No Knife
Riot for Romance!
(Better Looking)
These days, guitar-wielding boys lamping on emotive lyrics and major hooks tread dangerous territory. One day, you're guitar-wielding and rocking some kids at a club; the next, you're featured in a major magazine article that focuses solely on your fashion choices. So what's a hooky, guitar-wielding quartet of boys from San Diego to do? In the case of No Knife, you just get creative, smart, and rock the shit out of your hooks with awesome vocals and saucy timings. On Riot for Romance!, right when they're blowing the lids of their amps with coolly complex riffs, genuinely poetic lyrics, and powerful drumming, they invite you in for a slow, swoon-worthy jaunt into romantic harmonies. Especially exciting is the unjaded energy they infuse into their poppy post-punkiness; as the title cut exclaims: "Fuck you and your slow death scene/ we want a riot for romance!" JULIANNE SHEPHERD

No Good
Game Day, PBB

Often times, I find myself arguing that 95.5 is a great radio station. When Pablo Petey's song, "Take your shirt off, twist it round your head, spin it like a helicopter," came out, I manically changed channels in search of it. So I appreciate No Good's kind of music. Emcees Mr. Fatal and T-Nasty (of Two Live Crew) both have sexy low voices and good pace, and the songs have entertaining samples--but overall, they don't do it for me. The music needs more bass--the mix is way too dainty. They also rip off all kinds of mainstream rap and hiphop artists, most obviously Outkast, but are far inferior. Plus, if you're going to do the whole gangster rap thing, you need to take a lesson from Tupac and put some anger and energy behind it. I'd feel embarrassed for any cheesedick who rolled up to the gas station with No Good's music on the stereo. KATIE SHIMER

s7v7n Days
(Momentum Studios/BSI)

s7v7n Days was conceived and recorded in seven days, by MCs Sleep, Onry Ozzborn, and production partner Smoke--members of hiphop collective Oldominion. Like Onry Ozzborn's successful album Alone, s7v7n Days' content is a dark and serious mix of fantasy and reality. The MCs reminisce on their early days as "children of the desert" in Farmington, New Mexico. The lyrical content about witches, Lucifer, and other fantastical subjects (Bilbo Baggins gets name-dropped three times) can feel like a cheesy D&D fest--but it's fun if you open up to it. And, when talking reality, they drop some great lyrics--it just takes a while to absorb their fast flows. The beats are simple, standard fare, but plenty funky. Some samples are recognizable, but well chosen, and the salsa loop, mafia strings, and acoustic guitars all make for nice beats. AARON MILES