We're nearly halfway through the first year following the biggest odometer rollover any of us can recall, and we've accumulated a teetering tower of local compact discs to pore over. Thanks to all the South Floridians who have sent in product and press kits and called to check the status of said items. Since it is June and the stack has grown to Sears Tower proportions, Bandwidth is rolling up its sleeves and diving in.
Hollywood's would-be R&B diva, Kedash, comes up with the goods on her Real Life Situations CD, but most of them are damaged by a lack of originality and an unwillingness to tinker with the conspicuous consumption poisoning the urban-music market. A good start would be a moratorium on mentioning the sticky elixir, Hennessey, which would vastly improve most hip-hop records. Real Life Situations begins with a spoken-word intro; segues into some brittle, faux-string ballads; incorporates some more spoken-word interludes (the de rigueur cell phone triteness, pointless girl talk, bedroom boasts, et cetera).
When Kedash slips into Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot mode during the disc's midsection, she's suitably flowalicious, especially when paired with guest rapper Lady Dice. The hardened hip-hop of "No Happens" is slicker than an ice sculpture, begging for a Ferrari and a splashy video shoot on South Beach.
Ultimately, however, Kedash's half-Missy, half-Mariah hybrid gets decimated in a minefield of contemporary cliché, drowning in cognac and champagne.
(Sky Hi Records, www.skyhirecords.com, 954-537-1819)
One of the best aspects of downloading music from the Internet or building your own customized compilation online is that you can grab the one good song on a particular album, avoiding the other dozen or so tracks of dreck. In a burst of benevolence, West Palm Beach's Doorway 27 saves us the search by placing the one and only worthy offering from its new disc, Sofa King Good (get it?), in the lead position. "So Misunderstood" rolls with a soft verse/loud chorus formula that's dynamic and instantly memorable.
But "So Misunderstood" would sound even better as an instrumental. Bryan Wohlurst sports a voice that's seriously affected -- possibly by cigarettes, British actors, or ego overextension -- and bruises the tight, well-crafted songs. His voice far too prominent in the thin mix (where's the bass?), Wohlurst would do himself, his band, and his audience a favor by losing some of the junior thespian posturing. He should also consider biting his tongue when he's tempted to add "Yeah!" to the end of each line. To be fair, some of Sofa King Good's remaining 13 tracks aren't bad, if you enjoy old albums from Big Country or the Alarm. Next!
(Roots Music Inc., www.doorway.27.com, 561-863-1540)
The Bottom of My Life, the new opus from West Palm Beach love man Darrell Gwinn, is a contradiction in terms from the beginning. For starters the title would seem to indicate profundity from the depths of sadness, but Gwinn sounds as chipper as a ripsaw in the Redwoods. Also, he's rocking some dapper threads on the album cover, wearing a big, goofy grin. The first track, "Sleep With Me," is similarly misleading: Gwinn makes it clear that he's not "asking you to sleep with me." Why bother making pseudo-Luther Vandross records then?
Overly sterile, clinical production (soulless drum machines, Tinkertoy keyboards, and an abundance of studio trickery) fail to give Gwinn's pinched, nasal voice any body or vigor. He clumsily parallel parks vocal harmonies on "Are You Happy" and addresses gun violence on the jazzy "This World Is Goin' Crazy," explaining, "Kids can't even go to school without being feared of someone's weapon. They have nightmares in their sleep."
More compassionate (read: pitying) listeners might feel that Gwinn speaks directly from the heart. Cynics will find it's virtually impossible to tell if the words on the disc's insert are serious lyrics or some kind of Mad Libs comedy gag.
(Emerson Records, www.darrellgwinn.com)
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Without even the faintest hint of metaphor as a shield, Lantana-based singer-songwriter George E. Manosis tells it exactly like it is on Love and Other Disasters. Everything here sounds like the work of a Jimmy Buffett copycat who got tired of playing "Changes in Latitudes" and opted to transpose Buffett's simplistic songwriting m.o. -- getting drunk and lying on a boat -- to accommodate less interesting topics. Manosis apparently finds the songs of the Teletubbies instructive; most of the paint-by-numbers rhymes here are straight from nursery school. "Hurricane" is about exactly that, told through a newscaster's eye. "Kate" is a lightweight acoustic tribute to Kate Bush that namedrops her album and song titles in lieu of actually saying something. And the music? Don't get me started on those drum machines.
The everyday, the trivial, and the mundane get a workout during Love and Other Disaster's 12 tracks, with titles so self-explanatory that discussing them is pointless. Guess what "Mom & Dad" is about? Or "A Grand Cayman Wedding"? But there is a certain utilitarian value in Manosis' songs. "Crazy 'Bout Each Other" is like a catchall drawer in the kitchen, keeping every overused romantic metaphor and simile within easy reach. "Dream Vacation" yields some truly valuable travel insights: "Paris has fashion," Manosis warbles in a voice that's sung "Margaritaville" one too many thousand times. "And China has tea."
Hey, thanks for saving me the trip!
(Solstice Records, P.O. Box 4144, Lantana, FL 33456