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Fever Charm apparently snuck into a recording studio and used roughly 20,000 dollars worth of equipment to record their new release Sail Away (says the band: it’s a compilation, not an EP). If this is true, this is an impressive show of devotion to the hi-fi sound--Guided by Voices these guys ain’t. As Sail Away is one of the best-produced, best-sounding Bay Area rock records this side of Girls’ Father, Son, Holy Ghost I’ve heard recently, it’s safe to say their chutzpah paid off. Theo Quayle’s power chords roar with as much clarity as aggression; Yianni AP’s bass is as grimy and metallic yet shiny-sounding as a stick against a chain-link fence; and everything sounds raw yet whistle-clean. As such, it would be inaccurate to classify this as a “garage rock” record, but the way Fever Charm flaunts their pop chops without compromising their edge has something in common with not only contemporary garage-rockers like the White Stripes or the Strokes but also vintage ‘60s garage bands (check out that “Wild Thing” riff on “Youth.”) Labels aside, Sail Away is one of the pop-savviest, most energetic, um, compilations of songs I’ve heard in a long time, delivering on the promise Fever Charm displayed on their earlier singles and EPs and demonstrating how studio sparkle can be just as powerful as lo-fi grime.
FRAK & NICKY C
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Real Talk, the debut by teen rap duo Frak & Nicky C, is a fucking paradox (no it’s not). Frak has one of the worst voices for rapping I’ve ever heard, but his lyrics are consistently inspired and his flow is as joyful as those of the best rappers (remarkably, his voice is extremely easy to get used to). The whole album sounds like two guys fucking around, but Nicky C’s beats are so well-crafted and well-arranged that there is no way this thing couldn’t be serious. And, of course, the duo is unapologetic about being white and middle-class and going to a private school in San Francisco. What I know for sure is that it’s a supremely well-made album, balancing introspective and personal raps with third-person storytelling and a fair share of clever boasts (my favorite is “I got genius bars like an Apple store”). It also dodges stigmas around well-off white rappers without sounding racist or understating that particular elephant in the room, as demonstrated on “White.” Why should Frak rap? Quoth he: “I love words, I love music, so why the hell can’t I combine ‘em?” The answer is, of course, that he can--and by all means should continue to do so.