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by Ted S. McGregor Jr. and Andrew Matson & r & & r & ZERO 7 & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & The Garden & lt;/a & 4 STARS & r & After working with bands like Radiohead, Pet Shop Boys and Lenny Kravitz, British producers Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker have been recording as Zero 7 since 1999. They made a splash with "In the Waiting Line," a hypnotic tune that landed on the Garden State soundtrack and has been featured on HBO. On The Garden, they're back with more moody, mellow compositions, but there are some upbeat -- even quite poppy -- tracks, too.

These guys are eclectic throwbacks, using muffled horns, feedback and the occasional tweak-out synthesizer lines. This stuff is very cool on headphones -- kind of like the Alan Parsons Project meets Moby with a dash of mid-'70s Chicago.

On this record, vocals are handled by Jose Gonzalez (apparently he's huge in Sweden) and Sia Furler; both are great -- and totally different. The songs have meaning, too, exploring themes like existentialism ("Today"), spiritual seeking ("Futures") and anti-consumerism ("Throw It All Away"). Not every song works, but overall, The Garden is a great record.

-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.. & r & Check out: "Throw It All Away"

7L & amp; ESOTERIC & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & A New Dope & lt;/a & 3.5 STARS & r & Behind only Gangstarr and Ed O.G., 7LES lay claim to Boston's hip-hop throne. Let it be known that the previously-recorded tide-over compilations (Moment of Rarities and Too Much Posse) released in '05 and '06 were fake-out fastballs next to this disc: A New Dope is a Randy Johnson slider when everyone was looking for the heat.

Not to say this album isn't hot. Or fast. In fact, all the 110 bpm tracks make this one of the fastest rap albums since Kool G. Rap's "Wanted: Dead or Alive." 7L brings the expected outer-space feel, but he's never been this bugged, this unafraid to make beats that more than a few "purists" will decry as "not hip-hop." Esoteric rides even the near-Dizzee Rascal beats with a new stream-of-consciousness flow that jives with his usual punch line savagery ("You hate gays and rappers that act fruity / but so did that Marine in American Beauty"). It's to be praised that these two feel the need to breathe, critics be damned. It's not perfect, but it's worth the chance taken. -- Andrew Matson & r & Check out: "Daisycutta"
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