The Baldwin Brothers

The Return of the Golden Rhodes

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The Baldwin Brothers call their sound "junktronic" and on The Return of the Golden Rhodes they throw just about every style of dancefloor-friendly junk possible into their mix: house, hip-hop, acid jazz, squelchy big beat, soul-jazz, and '70s soundtrack funk are just a few of the styles to be found jostling for breathing room. Add to this mash-up of styles some turntable gymnastics, a load of wacky samples, and an impressive guest list that includes Lisa Kekaula of Basement Jaxx, the Train from Lo Fidelity Allstars, sassy rapper Sarai, and gloomy crooner Mark Lanegan, and you have much the same formula they used on their first album to the same mixed results. As on "Cooking with Lasers," the standout tracks are the vocal features: Sarai's rap on "A Matter of Time" is hilarious and the tune is a frothy concoction worthy of Deee-Lite's first record; Lisa Kekaula emotes reasonably on the lovely melancholy groover "Leave the Past Behind"; and the Train and Lanegan both drop some very manly and heavy vocals into their features, giving the record a depth their previous album, Cooking with Lasers, lacked. Only Julio Davi's rap on "When My Brother Had a Datsun" falls flat. The rest of the tracks are passable instrumental trifles, lacking in bite and soul but not altogether unpleasant. The group seems content to meander jazzily when there is no singer or song to bolster, treading far too close to smooth jazz on "Go from There" and "Gravity Fone." You may find yourself zoning out during these tracks, waiting for the next vocal, and that's not a good sign. The Return of the Golden Rhodes is far too uneven to be successful, but the high points give fans of electronic pop with vocals a reason to tune in.

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