12 October 2011

“Everyone's a F***ing Prostitute,” but the US Electric isn't quite as much fun as one.

     The US Electric keeps itself from coming out of the underground with its fifth album, 'Elevation'. The US Electric is a band consisting of two people, Colby Parson's and Susan Morse, who are also known by their stage names Asha Blue and Bonn Durand. The group has released 4 other albums, 'Recovery', 'Alarm', 'Threshold', and 'Program' which was an EP. The US Electric is virtually unknown, with the only information to be found about them on their own website that is bare to say the least. “Electronic and psychedelic,” the band proclaims on their website regarding their genre choice.
     The US Electric has the sound of a more electronic Eiffel 65. More like an electronic band with hints of Eiffel 65 in it. The best description of this music is something that you might hear in a high end boutique. You walk in and the place is selling overpriced stuff with lots of cold steel and futuristic design about the place. This album has a lot of simple, loud, bass beats, low vocals (with vocal processors), and at times, a hint of melodic under beats.
     As soon as you start listening to this album, you're struck with the protruding bass lines. The bass takes over the songs with a hypnotic structure that draws you in and focuses you on that. Techno/electronic hits are largely based on bass lines, which is good for this band. Along with the bass comes a futuristic sound and feel to the Music. The band tries to transport you off to a far off planet that has technology light years ahead of our own.
      Unfortunately, that planet's musical taste is differing from our own. Take for instance the bass lines we just talked about. While hypnotic, they are also overwhelming. So overwhelming in fact, it's hard to focus on anything else. The bass is simple, and with the general lack of melody and vocals, all you're listening to is this really boring beat. The only thing I would recommend this beat for would be the marching of robots. If you picture a legion of robots marching, anyone of the songs on 'Elevation' fits it almost perfectly.
The reason their beats are boring is because, unlike other electronic music, there is no structure, it's not going anywhere. Normally there are back beats, drops, rhythm, or sections with anything different. The music in this album is just so fundamentally simple that it seems like the downloaded some software off the internet and screwed around with it until they got frustrated and said, “good enough.”

      The two biggest flaws with this entire album is that there is no discernible rhythm, and the vocals are too low. With rhythm, the the only times you can hear rhythm, it's not even really rhythm, it's more like a solo. The rhythm doesn't repeat, or stay similar, it just goes off on different tangents that you can't follow. The vocals are pretty much indiscernible in the songs that actually have them. If you can hear them, they make absolutely no sense. Take for instance, the song Traum Muster, it's just someone playing the same beat repeatedly on a bongo type instrument with creepy music floating around, and a lady talking about one of her weird dreams. Literally just talking. The song gets over and you're like, “That's it?” The whole song sounds like an intro to a song, and you keep waiting for the beat to drop. But it never does. THE BEAT NEVER COMES!!! in all but a few songs, the vocals are just drowned out by the beat.
      All and all, this band, this album, was a waste of time. The reason The US Electric is self produced is because you'd have to be slightly deft to sign them. This is really harsh, but it's because I’m pretty sure listening to this album for so long is starting to drive me insane. The best music I’ve heard from this band is not on this album. I'm sure that if you're one of their hardcore underground following, you think I’m crazy. But, the reason their following is underground is because all the people above ground think this music isn't good. Like I said earlier, if you own a high end boutique and you need some background music then this may be your answer, if you aren't however, I suggest spending your valuable time searching for music elsewhere.

Best song: Asha Blue
Worst song: Tie between, Traum Muster and LMFAO
Ranking: 2 out of 10
Meaning: “I've heard worse, but I'll never listen to this again.”

18 April 2011

TV on the Radio, 9 Types of Light (2011): Album Review

TV on the Radio has consistently cranked out well-reviewed albums packed with catchy, socially conscious songs that have established the quintet as one of the most potent

art-rock bands of the last decade. Yet despite SNL appearances, incredible melodies, and a member that resembles a perpetually stoned teddy bear, the band has failed to join the ranks of other contemporary indie giants like Arcade Fire. 9 Types of Light, TVOTR’s most recent record, is the latest in a string of excellent albums that will be adored by many, but fail to thrust the band into headlining status.

