Author

Devon Jackson

Frente’s Angie Hart has a light, piquant voice that in most bands would sound annoying. But on Shape, the Australian group’s long-awaited second album — which includes acoustic guitar trip-hop and drone-pop that’s even catchier than that on their debut — Hart’s talented band mates counter the singer with just the right mix of off-kilter arrangements. Dreamy. B+

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It’s the women — both the young thangs and old schoolers — who stand out on the all-star album Sunset Park. Groove Theory, Adina Howard, and Aaliyah offer jazzy respites from the testosterone-swelled rap and funk-hop of 2Pac and Mobb Deep; MC Lyte (with Xscape) reasserts herself with the catchy ”Keep On, Keepin’ On”; and Queen Latifah reclaims her throne with the slinkily rough ”Elements I’m Among.” B+

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DJ U-Neek puts an innovative spin on this slinky hit remix of ”Tha Crossroads”, a song about departed friends from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s 1995 multiplatinum E.1999 Eternal. Where the original strove for melancholy and Dr. Dre darkness, this has Mariah-lite keyboards and rapping at near-gibberish speed, transforming the refrain ”See you at the crossroads” into something uplifting. B

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Gamers, the sophomore disc from the East Bay female rap duo The Conscious Daughters is about as lyrically subtle as an Oliver Stone movie. The Daughters’ lackluster old-school beats often enervate their sinewy vocals, and the relentless swearing and boasting nearly take the fun out of the funky in tracks like the loosey-goosey, Go-Brooklyn-style ”Who Got Da Mic.” C

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MN8’s debut To the Next Level — a huge hit in their native Great Britain — synthesizes the spirit of classic ’70s R &amp B with ’90s soul attitude. Sure, they rip off Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, Prince, and Simply Red, but they do it with musical panache, giving almost every song a lyrical tweak here or an added hip-hop layer there. New Union Jack Swing, indeed. B-

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