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Ladytron, "604"

While browsing the website of a local record store, I happened to come across a soundfile clip of Ladytron's song "Discotraxx." This 90 second fragment was so impressive that I didn't hesitate to run out and pick up the Liverpool quartet's debut full-length, '604'. Slick, sexy, and well-produced tracks chock-full of synths and drum machines dominate the album, replete with absurdly contagious hooks. '604' opens with the erotic dissonance of sleazy instrumental "Mu-tron" and subsequently provides club anthems for the ebony-haired, black-clad sombre youths straight out of the Saturday Night Live skit "Sprockets." The vocals lend a dark side to the unadulterated electronic bliss: the icy, detatched lyrics, Ladytron's tongue-in-cheek salute to 80s materialism, are sung by the two female members of the group; one with a sugary-sweet voice which serves as an excellent contrast to the lyrics, and the other with a heavy Bulgarian accent contributing to the album's pervasive mock-Eurotrash aesthetic. '604' runs the gamut from Morodor-esque disco in tracks such as the brilliant "Playgirl" to the stripped-down pop sensibilities of Kraftwerk (Ladytron's "He Took Her To a Movie" bears a suspicious resemblance to "The Model"), yet manages add more unusual elements like bongos and a squeaky violin sporadically on various tracks. Despite all its marvelous melodies and decadent basslines, the one small disappointment of '604' is its anti-climactic finish: the two weakest and least interesting tracks on the album are the ones to close it out. Nevertheless, after it's all said and done, Ladytron does not fail to deliver a quite delicious release that hasn't left my CD player since I bought it.


7165 Hits

2nd Gen, "Irony Is"

The irony is that Panacea has already done releases as Disorder 2nd Gen!

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4958 Hits

IBM, "The Oval Recording"

Bruce Gilbert met up with Ilpo Väisänen and Mika Vainio of Pan Sonic during the Disobey nights where they performed individually. Since then, they've both played out together live and processed analog emanations for a John Peel session. Although the title is an acronym for their three foremnames, it is also obviously a continuation of their interest in the intersection of art and law.
Bruce seems to steer Pan Sonic away from cleaner tones and into the rougher more distorted textures they tend to save for climactic moments. IBM falls somewhere between the title track of Gilbert's phenomenal 'Ab Ovo' & the onslaught of nis noise opus 'In Esse' in terms of (un)easy listening, but maintains more of a semblance of continuous rhythmic structure. It makes the excellent new Pan Sonic CD 'Aaltopiiri' seem somewhat genteel in comparison. If fellow Wire and Dome man Graham Lewis' Ocsid project sometimes summons the sound of rampaging elephants then this is a mammoth stomp to the end of the tusk jousts. They are not just fiddling about, that's for sure! This will not go down well with the pop tone zone, but is probably easier to chew than the forty minute 'Soli' from 'In Esse'. It could be useful to compare it to the live Pan Sonic / Gilbert tracks on the 'Rude Mechanic' CD (Piano) - good as those tracks were, IBM is more focused and effective.
The 7" has two faster beatier tracks whilst the LP has three extended noise workouts which are really too dense to be described as drones. Parts sound like Pan sonic munched by grunge pedals. That Gilbert electric saw sound which seems like the death cry of CD's mangled by endless layers of distortion is alive and kicking and kicking and kicking. Who needs titles anyway?
The collaboration was recorded in 1998 at Vainio's London flat overlooking the Oval cricket ground. (Presumably the thwack of rubber on wood was heard between takes, but you'd never guess.) Perhaps due to Pan Sonic's opinion that "Too much digital processing 'eats' the sound" this release appears only as a pair of lavishly packaged 12" and 7" vinyl records on the ever eccentric and essential Mego label. Words of warning - if you get it by post be careful which way you open the sleeve (it has a kind of reversible gatefold design) as the 7" might fall out on the floor like mine did! No audible damage done - its so noisy you'd probably never notice anyway!


