Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 66364)
What would a slacker comedy be without hip, alterna-rock tunes beneath the laugh lines? So it's no surprise that the soundtrack album to "Reality Bites" is chock full of music by modern rock hit-makers like U2, Lenny Kravitz and Crowded House. Granted, the offerings aren't too hip -- movie producers see no point in having the music go over the audience's head -- but that doesn't mean it's entirely predictable. After all, who'd have imagined that the Posies' "Going, Going, Gone" would so completely upstage World Party's "Young Americans"-derived "When You Come Back to Me"? But the album's most surprising moment has to be Ethan Hawke's "I'm Nuthin'," a wryly written, nicely sung number that nicely compliments the sloppy grace of Dinosaur Jr.'s "Turnip Farm."
Domino (OutBurst 57701)
As a stylist, Domino isn't exactly the most original rapper to hit the scene. Flip through "Domino," and you may think the poor guy is suffering from a case of split personality. On "Diggady Domino," for instance, he affects the lazy, dancehall-inflected style of early Das Efx, while "Sweet Potatoe Pie" obviously owes more than a little to the sly, salacious ooze of Too $hort. What keeps any of that from mattering, though, is the irresistibly melodic quality of Domino's delivery. That comes through most clearly on "Getto Jam," which finds Domino doing as much singing as rapping, but there's a similar sensibility evident in the sing-song cadences of "Money Is Everything" and "That's Real." Add in a fondness for lean, bass-heavy rhythm beds, and it's no wonder Domino's debut stacks up as a winner.
Hank Flamingo (Giant 24513)
If what you expect from pop music is class, taste and restraint, odds are that you won't have much interest in Hank Flamingo. But if all you really want is a strong beat, a decent melody and a hell-raisin' good time, then "Hank Flamingo" ought to be right up your alley. As the name (a cross between Hank Williams and Pink Flamingos) suggests, the sound this Nashville sextet produces is equal parts classic country and trailer-trash rock, full of sawing fiddles, rip-snorting guitars and boot-stomping rhythm -- precisely what you'd expect in songs like "White Lightnin' " and "Gooseneck Trailer." Granted, frontman Trent Summar isn't the smoothest singer you'll ever hear, but ask yourself: Would George Strait sound convincing barking the chorus to "Redneck Martians Took My Baby"?