Artist: De La Soul’s Plug 1 and Plug 2

Album: First Serve

Grade: C+

Upon the announcement of this ambitious concept album featuring De La Soul’s Dave and Posdnous in character as a pair of rising rappers, expectations were high for a variety of reasons, mainly because of the relevance of De La Soul to hip-hop, as they emerged as pioneers within a sphere dominated by gangster rap. The central narrative revolves around two struggling artists with high aspirations of becoming successful hip-hop artists. Within this framework, De la Soul presents a knowing interpretation of the faults of the hip-hop industry, as well as introducing two likeable personalities.

This narrative seems contrived however, and merely adds unnecessary context to songs that are in themselves sharp and relevant, with standout tracks providing a range of contemporary instrumentals in innovative fashion. Impressive productions ‘Pushin’ Aside, Pushin’ Along’ and ‘Small Disasters’ fully epitomise the ample wit on display.

In a Nutshell: Stylish and silly in equal measures.

by Jack Walsh

Artist: Black Dice

Album: Mr. Impossible

Grade: F

Black Dice, a trio from Brooklyn, have been performing together for fifteen years. Mr. Impossible, their sixth album, lacks cohesion and their over-produced, manipulated sound is repetitive and tedious.

This is not music. This album consists of a combination of various sounds and noises squashed together into twenty-one minutes of pure insanity, twenty-one minutes of your life that you can never get back.

The only thing the album accomplishes is that it would make the perfect instrument of torture. In fact, if this album had been in featured in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs instead of ‘Stuck in the middle with you’ the police officer would probably have cut his own ear off.

It is hard to find any redeeming factors about this album, as no one track stands out alone as particularly good or interesting. Black Dice’s brand of hardcore electronica is nothing short of offensive to the ears. Mr. Impossible’s loose noise and gritty sound is merely irritating.

In a Nutshell: A trippy experience, but lacking any musical merit or consistency. Don’t waste your time or money.

by Ciara Andrews

Artist: The Original Rudeboys

Album: This Life

Grade: F

This Life is the debut album from the Student Bar fodder that is the Original Rudeboys. On this, their big leap from an unsigned curiosity to a viable pop act, our working class heroes spend half their time building a comfortingly familiar wall of innocuousness, aping James Morrison’s patented nondescript warble, and the other half railing against it with their unfortunately grating ‘Dublin rap’. Sadly, these rap segments sound like a monologue from Adam and Paul.

With each of This Life‘s ten tracks striding through the same unoriginal and actually quite mannerly acoustic instrumentation, it calls into question how apt a band name the Original Rudeboys really is.

To its credit, decent production value makes This Life perfectly listenable; the arrangements on ‘Stars in My Eyes’ and ‘Blue Eyes’ being quite lovely in their own way, but ultimately, the band are limited horribly by the same novelty that grabbed them the attention in the first place.

In a Nutshell: It doesn’t quite work.

By Rob Mac Carthy

Artist: Hal

Album: The Time, The Hour

Grade: B+

Fans of Hal have long awaited a successor to their 2005 self-titled debut album, and they will not be disappointed. The Dublin three-piece, known for their inter-meddling of country-rock and retro power-pop, have continued in the same vein to deliver another outstanding album. The Time, The Hour demonstrates nothing short of song writing mastery.

The title track, one of the best on the album, uses dramatic instrumental exhibitionism to create a passionate and moody melody that dominates the song. In complete contrast, ‘Down In The Valley’ with its light-hearted infectious hook, is undoubtedly a summer anthem. The album’s only flaw is that certain tracks do not seem to sit well with others. Individually each song is excellent, but as a whole, the record goes from cheerfulness to drama and from light to shade so often and quickly that it disrupts the momentum and rhythm that is formed.

In a Nutshell: Shady, sprightly and summery.

by Greg Talbot

Artist: The All-American Rejects
Album: Kids in the Street

Grade: C

The quartet’s fourth album follows up chart-dominating past efforts like Move Along with little deviation. The remarkable similarity to past work is hinged on the dependency on choppy guitar lines and fast/slow changeups. Frontman Tyson Ritter’s vocals are still dreamy and the hooks compelling, yet this album leaves the listeners chomping at the bit for some variety.

Lack of multiplicity aside, it fits with the Rejects’ self-carved niche in music as the power-pop groupie’s group. The live sound and sing-along choruses of  ‘Beekeeper’s Daughter’ make it the album’s stellar moment, whereas ‘Someday’s Gone’ is vocally more self-indulgent on Ritter’s part, although a track of note nonetheless. Ten years of performing have not quenched the spontaneous energy or the appeal of this act, but you can’t help but wonder if the rehash of old releases soon will.

In a Nutshell: Those Kids in the Street should Move Along down another musical avenue.

by Emily Mullen