6678 Hits

Tortoise, "Standards"

Nearly everybody reading this weekly electronic magazine has heard Tortoise by now and has already made up their mind one way or another on Tortoise's music. It's almost pointless to review the disc here as fans will most likely buy it and non-fans will most likely pass. If there was one rule to always believe in when it came to Tortoise's music is that the rules change every time. This time around the group pulled almost a complete 180° from 1998's TNT. While TNT took several months to record and loads of post-production perfectioning time, Standards was perfected live on the road (while the band opened for The Eternals as 'Woodcult') and recorded within a couple weeks. TNT was a cold-calculated exercise in recording technology while Standards is the result of a true rock band in action, bringing many influences and backgrounds to the easel and almost spitting them up on to the canvas without lengthy hesitation. The album explodes at the start with much louder than expected teeth-gnashing rock riffs, beefy drums, chunky bass and a nasty organ. Thus the concept is established - a simple rock concept of ten songs, five to each side of the record, almost the anti-concept of 'Millions' and even 'TNT' to some extent. The rest of the songs bounce around from slow to mid-tempo numbers balancing a somewhat familiar mix, as the group hasn't really changed. It's still the same people - the same paintbrushes are being used but the painting is of a rather new style. Familiar sounds include the counterpoint between low guitar and vibes, grumbling basslines, colorful percussion and a perfect amount of electronic manipulation. Perhaps this is the album which will unite fans of the old debut with the fans of TNT. Look out for the proverbial overpriced Japanese edition. This one's got 2 bonus tracks which total about 11 minutes.




4748 Hits

The New Year, "Newness Ends"

After much anticipation, the first release from the group formed from the ashes of Bedhead has finally materialized. While it quite clearly sounds like the Kadane brothers playing together, this indeed is a new group that almost follows a sort of progression built from the last full-length Bedhead album, 1998's 'Transaction De Novo'. The songwriting core of the Kadane brothers have become more experimental in both time and key signature, whilst surprisingly at the same time being more direct. Unlike the frequent Bedhead appearance of lengthy intros, the New Year takes little to no time getting right to the point, resulting in an album of ten solid songs totalling under 35 minutes. This is a great example on how important the mixture of musicians can change a sound despite the writing core remaining the same. Included in the group is former Come, Codeine and cuurent Pullman guitarist Chris Brokaw on the drums, who does a remarkably impressive job keeping up with weird time signatures and subtle changes which take place on the entire record. It starts off with a kick and ends with a bang as well, the quiet moments are kept in the middle — almost the exact opposite of Transaction. I must admit that at first listen I was rather caught off-guard as it wasn't that next Bedhead record I had been so longing for, but it changed for me. What began as catchy tunes became songs stuck in my head all day long, shortly after that I found myself singing along. Can't wait to finally see the show.


4626 Hits

Papa M, "Sings"

David Pajo is quite arguably the indie scene's most versatile musician and artist. His guitar work has been integral parts of Slint and Tortoise while guest appearance and accessory roles have been filled for Matmos, Stereolab, Royal Trux and Will Oldham's Palace. Those close to him can also attest to his brilliance as a visual artist as well, but we will just have to take their words for now. 'Papa M Sings' is quite an unexpected trip, but not completely foreign given his geographic location on the planet. David Pajo exercises his vocal chords for every song on this 20-minute six-tracker. For the first time I think I can actually hear the Kentuckian guy behind his music, as the style is heavily soaked in a midwestern country influence. Absent are the looping melodies, electronic processing, lengthy delays and electronic percussion. It's all been replaced by Dave's acoustic guitar, slide guitar, bass, drums and banjo. Vocally, he's got a heartfelt delivery of somewhat comical lyrics, dropping references to his record label and Bob Dylan in "Pissing in the Wind," and longing for his home, (probably written on one of his many trips through the UK) in "London Homesick Blues." The disc is amusing and should appeal to most Will Oldham and Molasses fans, but I doubt many Europeans would quite fully 'get it' having not grown up over here.


5800 Hits

Pan Sonic, "Live 1995"

Here's another seemingly pointless review as the Pan Sonic fans will have already ordered this so as not to have missed out on the limited run while the others would have passed.

