(Expanding Brooklyn/Hush)

When I saw Reclinerland for the first time, he was opening for Kristin Hersh, and my friend and I thought it would be funny to sit close to the front and make fun of his lyrics without clapping. Particularly comical was the line, "And the days will be longer than the stains on my duvet." But by the end, we were feeling both guilty and a little star-struck, because the guy--yes, it's just one guy--is so fucking sweet and earnest and self-deprecating that we couldn't help but be charmed. The CD preserves this honesty in some very melodic, lullaby-like songs that aren't too whiny-boy indie, and also explode occasionally into quick-riffed, speedier versions of the same feathery beats and sugar-infused lyrics. So, um, to Reclinerland: I'm sorry I laughed at you. But you have to admit, it was really funny when Kristin Hersh messed up your name and called you Sofaland. KATIA DUNN

Craft Classic

(Stray Records)
*** 1./2

Azeem's voice is smooth and smart, a staccato tenor that enunciates sharp over a perfect balance of beats and melody, but his style's not particularly exceptional. Instead, his strength lies in his fixating ability to illustrate a good story. Azeem is powerful and serious most of the time, rapping about all the topics (being low-income/unemployed, dumb gangsta rappers, mal-intentioned government, even being in love) with beautiful gravity and honesty. On some tracks, he's a man of my own heart, with a hilarious, cynical humor. On "No Lexus," Azeem mocks a hypothetical MTV rapper (Puffy?) with a chorus of, "You ain't got no Lexus / You can't afford it/ Cause you aren't wealthy/ You alcoholic." Ha! I don't have enough space to do justice to Azeem's lyrics and ability to combine images and adept wit. Just get his record, and see how wise he is. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

The Invisible Band


What prompted The Invisible Band? A desire to show late-coming fakers like Coldplay how it's really done? Fame's glare popping up around the band like a fortress? For Travis has made one of those records that is so self-contained, so in and of itself, that there is no context beyond it. For their third effort, the Scottish quartet have gone all mellow--even more so than before--dancing around the spots where normally their fans would have predicted the big, sing along chorus, instead teasing out melodies that make my heart swell and my throat sing. You stuttering art kids can have your Kid Again. Be oblique! But your Radiohead can never disappear completely and not be found, whereas The Invisible Band is the sound of Travis stepping behind the music and letting the music be all that can be seen (heard). JAMIE S. RICH