The Handler
(Record Collection)

Folks like to call Har Mar Superstar out for being arrogant. Sure, he boasts and brags, but arrogance is hubris sans the ability to back it up with capability--and the Mar can most def back it up. Har Mar is gifted, Fame-style--he can sing and electric-slide and joke your emo mug out the door. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Starsky and Hutch wrap party--the joke schtick dried up. His last record was less parody New Jack Swing faux-ghettofab and more a semi-serious stab at legit R&B--with a little second-guessing to soften the blow. The Handler--besides having a healthy sense of humor--is almost dead serious. It's Curtis Mayfield's heart throbbing in a still-black, still-inspired Michael Jackson's chest. He'll be the new Stevie Wonder by the time his next record drops. ADAM GNADE

A Strangely Isolated Place

Shoegazer rock is a paradox: It's introverted music made by shy folk, which evokes vast expanses of space. Lately, several IDM producers have put their own spins on the form. Berlin's Ulrich Schnauss stands at the forefront of this movement. His 2001 debut album, Far Away Trains Passing By, is full of euphonious shoegazer anthems with prominent breakbeats. Schnauss' soaring keyboard and processed guitar tap into the ultra-sensitive mind states of reflective mopers everywhere, forming fluffy clouds of sound on which they can float in bliss. A Strangely Isolated Place embraces this aesthetic with even more gusto. Schnauss submerges his beats deeper into his diaphanous billows of guitar and synth a la Slowdive. Only one song deviates from this template, and it's the disc's best: "On My Own," a gaseously joyous rush of dream pop in the vein of early Stereolab, but with fuzzier, twangier guitars. Unfortunately, too much of Place verges perilously close to the kind of sugary tweeness that marred Mum's latest album. It wouldn't hurt to find beats besides "Funky Drummer." DAVE SEGAL

Don't Bite Your Sister
(Tiny Sensational)

I'm staying in a house occupied by four women, and tonight my copy of Scream Club's record disappeared. They all front innocence--yeah right--but I can't blame their thievin' hearts. Don't Bite takes the catchiest nooks of rap and electro, and blenders 'em into a queerer David Bowie laying hiphop tracks with Swizz Beats. It's political plus party, which means important plus fun. Olympia, WA MCs Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable touch down quick on each track, sizzling with feminist/lesbian agenda, before lifting off and dropping the next one. None of 'em sound like they took more than three minutes to make, and some might be improv. Best song, "And You Belong," is about getting finger fucked under dinner tables and true-love monogamy. It's Peaches plus 50 IQ points and 10 tons more humanity and soul. AG

**** Table Tennis
*** Trampoline
** Modern Pentathlon
* Rhythmic Gymnastics