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.

05 November 2010

Bear Hands, Burning Bush Supper Club (2010): Album Review

Bear Hands are the very epitome of the word “hipster.” When asked about how they survive the chaos of music festivals, they simply state “Marijuana, sleep bag, granola bars.” These are definitely guys with their priorities straight. They began in Brooklyn in 2006—all messing around writing music and such, and soon enough playing small venues in New York City. Now, they’re headed out on a nationwide tour—coming to our very own Tucson, Arizona, on November 14th in celebration of their first, full-fledged album, Burning Bush Supper Club.

The thumping chords and screeching falsetto of “Crime Pays” give the record a satisfying start, with vocalist Dylan Rau crooning out the simple yet catchy chorus. And with opening lyrics like “At the gentle age of nine/I bought my first ‘45” and “I drink, I drink/I smoke a little weed,” the tune “Belongings” blatantly has “hipster anthem” written all over it. The instrumentals begin a bit lackluster, but prove to be quite gratifying mid-way through with some luminous guitar work by Ted Feldman. Straight from their EP earlier this year, “What A Drag” sounds quite electrifying but never truly takes off. The vocals in particular seem quite constrained, and I found myself just waiting for Rau to let loose complete with some crazy guitar solo. “High Society” defies my grievances though, and features a bumping 80’s vibe that is simply bubbling with energy. The next tune, “Tablasaurus,” is quite mellow throughout with a vast array of string and keyboard instrumentals, but does not leave a very firm impression despite its playful spirit. And despite it’s peculiar title, “Julien Donkey Boy” has quite dull lyrics even with all the epic drums and cymbals aside. Yes, whining “Julien, where are you? /Donkey, donkey boys are sold for 50 at the market,” does get a little repetitive after the 18th time. The beginning of “Wicksey Boxing” is eerily reminiscent “Violet Hill” by Coldplay’s opening chords. That is about where the similarities end, and that is by no means a condemnation. I really couldn’t articulate most of the lyrics of the song, but the melody is so haunting with its ominous guitar scales and brooding drum beats that I couldn’t help thinking, “Damn. This is a beautiful song.” It’s a different side of the band, and a real treat to experience. “Blood and Treasure” is a complete departure from its predecessor, and is almost like Ritalin in music-form. Loud, quality rock in its truest form, Bear Hands brings to mind the likes of The Fratellis and Kings of Leon here. My favorite song of the record would definitely be “Can’t Stick Em” which begins really slow, but quickly adds the drum kits and crescendos into an angst-ridden anthem about the importance of home. Sure, that sounds cheesy, but when delivered by the charismatic Rau, one can’t help but be both moved and overjoyed. Too bad his barely-audible vocals of the tedious “Camel Convention” are drowned out by earsplitting amps and guitar chords suffering from Tourette’s. “Tall Trees” is a short and pleasant tune to neatly wrap up the album and leave the listener on a happy note. Not much else to really say about it.

Burning Bush Supper Club was a mixed batch—while featuring some spirited and distinctive gems, there was its share of conventional and banal indie rock. I think their sound fits the style of the Blaze and other alternative-oriented enthusiasts perfectly, but certainly lagged some in the creativity department. Without a doubt, Bear Hands has tremendous potential, and will surely find their way into the hearts of iPods of hipsters everywhere.

04 November 2010

N.E.R.D.'s "Nothing" is Far From Nothing

It's his cadence. It has nothing to do with his lyrics; it is all about delivery to him. Pharrell has limited talent when it comes to being a lyricist with meaning, but what he lacks in talent he picks up in delivery and producing. It's been like that for a very long time, sometimes his words are great, for instance "Frontin'" one of my favorites, is great on the lyrics but that was in 2003. This is 2010, a new decade, a new N.E.R.D., and let me be the first to tell you, it's sick.

It all started in 1994 for Pharrell and Chad Hugo's Neptune's Productions, but the "geeks" behind N.E.R.D. met in high school, and started making music in Hugo's garage. They released their first album in 2001 and have been Gold ever since. The much anticipated, for people like me, album entitled "Nothing" is now here.

