Eliot Lipp

Eliot Lipp's sophomore album, Tacoma Mockingbird, is meant to be a tribute to the young producer's hometown of Tacoma, Washington, but the album seems more in love with sound than anything else. With the zeal of Roger Troutman or James "D-Train" Williams, Lipp piles on thick, retro-futuristic keyboards that exude warmth and often seem happy to be of service (the synth on opener "Glasspipe" squeals with delight). But electroboogie is only one of Lipp's touchstones — the instrumental Mockingbird is a blur of influences destined to live on the tips of listeners' tongues. It vibrates like Italo, wails like psychedelia, and oozes like R&B, all over a set of common hip-hop breaks that are sometimes sped up and always recognizable. Occasionally his keyboards sound a little too preset, as on "Brand New" and "Times Four" (what is that, accordion? And, more important, why?). But it's difficult to knock the craftsmanship, which Lipp offers in spades (the main melody line of "Rhyme War" is stitched together from no less than four entirely different interlocking keyboard sounds). More often than not, Mockingbird sits in a strange place: It's dance-oriented but not exactly danceable. It's hip-hop but far too busy to house an MC. It exists in limbo, but it feels heavenly.

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Rich Juzwiak