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April 20, 2005 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-20

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Wednesday
April 20, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily.com

ARTS

11

. . ...........

Jones spreads Houston's sound
By Evan McGarvey
Daily Music Editor

When the camera isn't focused on the two stars of the
2001 music video for Ludacris and Jer-
maine Dupri's "Welcome 2 Atlanta,"
you can make out clusters of people Mike Jones
lurking in the background. Look hard. Who is Mike
Even among the video's massive club Jones?
and street-side scenes you can pick Swishahouse/
out a then-unknown T.I., Ying Yang Asylum/Warner Bros.
Twins, Jazzie Pha and a pre-crunk Lil'
Jon. It's a wonderful moment to look
back on simply because we know how much the modern
hip-hop scene is saturated with Atlanta talent. Mike Jones
may ultimately do for Houston what that epochal video did
for Atlanta: take a local scene and thrust it into national
prominence.
Should all go according to plan, Mike Jones's debut
album, Who Is Mike Jones?, may be the first notable
emissary from Houston's legendary "Screwed N'
Chopped" scene.
With the tempo ratcheted down to a snail's pace, slug-
gish sampling and best enjoyed while drunk off cough
syrup, Mike Jones, a Houston rap stud from the famed
Swishahouse label, is an ambassador from a nation of rap
music unlike anything you've ever heard.
And when Who Is Mike Jones? sticks to its guns, it's a
sloppy, hazy and mesmerizing listen.
The lead single, "Still Tippin'," is five minutes of bleary-
eyed greatness where Mike Jones repeats the same lines,
Slim Thug and Paul Wall (two other Swishahouse studs)
give admirable guest verses and the bass drum kicks at the
rate of a slow moving glacier. Casual pop fans keep expect-
ing an obnoxious helium-like vocal track to rise from the
background or some ubiquitous fly girl to begin chanting
an asinine hook. But, in what must be a first, none of the
above happens. The song concedes to no lame pop conven-
tions. "Still Tippin' " is the most unique, uncompromising
song of the year and reason enough to own the album.
The plodding, screwy melodies of "What Ya Know

About," "Back Then" and "Screw Dat" take the foreground
of the album. Jones touches the usual themes with a fop-
pish-dandy, singularly Texas confidence that puts a nice
twist in places where someone like Fat Joe might sound
uninspired or lazy. He often giddily recites a line four or
five times in the same song, and is certainly a stylish, if
not lyrically commanding, rapper. But that's not really the
allure of his album.
Jones is personable enough, but it's the beats that stick
around. When they leave their natural element and try to
sound like everything else in the Top 40, like on "Flos-
sin' " and "Laws Patrolling," they lose their charm. When
executive producer DJ Michael Watts is left to his own
devices, the keyboard alchemy he makes sinks in like that
famed Houston syrup.
It's no secret that Mike Jones isn't the best MC from
Swishahouse. But he's a hungry underdog, and he's smart
enough to let the melodies of his album work for him.
While there's never any clear answer to the titular ques-
tion, maybe it's for the best. Mike Jones has opened the
door for Houston; let's see who walks through it next.

Curtesy of Fox Searchlight

"Who Mike Jones?"

LIKE A FINE WINE
'SIDEWAYS' MAINTAINS THE MAGIC ON DVD

By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor

'O.C. Mix 4' evokes sun and surf

By Abby Frackman
Daily Arts Writer

Sun, sand, surf, shirtless Benjamin
McKenzie ... What more could you ask

for? Fox's "The O.C.,"
now in its second sea-
son, revolves around
four super-rich high
schoolers dealing with
everyday life in beau-
tiful Orange County,

The 0.C.
Mix 4
Warner Bros.

Calif. How about a hit soundtrack burst-
ing with songs ideal for days spent lament-
ing over what outfit to wear? No problem.
The O.C. Mix 4 succeeds in producing a
stellar collection of tracks, but still falls
a step below its predecessors. The mix
opens with the heavy British accents of
The Fitureheads on "Decent Days and
Nights." Laden with infectious guitar riffs
and non stop, snapping drums, this track
is sure to have listeners tapping their feet
in no time.
The rest of the album is devoted to
softer, more contained songs. Sufjan Ste-
vens lends his Elliott Smith-esque vocals
to "To Be Alone With You." Indie rock-
DAILY ARTS.
WE LIKE GIRLS
WHO WEAR
ABERCROMBIE
t FITCH.
WRITE FOR
SUMMER
ARTs. E-MAIL
SsUMERaAuEsZK5.
ยง 'UJM ICH.ED U.