Nothing starts with a fast paced song "Party People" which goes hard on the beat but as I listened to it all I heard was "what i need, what i need is that girl there." Remember the lyrics problem? It's still here, but I do not care! Hypnotize U, teh second track on the album is one of my favorites, I saw them do this on David Letterman a few weeks back, and I stoked when i heard Daft Punk produced it, finding the time for N.E.R.D. while making the Tron Legacy soundtrack. "Help Me" has yet again brought into light the topic of bad lyrics; he talks about a snake in tall grass at one point, talk about random. Maybe the Nothing title means that the lyrics mean nothing! I decrypted the meaning! My least favorite goes to the 4th track on the list, "Victory." Not so much of a victory for my ears but who cares? I'm now going to skip a few tracks, since this is a large album and you will listen to it because I am loving it, and I will now talk about the best song on the setlist for Chad, Pharrell and Shay Haley. You have probably heard it before, and said one of two things, "Mom/Dad, can I please, please, please have a bass guitar?" or "I slappa da bass mon'!" This song is insane, of course it is "Hot n' Fun." The beat moves my entire body oh yeah and bumps my headphones as well, it just makes me want to replay it over and over. The best part though, the lyrics are good too! Pharrell you did it! First sick rap since he did a quick one with Snoop on "Drop it Like it's Hot." Wait, I'm leaving someone out, oh! Shay Haley, you rock too my man. Then after that song ends you get a great little shin dig of a guy filibustering on the track but it ends in 42 seconds so stay tuned because you get a great track to listen to "It's in the Air" this one has meaning to it and I like the entire beat and release of lyrics in it. "Sacred Temple" is sick, but....cadence again folks! "I Wanna Jam" the second to last track is a plethora of beats to be able to run to, very fast, and that is why I like N.E.R.D. they can make the simplest beat but make it seem like so much is happening. It all ends with "The Man" and the tympani drum in it is wonderful to bump to in your headphones and car, it's a great end to a great album.

All in all, I love N.E.R.D. to me it isn't the lyrics, it is the beats and the way they talk, this album is different from the older ones and that is fine with me, sometimes change is good, just ask the President.

03 November 2010

Casiokids, Topp stemning på lokal bar (2010): Album Review

Sweden has really taken the Europop genre by storm. ABBA, Roxette, Ace of Base—all Swedish pop groups that have achieved immense success throughout the globe. Norway is looking to change that, though, with their electro-pop quintet Casiokids. Formed in 2005, Casiokids were the first band to release a Norwegian pop single in the UK—both of which can be found on their new album, Topp stemning på lokal bar (loosely translated to “Great vibe at local bar.”)

The record blasts off with their first single, “Grønt lys i alle led.” It is a very cheery song with light and airy keyboards, and an especially impressive guitar hook. The language barrier is surely detrimental to my enjoyment of the song, but the joyful falsetto is enjoyable to listen to regardless. “Fot I hose” has a much more club-ready vibe than the first song with a heavy emphasis on the bass, and prominent use of the cymbals for a steady beat. There are no vocals whatsoever which allows for the instrumentals to show off front and center. “Verdens største land” is simply a plethora of sound and I love it. They skillfully use their keyboard here to reproduce sounds of bongo drums, a metronome, xylophone, among others—all mixed together with harmonic vocals to create a pleasant yet exotic tune. The next song “Finn bikkjen!” is a bit falsetto-heavy for my taste, but the beat is so funky and infectious I can’t help but be in a good mood listening to it. “Min siste dag” is a bit slower than its predecessors, but all the vocals complement each other quite nicely during the chorus no matter how much they appear to be straining their voices at times. “En Vill Hest” brings an African flair to the record with native chants and beats serving as the basis for the song, with lots of bells and whistles mixed throughout for a very unconventional sound. The next song “Gomurmamma” is another purely instrumental piece that is kaleidoscopic in proportions: thumping bass, cymbal repetition, and electronic noises that are reminiscent of R2D2 in my beloved Star Wars. Pretty crazy stuff. The record ends with “Togens hule,” which is the 2nd half of Casiokids’ UK single. All I can really say that it sounds so incredibly like anything else I’ve ever heard, it’s like an acid trip in music form. Couldn’t have ended the album in any better fashion.

