Before I start this week I wanted to thank you all for coming, and bri for having me. I’m really hoping that this blog is helpful for people looking to keep up with current music but don’t have time to sort through everything. My aim is to be as objective as possible and my reviews will focus on originality, talent, and overall listening experience. Debate is welcome, and if you think I’m wrong or missed something comment or e-mail.
New This Week: January 25th, 2011
**Amos Lee _ Mission Bell
Ultra-pleasant, artfully produced standard American folk-pop; see “Flower”, “Windows are Down.” Guests include Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, James Gadson, Sam Beam, and Calexico.
Buckshot _ Common Knowledgy of the E
Longtime Brownsville MC and member of the Boot Camp Clik gets help from skilled sampler 9th Wonder and a long list of guests on yet another solid, and certain to be under-appreciated album.
Cam'ron & The U.N. _ Gunz N' Butta
Harlem’s nastiest brings the cringe as only he can.
**Charles Bradley _ No Time For Dreaming
Brilliant debut album on Sharon Jones' Daptone Records oozes soul and is not to be missed.
**Cloud Nothings _ Cloud Nothings
Energetic, hooky, and cheerful indie-pop feels like Vampire Weekend minus the pretension and expensive production.
Chikita Violenta _ Tre3s
Slickly produced, cleverly arranged indie-guitar-rock built around whispered vox in the vein of the Silversun Pickups.
Cold War Kids _ Mine Is Yours
New-wave leather enthusiasts cut off-kilter electro/blues with segments of classic, catchy pop.
Corinne Bailey Rae _ The Love EP
Neo-soul’s resident beauty lays her timeless vocals on classics from Prince and Bob Marley on this short, sweet 5-song EP.
Deerhoof _ Deerhoof Vs Evil
Wildly progressive indie music from another galaxy, see “Super Duper Rescue Heads”, “Qui Dorm, Nomes Somia”. The opposite of easy listening but very cool.
Destroyer _ Kaputt
The Ex _ Catch My Shoe
Noisy lo-fi post-punk that doesn’t seem quite ready for human ears.
Fujiya & Miyagi _ Ventriloquizzing
Gorillaz meet Belle and Sebastian. Interesting, but nerdy.
Gang of Four _ Content
UK punk vets bring the noise but nothing new to the table.
The Get Up Kids _ There Are Rules
The founders of emo bring back Bob Weston (producer of Four Minute Mile), and come up with a shockingly decent effort following the disappointment of On the Wire (2002), Guilt Show (2004) and a four year hiatus.
Hell Rell & J.R. Writer _ Gun Clap
Painfully simple rhymes about being tough/getting bitches over generic beats; do yourself a favor and never listen to this. Hell Rell makes Ma$e seem like a Rhodes Scholar.
Iron & Wine _ Kiss Each Other Clean
Layzie Bone _ Thug Luv
Everyone’s favorite singing thug sings it like he never left 1995.
Monotonix _ Not Yet
Post-punk noise/grunge outfit offers an album for an extremely specific group of people, which definitely does not include me, and probably not you.
Nicole Atkins _ Mondo Amore
Much hyped NJ native returns with her first album of new material since her 2007 hit Neptune City.
Paul Wall _ Politics As Usual
Latest mix tape from the Southern MC/grill extraordinaire has very little to offer.
Pendulum _ Immersion
Hugely popular mod-rockers sound like Nickelback on meth with keyboards.
Sam Sneed _ Street Scholars
Death Row affiliated Pittsburgh rapper brings an entertaining flow over classic West Coast beats.
Say Hi _ Um, Uh Oh
Portland indie mainstays keep cranking out simple catchy electro-pop tunes.
Talib Kweli _ Gutter Rainbows [Digital Release Only]
Yet another solid, intelligent effort from one of the head backpackers in charge, not that anyone will notice.
