Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
“They Call Me Lupe”
Call me a late bloomer, my first hip-hop album was Lupe Fiasco’s 2006 release Food & Liquor. I first heard the album in a Hopkins rented van on the way to a debate tournament. Everyone in the van was complaining about our driver’s (fellow team member’s) taste in music – “he’s always listening to ghetto rap,” they said. He was also always getting speeding tickets and getting lost. That’s not besides the point; it took us four hours to drive from Baltimore to Philadelphia and more than a few times through Food & Liquor and Kanye’s Late Registration.
Despite being primed to reject our driver’s “ghetto rap”, I thought the music was the only thing that made the miserable four-hour drive bearable. I had formed some sort of bond with this rap – like we had gone through a hardship together. When I got home, I couldn’t remember the name of anything I had listened to so I shamefully asked our driver to disclose his musical taste.
He pointed me towards Lupe Fiasco – who was at the time an emerging artist. I think I was drawn to the singer-songwriter quality of Lupe’s music. He integrated his verses skillfully into his beats samples. It was as if his verses were cradled by the music. I also fell in love with Lupe in “Hurt me Soul” – “I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded. But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it.” As former hip-hop hater, he and I bonded over this as well. And what girl doesn’t fall for that line?
Lupe got me through freshman year at Hopkins. The music felt close to home – like I was listening to a high school kid rap about skateboarding and girls. In reality Lupe is only three years older than me, but he is also a chi town conqueror. Yet, something about Lupe’s music was relatable – maybe simply because it was so personal. No one else out there was going to write those verses. They weren’t just “good” or clever, they were unique to Lupe, his life, interests, observations and grievances.
Lasers has just moved so far away from the Lupe that I fell in love with. The political verses make it sound like not only things anyone could say, but things everyone does say. The full, overproduced choruses make the music easily identifiable with everything I hear (unfortunately) at clubs and bars. Finally, the “art” seems to careless and thoughtless – his verses are no longer “cradled” by the music and the singer-songwriter quality is gone. Instead, the songs are explosions of verbal ranting interrupted by loud choruses. There is a lack of finesse and personality.
Our friend, Abbas Rattani, just finished and posted his review of Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and well, the world finally has a comprehensive, in depth, excellent review for this album (P4K’s, as described by George, fell wayyy short). Abbas writes his review by addressing each track, its artists, and alludes to everything from Kanye’s previous albums to Aristotle’s Poetics. It’s clear a lot of time and critical thought went into this review – probably more than anyone’s given it so far so I’d say this is a must read. Oh, since I must have said something brilliant and relevant, I’m also quoted in this review. Naturally, now I’m a fangirl.
Here’s how it begins
Kanye West is a hip hop game changer, his recent album is avant-garde done right; he is the only rapper that has the capability of doing something like this. He challenges normative assumptions of what it means to be a rapper, while testing the boundaries of hip-hop. This album is full of personal emotion, vulnerability, and self-reflection; something that is often absent from rap. While listening to this album you feel like you are witnessing something paradoxically new, yet oddly familiar; musical history in the making. It seems reasonable to conclude that he (along with Kid Cudi) inadvertently created his own sub-genre of hip-hop, teetering on alternative, indie, and pop. Welcome to the era of transcendental hip-hop.
Welcome to Kid Cudi’s World – In his world, you’ve got to embrace the power of California’s pseudo legal substance. You’ve got to “Wake your mind up.” It’s almost cumbersome the number of allusions he makes to weed… 4/20 he mumbles at the end of a song, “I’m addicted to highs” he goes on and on and on…
But do we have it right? Is this a world created by Kid Cudi to merely glorify pot, or is this a sad world created to house Kid Cudi’s alter ego – the voice in his head that says things like, “I’m trapped in my mind” and “I’m still confused about the world I live in…when did I become a ghost?”
Kid Cudi begins his album by welcoming us into his world but it’s like he’s not sure whether he’s got our attention– he apprehensively shouts, “Welcome, You, Hey!” And I’d be apprehensive too if I were inviting you to the stomping grounds of my insecurity.
Because of their timely release, I’ve been listening to Cudi’s Mr. Rager and Kanye’s Twisted Fantasy back to back; a clear difference between the two emerges. Kid Cudi’s album is filled with hopelessness: “all alone, I guess I’m meant to be alone.” And it’s full of ramblings: “I hope they understand that they really understand that, they don’t understand”.
Kanye well… I mean Jesus. I don’t really need to get into him. He just switched out his bottom row of teeth for diamonds or something. I mean his music kind of reflects that. But Kanye is all about empowering, meaningful hating, he’s always out there working his cause. And his cause is like fixing America, and trying to come to terms with the fact that he’s not God. On the other hand, Kid Cudi’s cause is just trying to find a way out of his own head.
