Lesser | Gearhound | Matador Records

Let me be real. Robotsex may certainly be "cool" and "mysterious" to most folks, but any way you slice it, he is still just a weird-eared guy who either spends his Sundays snapping his fingers at girls while saying, "Fetch me a beer, baby," or at the circus. Of course, those girls do what I say, and most circuses just have a half-drugged elephant, lots of warm Orange Crush soda and monkeys riding tricycles.

As one could imagine, this doesn’t lead to the most exciting of times, and certainly no six-person orgies. But I was saved by a person who was not content with the state of American entertainment. This individual: Lesser (aka DJ 40-year-old woman). His solution: a psycho circus. And even though I tacked on the word "psycho" to such an innocent word like "circus" just to be funny, don’t be mistaken – Gearhound is very much like a psycho circus. This former touring member of Matmos and collaborator with Kid 606 represents well with his own brand of "schizophrenic beats and garbled electronic wanderings." "Intuit Like an Innuit," with its hip hop flavor and the glitchy electronica track "Voice O’ Reason," are just two of the gems that offer up a blend of musical quality.

With about 16 tracks of music that can spice up your Sunday for a relatively cheap price, Gearhound may come with a few side effects if you listen to it too much, i.e. the loss of sanity. Still, that is a small price to pay for something this cool. Find it, buy it, love it. [Robotsex believes in life after love]

Sade | Lovers Rock | Epic

This review is a bit belated, considering that Lovers Rock was released at the end of 2000, but bearing in mind Sade’s eight-year absence from the music world, I guess it’s best to say, “better late than never” and leave both counts of tardiness at that. Since its release, Lovers Rock has already seen terrific album sales and its first single “By Your Side” climb up the charts, receiving airplay on a wide variety of radio stations, including our very own Q104.7. This news comes as no surprise to me, for Sade creates sounds appealing to lovers of all ages and backgrounds – even my father, whose tastes include only the most refined chorale music productions and intricate bluegrass constructions, walked around the house singing “Smooth Operator” after I downloaded it from Napster over the summer.

While another “Smooth Operator” number is absent from Sade’s latest, Lovers Rock contains 11 beautiful hits that are at once timeless yet surprisingly aware of the innovations in music over the last decade . While “Flow” and “King of Sorrow” aren’t trip hop, for example, Sade’s sound reflects such developments in music without sounding the least bit contrived. Low-key beats and understated production values suggest, rather, Sade’s ability to incorporate a wide variety of influences, from African vocal harmonies to jazz, all the while focusing their energy on crafting beautiful songs rather than on any particular genre. Ultimately, the fusion formula works, although for many listeners, Lovers Rock will be too soft and melancholic, leaning a bit in the direction of Paul Simon’s Graceland rather than Portishead’s Dummy.

At the very least, Lovers Rock is an album that lives up, literally, to its name. The smooth, chill songs are not meant for those aiming at mere copulation – this is an album for people interested in making love, all right? Or, at the very least, those thinking about making love, or who are sad over not being able to make love anymore, or anything even remotely connected to making love. For some reason, I mostly picture thirty-something yuppies playing this album on a hi-fi stereo system while setting out Pottery Barn dinnerware for a romantic dinner, aromatherapy candles all aglow, but with Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s no reason not to infuse your grubby Isla Vista apartment with the sweet, sensual sounds of Sade. [Jenne Raub ]

The Microphones | It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water | K

Autumn harmony uncorrupted by proposed meaning or metaphor. Nature is processed by sensitive, poetic types from Olympia, Washington, through any instrument handy (xylophones and accordions included) into music soft and refreshingly humble. This is the meditative breath exhaled by a fluorescence-baked secretary when they reach the summit of a mountain trail overlooking the Pacific on a dewy Sunday. A haiku of juxtaposed samples of wind and water with three-part melodies that make Belle and Sebastian seem tame and dissonant. On the plastic disc itself is a drawing of headphones with cockleshells where the earphones would be appropriate.

