BEST LOCAL CD THAT DOESN'T SOUND LIKE ONE

TIE: Pagan Saints, American Dreaming EP; Double Helix, Soundproof

t's not just the songs; plenty of local releases feature great songs obscured by spotty production. It's not just the production, either; see also the old saw about a polished turd remaining a turd. What we're talking about here is a record that has all of its proverbial shit together, from the material to the arrangements, mix and production value. Or two records, rather; this pair of discs has everything in their place, so much so that choosing one just didn't feel right. On the heels of their excellent 2002 full-length release The Analog Prayer Sessions Volume One (which only took, what, five years to get done?), insurgent country favorite Will Quinlan and his Pagan Saints have issued the big-yet-spare American Dreaming EP, a three-song gem recorded by Pinellas knob-twisting guru (and smokin' multi-instrumentalist) George Harris at his Panda Studios. A more layered and fully realized companion to the raw, homey Prayer Sessions, American Dreaming features three immaculately constructed new tunes and an accommodating production that could've graced big-budget releases by somebody like Lucinda Williams or Ryan Adams, but doesn't sound overly slick. At the other end of the stylistic rainbow, we've got Double Helix's unbelievably good Soundproof, 18 tracks of perfectly produced hip-hop that mix the best of old and new school elements. Six talented producers lent their beats, sounds and styles to the disc, but the crew's personality makes for a cohesive, heartfelt and often jaw-dropping whole. We hate having to laud one or two local releases because we actually hear a fair amount of good locally produced stuff over the course of a year, but these two releases by all rights should be getting national airplay right next to whatever shiny disposables the big labels are shilling this month.

www.pagansaints.com, www.doublehelixhiphop.com

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