Whatever the case, Kid Cudi’s inspiration sure creates a trippy sound. His samples and beats are always a little off kilter. They have a Radiohead “2+2=5″ imbalance to them – kind of like something is rolling along lopsided. “MANIAC” and “GHOST!” are the best examples of this loopy lost in his own mind structure. My favorite song , however, might be “Scott Mescudi vs. The World” because the title is fitting and, of course, a play on the comic, now movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Kid Cudi is clever in giving us clues that this album isn’t all about weed. In “MANIAC” he says, “I climb the wall, I’m too high now, I die from the fall”. This line clearly has several meanings. Is he talking about the numbness he feels after a high, or does he fear how far he has to fall from that towering vantage point where he’s located? Is he suggesting the frailty of the world he’s created – formed in a cloud of smoke, propped up by a dependence on a drug, and always leading to loneliness?
The pitchfork review that I was so desparately waiting for gave My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a 10.0. Alright! Awesome. I read through the review hoping for some enlightenment as to why they gave Kanye’s new 70 minute masterpiece a perfect score. “Halfway through the review–still reads like a dossier on Kanye West. When they gonna start actually reviewing the album? Typical…” About 1,000 words into the roughly 16 hundred word review I get my first solid hint of something that resembles a review of the music (–shameless). So, because of my attempt to fit some kind of niche market and avoid redundancy, I’ll try to avoid the contextual commentary and instead stick to the things I actually have some hope of speaking intelligently about: the music.
Okay, so it’s only taken me ~140 words to get to the point. (Or am I a hypocrite regardless?) Well the album is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, unless of course you’ve listened to the leak, been following the GOOD Friday releases, heard the song previews in the Runaway film or you’re a seer. The beats are fresh, the rhymes are ill, the tunes are solid, the songs are really creative, the blah is really blah. It’s just good. Was it so good that it left me speechless? Yeah sure… I just feel like I’ve not much else to say about it (I guess I have no hope of speaking intelligently about the music). The album really speaks for itself and there’s a fat chance that I need to do any convincing for any of you to listen to this. And in the end, who’s gonna read a pissy review by a hopeless college student they haven’t heard of when they could read a P4k review full of interesting contextual trivia supported by a flashy big 10.0. I mean come on, I still love reading their reviews.
P.S. I give the album a 10.0
P.P.S. This review is 330 words long.
This one is longer and, in my opinion, WAY better than all other Girl Talk albums. Aphex Twin + Lady Gaga? Funny. Portishead + Big Boi? Kick ass. M.O.P. + Miley Cyrus? OMG RITE?!!? Anyway, DL this masterpiece here and take your pick between one big mp3 (which I think Girl Talk aka Gregg Gillis might prefer) or play it safe with the 12 separate mp3s.
EDIT: Track added to playlist.
Listen by clicking on our player and go here for download
I asked him to name the untitled track after me.
We referred to it for a while as “Your song”, and it would have stayed except for that Elton John had already claimed it. George eventually named the song, “Not So Fugitive Visions”, I’m guessing, after Prokofiev’s series of short pieces based a poem by Konstantin Balmont.
I do not know wisdom – leave that to others – I only turn fugitive visions into verse. In each fugitive vision I see worlds, Full of the changing play of rainbows.
Don’t curse me, you wise ones. What are you to me? The fact is I’m only a cloudlet, full of fire. The fact is I’m only a cloudlet. Look: I’m floating. And I summon dreamers… You I summon not.
It’s interesting enough that George decided to deny his piece the status of a fugitive vision because it is “full of the changing play of rainbows.” But maybe George’s choice for a title has to do with the fact that his visions, although they exist, are not turned only into verse. In fact, “Not So Fugitive Visions”, is almost devoid of any lyrics. And while fugitive visions always meant fleeting in my mind, George’s piece is far from fleeting images. In fact it’s most like an amalgamation of every dream one’s ever had, all layered on top of one another – the color blue on top of yellow to make green, the note E on top of C to make major… maybe there are fleeting aspects to this piece, but at the end of the day, nothing has actually exited the scene.
And that’s why when I first heard “Not So Fugitive Visions”, I decided it was the best thing I’ve heard all year. My favorite part is the loop that enters almost halfway through the long piece and continues to play until the end. It’s an uplifting high-pitched sound that almost sounds like someone is running their wet finger over a crystal glass. George took that loop from his Pool Time series. He knows that his friend Eric made the noise, but he’s not sure how. That’s the beauty of it.
