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NORTHERN STATE All City ***


At their best, white-girl hip-hop trio Northern State sound like the Beastie Boys; most often, they sound like the Spice Girls. To be fair, they’d probably dig Sporty Spice the most, mixing tomboy-tough fashion sense with plenty of swearing, party lyrics and confident, raucous emceeing. But it’s extremely rare to see any women involved in hip-hop except for high-gloss major-label sex bunnies who need assistance tying their shoes. It’s refreshing to hear Northern State trying their hand at a male-dominated musical arena, even if their lyrics are Nickelodeon-level at times. (Columbia)


BEN FOLDS Super D ***


Super D joins Speed Graphic and Sunny 16 as the last of the Ben Folds EP trilogy, and features a fantastic cover of The Darkness’ “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and a cover of an early Ray Charles song, “Them That Got.” The other three songs, Ben Folds originals, are a cross between The Shins, the Hawaii Five-O theme song, the score from the U.K. play Snoopy and a massive bag of Pop Rocks. (AttackedByPlastic.com)


213 The Hard Way **


Not one song on 213’s (Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg) debut album stands out except for the super-hot radio single, “So Fly.” The rest is 18 tracks of atrophied beats, slapped-together samples, yawn-inducing lyrics about all the usual (clubbin’, drinkin’, bumpin’, grindin’, mink vests, etc.) and emceeing that sounds like it was filtered through a keg of Nyquil. Not even Snoop’s unquestionable Cool Power has made a rousing difference. (TVT)


MARC BROUSSAND Carencro **


It’s easy to see how Marc Broussand’s polished ‘n’ buffed gospel/rock/blues conglomerate was perfect for playing huge grassy arenas in the company of Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Blind Boys of Alabama and Bob Dylan last year. It’s also perfect for the soundtrack to some run-of-the-mill romantic comedy featuring Kate Hudson. It’s devoid of the grime that characterized original gospel and blues before they became categories on BMG customer survey cards. (Island)


EMBER SWIFT Disarming **


It’s hard to avoid imitating a musical mentor in every particular and to keep from buying their dentures and toenail clippings and eighth-grade textbooks off eBay so you can bronze them. Canadian Ember’s mentor is obviously Ani DiFranco, from her lesbo-a-go-go acousti-rock to her environmental tirades and harmony-heavy vocals full of quaint introspection, love and how The Price is Right is sucking the soul out of America. Good stuff, but shamefully copycatted. (EmberSwift.com)

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