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4862 Hits

Mount Florida, "Arrived Phoenix

So I've been staring at this disc for months despite its release being in late January. This Glaswegian duo has released three EPs over the past year, none of which I have mentioned, but I feel the urge to write about this, their debut full-lengther. I'm really enjoying their tackling of various genres and styles of instrumental rock and electronics, their style jumps around from spacey techno dub bits through abrasive rock chords, but it seems rather unfocused, bipolar and somewhat lacking. The group seems to rely on their production almost entirely as they're clearly 'building songs' (as opposed to 'creating artwork' or 'making a statement' or 'sending a message') which need more compelling hooks. They've got a clean sound and execute with a certain degree of professionalism, however it doesn't really have the bite of other genre-crossing instrumentalists like Tortoise nor the emotion of groups like Fridge or Mogwai. Not that the music sounds like any of those, but for an instrumental record within a generally accepted definition of electronic/rock, it comes up rather bland. Worth mentioning is the fact that I have found good uses for this on the radio and with guests over at the house. Songs like the guitar-punchy "Postal" and the tripped out blissful "Space, echoes" have drummed up some interest from curious listeners but I simply don't get what's so special about it. While this is nothing I would personally recommend dropping everything for and running out to get, Matador does have a track record of releasing music which similarly does not speak loud to me yet reaches many others in its path. Boards of Canada, Console and Wisdom of Harry immediately come to mind — while I generally think of these as fair, average, and vanilla-esque, they seem to have gained a lot of interest with others. Anyhow it's up to you, there should be some sound samples here soon! I really need to sleep now.


4598 Hits

Terry Riley, 'You're No Good"

Terry Riley is one of the founding fathers of '60s 'minimalism' and this is the fifth release in an archive series from the Cortical Foundation. The 2 disc set presents for the first time live improvisations by Riley as 'Poppy Nogood' from an all night long concert at a Philadelphia art school in November of 1967. Disc 2 documents over an hour as Riley plays soprano saxophone through his self-made 'time-lag accumulator'. The short phrases are delayed and fedback, allowed to mingle, layer, drone, build and fade. The result is often beautiful and always relaxing. I wouldn't mind listening to this from 9 pm to dawn, as the audience did, possibly as background aura for much of that time. One of the attendees of the show was an owner of a Philadelphia disco who commissioned Riley to create a 'theme' for the club. Disc 1 is that theme, Riley using the obscure R&B song "You're No Good" as source material. The 20+ minute track begins with a few minutes of Moog synthesizer climax and then one relatively untouched run through of the original tune, which in itself is a funky and catchy dis on an ex-lover with female and male vocals. Riley then applies his tape loop manipulation techniques, first looping the title/final line and then feeding other parts of the song through delays. By the 14th minute Riley introduces some delicious line signal noise and then continues to thoroughly deconstruct the song for much of the remainder of the track, speeding it up beyond recognition by the end. The Cortical Foundation have once again done an excellent job of sound production and packaging (though I'm not quite sure how the atomic bomb explosion photos relate) to archive another worthy piece of Terry Riley's influential work.


5158 Hits

Burnt Friedman, "Plays Love Songs"

After three years of label delays and metamorphosis this album finally sees the light of day on Bernd Friedmann's own Nonplace imprint. "Plays Love Songs" fits comfortably among other recent releases "Con Ritmo", "Just Landed" and Flanger (BF w/Atom Heart) "Midnight Sound". Friedman weaves together performance and numerous samples into latino/jazz tinged electro grooves full of space and warmth. The major difference here is the central themes of love and sex, from the innocence of an eager adolescent to the blatant vulgarity of sex workers, as bits of spoken text and samples pepper the album with 'love' stories. The title of "Fucking Long Time" duly expresses Friedman's frustration with the album's delay. In "It Hurts !" a young man speaks of his beloved job and reluctant girlfriend over gentle rhythms and dramatic chords. "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" rides a handclap and mild dub synth wave into bliss. "I Go With You" is bright and truly swings with some nice female and vocoded Friedman vocals. In "Tongs of Love" a man tells the poetic tale of his unwarranted advances upon a stranger on a boat, accentuated by slow and subtle guitar and the sounds of the sea. Borrowed Lennie Tristano piano passages and a field recording of a building being destroyed comprise much of "Conjoined". "Sex Working Class" is out and out raunchy and funky with sex toy talk, an explosive rhythm and cut-up human-isms. Altogether "Plays Love Songs" goes by rather quickly (about 40 minutes total) and is a bit disjointed, probably due to the changes it underwent for so many years. But, it's also very intriguing nonetheless. I think I prefer "Con Ritmo" though for some reason I've been spinning this one more instead.