Like their previous work, 9 Types of Light is full of intricately layered tracks that incorporate funk, horns, hand-claps, industrial bangs, angular guitars, triple layered vocals, driving drums, and plenty other crafty sound effects that offer the band an incredibly expansive soundscape. On this album, producer/ guitarist/ token white member Dave Sitek effectively incorporates these sounds into songs that are less dense, but just as engaging as anything else the band has released. By allowing the tracks to breath, the songs are more patient and less jittery. That isn’t to say this album is boring however, just smoother. This new approach reflects the band’s move from the densely packed Brooklyn to the sprawled-out Los Angeles, where the album was recorded. When compared to previous albums, the more subdued tracks comprising 9 Types of Lights are essentially the same as other TVOTR songs, but without the claustrophobic static. I found myself nodding with the majority of the album and the songs are generally more dance-friendly because of the omission of certain production eccentricities. But the new production approach isn’t the only change from the band’s last album. The lyrics are much more straightforward and the love songs are more traditional. Sexy too.

The cynicism that defined earlier TVOTR love ballads is absent; in its place is a healthy serving of sincere, plainspoken romanticism. The track “You” has the line, “You're the only one I ever loved.” “Will Do” has Adibempe crooning, “I'd love to collapse with you/ And ease you against this song” (D’awwwwwwww). Other album highlights include the up-tempo “Repetition,” a song that charges throughout and eventually crescendos with a cyclic chorus. “Caffeinated Consciousness” is an enjoyable track that includes arena-tuned guitars and lyrics like “Gone optimistic/ We're gonna survive.” In fact, this album is decidedly more positive than previous offerings, and marks the band’s most accessible work to date. Album opener “Second Song” aptly conveys this spirit and is another standout track. Overall, this album is a completely new TV on the Radio record, both in terms of sound and content; yet it is undeniably an album made by the same guys that put out Dear Science, Return to Cookie Mountain, and Desperate Youths, Bloodthirsty Babes. I always enjoy seeing bands shift and grow, and it appears that TVOTR is in a healthy period of change; one that sees the band maintaining their core elements, while shifting themes and adding a new layer of accessibility through their lyrics and sonic clarity. Nearly every track is solid, and I was rarely bored – something I can’t say for Dear Science. Definitely check this out if you are a fan of the band, or good music in general.

RIP Gerard Smith

TV On The Radio's bassist, Gerard Smith, passed away on April 20th, 2011 after battling lung cancer. He was 36 years old. The band announced his passing on their website and added, "We will miss him terribly."

04 April 2011

Travis Barker, Give The Drummer Some (2011): Album Review

I’ve never liked Blink-182, The Aquabats, or The Transplants. But I’ve always thought Travis Barker was a very cool drummer. So while I’ve never really been into the bands he’s backed, I have always enjoyed his drumming and can understand why he would want to make a solo album displaying his talents. Unfortunately, his recent drum-infused rap remixes were wearing thin by time he decided to crank out Give The Drummer Some, an album made up entirely of percussion heavy rap tracks. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, and the CD highlights some of the best elements from the Rap-Rock genre.

For those of you that thought Rap-Rock met the same fate as backward fitted caps, Dungaroos, and good Tony Hawk games, you were wrong. Because like a mighty Phoenix ascending from a smoldering plane crash, Travis Barker is here to remind us why the genre was awesome (and also a little about why it isn’t).

Despite Jada Pinkett Smith’s efforts, kids are still interested in music that dates back to a time when Steven Tyler was kicking holes through Run Dmc’s walls. And while Barker’s album is specifically drum-focused, it is is a classic example of that genre. Unfortunately, most tracks sound like drum-infused remixes, and not bona fide songs. For every song that is clearly built around Travis’s presence, there are five more where his drumming sounds like an unnecessary layer atop a fully developed track. The many guest rappers featured on the album probably realized this and drop occasional shout-outs as reminders to the fact that the album is centered around a drummer. In fact, both Rick Ross and Lil’ Wayne lazily drop the line “Travis on the drums,” in the same song. Without such reference lines it’s easy to hear the album as a compilation of sessions of Travis playing his drums while listening to a mix of songs his friend sent him.

The lack of vocal coordination highlights the absence of focus and purpose of the album. Many lyrics are lazy and seem more like 1st-draft verses that didn’t make the cut for other work. This is especially true for artists that are already established and currently hot. Other rappers, like Twista, Raekwon, Bun B, and E-40(!) are clearly trying harder, and their verses are generally much better than their track mates. The same cannot be said for Cypress Hill, who close out the album with a terribly boring song full of cliche rhymes and verses that only highlight their age and irrelevance.

