The single is a dying format, but that hasn't stopped one-hit wonders from releasing them. They just add another 10 or 11 tracks to their discs and market them as albums.
That's what the Toronto pop-hop group Len has done with "You Can't Stop the Bum Rush." The album both begins and peaks with the sauntering, lightweight hit "Steal My Sunshine," a candy-sweet ode to depression. The track is highlighted by a sample from disco oldie "More More More" and a refrain warbled by the quartet's female singer (identified only as Shar), who also stars on such tracks as "Man of the Year." Most of the rest of the album is so old school it practically requires an archaeologist. Len mastermind Marc Constanzo invites such guests as Biz Markie and Kurtis Blow to help out and throws in a chirpy snippet of the Miracles' "Shop Around," but never again reconjures the fleeting enchantment of the opening track.
"We ain't the average group/ 'Cause our style's beyond," insist Ryu and Takbir in "2000 Fold," the title track of Styles of Beyond's new album. This slightly arty California hip-hop duo does have a sleeker sound than some of its rivals, but there's nothing particularly forward-looking about its music. Although "Come Out Your Frame" has a certain (probably coincidental) kinship to Steve Reich's seminal "Come Out," most of these tracks are altogether average, from the Chic and Eric B and Rakim samples to yet another upscale-gangsta reference to Keyser Sose. "2000 Fold" is well-constructed, but most of it is so un-beyond that you wonder if it's even Y2K compliant.
Both appearing Monday at the 9:30 club. To hear a free Sound Bite from Len, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8124. For a Sound Bite from Styles of Beyond, press 8125. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)