4558 Hits

"Lume Lume"

Romanian-born, Julliard-trained composer and violinist Alexander Balanescu assembled an 8 member group to create a 57 hour live soundtrack, with additional live performances, for the Austrian Ars Electronica festival this past September. The event took place for 15 hours a day at the Klangpark, a large public listening space created by 4 loud speaker towers near the Danube in downtown Linz. Each of the 4 days focused on a different song by popular Romanian singer Maria Tanase as inspiration, "Lume Lume" being one of those. The invited musicians: Isabella Bordoni, Rupert Huber, Sergio Messina, Siegfried Ganhör and members of to rococo rot are a diverse group of mostly electronic artists from different musical backgrounds, styles, production methods and generations. The 17 pieces edited for the disc by Balanescu range from 2 to 10 minutes (72 total) and seamlessly flow into one another, most titles referring to the status of the weather (too much rain apparently) and different times of different days. Electronics dominate with fluid environments, deep bass and simple beats (and somewhat surprisingly there's not a glitch to be found) and are further broadened by Bordoni's spoken voice and Balancescu's violin on a handful of tracks. And it's these in particular that are the highlights, where the violin meshes beautifully and effortlessly with the others. I've never been to Austria or experienced such a sound event firsthand but "Lume Lume" does clearly evoke for me the chemistry of the musicians and the place. Much like Brian Eno's "Ambient 4: On Land", this disc puts me right there where the music was conceived. This must have been truly remarkable for those who actually were there .


4298 Hits

Labradford, "fixed::context"

Similar to the Tortoise and New Year albums, the newest Labradford audio document also heads down the path of re-examining older concepts through current methodology. (And like the New Year, this was also recorded with assistance from Steve Albini in July of 2000 in Chicago.) The trio return to a certain purity of earlier albums with the absence of additional players which colored the last few. 'Fixed::Content' could be the most personal recording a group like Labradford can get while remaining completely instrumental. The album is an exercise in patience, symmetry and impressionistically represents the group as the trio they are.

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7331 Hits

Freezepop, "Forever"

This young, well-coiffed fashion savvy Boston trio reminds me why I prefer why Pizzicato Five sings in Japanese, as it's far easier to enjoy superficial lyrics when they're in an incomprehensible language. The music is simple, full of predictable progressions, pre-programmed sounds and beats, with a flat vocal delivery derived from overdosing on Laurie Anderson, Kraftwerk and Liz Phair. Melodies aren't complex and harmony isn't in their vocabulary. Don't be fooled by catch phrases like "80s Retro" or "Electro Lounge" however as the tunes closely resemble those of many a teenager's terrible demos sitting in the trash buckets at Mute Records. "Kinder-pop" might be more appropriate, however, as I've heard of 5 year olds with a better sense of composition. To their credit, there's a lot of local support for the group, and I personally feel they have the potential to become something of note. One song on this disc jumps out, their Japanese-titled song (which appeared on the Arch Enemy 'Know Your Enemy' comp) shines head and shoulders above the rest of the tracks, with an actual effort placed on writing a multi-part song. These trust fund babies obviously have access to the equipment and recording facilities, now it's time to work on those writing skills, fellas.


4623 Hits

Hei√∞a, "Svari√∞"

As a North American it's tough to listen to an Icelandic female singer backed with an adventurous rock band without remeniscing over the Sugarcubes. This debut solo album from former Unun singer features a wide spectrum of styles over ten captivating songs, from the rock-based opener, "Hugsjór," a pleasant tune with a dark aggressive side which rears its head from time to time to the surf-epic hit single "Loftborg," winding down to the slow "Sé Þig Alla Leið," which could easily be interpreted as a tribute to the smooth jazz vocalists of the fifties. The disc may be filed under Heiða's name but props are in order for a backing group who have successfully pulled off the dynamic stylistic demands with a remarkable precision, skill and feel. If this girl continues on outside of her homeland with touring and the label can succesfully export, there's no doubt in my mind the dull roar of an industry buzz would be terribly far away. Unfortunately I have yet to see this for sale anywhere outside of the Bad Taste website, (the people who brought you Sigur Rós).


