CD REVIEWS - Shoestring, Dashboard Confessional

Shoestring

"Cross Addicted"

The Michigan hip-hop scene has been making serious waves during the last several years, though there's been a dual nature to the attention. On one hand, the uber-skilled Eminem and his doofus Detroit brethren, Kid Rock and Insane Clown Posse, have drawn northern exposure to the area with over-the-top antics calculated to shock the suburbs. Conversely, Michigan's subterranean rap scene has experienced relatively low chart positions while garnering critical acclaim. Flint rap veteran Shoestring (known by probation officers as Raheen Peterson) has been kicking up North for awhile now, debuting with The Dayton Family nearly 10 years ago and popping up on various solo joints. Earlier this year, Shoestring spat verbal fire on "Ball Like Dat," a three-man crunkfest found on the first album from fellow DF member Ghetto E. On DF projects, Shoestring assumes the role of dramatic gangsta as compared with Ghetto E's more lighthearted-but-deadly approach. On his second solo effort, the rapper brings this persona to the front lines of his sonic battlefield, resulting in a bobbing beat and blunt party that rolls down the street smokin' like the G-funk era never passed. Shoestring's full-throated raps crash like 40-ounce bottles against a concrete wall of rumbling bass and sinewy synths, while sassy singsong choruses taunt like schoolchildren in the background. Though this formula has been worked to death over the years, Mike (Geto Boys) B.'s huge sounding production and Shoestring's top-notch lyrical skills make "Cross Addicted" another stellar release from the Michigan underground.

Dashboard Confessional

"The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most"

Former Vacant Andys/Further Seems Forever frontman Chris Carrabba is a glass-half-empty kind of guy. The singer-songwriter, who fronts Boca Raton, Fla.-based band Dashboard Confessional, concocts the sweetest of sweet pop songs but laces them with lyrics so astringent they make Morrissey sound like Zig Ziglar. Like The Smiths, Dashboard Confessional is a band based around a vocalist who possesses a voice so captivating and flexible, it assumes automatic primacy in the band's sonic pecking order. Thus, the nucleus of DC's sound is centered on Carrabba's swooning, lilting singing voice � a combination of hushed intimacy and keening angst. With song titles like "Screaming Infidelities" and "The Best Deceptions," it's little wonder DC's music has been dubbed "sadcore." No, this is not a party CD to crank on Saturday night; it's moody, Sunday morning music suited for life's more reflective moments. DC also throws in a few upbeat numbers, though the band is wise enough to leave the distortion pedals at home, using its sparse instrumentation as an advantage rather than a hindrance. "Again I Go Unnoticed," for instance, has all the pounding energy of your average indie garage band without ever resorting to Marshall stacks and huge drums. "This Bitter Pill" closes the album with Carrabba primal screaming from the depths of his soul, a Matt-Pryor-meets-Kurt-Cobain moment that is both glorious and impossible to ignore.

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