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Dude, your package is so suspicious: Mail delivery being what it is nowadays, technicians inside Fortress Bandwidth feel lucky to still have any parcels to open in advance of Christmas. Even better, local CDs seem to be a hot ticket this time of year, arriving at an unprecedented rate and keeping our crack mailroom team busy. Not all are going to make it into heavy rotation here, but even the suckiest is far preferable to a dose of the 'thrax.

The truth is, receiving imaginative promo packs is one of the best fringe benefits of music reporting. About two months ago, a press kit arrived at the office, and when I opened the package, tiny perforated holes of colored paper spilled all over -- and I mean all over. Some of the music we've had to listen to under the auspices of work has indeed made Bandwidth sick, but now we're more paranoid than usual. Suffice it to say that had that package been armed with a biological weapon, it would've proven an effective delivery system.

The confetti was more of an annoyance than anything. But it was never interpreted as threatening or inappropriate -- just fun. Nowadays the senders would be in for a brutal tongue-lashing, Bandwidth style.

Whatever. We don't care. I ain't scared. Don't stop sending CDs! Please, keep 'em coming. However, to ensure that these promo packs strike their intended target, please don't make them appear too funky, always include a return address, and send only that white powder we talked about that one time, OK?

Of course, you can remove the cloak of secrecy and just hand-deliver your wares to the drooling dragon at the entrance to our cave, which is what new Fort Lauderdalian Frank Mulero did with his self-produced offering, A Glimpse Within. Mulero exhibits the same kiddie charm inherent in third-grade glue/glitter/construction paper projects. It's virtually impossible to imagine Mulero's music currying favor with anyone but overly supportive members of his immediate family, but there's something gutsy about this undertaking all the same. Shades of the Shaggs.

"Shake It," the first single from West Palm Beach's Mo Slym, comes fully bling-blinged for maximum rumpus roomage and deftly splices our region's techno fetishization with run-of-the-mill hip-hop thuggery harvested from the southern tier of states. "Shake It" is treated to aggressive radio and club makeovers and a rapid-fire bass mix featuring Short Cut and China Man from the 2 Live Crew. The final cut, "Take Your Job," is oddly prescient given today's economic climate. (Nuff Nuff Music)

Then there's Psychic Fair's Delray Beach-produced The Path of Least Resistance, which sports a cover photo taken 20 years ago. Well, not really, but there's a powerfully strong whiff of retro coming off this thing, what with the Mason Ruffner cover and the Country Joe references. The first song, "Ordinary Language," seems to last longer than the '70s did, and it leaves 16 tunes still to follow. But aside from some barroom brawling, Least Resistance is all over the map, musically speaking. The best among the tunes, "Addicted," manages to unleash a Black Crowes-scented cloud of dust. The trippy "White Knight" seems to have crept in from someone else's record. Evidently in keeping with some archaic union rules, several tracks require no fewer than nine players and guest vocalists. (Arrest Records)

Oakland Park's Mark Zaden appears to be an upstanding, earnest young man with an acoustic guitar. Sure enough, Green Enough to Grow is paved throughout with the very best of intentions, quickly outlining Zaden's gift for crafting snappy, instantly memorable tunes. And even if the songs are cast in the mold of Vertical Horizon (now Verizon, to better serve you!) and Dave Matthews, Zaden is obviously completely in charge of a natural talent that could probably flower into something much more revelatory. For now Zaden has tapped into the fluorescent-lit, wide-aisled Borders pipeline with uncanny precision. (Relius Music)

Also acoustic but much more lo-fi and low profile (yet substantially more interesting) is Miami's Matthew Sabatella, who rings in with the new A Walk in the Park. Stately and subdued tunes like "Wrecking Ball" set the stage for some nice, melancholy, rainy-Sunday-afternoon listening. Occasionally, the pulse quickens into something like "She Knows," a sly rocker redolent of old R.E.M. "Bad Dream" is the epitome of sparkling urban-folk, and "Washington Square," with a crazy, carnival-ride organ solo, is classically smooth. Nice stuff -- captivating from start to finish. (Slipstream Presents)

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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