With that said, the album does have its strong points. Songs that incorporate rhyme schemes built around Travis’s drumming and work within the established parameters of the Rap-Rock genre are generally the best. “Carry It,” which features 90’s all-stars RZA, Raekwon, and Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) is one such song. The Tech N9ne and Bun B featured track, “Raw ****,” is another. The other top songs are ironically the same one’s were Travis’s drumming is less at the forefront. “Knockin” is one such example. The speed rap showcase track featuring Busta Ryhmes, Twista, Yelawolf, and Lil John, “Let’s Go,” is another. Travis’s drumming is undoubtedly impressive throughout the entire album, and its nice to hear him incorporate all the sounds available on his expansive drum set. Unfortunately, without a real sense of collaboration between drummer-producer-rapper, many tracks fail to highlight the talents of those involved. In the end however, I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would. If you move beyond some of the cheesiness and accept the CD as a collection of tracks, and not a comprehensive album, Give The Drummer Some is actually a lot of fun.

31 March 2011

Rise Against, Endgame (2011): Album Review

This is a band I admittedly don’t care about. The last time I listened to the majority of an Against Me! - I’m sorry - Rise Against album was in the backseat of my friend’s Jetta; and I couldn’t help but notice the irony of two middle-class suburban kids decked out in foreign made clothes semi-listening to some angry, progressive rock music. I think that experience aptly sums up the average listener: they like the music, but are generally oblivious to the message beyond some vague sense of “injustice sucks dude!” I mean, the kids who the lyrics actually speak to are generally way beyond listening to anything so ‘mainstream,’ and I’ve found that there is a huge disconnect between what the audience for the band should be, and what it actually is. With that said, I kind of dug this album. The tracks are fairly polished, which will undoubtedly be a drawback for many fans, but I think it adds some accessibility and general pop-awareness that was previously missing. This album reminds me in many ways of Against Me!’s breakthrough album, New Wave, the album that thrust the band into the mainstream and saw the group embrace more pop elements into their soundscape. And while many longtime fans hated Against Me! for partially abandoning their punk roots, many listeners (me being one of them) thoroughly enjoyed the new sound and direction. Same thing here. Songs about global politics, injustice, and the general shittiness associated with modern society are all intact, but so is a more conscious attempt to arrange songs in new and exciting ways. This results in discernible distinctions between tracks (which is more than I can say for most new Indie releases, I’m looking at you Best Coast), although the second half finds the band falling back into the same routine.

This album definitely draws from the zeitgeist of America being a falling super-power and many songs explicitly deal with the end of the American empire. In fact, “Survivor Guilt” begins with a brief exchange about the failing of the U.S. and would probably best serve as an introduction to the album. Endgame begins to wear thin around this point however; and while the songs themselves are still individually unique within the world of their established sound, it becomes difficult to sit through songs like “Broken Mirrors” and “Wait for Me” simply because of their repetition. Also, the signature combination of earnestness and sincerity gets pretty old. I wish the band would, at least for a few songs, sing about something different. At multiple times I felt like I would be much more into this CD if there was just one song that was totally removed from any of the previous ones. Mainly though, the music rocks. And I say that seriously. I find that a lot of ‘rock’ music lacks the ability to actually get my heart rate up or include guitar riffs/solos that I remember beyond the first listen. That isn’t the case here; the music is fast-paced, fairly creative, and compliments Tim McIlrath’s unique voice. Oddly enough, and this is something I’ve found with all Rise Against songs, the choruses are very sing-along friendly. I can’t help but imagine this band playing huge arenas because of their inviting harmonies, and I hope this album moves the band closer to that.

In the end, I actually found myself partaking in what bothered me so much about every Rise Against fan I’ve met. I was pumping my fist along with the music and focused my energy towards some vague feeling of angst and wrongdoing, pretty much ignoring the majority the song’s lyrics. But I guess that’s their thing. This band is so good at getting you amped up, that only upon listening to the album a second time do the deeper song meanings come to the surface because you aren’t so distracted by the band’s energy. This is a good thing, and I retract my previous judgments about fans of this band. Although this sound still isn’t my cup-of-tea, it has enough rock, and now pop, sensibilities for most to enjoy. And while the album lulls right after the midway point, it ends on a high note. As much as the band probably intended for this album to be consumed as one piece, I would recommend downloading the following and not worrying about skipping the rest: “Architects,” “Help Is On the Way,” “Make it Stop,” “Midnight Hands,” and the 90’s bass totin’ “Endgame.”

