Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
    100 Days, 100 Nights
    Daptone Records
    {grate 3}

    Never underestimate the power of a good icebreaker. As the tiny, black and impossibly big-voiced Sharon Jones struts down her R&B-legend staircase, neon-lit from below, to the descending trumpet call of a standby Dap-King player, she grabs us by the gut and makes her anguished introduction: “100 days, 100 nights/ To know a man’s heart,” it goes, joined by varying horned loop-curls and the band’s signature jump-clip. “And a little more/ Before he knows his own.”
    The set-starter for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ latest — conjuring both 2002’s exhilaratingly tense Dap-Dippin’ and 2006’s highly praised Naturally, an explosive resurrection of the kind of full-bodied funk that died with the ’70s — knows just how to melt our hearts. It inflates a cushioned bookend for the rest of the album, wiggling its way through our sympathetic ears until we can’t help but remember everything we’ve ever loved about that burly, almost maternal heart-song and its toe-tappin’ Georgia backup (the eight-strong Dap-Kings, who spent the last year as the house band for Winehouse-mania).
    So when second track “Nobody’s Baby” begins to sink into an elementary-bassline James Brown imitation, and third and fourth tracks “Tell Me” and “Be Easy” fall further into buttery jukebox background, all that registers are the pleasures of a familiar funk-settled valley — and for now, we’re perfectly happy here. Mid-record beacons “When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle” (what’s that, Sharon? Where’s the yellow-food popsicle?) and the low-rumbling “Let Them Knock” — which sees our good-gal shaking her conscience for some of Marvin Gaye’s serene sexuality — do momentarily wake our enthusiasm from this contented slumber, but we’re quickly lulled back into the overwhisked froth of new sorrows like “Something’s Changed” and “Answer Me.” Don’t worry, honey — you had us at hello.
    Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings perform live Dec. 1 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach.

    — Simone Wilson
    Hiatus editor

    Peanut Butter Wolf Presents 2K8
    B-Ball Zombie War
    Stones Throw Records
    {grate 4}

    The crate diggers and hip-hop obscurists at Los Angeles-based Stones Throw Records could very possibly be running underground’s best label right now — though maybe not in terms of sales or exposure. But pioneering excellence of this caliber can’t go unnoticed for long, and the newest compilation from DJ extraordinaire and label founder Peanut Butter Wolf is certainly a case for our attention.
    Beat trailblazer J Dilla — the most prominent artist from Stones Throw, even if his recent acclaim is posthumous — plays a key role as usual, providing a fifth of the beats from his seemingly bottomless vault. One of his especially dope contributions, “His Mash’s Revenge,” featuring an awkwardly chopped-up piano loop, is tacked down by Guilty Simpson’s arrogant growl and MF Doom’s nonsensical weird-raps.
    For those that prefer a more traditional hip-hop standard, Percee P’s “Legendary Lyricist” and MED’s “Break It Down” master the basics, with drums that hit hard and flows that hit harder. Still, most tracks stray pretty far from the basic loop-and-drum-break formula, exploring off-road trails like the ’70s synths of “Funk Sidewayz” or the deep low end of “Bass Creator’s Groove.” But spotlighting individual tracks disservices the nature of this expert compilation: It’s best as a whole, a labored mixtape whose playlist is more important than its parts. PB Wolf paces the album with a veteran’s dexterity, so conflicting samples and beat-genres are never at odds.
    B-Ball Zombie War begins with just the right MCs and knock to get our heads nodding, then dares to wander through a range of tempos, dark tunnels and tangents that — though they might throw traditionalists for a loop — should at least earn Stones Throw a best-in-scene nomination, each track a worthy piece of woofer-rattling proof.

    — Andres Reyes
    Contributing Writer

    In Rainbows
    {grate 4.5}

    The furthest evolution of the spaceship will be a mere bubble encasement made to travel faster than the speed of light, with negligible wind resistance. Unlike predecessors Kid A and O.K. Computer, this incarnation would not require complicated technology or electronics to propel itself. Anything unnecessary will be omitted from the blueprint. Radiohead would call it In Rainbows, and it would be their starchild, their Hegelian end of sorts, in naked clarity.
    It began as a blog called Dead Air Space, where Thom Yorke & Co. regularly posted updates of their new project, including a cryptic blackboard covered in potential song titles and lyrical snippets. In 2006, they embarked on a short world tour for the purpose of road-testing said songs. Later that year, they returned to the studio, keeping mum about their progress aside from a few online posts. On Oct. 1, 2007, the band announced that its new work would be released in 10 days as an mp3 download, and consumers could pay whatever they wanted, even $0. The world watched as another pillar holding up the antiquated whales of the music industry collapsed.
    The music itself, however, may fall short of impossible expectations on first listen for its unassuming texture. Only “Bodysnatchers” allows Jonny Greenwood to shred, and for the rest of the album he relegates his guitar to arpeggios and pointed-but-sparse chords. All instruments register clearly and organically into the mix, with only the occasional lyric buried for mystique, further emphasizing Yorke’s elongated melodies. Interweaving plucks on “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” build to an orchestral climax, as Yorke ruminates on surreal locales like the bottom of the sea where carnivorous worms feed. Five to 10 years from now, common folk will listen to a contemporary pop recording and not even flinch when historically offputting electronics are incorporated.
    This marks the first occasion where a Radiohead album could be enjoyed in both Starbucks and on college radio, proof that they already changed the climate of music, and are now cementing it as common vernacular. For once in their career, Radiohead succeed at being ladies’ men, trying on a genuine romantic persona in forlorn ballads “House of Cards” and “All I Need.” And as the grimly bittersweet “Videotape” rolls the end credits, we come back down to Earth and see where the future will take us.

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