aural pleasure 

Proof of Youth
The Go! Team
|(Sub Pop)

The Go! Team really doesn’t sound like any band on the map right now. Imagine a world where the Jackson 5 gets a raw makeover, your high-school cheerleaders have street cred, and Public Enemy doesn’t need samples. Over the past couple of years, the band has backed its buzz-worthy debut by playing tight live sets across the globe, and now it’s time to fight the sophomore slump.

Proof of Youth is the group’s second set of instantly recognizable tunes, blending hip-hop, harmonicas, horns, schoolyard chants, and crashing drums. Where the team’s Thunder, Lightning, Strike debut rode instrumentals befitting ’70s TV themes, this release steps further into the hip-hop arena. Quick bursts of rhyme in the style of jump-ropers (usually delivered via the band’s cheer-hopper Ninja) repeatedly barrage the listener, calling you to take action, or at least groove your thang.

There is an overwhelming sense of urgency and chaos added to the formula this time, however, which basically sounds like they picked up love for rocking on a stage last time out and now anticipate playing these new tunes live with vigor. “My World” and “Flashlight Fight” — the album’s two standouts — couldn’t sound any different but perfectly illustrate the endearing qualities of the band. “My World” is a mostly acoustic instrumental that forces you to look back fondly; it could have been used on TV’s The Wonder Years. And “Flashlight Fight” cuts and thrashes over raps delivered by Public Enemy’s Chuck D. It’s absolutely brilliant. The only drawback here are the vocals, as they are too lo-fi for their own good. Try singing along in the car and the instrumentals drown out the child-like chants.

Clarity issues aside, though, this album feels great overall.

— Brian Hoekstra

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Blackout
Britney Spears
(Jive)

No matter how bad your year has been, it hasn’t been as bad as Britney Spears’.

Of course, Spears remains oblivious to her professional demise and clings adamantly to a pop persona half a decade past its prime on her latest album, Blackout, much as she does in her public life. After all, wasn’t her belly-rolling performance at the MTV VMAs as painful to watch as the final days of fat, drug-addicted Elvis?

This is probably the biggest problem with Blackout; despite how surprisingly not-bad this club-bound, electro-R&B is — imagine Lindsay Lohan covering JT’s FutureSex/LoveSounds — it accomplishes little more than announcing, “It’s Britney, bitch. Nothing’s changed, except now I say curse words like, you know, ‘bitch,’ or ‘Tick-tock, tick-tock, can you fuck me while I’m hot?’” The irony is she hasn’t been hot since In the Zone and there’s been no emotional or artistic evolution since then, except for an increased desire to hear her own music playing at the clubs in which she’s falling down drunk.

This lack of growth aside, Blackout is Spears’ most ambitious album to date – full of distorted synthesizers, gnarly drum beats, and electronically treated vocals, of course (it’s all the fad, thanks to Timbalake) — even if, oddly enough, she co-wrote fewer songs on it than she did with Zone.

One would assume, given her numerous personal travails, that she’d focus on the personal this time around — maybe something about her kids? — but, in another inspired bit of irony, she has other people write I’m-pissed anthems such as “Pieces of Me” on which she sings, “I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17.” Add to that the stripper anthem, “Get Naked (I Got a Plan),” an attempt to rip off Gwen Stefani and Kylie Minogue with the rap-sung “Toy Soldier,” and the obligatory kiss-off to a certain ex-hubby called “Why Should I Be Sad?” that will no doubt be brought up as evidence when K-Fed tries to explain to their kids why mommy is C-R-A-Z-Y.

Of course, Blackout’s inevitable success will no doubt be paying for his life of leisure, so why would he complain?

— Cole Haddon


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