Adele's 21 works best for Crying 16-year-olds.

 When non-music enthusiasts hear the name Adele they usually exclaim, “Oh I love her!” Then you ask them what their favorite song was by her and they all say 'Chasing Pavements'. Granted, this song is very good, and very catchy. Considering that was the song that brought her into the collective of America's mind, most people should know her for this song. But will Adele Adkins from little ol' North London be able to move on from this hit and not be a one hit wonder?

Well in her new album, “21”, Adele already has hits like her song, 'Rolling in the Deep' climbing up the Billboard charts. There are good and bad points to this album though and it's about half and half so we'll start with the bad.

Like in her last album, Adele has some songs that keep a simple background mix with boring riffs and beats. It's almost like you could erase the background music from the song all together and you wouldn't tell much of a difference. In some of the songs, all you can pay attention to is the background and you can't even really listen to the lyrics. This really washes the lyrics away and makes them forgettable to say the least. In a couple songs, it's like Adele heard from her producer that she has to hold back her voice, and almost chain it up. Compared to the last album, she used to be all over the place with her vocals. Up, down and all around the scale she went without holding notes very long, sort of like Christina Aguilera. This album doesn't have that though, which comes with a mature feeling that the album has. But holding back her vocals was not a good move and when she actually lets them go, that's when the album soars.

This album does have a more mature feeling to it. She definitely gives it an older, more distinguished feeling that has just the right hint of jazziness to it. At times her voice is reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and blows you away as it floats through the notes. When you get caught up in one of the songs, it won't let you go, and you won't be able to just stop listening. She really tries to spice up the background music. While sometimes it doesn't work out right, she is doing what she needs to to grow as an artist, and it's good to see she's going somewhere. She also uses different background instruments that make it more creative, even giving one song a sort of country twang. Most of all, when Adele sits at the piano and sings out, s*** starts going down in a good way. That is probably the best part about this album.

This is a sad album. Adele just got her heart broken and you can really tell it here. The mature feel really mixes with the heartbreak well so if you're looking for some songs to cry your eyes out to, then look no further.

If you liked the last album, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to like this one. Adele changes a lot in this album and it's a totally different animal than the last one.
Finally, the best songs on this album are: 'I'll Be Waiting', 'One and Only', 'Rolling in the Deep', and 'Take it all'. I rate it overall a 6 out of 10, but it has a couple of 10's on it though. Don't buy the whole album, but definitely pick up some of the songs on it.

10 December 2010

Cee Lo Green, The Lady Killer (2010): Album Review

Thomas DeCarlo Callaway is no stranger to the music business. You might know him as part of the Southern hip-hop group, Goodie Mob—a bit of a “90’s thing,” of course, but still an entertaining blast from the past. Or you might recognize him as Gnarls Barkley—you know, the guy behind that immensely popular tune, “Crazy,” with one hella trippy music video? Yeah, don’t try and act like you don’t burst into song every time it comes up on your iPod. But now, you probably know him best as Cee Lo Green—that dude who croons out Motown-esque ballads like no other, one in particular entitled “F*** You”…ever heard of it? Anyways, he recently released a new album entitled The Lady Killer and I’m sorry to say, I was relatively disappointed.

