Reviews of the latest releases from The 8 Mile Soundtrack, Pearl Jam, Sondre Lerche, MC Lusky and MTV's Handpicked Vol. 2

Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture 8 Mile

Eminem's gripping new single "Lose Yourself" outfits a thudding bass line with light, ominous keyboards and a roaring decree of sheer self-determination. This hip-hop battle anthem strikes deep. It's the perfect sonic backdrop to the Eminem silver screen vehicle winning over even the most ardent Shady-haters.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the remaining 15 tracks (not including the bland bonus EP) are thug-by-the-numbers landfill that, thankfully, never appeared in the stellar Curtis Hanson film. The freestyle battles from the flick would have far better complemented the four new, very strong, Eminem cuts than the banal gangster fodder of his labelmates.

Even skilled vets Nas and Jay-Z fail don't do much more than cling to Eminem's drawers. The only MC that really gives the current king of American pop music a run is seminal old-school rhyme-slinger Rakim. Another highlight of the disc is the sexy Macy Gray number "Time of My Life" — only Gray's sultry vocal style can begin to match the focused venom of Eminem.
—Wade Tatangelo

Riot Act

Here's the problem Pearl Jam fans have had with the band's studio albums during the last five years, and will likely have with Riot Act: It's not Ten. Eleven years on, we're still waiting for that epic restatement, where nearly every, instantly adhesive song is an anthem in the making. I had the same delayed reaction to Riot Act as I did Binaural and Yield — initial disappointment followed quickly by appreciation. By now, Pearl Jam's smolder/explosion ratio skews to the former, so the seething intensity of songs like "Can't Keep," "Love Boat Captain" and "I Am Mine" is at first hard to absorb. Eddie Vedder is increasingly loath to bust out in one of his banshee shrieks, opting instead for the low register and the slow build. While any new PJ album will contain some ballad-oriented fare, Riot Act possesses its share of grinding rockers: "Save You," "Wanted to Get Right," "Ghost" and "You Are," with its bludgeoning low end. The only band that matters from the early '90s grunge scene continues to successfully chart its own course. Riot Act may take a couple listens to get inside your bones, but it'll be worth it.
—Eric Snider

Faces Down

It's hard not to like this young Norwegian singer/songwriter, even though you might want to dismiss him. Lerche is schmaltzy and somewhat canned in that Scandinavian ABBA/Ace of Base sorta way. But don't be too hasty. Let him insinuate into your psyche with his aw-shucks, late-'60s innocence. He combines such influences as Burt Bacharach, Steely Dan and Beck, blurring the line between packaged pop and earnest, intelligent rock. Lerche's vocals are plaintive and gentle but not cloying. His straightforward lyrics about self-affirmation and putting your heart on your sleeve are touching and immediate — and refreshing in these jaded days. The album aurally leaps from minimal to lush with no jarring whiplashes. As along as you don't mind heaping helpings of sugar with your pop, you'll be sure to love this Nordic wonder.
—Julie Garisto

Do Dallas
Too Pure/The Beggars Group

Mclusky is comprised of three punker-than-thou Brits who concoct a searing, scathing postrawk sound guaranteed to disconcert fans of cookie-cutter guitar music while simultaneously exciting those looking for something new, abrasive and cruelly funny. The band's style calls to mind a marriage between The Jesus Lizard and The Pixies' evil twin; song titles like "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues," "Fuck This Band," and "The World Loves Us And Is Our Bitch" kind of say it all, don't they? The disc careens from fuzzy bass and single-note guitar melodies to absolutely crushing noisefests, all without losing its misanthropic sense of humor. Only the standout track "To Hell With Good Intentions" even approaches vocal melody. Listeners conditioned to redundantly catchy riffage and angsty anthems will find that it causes quite a head-pain at first, but repeated listens reveal the reasons why music really, really needs a Mclusky these days. (www.beggars.com/us)
—Scott Harrell

Mixed Live 2nd Session

On a hazy Sunday morning at the 1988 Sunrise rave in London, Carl Cox took a giant leap for DJ-kind. He hooked up a third deck and at 10:30 a.m. energized 15,000 weary partiers. Since then, the 40-year-old three-deck wizard, considered by many the best DJ in the world, has been as busy as anyone in the dance music world. Moonshine Mixed Live series — which has also featured Donald Glaude, Tall Paul and AK 1200 with MC Navigator — is a revelation. These discs capture the energy of clubs, unlike studio techno albums which generally sound plastic and lifeless. Mixed Live 2nd Session comes from Cox's opening gig for Moby in Detroit as part of the Area2 Tour. He deftly works the decks, EQs and faders, blending acid house, purist house and techno in raw staccato grooves. Bust open the jewel case and party.
—Cooper Cruz

Various Artists
MTV2's Handpicked Vol. 2

The unwritten MTV operating procedure is simple. If something ain't blingin' in a group's rhyme or an artist's musical stylings aren't up to today's thrift-store chic, synth-pop standards, they are filed into the critical-acclaim-does-not-equal-mainstream-success box otherwise known as MTV2. Handpicked Volume 2 is a collection of songs from those MTV2 fixtures. The album includes tracks from the Vines and Hives which, as overplayed as they may be, provide the only meat on this compilation which suffers from an excess of lighthearted, airy rock. Speaking of the devil, Coldplay bring some endearing weepiness to the album with the tune "In My Place" — those critical darlings, the Doves, can be found riding their coattails five songs down the line. The only other highlights on this album come by way of Phantom Planet's mellow "Lonely Day" and Norah Jones' sweet and soothing Joni Mitchell-esque tune, "Don't Know Why." And just when you thought it was safe to wipe the blood from your ears, the folks at MTV couldn't help but equip this album with redundant songs from Dave Matthews clones John Mayer and Jack Johnson, and an acoustic alternate version of Jimmy Eat World's pop classic "The Middle" for good measure. But that's all par for the course. The real problem with Handpicked 2 which is essentially an attempt to bring a bit of the "indie" sound to MTV's core audience, is that it lacks any real cornerstone tracks to properly convey the message.
— Nick Margiasso

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