The Microphones, those youthful musical communists, run the underground railroad for listeners who would like to retreat to a cabin in the Pacific Northwest, switch on a turntable and sit by a fireplace watching the snow smother the memories of suburbia. I started humming one of the melancholic stanzas of organic purity on my way to work and found myself walking down a dirt path I never knew existed. Quickly, I recovered my ingrained sense of societal responsibility, but made a scrawling note to myself to say thanks again to the eclectic comrade who let me borrow this crafted jewel of an album. [Joseph Martinez]

Buckfast Superbee | You Know How the Song Goes | Walking Records

As a completely guitar-driven outfit, San Diego’s Buckfast Superbee produces rock that combines power-pop vocals with melodically enhanced punk guitar riffs. This sound is unique, and, without a doubt, mesmerizing to the ear and mind. You Know How the Song Goes could be the steppingstone to more pop- and riff-oriented rock.

This band throws in no tricks or surprises to get our attention. Instead, this album is simply some guy playing guitar in a garage, happy to be in a band. The guitars provide the anger, angst and frustration, while the vocals provide a delicate overture. The bridges are probably the most interesting aspect of its guitar style, providing sudden and ear-pleasing changes that butt up against one another until the infectious lead hooks and vocals provide a brilliant release of pure pop sound. Each track is unique in style, providing a complete album.

Buckfast Superbee is obviously interested in getting out a chorus that’s candy for the ear in every song. But it falls short of its predecessors by taking more of a formalist approach to its guitar playing, instead of a more minimalist and focused style. It tries too hard to make it work, but all in all it creates a sound that is a worthy progression in the rock scene. [Collin Mitchell]

Erin McKeown | Distillation | Signature Sounds

As I was sitting here listening to Erin McKeown’s album I was reminded of why I don’t go to coffeehouses. One, because I don’t like hot liquids, and two, because I don’t want to hear the sound of depressing music that assaults my lobes when I want an iced coffee. Distillation is a collection of songs that all sound almost exactly alike. I thought I had left my CD player on repeat, but it was really just the lack of depth of the album. Change it up a little, Erin. I thought you knew that sad and melancholy was out this year.

I did not enjoy listening to this album at all. Even though it only has 11 songs, I felt like there were 1,100. This CD was bad; not in the good way, but bad in the “it sucked” way. I got high and listened to the album, and you know what? It still sucked. So I’ll stick to my iced coffee and pass on Erin McKeown’s latest work. [Ray Smith]

John Wolf | Math and Science | Brick Red Records

A proclaimed dunce in the areas of math and science, John Wolf turned to the arts for divine inspiration, displaying his apparent knack for music in his debut album Math and Science. With catchy lyrics and a happy-go-lucky feel, John Wolf is almost on to something … almost. Although the album possesses a definite indie rock feel, the unfortunate fact about it is that it’s all been done before.

The mixture of guitar and sampled beats that cover the album are definitely enjoyable, but the lyrics fall short of complimenting the sound. Covering subjects like relationships, the high school experience and the all-encompassing experience of life, the words become trite and dull after several tracks. If Wolf was aiming at groundbreaking epiphanies in his songs, it’s not going to happen with lyrics like “She left me all alone / When I thought she was at home.”

Although not a solid debut album, Music and Science does show some potential. With a little extra study time, John Wolf may find his niche musically, but for now his sound remains lost in the indie rock shuffle. [Jill St. John]

Various Artists |Free the West Memphis 3 | Koch/Aces & Eights

This is an album about rock. No, strike that. This is an album about rawk, or at least about having a sea of nonfunctional cars on your front lawn.

The West Memphis 3 is a trio of young heshers who were convicted on murder charges, without any forensic evidence, solely on the basis of musical tastes and styles of dress (yes, Virginia, people really are that stupid. Look it up: www.wm3.org). Therefore, this album has a decidedly political theme: The songs are either folksy protest cuts, like Steve Earle’s “The Truth,” or else ironically defiant trash-rock, like Nashville Pussy’s cover of “Highway to Hell.” At best, the songs combine the two approaches, providing intelligent, yet balls-out anthems from bands like Rocket from the Crypt and L7. The standout track, however, is Kelley Deal’s eminently silly deconstruction of a Pantera track.

Like any compilation of any worth, there is a wide musical terrain covered on Free the West Memphis 3. Inevitably, some of the tracks fall through, but any comp with the Murder City Devils on it is Solid Fatkid Gold. [DJ Fatkid’s t-shirts have no sleeves]