Cee Lo begins the album with a spoken intro—setting up his indulgent and wild life as a so-called “lady killer” backed up with whizzing harmonies seemingly taken from the likes of The Incredibles. The first real song of the album is my absolute favorite, and is one of my most-played songs lately. “Bright Lights Bigger City” is catchy and suave with energetic horns and drums—introducing Cee Lo’s soulful, Motown sound exquisitely. The next tune is this past summer’s unexpected smash, and recently-dubbed Grammy-nominee—“F*** You.” I don’t think there’s a more delightful and whimsical anthem for lovesick individuals anywhere. If there’s one song on this album you should listen to, it’s certainly this one—it was the reason I got hooked on Cee Lo in the first place. “Wildflower” shows how Green isn’t as vocally commanding whilst singing in a higher register, but regardless, it’s a beautiful song both lyrically and melodically. The next tune, “Bodies,” employs simple, military drum corps beats, with a lot of heavy heaving and sensual conversation. Frankly…it was a little unnerving to hear Cee Lo talking dirty. Not a big fan. Luckily, he redeems himself with “Satisfied,” which retains the doo-wop panache we so enjoy from his songs—complete with Diana Ross-esque backup vocals. And while “I Want You” is an all-around fine song, this is the point in the album where every tune begins sounding the same. The sugarcoated, reassuring lyrics of “Cry Baby” get tedious; and although it has an off-kilter beat, it’s almost impossible to distinguish the words to “Fool For You.” I relatively enjoy the verses of “It’s OK,” but the empty shrieking of the chorus is enough to make my skin crawl. Although brimming with soul, “Old Fashioned” still feels empty and does not leave much of an impression. And it’s a wonder he would end the album with “No One’s Gonna Love You”—it doesn’t even have an upbeat or buoyant tempo to overshadow the mediocre lyrics, and at least end the record on a cheerful note.

All in all, this album was pretty hit-or-miss. I think I enjoyed the first half of The Lady Killer better than the second—it was much more bubbly and enjoyable to listen to. I think buying the entire record on a whole isn’t that necessary after listening to the entire thing, I’m not surprised the album sales have been lackluster at best. “Bright Lights Bigger City” and “F*** You” are the only two songs that are actually worth a second listen. This might seem so condemning to Cee Lo but hey…one song just got nominated for the “Best Song” Grammy Award; the other was recently released as a single and isn’t doing half-bad. Many artists don’t even get that kind of success from an album, so more power to him. Maybe try and expand your musical palette a bit next time, and dip into some fresh, new genres. Or go back to the old ways of Gnarls Barkley—I surely preferred that a bit more.

29 November 2010

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010): Album Review

Kanye West. Arguably one of the most controversial figures of our time. From his “George Bush hates blacks” rant, to the over-publicized Taylor Swift incident at the VMA’s, to the current Matt Lauer debacle, Kanye can never keep on the media’s good side. He first stepped into the spotlight producing tracks on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, and releasing his first album, The College Dropout, in 2004. He went on to release more billboard-topping albums such as Late Registration and Graduation, as well as pick up some Grammys and sell out tours along the way. Now, after months of releasing various singles and his musical film, Runaway, West has finally debuted his new record: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

An eerie narration by hip-hop queen Nicki Minaj introduces the listener to the story, which follows a beautiful young phoenix that crashes to earth (Although the songs themselves don’t directly address it, that’s the subject matter of his Runaway film). The chorus of “Dark Fantasy” echoes the question, “Can we get much higher?” and Kanye spits some of the wittiest rhymes I’ve heard from him. “The plan was to drink until the pain over/ But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?” And what “Erase Me” might’ve lacked creatively, “Gorgeous” makes up for it as a perfect collaboration between West and Kid Cudi. Synth-heavy and mellow as they come, the two skillfully evoke their stoner mentalities with this instant classic. The next tune, “Power,” was released as Kanye’s first single from the album awhile back, and frankly, I thought it was terrible upon first listen. But as it often times goes, I rediscovered the tune in the depths of my iTunes a short time before Fantasy was released, and now I’m obsessed. Try not to get the echoing “ohs” and “ays” of the chorus stuck in your head. Please. The lyrics are also quite ingenious, with lines like "I just needed time alone with my own thoughts/Got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vault." It’s easily my favorite song at the moment. And it’s my ringtone. Ahhellyeah. “All of the Lights” is a star-studded anthem featuring the likes of Rihanna, Elton John, Fergie, and others. It’s also one of the most catchy and upbeat songs on the album—featuring heavy drums, blaring horns, and soaring vocals by all parties involved. I can definitely see this being played at pep rallies and sporting events in the near future; it’s certainly up that alley. Next up is the 7th most played song on my computer, “Monster.” It features Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, and Nicki Minaj. All along side Kanye. Do you really get much better of a rap collaboration? It’s certainly one the best I’ve heard. With a particularly memorable verse by Minaj, she truly shows that she’s a force to be reckoned with in the game today. Crude, loud, and mean, it’s not difficult to discover different clever lyrics every time you listen to “Monster.” “Runaway” is also a heavily played song on my computer, and I believer that’s because of the sheer emotional sucker punch it delivers. With all the controversy surrounding Kanye this past year, I suppose this is his most personal tune yet.