And so George is releasing “Not So Fugitive Visions” along with two other tracks today. They are a preface to what is yet in store for us. Each exposes a different side of George – “The Amateur” and “The Swimmer” are innocent and naïve like their names suggest. His singing is serene and almost nervous, “Did you just wake up sometime today and say, I’m gonna be somebody?” he sings but also maybe and subconsciously asks himself.
Musically, oscillations in “The Amateur” and synthetic drumming in “The Swimmer” bring shades of Smashing Pumpkins circa Adore into the picture. The subtlety in “The Swimmer”, however, shows personal maturity. At the end George repeats the melody and words that have played throughout the piece, “I wanna go swimming,” but he changes the rhythm, elongating every word, and you’re caught off guard until you realize that it’s exactly what you wanted to hear.
And this is what characterizes The Amateur as a 3 song release. Where did this come from? What does it mean? We are almost caught off guard, but we realize it’s the natural stepping-stone from Salt Story to whatever comes next.
My notes from my first listen (three songs in):
First song was like old Sufjan, then “Too Much” kicked too much ass. Now I’m listening to Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”? ["Age of Adz"] is really weird.
In all seriousness. Sufjan doesn’t even throw a fucking curveball. He’s not even playing baseball. Jacked up electronics. Choirs here and there. Orchestras up the wazoo. A sonic style unlike anything on this planet. Songwriting as complicated as… Well the songs aren’t hard to follow but there’s no way to see around the corner with where he’s going in most of the songs. At least he didn’t drop us in the middle of a maze. The songs aren’t immediately catchy either but the album has really good flow so it’s not like I’m not sitting here waiting on the next good hook to catch my attention. And despite how over the top the production seems, it’s actually really refreshing. Age of Adz is a pretty album; as pretty as…
As pretty as Kid A? Apples and Oranges. However, it’s already been likened to Kid A by many reviewers. Fun Fact: Kid A isn’t perfect? Despite this, in my book it gets a perfect ten and Pitchfork thinks similarly. Some people think it’s shit but I think those people are full of it; my concurring opinion with Pitchfork gives me the highground. It also gives my review credibility. Why am I writing this review? I just want you to read my review so that you know how cool I am cuz I blog and I’m egocentric and I’m always right. BTW Sufjan made a really good album.
More notes from my first listen:
I’m halfway through the album all I can think about is the earlier songs. Just realized I’m not even paying attention to the current song. Okay I just tuned back into the NPR stream. I hear Sufjan singing about not getting distracted by something. Shit, I missed the line. This album is going to take several listens… Time to go take a pee break and restore my concentration.
I listened to the album several times through last night on NPR as they were streaming the album. While you’re reading now I’ve probably already biked to Reckless Records to pick up my copy on CD. I already have romantic visions of myself holding the physical disc. There’s going to be 75 minutes of music in my hands. Is this Sufjan’s Kid A? Kid A was 66% as long LOL. What does it mean for an artist “to write a Kid A“? It might signify a vast departure from a style present in previous work. Could it mean the album is perfect? Is it the result of the artist asking “Where do I go from here?” It could be a little of that. I can just say that the effect for me is that everything seems to be in its right place. *wink*
Notes from first listen (at “I Want to Be Well”):
Sufjan says, “I’m not fucking around.” Sounds like a Radiohead song. Talking to sis on gchat. She says it reminded her of Thom Yorke. LOL.
Apparently Sufjan asked the question, “What’s the point?” earlier this year. He was suffering an artistic breakdown. There are such remnants of an overcome sadness in this album: almost a nostalgia for a bygone and depressed emotional state. Be strong Sufjan. I think you’re onto something.
Notes from first listen (from first 10 minutes of “Impossible Soul”)
Again the line “Don’t be distracted.” Recurring sonic themes from earlier in the album. Aura is reminiscent of something from Cosmogramma.
For me, Cosmogramma was Flying Lotus watching the stars and imagining the crazy kinds of “cosmic dramas” (to use his words) that go on beyond our atmosphere. For Sufjan Stevens it’s a different story. I picture Age of Adz as Stevens’s anti E.T.; he’s stuck in space trying to find his way back home, to earth. This album is a deconstruction/reconstruction. But hey, enough of the BS. I wrote this review in an effort to entertain you, not to get stuck in the proverbial analytic sludge. Wait no, I wrote this to let you know how awesome my taste in music is.
Notes from first time through (from around the 14 minute mark of “Impossible Soul”)
“The Final Countdown”?
