Like a time-release capsule of clinical-grade dopamine, Ten Cent Redemption's Worst Plan Ever gets infinitely better with each listen. Americana with tinges of Brit-pop texture, Ten Cent's songs ache and twang with equal abandon and make you forget about the bandmembers' past affiliations -- a remarkable feat when you consider the act's substantial collective DNA. Although "Somewhere in Between" -- on which frontman Rhett Lee thoughtfully pays homage to his previous band, Carolyn's Mother -- is the album's de facto centerpiece, there's no shortage of other stellar cuts, among them "Set Closer," "Bring Your Gun" and "Already Raining," which Lee wrote as his wife was lying in a hospital bed. Redemption has never sounded so good.
If there's a single document that nails the most striking highlights of Denver's burgeoning hip-hop scene, this is it. Despite its title, Low Budget Soul sounds like it cost a fortune to produce. It's all the more stunning, then, to discover that it was birthed in a cramped bedroom studio in east Denver. Produced and assembled by the RRAAHH Foundashun's Dent and Solpowa, the disc showcases some of the Front Range's most talented MCs -- Apostle, ManeRok, Brown Bombers, the Fly and Ground Zero Movement, among others -- in an assorted yet surprisingly integrated fashion. It's scary to think what this pair could produce with a larger budget.
At first glance, it looks like Boulder-based Adventure Records made some pretty lazy choices for its Cuvee 3 compilation: DeVotchKa, Hot IQs, the Swayback, Monofog, the Omens, Bright Channel, Matson Jones. But between all of these heavy-hitters -- none of which contributes exclusive songs -- are more obscure local acts that sparkle like unearthed gems. Among the highlights are tracks by the Portishead-esque Cate Coslor; the moody, rootsy Kettle Black; the seizure-inducing Mannequin Makeout; the post-punky Nightmare Fighters; and the brutally honest and arresting Rachel Pollard, who gives Chan Marshall a run with "The Waiting Song." Ultimately, Cuvee 3 is a real mixed bag, but that's what makes it a great local comp: It draws you in with the obvious, then blows your mind with some left-field risks and pleasant surprises.
The Samples were once among the biggest bands in these parts, yet their music's reggae accents generally had more in common with Sting than with the true giants of the genre. Not so Mr. Anonymous, in which former Sample Jeep MacNichol (always the wild card of the group) infuses his pop compositions with reggae authenticity thanks to an all-star crew. Bounty Killer, Black Uhuru's Michael Rose and the riddim section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare keep this Jeep running strong.
Spanish Poets Invading Colorado Streets -- the S.P.I.C.S. for short -- are neither reggaeton-inspired bandwagon-jumpers nor mere mainstream-rap imitators. Rather, Joel-C and Cryme Dawg are proud local Latinos who use the template of gangsta rap to tell their own, unique story. On Mental Advisory, the chant of "Chicanos, Mexicanos" throughout "S.P.I.C.S." echoes with the sort of pride that should inspire residents of any hood.
Good luck pigeonholing vocalist Felisa Herrera. On Sacrificios, she sings in English and Spanish and handles pop, R&B, hip-hop and more with a relaxed confidence that's downright inspiring. The only problem? This 2005 disc was supposed to serve as the introduction to a double-CD set that has yet to arrive. Enough with the teasing, Ms. Herrera. After all, waiting this long for more music is sacrifice enough.
The music of pianist Bill Douglas and tabla-player Ty Burhoe is often quiet and reflective, like entries in the typically soporific new-age field. Those who listen closely, however, will discover that these tracks are more thoughtful and complex than their surfaces imply. Sky is a beautifully recorded, sensitively performed and lovingly crafted album whose mellowness is a state of mind, not a marketing technique.
Blusom blooms thanks to the contrasting talents of partners Mike Behrenhausen and Jaime "Jme" White. Behrenhausen is a gifted singer-songwriter with a rare ability to translate his thoughts and emotions into relatable tunes, while White is an electronics expert blessed with endless curiosity and the skill to transform the mundane into the marvelous. Together they make The Metapolitan a great place to visit.
In the past, detractors of Dressy Bessy vocalist Tammy Ealom have complained about the thick layer of sugar she spoons onto most of her songs. Fortunately, Electrified features a modified recipe. Ditties such as the title cut and "Second Place" are still sweet, but because they're leavened with more substantial riffs, melodies and performances, they seem a lot more nutritious than their predecessors. Bring your appetite.
Some CD singles contain more musical data than does Be Mine, Valentine, which lasts a mere twelve minutes. Nevertheless, Drop Dead, Gorgeous makes every second count, spitting out six relentlessly energetic, emotionally intense songs whose impact is epitomized by the title "Knife Vs. Face: Round 1." It's music that leaves a mark.

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