The Fletch Fetch

Aesop Rock Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives EP Definitive Jux

Four and a half out of five stars

Aesop Rock’s arsenal of Sugar Hill-schooled hip-hop skills rushed the frontlines of innovative hip hop on the wings of last year’s Bazooka Tooth, but it’s now, on the NYC-M.C.’s new-fashioned release, Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives, that Aesop’s lyrical smart-bombs find their truest mark. The cut “Winner Takes All” takes Del’s brand of space madness, drives it to the ghetto, forces it to hang out with Rakim’s street majesty and presents the aftermath with a true emcee’s flare for innovation. As Aes breaks new necks with the religious rancor of “Holy Smokes,” he ignites revolutionary flames that burn-almost-as bright as his ghetto-wise wisdom. Fast Cars drives into new hip hop ground while never totally burning the bridges of convention which bore Aesop to his current level. An overall ahead-of-its-time offering from a man on the cutting-edge.

Iron and Wine Woman King EP Sub Pop

Four out of five stars

Iron and Wine mastermind (and bearded wonder!) Sam Beam changed a whole bunch during the making of his newest record, the seven-song Woman King EP. Fear not Sub-Pop clad-in-plaid hipsters-Beam did not invest in a razor. What he did invest in was an electric guitar (a new invention, as far as Beam is concerned), production value and hi-fi stylings-all of which mark a stark departure from previous Iron and Wine efforts. Beam still retains the haunting ability to craft music that’s beautiful in a recently-unearthed-antique sort of way while basking in clouds of sweat-laden Southern humidity-he just goes about his usual business in a much more refined, professional manner these days. The Woman King EP has hints of restoration-era traditional folk standards (“Jezebel”) and a fondness for rockin’ neo-folk jams (“Freedom Hangs Like Heaven”), but while it’s undeniably a royalty of a different family for Iron and Wine, this Woman King never forgets her down-home roots.

Tori Amos The Beekeeper Epic

Three out of five stars

Musing over the impact of tangerine panties (literally: “The Power of Orange Knickers”), slumbering with bugs (again, literally: “Sleeping with Butterflies”) and toast (“Toast”…seriously, toast.), Tori Amos’ latest endeavor, The Beekeeper, declares her newly appointed position as reigning queen of the obvious. Once loved for her adult-contemporary anthems of sadistic-sexcapades and self-pleasure, Amos returns to her roots atop the pheromone-stockpile “Sweet the Sting,” but thoroughly kills the mood when she croons, “will it end or begin in your cinnabar juice?” Yes, that’s a real line. No, the rest of The Beekeeper isn’t much better..

Comeback Kid Wake the Dead Victory Records

Four out of five stars

Wake the Dead is a hardcore record, not a mascara-streaked-fashion-core-love-note or a tribal-tattooed-nu-metal-bro-down-a good old fashioned, pissed-off hardcore punk war cry. Comeback Kid resurrects the ghosts of fallen melodic hardcore heroes Gorilla Biscuits (“Partners in Crime”) and Lifetime (“Wake the Dead”) but enlists the heavier-tendencies of contemporaries Bane (“Talk is Cheap”) to amass an army of youth-crew throwbacks, strong enough to wake hardcore’s dying corpse.

Sole Live in Rome Anticon Records

Three and a half out of five stars

While Sole’s third subterranean soliloquy, Live in Rome, is not actually live, nor a soul record, it does pump the life-blood of hip-hop’s soul through each of its 17 insurgent veins. The Eminem parody of “I’msotired” plants Sole’s forked tongue-firmly-in-cheek over Anticon’s classic pocket-protector, boom-bap. As the seditious spoken-word of “Atheist Jihad” cements Sole’s satiric stardom, it’s lines like, “It’s not the draft that scares/ but it’s killing them when they come and get me,” that re-affirm this emcee’s recent relocation to Barcelona, Spain, in its ex-patriot undertones and exotic rhyme appeal.

Dan Fletcher

Eryn Green contributed to this article