Notes from first time through (end of album)
Matt Berninger has a flair for stringing things together. This is a man who claims to write down thoughts on the backs of magazines and then piece them into lyrics. Even while writing a song, combining triplets of a piano bass line and eighth notes of the other hand, he constructs the delicately off-kilter opening of “Fake Empire”. Hanging the words “ballet”, “ice” and “bluebirds”, side by side, he generates the lyrics, “do your gay ballet on ice, bluebirds on our shoulders.” In 2009, Berninger even managed to pull together a collection of the most talented indie artists to make Dark was the Night, a compilation album benefiting Red Hot Organization.
But it’s almost as if Berninger finally reached a point where this strategy has become too formulaic. In High Violet, the opener “Terrible Love” chants an obnoxiously repetitive melody with similarly annoying and also nonsensical lyrics, “Terrible Love, I’m walking with spiders”. The novelty of such phrases has worn off, and the repetitive melody throughout the album doesn’t allow for surprise. The mind begins to fill in the blanks and predict too much.
Of course Berninger’s layering, beautiful piano harmonies, baritone voice, mesh together well – as they did in Boxer. But, he’s missing the subtlety that made Boxer so special. Instead he followed his usual formula and made an album that is just a little too obvious to last a very long time.
The succession of songs in the album even seems to follow his method. Scroll through the beginning of each song and from the double beat of the bass drum in “Anyone’s Ghost”, to the single, opening, VCR like tone of “Little Faith”, and the harmonium strike in “Everyone is Afraid” – and you will see that the National achieved variety – they pieced together an eclectic, but limited style of songs to make their album. Yet, the songs’ lack of surprise and lack of emotional anticipation make them far behind those in Boxer.
Comparable to Coldplay’s X&Y, High Violet is indeed, as Chris Martin once put it, the strip mall behind the cleared path cut with a machete. The only difference is that while Chris Martin was referring to Radiohead “clearing the way”, in The National’s case, it’s they who cleared their own path yet set up a strip mall behind themselves. They reverted a few steps back and regressed a little. An excellent album ought to show a clear progression and evolution of a band. This is where High Violet fails – it’s same old same old.
With ODDSAC, Fall Be Kind EP, and Merriweather Post Pavilion all appearing within a year of each other, Animal Collective’s presentation of these three releases almost seems swansong-like, especially amidst rumors of the band’s breaking up, which is not out of the question when considering at least the certainty of their indefinite hiatus; Noah Lennox himself confirmed this hiatus in an interview with BBC this spring.
That is to say, “Tomboy”, Panda Bear’s first single from his forthcoming LP, Tomboy, which is to be released later this year, is not sonically dissimilar to anything you’d have heard on MPP or Fall Be Kind except that it lacks the puerile and untamed energy that we’ve become accustomed to with Animal Collective. Certainly “Tomboy” sounds like Panda Bear and from the very start the song is acousmatic ear candy but the song takes a dirtier, darker approach and by its second half has already become monotonous. However, it is the aforementioned, attractively curious sound-set that Lennox works with in this song that makes up for its sluggish appearance and gives way for several enjoyable close listens.
Tomboy approaches quickly, trailing behind some very excellent AC material. Now compare this to 2006 when Thom Yorke released The Eraser; unlike Animal Collective, he hadn’t just put out a triad of incredible musical releases and we were in fact in the midst of a four year Radiohead drought and at that point any Yorke-related material felt refreshing and perhaps even deserved. Perhaps it isn’t fair to weigh “Tomboy” against previous AC opuses but a direct comparison is almost inevitable this close to the fact.
Click here to listen to the track via the playlist.
For a man who’s been at least listening to, if not trying to make dance music his whole life, this remix of “Jump Up” is a significant step in the right direction for Thom Yorke. Yorke turns the already uber-exuberant and sardonically kitschy Major Lazer ambling disco track into a bumpin’ yet darker song that still however feels ready for the dance floor. For his remix, he draws from the sonic palette of recent Yorke tracks such as “Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses” and “Hearing Damage” which he wrote for the Twilight series’ New Moon soundtrack, however, Leftside and Supahype’s half rap-half toast vocal presence makes this remix unlike anything Yorke has ever attempted.
The juxtaposition that Yorke’s heavy stutter beat and howling synth backing gives against the rap/toast is one that challenges the song’s Bacchic overtones. He ditches the comically catchy repeating synth line from the original version and gives the song a more slobberingly drunken quality. With his “Jump Up” remix perhaps Yorke hasn’t really perfected the art of making timeless dance music but he managed to remix a perfectly good dance track into something the rest of us can still dance to (because God knows he can dance to anything). Good job, Thom Yorke!
You are currently browsing the archives for the Reviews category.