“Let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the a*******, let’s have a toast for the scumbags…” goes the chorus, with verses echoing how he’s “gifted at finding what I don’t like the most” and “never was much of a romantic.” Not to get all sob story, but I really don’t know any songs that I feel so connected to, and this song alone garnered my utmost respect for Kanye. Despite all the haters, he’s an incredibly talented artist and this song is 9 minutes and 8 seconds of synth-blaring, piano-thumping proof. And while “Hell of a Life” serves as an angry vendetta against a lover, “Blame Game” is almost like a repercussion where he examines the anger and doubts that are so often put on the backburner in relationships. It also features a perfectly hilarious monologue at the end by Chris Rock that is worth the listen alone. And because he’s Kanye and dominates my most-played music along with Cudder, “Lost In The World” is the 9th most played I have and is frankly a pitch-perfect ending to the album. Like “Runaway,” it’s a thought-provoking confession—fully expressing his love for the phoenix that’s left him, and realizing his loneliness in our ever-changing, fast-paced society. “I’m up in the woods, I’m down on my mind/I’m building a still to slow down the time.” It makes me stop to ponder the world and the people I’m surrounded by, and I love every bit of it.

So like the Cudder and Florence reviews before this, this is pretty much another gushing love letter from me to Kanye. He has truly transformed the rap and hip-hop genre, and proves that it doesn’t just have to be about money, weed, and girls—even though, yes, those are involved. He truly grasps his position as a prominent artist—using it as a platform to make statements about society and the human race. Music does not only have to be enjoyable—it can be thought-provoking as well; I can definitely say this album has gotten me through some pretty rough times these past few weeks I’ve owned it. I have such an immense amount of admiration for Kanye, and truly believe My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a monumental achievement in music that should be heard by all.

23 November 2010

Kid Cudi, Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (2010): Album Review

So, one might consider myself a Kid Cudi fan. Fan being a slight understatement. I have 127 various Cudder songs, remixes, and random mash-ups floating about my iTunes library. I paid $150 for a ticket to a sold-out show of his in New York City this past January. Kid Cudi tunes take up 6 slots in my “Top 25 Most Played Songs” playlist on iTunes; and in the 2 weeks I’ve owned his new album, I’ve listened to it over 25 times all the way through. In short, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is the best album to hit shelves since…well, Man on the Moon: The End of Day last year. It is a work of artistic brilliance that may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but one would be foolish not to at least give it a listen.

The record begins with my favorite song, “Scott Mescudi vs. the World,” which is already the 6th most played song on my computer. With a catchy hook by Cee Lo Green (of the catchy “F*** You” fame), “Scott Mescudi” sets the psychedelic yet dark mood for the album. Next up is the Plain Pat-produced “RevofEv” which is the most played song on my computer, thanks to an early introduction to it this past summer. The stomping yet laidback anthem begs the question, “Where will you be for the revolution?” and carries on this same defiant spirit into the gloomy Mary J. Blige collaboration, “Don’t Play This Song.” “Marijuana”—which is conveniently 4 minutes and 20 seconds long—is a mellow love letter to that “pretty green bud” which Cudder is so very fond of. He goes on to expertly sample Danish group The Choir of Young Believers with “Mojo So Dope,” and soon segues into one of my favorite plays-on-words, “Ashin’ Kusher.” I think this is one of his most clever songs lyrically, with bits like “I don’t really worry bout a n**** tryna judge/who are you, Judy?” It’s also a breath of fresh air to have such a jovial tune on such a bleak record—about bud, no less. “Erase Me” is a complete 360 from what the Moon Man usually does, and serves as the lead single of the album. Sampling Duran Duran, he ventures into the old school of Hendrix-esque rock, while still maintaining that devious wit we’ve come to love so much about him. And hey…there’s a Kanye cameo. It doesn’t get much better than that. Another highlight of the album is “Maniac,” which Cudder plans to release as the next single from the album, and is currently collaborating on a musical film for it directed by film star Shia LaBeouf. The tune samples American songwriter St. Vincent, and follows him as he sits in the dark corners of his room and mind—stoned out of his skull, pretty much. I think the most depressing song of the album is “All Along,” which Cudi has opted not to discuss since it’s a very personal song for him. With the chorus wailing out “All along, all along/I guess I’m meant to be alone/Out there on my own,” I think it captures feelings we all possess at times—I know at least for me personally it’s the most poignant song of the album, and I really respect Cudder for putting himself out there like that. I wasn’t a big fan of “Ghost!” when I first heard it—with its almost Middle Eastern sitar-plucking sound, and slightly off-key vocals—but it’s kind of growing on me. Supposedly, it’s the new sound of Mr. Solo Dolo, and his next album will feature songs very similar to it, so I guess I’ll have to learn to embrace it. Finally, he concludes his journey with “Trapped In My Mind,” which laments exactly what the title states—“I feel like I’m stuck in rewind/Tho I’m looking forward/Damn I wish I knew what went wrong.” But truth is, Cudi really isn’t asking listeners to feel sorry for him; he’s at home in his mind where his darkest dreams and fantasies all become reality. “It’s a gift and a curse/since my birth/I’m in a prison/Oh I’m happy right where I’m at.” The Lonely Stoner is right where we left him, with a blunt and lighter in hand. And truthfully, we wouldn’t want him anywhere else.

