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Anthony Hamilton
Atlantic/Rhino Records
Anthony Hamilton had several rough years before the mainstream music world finally caught up with the husky Southern soul of his excellent 2003 Arista Records blockbuster, Comin' From Where I'm From. But folks who come from where Hamilton comes from — Charlotte — have long been privy to the singer's sweet talent. Hometown fans saw him bolt for New York in the early 90s only to get a raw deal when his 1995 debut, XTC, got lost in the collapse of Uptown Records and then was virtually ignored by MCA when that label finally released the album a year later. Hamilton recorded a second disc in the interim for the small Soulife label, which also promptly went out of business.

These are songs from Hamilton's Soulife sessions, with a few tweaks here and there. The album's not as consistent as Comin' From Where I'm From, but its highlights are as good as anything from that disc. Hamilton's at his best when his arrangements are simple and organic, such as in the Spanish-flavored acoustic guitars of Soulife's opening track, "I Used to Love Someone," the gospel soul of the bleeding "I Cry," the 70s-era Marvin Gaye vibe of the gripping story-song "Georgie Parker" or the funky country soul of "Ol' Keeper." A couple of experimental excursions at the end of the disc — the psychedelicized "Icing on the Cake" and skittering, jazzy improvisation of "Exclusively" — are nice detours, if not completely successful. Hamilton's got the kind of rich, gritty, addictive voice you just have to hear more of, and we will definitely be hearing more from this Charlotte success story. Lots more. In the meantime, these unearthed songs from the singer's hard-luck years should tide us over well.
Track to burn: "Georgie Parker"
Rating: 1/2
-mark kemp

Suspended Animation
Ipecac Recordings
Fantômas handily provided you with your horoscope for the entire month of April; now that that month has long passed, let's look back and see how accurate it was. Did you watch a lot of cartoons? Did your hear more brief, super-tight metal riffs than usual? Were you exposed to perplexing bits of monologue that might as well have been hollered at you in an alien language through a megaphone? Did you slap a baby? And most tellingly, did you have an awful lot of dark, schizophrenic, high-volume, freak-out fun?

This experimental extreme-music supergroup's fourth studio album is, conceptually at least, a psychotic aural journey through the fourth month of the year, with each track representing one of its 30 days. But really, who cares? What's important here is that, after a couple of arty discs designed to engage the listener's more refined senses — one, a collection of re-imagined soundtrack music, and the other, a subdued, cinematic, one-track creepfest — Fantômas has decided this time around, fuck it, it just wants to blow your hair back, make you laugh and trip you out. And the band succeeds admirably. Suspended Animation vaguely recalls the warped-carnival early days of frontman Mike Patton's post Faith No More project, Mr. Bungle, minus the extended song lengths and intelligible narrative lyrics — and plus Fantômas' trademark hyper-brief attention span and deeply unsettling edge.
Track to burn: "04/10/05 Sunday"
-Scott harrell

Will Bernard Trio
Directions to My House
Dreck to Disc Records
In the stale world of jazz guitar — where Pat Metheny is a god, Charlie Hunter passes for progressive and Bill Frisell is about all there is that's consistently exciting — an album like Will Bernard's Directions to My House comes as nothing less than a revelation. The Oakland-based axe man kicks off this homemade CD with "Not Necessarily Stoned." Set to a New Orleans march beat, it finds him overlaying slurry electric and bluesy National steel guitars. (The song veritably begs for Tom Waits on vocals.) From here, Bernard and company veer liberally into skittering post-bop, free-rhythm meanderings, luscious atmospherics, lyrical melodicism, skronky freakouts and more. His tones range from slurry to warbly to spiky, and his fractured phrasing never fails to surprise.
Track to burn: "Not Necessarily Stoned"
-Eric Snider

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