Dec 072004
Authors: Nicholas LoFaro

Listen, if you haven't heard, have been sounding off around Fort Collins for a while now, and have succeeded in creating a powerful hip-hop album. By taking the art of progression, and by blending many forms of music, it is surprising that Listen has not been heard nationally.

On "One Piece Puzzle," Listen has taken hip-hop to a higher level located somewhere between the space-travel electronics of Sound Tribe Sector 9 and the down to earth groove of De La Soul. Fans of drum and bass, jazz, dub, eletronica and indie rock will find a particular enjoyment in Listen's experimental genius. All the members play multiple instruments and all contribute to the vocals. The acoustic drumbeats propelled by emcee/vocalist Cory Eberhard, (formally of the Earthworms), are sure to attract listeners of The Roots. "Chances Past," is an emotion-driven, instrumental piece that flows seamlessly into the cynical and hopeful "Future Powered." On "Future Powered," lyrics command "open your mouth/cover your ears/scream with your soul/smother your fears/I wish there was somebody here to save you from yourself," and soon turn toward politics, "nickel and dime in a difficult time/stuck behind a leader with a criminal mind." "One Way Street," tells an abstract story of the artist's lives, and "time waits for no primate," on "Adrenaline." "Magic Penguin Circus" is guided by the bass acrobatics of bass/vocalist Derek Smith and even includes a few moments of Smith's flute skills. "Earthquake" is a dancehall jam and Listen's most club-oriented song. "Swingset" closes the album with galactic energy. For an album that pieces together so many sounds, it is truly interesting and comforting to find such originality within Colorado's boundaries.

Gwen Stefani, "Love.Angel.Music.Baby"

Ex-No Doubt Singer Shoots For The Dancehall

If you are a fan of No Doubt, or Gwen Stefani for that matter, you would have seen this album coming long ago. Ever since No Doubt's release of their funk and dance-filled album "Rock Steady," it was clear that the punk days of No Doubt were evolving into something more poppy. Gwen Stefani was the highlight of No Doubt, so it is no surprise that she has gone solo. But, she brought Tony Kanal, who was bassist for No Doubt, to help produce her album. Stefani has actually succeeded in making an extremely original album, and her Grammy nomination for best female pop performance shows just that. At times though, it is difficult to gauge Stefani's seriousness on her album because it is so overtly pop, and some of her songs sound just plain goofy. It is actually so original because it is so strange. Stefani has removed the punk from her sound, but has held on to her rebellious personality. She has gotten even more sexy and fierce with her new-wave sound, and her love for '80s pop is prevalent, but for fans of her No Doubt sound, they will be confused and disappointed. Her ploy of the '80s new wave sound is rather hard to take seriously, for the genre in and of itself is somewhat of a cruel joke in music.

The funky, "Rich Girl" with Eve, is produced by Dr. Dre, but don't expect it to have Dre's sound. "Hollaback Girl," Stefani's outreach to the club scene, is produced by the Neptunes, and the album's goofiest act. In "Bubble Pop Electric," Stefani's erotic lyrics are guaranteed to get her male audience excited when she says: "tonight I'm going to give you all my love in the back seat." Whoa! That'll be a great music video. "Luxorious," samples Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa," but slows down the beat, and the single "What You Waiting For?" is Stefani's outlook of her success.

The best song on the album, and one that is sure to be a hit, feature's Andre 3000 of Outkast. "Long Way To Go," has a speedy bass beat relative of Outkast's "B.O.B." and samples a few great words from Martin Luther King Jr.'s acclaimed speech. Stefani and Andre open up the song saying: "It's beyond Martin Luther/upgrade computer," and continue the song with their celebration of the importance of diversity. Whether or not Gwen Stefani's new-wave pop is to your preference, it is clear that she is taking her career further, and she going to have all the fun in the world doing so.

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