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THE ROOTS The Tipping Point ****


The Roots are one of the most important, potent rap groups of the last decade, and The Tipping Point continues their legacy of daring to eschew samples in favor of organic instrumentation, straight beats for jazz fusion, gangsta hip-hop babble for social lyrics so powerful they burrow straight to the center of your heart like a determined worm. Listen: “[Some people] givin’ everything they got to stitch them swishes on ya Nikes/Puttin’ pockets on our jeans, minin’ diamonds for them rings/Rewarded with small change and bullets in the brains.” (Geffen)


OTEP House of Secrets ****


There’s something really amazing about a metal band that can pair expected double-bass-drum mayhem and black turbo riffs with atmospheric Nine Inch Nails despair, cabaret and voice samples that sound like they were pulled from a snuff video, producing something so agonizingly convincing that the result is anything but trite. Otep might just be the most dangerous female singer since Karyn Crisis, effortlessly encompassing the roles of orator, poet, preacher and exorcist. (Capitol)


SAHARA HOTNIGHTS Kiss & Tell ****


More Go-Gos than Runaways with Kiss & Tell, Sahara Hotnights swap out their usual moody, darkish pop gems with scintillatingly bright pop gems for their major-label debut—but at least the suits didn’t make them dress in industry-standard slut attire. Chockful of hooks and “oh-oh-oh” backups, every track is a “hit,” and that’s meant without irony. “Walk on the Wire” and “Nerves” kick The Donnas’ lily-white asses across the block and outta town. (RCA)


BERNADETTE MOLEY All I Want **


It’s so disappointing when you can judge a book by its cover, or judge what the cover will look like by reading the book. Photos of Bernadette Moley dressed in a patchwork sundress walking by the seashore, standing above a valley, and sitting in a field with her dog (of course!) go predictably hand-in-hand with her fiddle-and-bagpipe-flavored country-folk music that’s really quite passable, but completely unchallenging and overly agreeable. (GCG)


CARBON LEAF Indian Summer *


Take equal parts Vertical Horizon, Space Cadet, Dave Matthews, and a little more Vertical Horizon, fold in large amounts of overproduction, and top off with five boringly handsome outdoors-type guys in their 30s who still play college coffee shops and have posters of Live on their walls. End result: a homogenously white, boring sponge cake with nary a strawberry to spice it up, ready to be spun on FM radio stations coast-to-coast! (Vanguard)

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