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Height with Friends -- 'Rock and Roll' (Friends)
LISTEN: Height with Friends, 'Rock and Roll'
RATING: ** (out of 4 stars)
In the past few years, Height, aka Dan Keech, has become the biggest white rapper in Baltimore -- musically and physically (he's a pretty large guy, hence the name). His plodding, deliberate cadence begs a closer listen. You might call him the anti-Busta Rhymes.
Height is the centerpiece of Height With Friends, a group that combines the sharp guitar hooks of rock 'n' roll with rap's heavy beats. The production on their new album, "Rock and Roll," released last month on the Baltimore label Friends Records, is remarkably crisp. Many arrangements recall '60s pop and R&B/soul; the track "Hard Work" has backup singers gingerly cooing "Ahh-oop."
Two of the album's nine tracks rise above the rest. On the opener, "I Can't Stand to be Refused," Height raps, "You gotta move so fast/ to lose/ these salesman blues" along over pounding drums. It's a banger. The other standout is Height With Friends' cover of fellow Baltimore musician Ed Schrader's song "I Can't Stop Eating Sugar." Height's voice throws sinister shade on Schrader's lyrics: "I see what it does/ I feel what it does."
While Height has his moments, he can, at times, struggle as a lyricist. "Dead Motor," about being stranded after a car accident, has an interesting concept but lacks urgency. Still, "Rock and Roll" should put Height With Friends on many indie music fans' radar. He'll soon be touring with experimental Baltimore musician Dan Deacon -- another huge boost. Height With Friends is flirting with the indie mainstream, and "Rock and Roll" is a step in the right direction. --Sam Sessa
October 1, 2012