4602 Hits

Chris Connely And The Bells, "Blonde Exodus"

Scottish born, Chicago based singer/songwriter Chris Connelly is often compared to David Bowie, Scott Walker and the like but he has truly come into his own over the past decade. "Blonde Exodus" is the 5th album of his solo career, the second to be credited with his new band The Bells. And unlike the previous album "The Ultimate Seaside Companion", here The Bells live band (Mark Henning - guitars, mandolin, backing vocals, timpani; Henry Polk - bass guitar; Kim Ambriz - drums, percussion; and others) serve as the studio band too providing a solid live band sound throughout. Dramatic, poetic pop song craft is Connelly's forte as he takes great care in marrying his expressive lyrics, mostly relationship adventures, to lush and melodic arrangements of acoustic and electric guitars, piano, harmonica, keyboards, female backing vocals and strings. "Generique" opens the curtains of this play with a gorgeous, swirling theme and French text reading. Most of the songs to follow are mid tempo pop rock in the 3 to 5 minute range, save for the title track which comes in two near 8 minute mini epics, the former detailing the doomed journey of a model from 'Chicago to Milano'. "Diamonds Eat Diamonds", dedicated to fellow Scot singer Billy Mackenzie of the Associates, begs 'if I could will you sweet angel, back to the front, I would force my doors open, kiss you like diamonds eat diamonds'. "Blue Hooray!" is a bitter condemnation of a former lover with the repeated line 'you were always hoping that I'd immortalize you in a song'. "Magnificent Wing" and "The Long Weekend" are fantastic bits of travelogue, the former with rolling tides of timpani. "Julie Delpy" is by far the catchiest and up beat tune, infectiously so with gorgeous piano work and a declaration: 'and I want you, most sincerely, to acknowledge, right of place, when all your life appears to be a waste'. The "Closing Titles" cleverly deliver a spoken cast of those responsible, bringing the album to a curtain call close. Brilliant! Chris Connelly is simply one of the finest living songwriters today as far as I'm concerned, a woefully unsung artistic treasure, and "Blonde Exodus" is once again sure proof of that .


5059 Hits

Bill Rieflin & Chris Connely, "Largo"

Bill Rieflin and Chris Connelly have been friends and collaborators for nearly 15 years beginning with Revolting Cocks/Ministry albums, tours and side projects. "Largo" is the 15th album they've appeared on together, a series of 'writing experiments' literally a decade in the making and finally recorded this past year. The stark b/w cover photo of the pairs' stern faced floating heads gives a good indication of the slow and quiet, minimalist aesthetic of the music. Most of the 13 tracks are centered around Connelly's voice and guitar and Rieflin's piano then further embellished with drum machine, keyboards, basses (Fred Chalenor) and strings (Caroline Lavelle and members of The Alexandria Quartet). The title track is the lengthiest at near 8 minutes and immediately sets the tone with spacious chords and lovely melodies intermittently set to metronome. "Pray'r" is more compact with an aching vocal, steady guitar strums and bass groove, flirtatious keys and a simple rhythm. "Strayed" and "Salt of Joy" update past solo Connelly album songs, the former with an additional verse and double bass, the latter with a newly penned call and response vocal. "Close Watch" and "Sea Song" are strong, reverent and fitting covers, John Cale and Robert Wyatt respectively. "Wake" is a poem in 3 brief parts: the first a cute lullaby, the second a more straightforward vocal and piano exercise and the third a barrage of rapid piano notes and melodramatic singing. "Rondo" is a wonderfully light and breezy, cinematic instrumental theme. "The Call Girls" features the most abstract poetry and an elegant swan diving cello part by Lavelle. "Prayer" serves as a solo piano bridge to "Y", a song devoid of repeating parts and with Connelly's voice reaching it's highest possible register. Altogether "Largo" is a beautiful piece of work, powerful in it's genuine emotional honesty and intensity rather than instrumentation and volume overkill. The composition is tastefully spare throughout and the mood varies from outright somber to fun. This is a crowning jewel in both mens' careers and I'm certain it will be in my top 10 of 2001 list. The duo plan on touring later this year, piano in tow .