**Wanda Jackson _ The Party Ain’t Over
The cheeky ‘Queen of Rockabilly’ roars into the mainstream, invigorated by the production and guitar magic of Jack White. Get this album immediately.
Young the Giant _ Young the Giant
One part As Tall As Lions, one part Academy Is, this talented and much-hyped guitar rock quintet has potential but is hampered by a lack of direction.
Destroyer _ Kaputt (3.0/5.0)
Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar has repeatedly described his band's sound as European Blues, and Kaputt is a record that sounds immediately out of place amongst contemporaries like LCD Soundsystem and Yeasayer. My initial reaction to the omnipresent horns and slinky production was to label this an anachronistic disaster; something that might have been acceptable in 1981, but as dated and tacky as a disco-ball hanging above your car's dashboard. The geek-chic vocals and aforementioned horns will turn some listeners off right away, but for those who stick with it the reward is in the experience.
The album beings with "Chinatown" and the listener is immediately immersed in a world of washing synths and smooth saxophones. The awkward male vocals are boosted by female accompaniment and the track transitions seamlessly into the stripped down, Fleetwood Mac-styled "Blue Eyes." As the album progresses the hazy atmosphere and upbeat rhythms continue. Bejar delivers his lines with a detached confidence declaring, "Oh child you're never going to make/New York City just wants to see you naked and they will." Funky guitar lines add intensity until the album takes a step back with the simple "Poor in Love", the first track on the album that allows Bejar's shaky warble to take a central role. The title-track/lead single Kaputt follows, and finds the band at their best. The track is a study in contradiction; relaxed and up-beat, distant but immediate, and comprised of dated elements that mysteriously combine for a super-contemporary whole.
This music has a transitive property to it, atmospheric synths, static, and horns create and fill space in a way that whisks the listener away to a distant world and time. A ride on the BQE is suddenly transformed into the Boulevard Peripherique, circling Paris in foggy darkness. Is this music that will fit comfortably into your collection and blend into your shuffle? Not at all, and that's the best part about it.
Key Tracks: "Blue Eyes", "Suicide Demo For Kara Walker", "Poor in Love", "Kaputt"
Iron & Wine _ Kiss Each Other Clean (3.0/5.0)
South Carolina Native Sam Beam has been pushing his music forward since his 2002 debut The Creek Drank the Cradle (Sub-Pop) took him out of the classroom and into the spotlight. Success found Beam relatively quickly after he began recording his music with fans and critics alike eating up his uniquely polished acoustic bedroom pop. Fans of Iron & Wine should be wary; this album is vastly different from the 2004 hit Our Endless Numbered Days, featuring a wholly new format while retaining key elements.
This about-face is evident from the first notes of "Walking Far From Home" as distant and distorted guitar chords build the outline of a classic Sam Beam composition. Bells, precise backing vocals, and a waltzing affected harpsichord are layered above, with stylish synth lines seamlessly weaving in and out of the mix. The following "Me and Lazarus" is an early low-point in an impressive album, hampered by a tacky, SNLish saxophone line. The album continues with the more traditional "Tree By The River", and the band seems to be at their best when they retain elements of the music that made them successful, adding and swapping sounds as opposed to starting with a whole new approach.
As the record progresses Beam toes the delicate line between his classic approach and desire to innovate, and when the two come together harmoniously the band creates the most powerful moments of their career. The dancing bass line, active rhythm, and electric guitars of standout track "Monkeys Uptown" work astoundingly well underneath Beam's hushed vocals. There is an element of darkness/danger here that is new for the band, crafted by alternating minor keys and accidentals with segments of perfect folk-pop.
Overall the combination of Beam's smoothly refined vocals with harsher elements of experimental and indie rock found here make for an extremely interesting listen. Kiss Each Other Clean is a quality work from a great band, but may leave some longing for the inimitable warmth and intimacy of Iron & Wine's earlier work.
Key Tracks: "Walking Far From Home, "Monkeys Uptown", Rabbit Will Run"