Kid Cudi has proved once again that he is one of the most versatile and gifted musicians of our time. He in no way suffered the dreaded “sophomore slump,” but rather built upon his previous album—growing as an artist, and creating an ultimately better album. Although The End of Day may feature a few more upbeat, catchy tunes, The Legend of Mr. Rager is definitely a more personal side of Cudi that allows us to delve further into his psyche. And through this exploration, we as listeners are further able to examine our own selves. I can listen to Kid Cudi at any time of the day, in any sort of mood, at any point in my life, and always gain something valuable from the experience. And that, my far and few readers, is the mark of a true artist. All hail, Mr. Rager.

22 November 2010

Florence + The Machine, Lungs (2009): Album Review

So, Florence + The Machine released their first album in the United States in October 2009. It is currently approaching the end of November 2010, and I am just now writing an album review of it. Why might that be? Because slowly but surely, British vocalist Florence Welch and her merry backup crew have caught the attention of mindless Americans such as myself—performing on Saturday Night Live last weekend, the MTV Video Music Awards this past September, and slipping onto my playlists while DJing at the Blaze. Welch began performing in the clubs and pubs of Britain—going on to record an album with a band named Ashok, but soon branching off on her own. She released her debut record Lungs in the UK in 2009, which dominated the billboard charts and sold over 100,000 copies in the first month of release. Well, one more of those copies were sold to me via the iTunes Store only yesterday, and it’s certainly solidified itself as quite the worthwhile purchase.

The album kicks off with the most popular of their songs, “Dog Days Are Over,” which begins light and airy, but soon crescendos into a catchy, soulful powerhouse that is often stuck in my head for days on end. Welch’s unique voice is as strong as a steamroller, which is evidenced particularly in live performances of the tune (check out her rendition of the tune on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, if you’re ever bored on YouTube). “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” is another catchy tune heavy on mythical references and brimming with light-hearted sorrow. And yes, I know that makes very little sense, but while the tune is quite upbeat, lyrics begging the question, “Who is the lamb and who is the knife?” certainly turn some gloomy heads. Florence sets the mood rather dark with “I’m Not Calling You A Liar” and “Howl,” but her charismatic wails of distress and lost love keep me both glued and absolutely entranced. Especially with “Howl,” you never hear voices anymore that drip with so much passion and strength. Wow. “Kiss With A Fist” is an angsty anthem about violent relationships that ventures into the territory of clashing drums and screeching guitars not usually associated with Welch. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining listen that is featured on the soundtracks for movies like Jennifer’s Body and stores like American Eagle. Not too shabby, really. She slows it down again for the odd “Girl With One Eye.” It is moderately reminiscent of a slinky, cabaret-esque tune that seems more suited for the likes of Dresden Dolls—but honestly, Florence can do no wrong, and I thoroughly relished hearing such a different side of her. “Drumming Song” is one of the sprightliest tunes on the album—with a rousing chorus, and witty lyrics like “sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell” that further a bit of Florence’s “bad girl” persona. And please…try not to feel uplifted and utterly astounded by her vocals in “Cosmic Love,” which sound strangely angelic. Complete with a harp, too.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “Hurricane Drunk,” where she belts her heart out about the joys of drinking oneself to death—which actually sounds like it could be delightful fun with pipes like hers. Finally, Florence ends the album with the fervent and poignant ode to love, “You Got The Love,” where she pulls out all the stops—raising her voice to earth-shattering heights. But come on…what else would you really expect from her?

