The Busy Signals

Pretend Hits

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Busy Signals is Howard W. Hamilton III, whose quirky and delicious first album, Baby's First Beats, was released in 2000. Hamilton says he wants this one to sound like the mix tapes people make for their objects of romantic interest, or a "party record for people who never go to parties." Fair enough. Hamilton hails from Minnesota, a famously cold place, which may account for the embracing warmth of his songs. No jagged edges, no forbidding noises, just lots of gently funky, beat-driven melodic pop. "The Freeway" opens with what sounds like a tribute to old-school hip-hop (complete with boxy beats and rudimentary scratching) then veers off into modified reggae; "She's Got Soul" is pure hippy-dippy love funk; "Fresh Like Clear Gel" is minimalist hip-hop featuring the fine young rapper Phonte. Hamilton's voice is nothing to write home about, but that ends up working well for him -- it adds to the sweet, homey atmosphere. Recommended.

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