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Aesop Rock And Kimya Dawson Showcase Their Strengths

The Uncluded features Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson. (Courtesy of the artist)

Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock both grew up in the New York suburbs and reside in the Pacific Northwest, but they only met after Aesop sent Dawson a fan letter; they eventually evolved into a duo they call The Uncluded. Aesop Rock is a brainy alt-rapper, Kimya Dawson is a playful folk-punk, and both are headlong word-slingers. The difference is that Dawson overflows where Aesop overthinks.

I've loved Kimya Dawson's tiny voice and confessional candor since she surfaced with The Moldy Peaches in 2001. But her strophic stanzas and childlike tunes get repetitive enough that you could grump about her self-parody if you wanted. For me, that's more Aesop Rock's problem; he's so committed to his own IQ that he refuses to be humorous, clear or nice. As The Uncluded, however, the two cancel each other's weaknesses — Dawson gains heft, Aesop lightens up, and both let their creativity reign.

Dawson, 40, has always written a lot about childhood, including her own. Aesop, 36, often recalls how he came up, as well. In "Jambi Cafe," a young Kimya face-plants at a skating rink and Aesop comforts her with candy.

For all their gifts with words, their Hokey Fright album wouldn't mean much if it wasn't enticing as music: Aesop Rock's beats anchoring Kimya Dawson's catchy ditties, each comping vocally under the other's parts. Even better, however, is when The Uncluded join together in song. It's almost like they're two halves of a whole — which they are, a rare and welcome thing.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now a duo formed by musicians who hail from two very different genres. Kimya Dawson is a folk singer with a distinctive voice. Aesop Rock is an indie rapper with distinctive wordplay. Both artists have small but devoted fan bases, and the two have come together to form The Uncluded.

Music critic Robert Christgau has this review of their new album, "Hokey Fright."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TELEPROMPTERS")

ROBERT CHRISTGAU, BYLINE: Aesop Rock is a brainy alt-rapper, Kimya Dawson, a playful folk-punk, but both are headlong word-slingers. The difference is that Dawson overflows where Aesop overthinks. Hear how lucidly Dawson explains her volubility in a song on the Uncluded's "Hokey Fright" called "Teleprompters."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TELEPROMPTERS")

KIMYA DAWSON: (Singing) Ever since I was a kid on the backs of my two eyelids, I hid two teleprompters there transmitting words from who knows where. And this is why when I'm on stage, my eyes are closed. I'm in a haze. I look like I'm made out of clay. I'm overwhelmed and under-glazed.

CHRISTGAU: Now, hear how Aesop takes Dawson's explanation to a denser, more metaphoric place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TELEPROMPTERS")

DAWSON: (Singing) ...I am lovable.

AESOP ROCK: (Rapping) I was laying bricks in a line. Yap full of copper-top, picturing a life beyond that of a dish-washer. Pot buzz ping. Criss-crossed arms in a tub ring. Learned heartbreak on a Zelda-1 sub screen-numb. Learned dark days...

CHRISTGAU: I've loved Kimya Dawson's tiny voice and confessional candor since she surfaced with The Moldy Peaches in 2001. But her strophic stanzas and childlike tunes get repetitive enough that you could grump about her self-parody if you wanted. For me, that's more Aesop Rock's problem. He's so committed to his own IQ that he refuses to be humorous, clear or nice. As The Uncluded, however, the two cancel each other's weaknesses - Dawson gains heft, Aesop lightens up, and both let their freak flags fly. For instance, here's a first, a song about organ donation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ORGANS")

THE UNCLUDED: (Singing) There will always be a need for the pieces you are made of. You may one day need a few pieces yourself.

DAWSON: (Singing) Jen stood at the finish line and waited for Dylan to cross. Then she rested her head on the young boy's chest that held the heart of the little girl she'd lost.

ROCK: (Rapping) Outside of the influential arms of your idolatries, the object will be turning goodbyes into good biology. There will be a DOA who has some parts that seem OK, coinciding with someone you know that needs a piece replaced. And we will stand around the corpse, fishing in a well of ribs, treasure hunting just before they show you where the devil is. Nobody is judging you to vilify the guilty. I will cut and dry, be leaving with your kidney.

UNCLUDED: (Singing) It's important...

CHRISTGAU: Word-slingers, though, both artists are, the "Hokey Fright" album wouldn't mean much if it wasn't enticing as music: Aesop Rock's beats anchoring Kimya Dawson's catchy ditties, each comping vocally under the other's parts. Sometimes The Uncluded even join together in song. It's almost like they're two halves of a whole, a rare and welcome thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DELICATE CYCLE")

UNCLUDED: (Singing) I would meet all kinds of people there, and I would look them in the eye, and I'd say: Hi, excuse me, but do you mind if I shine the glass while your clothes dry? Yeah. My whole life is a delicate cycle, a delicate cycle. My whole life is a delicate cycle.

BLOCK: The album from The Uncluded is "Hokey Fright." Our reviewer is Robert Christgau.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DELICATE CYCLE")

UNCLUDED: (Singing) My whole life is a delicate cycle.

ROCK: (Rapping) Inside a jar with a lid, a giant arm with a head. They said it used to walk upright and like New York after 10. One day, it woke up out of order, nothing more to extend. Delicate cycle in the alpha of its orbiting Zen.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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