5411 Hits

Francisco Lopez, "Untitled #104"

Premiered first at Sonar 2000, this release could very well be an impressionistic aural painting of a thunderstorm which gets closer and closer, unleashes its wrath and then breaks.

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4649 Hits

Low, "Things We Lost In The Fire"

The sixth full-length Low CD release comes after a year of releasing enough music for three CDs and one baby girl. Like the last one, this one both appears on Kranky in the US, Tugboat in the UK, two bonus songs on the vinyl edition, and production by Steve Albini. While Low's songwriting skills get amazingly stronger and stronger, I'm finding more problems with Albini's production. To their credit, songs like "Sunflowers," "Dinosaur Act," and "In Metal" carry on their own style of somewhat abstract lyrics matched with breathtaking vocalizations, unchallengable synergy with a fondness of dissonance. To experience Low in person as a collective entity, you'll find that each of the three members create a triangular symmetry. Albini however completely disregards this with songs as "Black Like a Forest" (as he did with "Will the Night") by retiring Mimi's vocals to the background, ignoring the vocalists' harmonic set up. I'm also confused with the album's opener where the hell the strings came from as the music's going, going, going, flowing nice, but then a harsh fade up of strings from out of nowhere almost makes no sense without setup. Perhaps I'm being entirely too picky but after a while these things become out of place threads in a carpet. Disregard these things and you've got a perfect slab of wax, suitable for framing. samples:

4838 Hits

Lesser, "Gearhound"

This week's mad scientist is a Californian named Jay. Starting off on this journey, the breaks are very disjunct and the transitions between tracks are so choppy, it's even confusing to me when new songs begin or if there are indeed different songs. It almost seems like he's making a conscious effort to avoid anything semi-conventional like establishing a rhythmic base or a bass foundation. But then SMACK! The track with Blectom from Blechdom and the "Gearhound Suite" provide that important plot twist, this guy is actually going somewhere with this! It's almost as if this disc is a physical journey up a mountain, hard steps and unclear paths on the way up, many choices and much on your mind, the sweat beads down and you fall short of breath and tell yourself how much you need to get out more. You reach the peak, have a nice look around, enjoy a refreshing bottle of water and begin your descent, looking down on the beautiful planet from high up, as you encounter various attractions on the way down. Keeping this analogy in mind, the remainder of the disc sort of heads down a rather soothing path, without giving up the digital choppery however. Three-dimensional visions burst into my head, giving the impression of lying on a soft waterbed that keeps shifting around, or running my finger on a densely-filled helium balloon, ready to burst. The end of the disc is the end of our journey, back on the earth with a sense of accomplishment behind us. Lookng back up the mountain we just climbed the whole picture seems clear but we're glad the heavy legwork is over. Lesser has successfully navigated a flight in the face of convention on many levels here. First off, he placed the peak in the center as opposed to most albums throwing a killer bang-up opener and a memorable fade for the closer. Then, consciously or unconsciously, he threaded a certain congruency between rather abstract and disjointed pieces. A disc which I originally thought would make more sense to me in the distant future has become much clearer with the proper attention. We, the listeners can be far more guilty of attention defecit than what many critics will accuse the musicians of.

4512 Hits

Him, "5 & 6 In Dub"

HIM, "5 & 6 IN DUB"
Mighty Doug Scharin has a new sound for Him once again for the latest release. Last year saw the release of two full-lengthers, one with a modern electro-jazz feel, the other with a pure force of improvisational mayhem. This 32-minute three-tracker dives into the deeper, cooler side, known simply as dub. The opener, "Five" clocks in at over 14 minutes with long delays, hypnotic bass loops, trickling guitar, latin percussion, warm organs, and an unobtrusive sax. Track two's the shortest of the three tracks and a nice stop-gap which explores sound almost through entirely synthesized by analogue electronics - a primitive drum machine, older keyboards and tons of delay. The last track, "Six" takes an approach completely void of the standard drum kit - electronic or organic, with the group taking a sort of plugged-in "unplugged" mentality, all members grooving together without anything clocking the beat. Sure, these are remixes, meaning the originals have been tampered with, but where are the originals? This release is wonderful but it's a tease, it's way too short and the remix aspect gives me the impression their next album didn't start out this far into dub. Who knows except for Him?

4611 Hits