So yes. I love me some Cudi. I love me some Kanye. I love me some Dave. Add loving some Florence to that list. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever heard such a distinctive and thunderous voice in my mere 18 years of life—one that stirs such a wide array of emotions inside me no matter how many times I listen to it. According to the ever-reliable BBC back in April, she isn’t even close to finishing her sophomore album. I could honestly say this is the worst news I’ve gotten all day. I would definitely savor some more Florence + The Machine in my life. But for the mean time, I will take great pleasure in every second of Lungs, and advise you all to do the same.

07 November 2010

Chiddy Bang, The Preview (2010): Album Review

Wiz Khalifa. Nicki Minaj. Sam Adams. All on the list of hip-hop’s most promising up-and-comers. Another name that should be added to the list is that of Chiddy Bang. The Philly-based hip-hop duo first gained fame the “old-fashioned” way—via songs featured on their MySpace page back in February of 2009. After releasing a mix tape, Chiddy Bang signed a record deal this past January and dropped their first single in April—a sample of MGMT’s “Kids” entitled “Opposite of Adults.” Now, they’ve released their first 8-track EP entitled The Preview and all I can say is, I cannot wait for their full-length album to drop next year.

“The Good Life” kicks off the record with a catchy, typical thug anthem that is sure to be played at pep rallies and cheerleading routines in the near future. The beat is simply infectious when they drop the first verse, and their lyrical prose is an absolute delight to listen to. “Truth” samples Passion Pit with a whimsical, trippy melody, where they reference everything from Bill Nye the Science Guy to the Empire State Building. The next tune spent many months on the Top 25 Most Played songs on my iTunes, and is honestly one of, if not the best remix I’ve ever heard. “Opposite of Adults” is a captivating boost of musical energy that I dare you to try and not get stuck in your head—or quote as a Facebook status like the legions of other young people that pop up on my newsfeed. This is the song that got me hooked on Chiddy in the first place, and is a true testament to their creativity as artists. They return to making their own original beats for “Here We Go” where they spit rhymes fast and mean, injecting a Latin flavor into the chorus as well. One lyrics states how “a hater tried to stop me on my way today” but honestly—I have no clue who could really hate them. Next up we have “All Things Go” which is by far my favorite tune on the album. Like “Opposite of Adults,” I heard this awhile ago, but never really got hooked until about a month ago. It’s currently the 8th most-played song on my computer, and for good reason. It’s a little slower than its musical predecessors, but is an expertly crafted song. It samples “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens—making the vocals much higher-pitched and creepy child-sounding. And who can’t love a song with creepy child vocals? And although it talks about how “we be Peter Parker in love with the Mary Jane,” it’s one of those tunes that just makes me stop to think and reexamine my life. No idea why. But I love all 3 minutes and 9 seconds of it. “Nothing On We” isn’t the most original or catchy song of the batch, but that is still in no way a bad thing. This is that song about chasing dreams that people raise their lighters to during a concert, and integrates some light piano amidst their powerful lyrics about how “the only thing guaranteed in life is a casket.” As depressing as that may seem, leave it to Chiddy Bang to present it with utmost sincerity and witty exposition. “Bad Day” has an almost angry-techno feel, and features an insanely catchy chorus that belts out how “every day should be a bad day for you.” Not since “F--- You” by Cee Lo Green have I enjoyed a snarky, light-hearted tune about exes so incredibly much. The EP sadly ends with “Old Ways,” which features a crazy and unique melody that is as thought provoking as it is contagious.

No rap artists in recent memory have the lyrical genius that Chiddy Bang possesses. There was not one weak link on The Preview, and I could see every single one of those songs racking up some major playtime on my iTunes in the near future. This weekend alone I’ve listened to the album all the way through at least 3 times. Watch out for Chiddy Bang—they’re going to be the hottest artists in hip-hop before you know it. So go out, buy their album, and rejoice in the fact that you’ll be one of the fortunate few that heard them first.