Jamie T.

Kings & Queens

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After just one album, it may have been difficult to peg Jamie T. as either a Streets imitator or an original on his own. His debut, Panic Prevention, included flashes of brilliance, but the yowling delivery and willfully obtuse lyrics could've easily been a pose. Album number two comes with some high expectations -- Panic Prevention was Mercury-nominated, after all -- and it mostly confirms that Jamie Treays has a music career in front of him if he wants it. Fortunately, he hasn't matured out of his core strengths: his vitality, his expressiveness, and his knack for twisting the vagaries of everyday life for urban youth into material for songs. (If any of these qualities make listeners think of heartily English roustabouts like Joe Strummer or Billy Bragg, they're well on their way.) "The Man's Machine" marvels at our ability to make lives around the sterile elements of city life ("Stone, glass, concrete and gravel/All we got to keep us together"), while a pair of acoustic ballads ("Emily's Heart" and "Jilly Armeen") are the most affecting songs of his young career.

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