Shawn Lee

Monkey Boy

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The cover art, an agitating hodgepodge of crudely drawn musical instruments, is a perfect approximation of Lee's style, which blends organic blues, jazz, rock, and soul with synthesized loops and scratches to create music that challenges the notions of contemporary pop wizardry. Although others have tread similar ground, Lee's music, like Beck's, relies less on samples than original music incorporating a multitude of influences, and the album's strength lies in the excellent first half, especially "Hangin' By a Thread" and "Happiness," which features swooping strings over a bossa nova beat. The beautiful "How Strong Is Your Soul" proves Lee to be an uncommonly soulful vocalist, but the record loses steam midway through, as his intense fusions begin to tax the ear too heavily. What seems initially like confusion, though, begins to reveal itself as something deeper, and one is won over by Lee's willingness to build a hut where most people wouldn't dream of squatting.

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