barely adequate rhyming skills. In a long and perceptive review, the Village Voice provides the following example: "(Ross) rhymes 'Jiggaman' with 'millionaire,' and it's virtually impossible to come up with any sport of creative pronunciation that makes that one even kind of work."
But despite Ross' subpar rapping, the album is not without its charms. Entertainment Weekly (rating: B) writes that "Ross's pulpy debut manages to enthrall despite the drug-centric lyrics." Even the Voice had some (slightly backhanded) compliments for the slick, radio-ready album, calling it the "musical equivalent of a cheesed-out special-effects movie, the sort of thing that you might not want to pay ten bucks to see in the theater but that you'll enjoy thoroughly when it comes on TBS at 2 p.m. on a Sunday."
Ani DiFranco, "Reprieve"
No big surprises on this, Ani DiFranco's second album of the year. Billboard: "Reprieve tackles the usual DiFranco topics: the ugliness of love, the improprieties of the ruling class, the polarity of womanhood and an ever-shifting view of self."
The key difference, though, is the residual effect of Hurricane Katrina, which forced DiFranco to decamp from New Orleans to Buffalo, N.Y., during the recording process. "The result" writes Glide magazine, "is one of her more cutting, biting, and pointed records in years." The Rochester City News is more specific, pointing out that "Reprieve" benefits from DiFranco's use of "New Orleans as a metaphor for more general issues," which makes the album "a compelling exercise in asking what perseverance is worth in the face of hardship on many levels."
Ultimately, your attraction to the album may come down to your political sympathies -- sympathies that Zero magazine didn't have, as it criticizes "laughably random lyrics" like "trickle down Israel, patriarchies realign" and "Ramadan orange alert, everybody put on your gas mask."
-- David Marchese