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ANI DIFRANCO Educated Guess ****


Never a big Ani fan (go ahead and egg my house), I nevertheless can’t help but be blown to smithereens by Educated Guess. Intimate, stripped down and taking all kinds of risks musically, DiFranco twists, torments and cajoles previously unheard-of sounds out of her acoustic ax and voice box (oft with effective falsetto backups), resulting in an album of aching beauty. “Bodily” is particularly good, creating an air of deep, sad intimacy with strings that ring out like steel drums. But must she insist on self-conscious poetry readings? (Righteous Babe)


RADIO BERLIN Glass ****


Radio Berlin’s brainy, artsy post-new-wave punk for British boarding-school types, dimly echoing The Clash and Boy-era U2, might be by smart people for smart people, but self-confidence isn’t bad if you really are all that. Radio Berlin are most ideally experienced in a club in downtown Amsterdam, slow strobe lights reducing everything to black and white, girls and boys in tight leather pants numbly flailing their troubles away. (Action Driver)


DUB PISTOLS Six Million Ways to Live ****


Starting out an album with straight reggae might not have been the most accessible route, but at the real starting point of Dub Pistols’ latest—the title track—you’ll thank yourself for being patient. Open flow with plenty o’ soul, heavy, infectious beats and eclectic sonics like staccato-tongued flute in “Riptides” (“We pull you in like riptides”) and alto bells in “Soul Shaking” pop like a more danceable Jurassic 5. (Distinctive)


ROBERT BRADLEY Still Lovin’ You ***


“I tell a lotta people that my songs are good for a ride in the car. Someplace where you have a chance to reflect,” says Robert Bradley of his smooth, laidback, rock-based blues. It’s also good for a church dance, VH1 Storytellers session, or background music at Smith’s, but don’t let that deter you. Bradley means what he sings, and nowhere is that more evident than in “Anna,” a stirring song about his daughter. (Vanguard)


FINGERTIGHT In the Name of Progress **.5


Fingertight proves that being a straight-to-radio band is usually, but not always, a bad thing. They’re the big-label answer to an underground phenomenon: math rock. Mind you, the calculus has been extracted and replaced with eighth-grade algebra, but sometimes it’s good to brush up on the basics. Their “hit single,” “Guilt (Hold Down),” is one of the better tracks. So are “Resurface” and “Magical,” but do skip “Surface.” (Columbia)

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Rebecca Vernon

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