ers Modest Mouse also make an appear-
ance with "The View," a cut from their
2004 release Good Newsfor People Who
Love Bad News. This song rocks in usual
Mouse fashion, complete with pulsing
drums and sizzling guitars. Also present
is "Scarecrow," a track from Beck's lat-
est release, Guero. While the lyrics are
difficult to decipher, Beck's innovative
recording style still succeeds in grabbing
listeners' attention.
For a change of pace from previous
mixtapes, The O.C. Mix 4 features more
than a handful of tunes from female
vocalists. Singer-songwriter Imogen Heap
dazzles listeners with "Goodnight and
Go." While her smooth, soaring vocals
sound uncannily like Sarah McLachlan's,
her keyboard skills are a welcome change
from the glut of guitar-wielding rocker
chicks.
However, like every episode of "The
O.C.," this mix is not without its low
points. Every time Marissa gets caught
drinking, or Ryan gets in a fight, these are
the songs that should be playing - if only
because they're as unpleasant as the char-
acters' situations. San Diego quartet Pin-
back opens "Fortress" with a catchy guitar
hook, but the song quickly loses its appeal

Director Alexander Payne revels in the minutiae of life.
It's the little nuances and foibles of his
characters that give his work a unique Sideways
feel. From the biting satire of "Election"
to the moving character-piece "About Fox Searchlight
Schmidt," Payne fills his films with
people who rise above their mundane
existences. With "Sideways," Payne perfected his craft.
"Sideways" moves Payne out of middle America and into
sunny California. Dour writer Miles (the always outstanding
Paul Giamatti) and overgrown child Jack (the surprisingly
excellent Thomas Haden Church of "Wings" fame) take a
trip through wine country right before Jack's wedding. Miles
thinks that they're headed out for a nice, relaxing vacation, but
Jack has other intentions - to get laid one last time. They ulti-
mately meet two women, Maya (Virginia Madsen, "Candy-
man") and Stephanie (Sandra Oh, TV's "Grey's Anatomy"),
who become the objects of their affections.
The lies build up and hilarity ensues, but not without
Payne pulling at his audience's heartstrings. Though Jack's
feelings toward Stephanie are constantly in question, Miles
falls hard for Maya. Yet, the film never settles for being
pigeonholed into either comedy or drama; instead it com-
bines both with ease.
What could have been just another buddy movie becomes
so much more. It's about life, love and overcoming fears.
The characters develop with such radiance, which is all too

because of obnoxious drone. Additionally,
indie rocker Aqueduct stuns listeners with
his shockingly hostile lyrics: "Don't ever
ask me where I go / Last man who asked
me had to go ... If you start asking / I'll
pull this heat I'm packing."
The O.C. Mix 4 redeems itself with the
last track, matt pond PA's cover of Oasis's
"Champagne Supernova." When he sings,
"Where were you while we were getting
high?" the listener can't help but wonder if
Sandy Cohen gets high to this song while
Kirsten is out of the house. And the tone
of that track serves as a fitting end to a
show with such excess-prone characters
as "The O.C."

uncommon in most films. "Sideways" uses wine as a meta-
phor for this growth, which could have come across as rather
hokey, but instead speaks volumes for the abilities of the cast
and crew. Few films in 2004 had better acting, tighter direct-
ing or wittier writing.
The cinematography and direction are beautiful, and the
DVD replicates the images with great precision. The sound
is just as strong, recreating the theatrical experience. Unfor-
tunately, that's where most of the DVD's strengths end. The
commentary track, featuring the normally entertaining Gia-
matti and Church, is mostly boring and uneventful. Though
it is a character piece at its core, Payne can be felt all over
the film, and his absence on the track is unforgivable. The
brief making-of featurette gives viewers almost no new
information and instead serves as a sort of infomercial for
a product that they have already purchased. However, the
DVD handles its deleted scenes well - only offering ones
that were cut at the 11th hour. Each scene is accompanied by
written descriptions of the scene in question, why Payne cut
it and where it fits into the film. This technique should be
used more frequently as it really helps viewers understand
film editing.
How Oscar mostly ignored such a memorable and heart-
felt film is unconscionable; "Sideways" won Best Adapted
Screenplay, but struck out in the rest of the major races. Still, it
rejuvenated two careers (Church and Madsen), showcased one
of the best actors today (Giamatti) and showed the growth of
its director (Payne) into a true Hollywood force.

Film: *****
Picture/Sound: ****
Features: **

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