On a whole, this was a pretty awesome album. Yes, I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but their music is so diverse and so distinctive that you kind of look past that. Casiokids and their album Topp stemning på lokal bar was truly a breath of fresh air to listen to, and I wish them all the best both overseas and (fingers crossed) in the United States sometime very soon.

Home Video, The Automatic Process (2010): Album Review

On Home Video’s Wikipedia page, there is a prominent picture of the duo—one staring at the ceiling submerged in a bathtub; the other, lying against the wall staring emotionless at the ceiling. After listening to their new album, The Automatic Process, I would not be surprised in the slightest if that is how this Brooklyn-based duo looked the entire time they were recording: withdrawn, blasé, and all-together bored as hell. Or were those just my feelings?
“Accomplished But Dead” starts off the album on a very mellow note that sounds pretty interesting at first, but grows a bit tedious after the first minute or so when the vocals and instrumentals all become muddled together. They don’t fare much better with the next track entitled “The Smoke” which actually has a pretty exotic beat to it, but the vocals sound so monotone that it’s impossible to stay interested for the upward of 5 minutes. “Business Transaction” is the first song I actually liked—they’re able to create a haunting melody here that actually features some powerful lyrics. I think “An Accident” could potentially be nice, but they way over-due it with a variety of synthesizers that make the tune more fit for elevator music than actual iPod tunes. “I Can Make You Feel It” makes me feel pretty frustrated, quite frankly—this band just can’t seem to get it right. The song has a fairly upbeat vibe compared to the rest of the record, but never fully takes off. I would just love for an instant for Collin Ruffino to actually show some excitement in his voice and act like he cares about what he’s singing. The tune “Beatrice” is actually a bit of a step-up for them—same hazy vocals, but infused with balanced instrumentals that actually compliment and don’t overshadow Ruffino‘s voice. “The Automatic Process” sounds like some trashy European club beat with some barely audible words added in. And not some cool words either—the same one-note whispers I’ve come to expect from Home Video. So what else is new? “Every Love That Ever Was” has a mystical beat featuring progressive drums and airy synths that remind me of something you might hear in a bad 80’s workout video. And that is meant in the fondest way possible. But the vocals are sleep inducing, and don’t exude any joy that comes from the feelings of love. And what is “Description of a Struggle” supposed to be? It was like a crossbreed between Enya that Celtic singer and music you’d hear getting some cheap massage on a cruise ship. Like geez, I don’t know what would ever inspire someone to play that by choice. “No Relief” lives up to its title as no relief from the poor quality of this album. Yes, enough witty commentary about that one. Finally (yes, finally) the record concludes with “You Will Know What to Do” which isn’t actually half-bad. As a friend sitting next to me commented, it sounds very much in the style of Radiohead. The same stirring, drum-heavy instrumentals with far-off vocals that create the perfect tune to completely simmer down with.

Overall, there’s a few songs that were halfway decent—yes, I might even say I liked them. But honestly, I will probably never listen to this record again (by choice, that is). It was uninspired, humdrum and dreary. There was a complete lack of energy all around—no one song showed an ounce of passion or musical finesse. Home Video will most likely go the way of their namesake, the VHS—out of style, stacked on a shelf, forgotten in a cardboard box somewhere. And yes, I know that’s awfully harsh, but The Automatic Process was an all-around painful record to listen to, and I do not recommend subjecting oneself to this level of lethargy.

01 November 2010

Of Montreal, False Priest (2010): Album Review

I think Of Montreal is a really cool band, plain and simple. Formed in 1996, singer/songwriter Kevin Barnes named the group after a former flame that was from Montreal, Canada. Talk about boss band name back-stories, huh? They’re also from Athens, Georgia, which earns them some major points with me—considering I have a ton of friends that go to UGA, and I’m from South Carolina myself. Their first album in 1999 was entitled Cherry Peel, and the band has since recorded 9 more—the latest being False Priest.

“I Feel Ya’ Strutter” kicks off the album with a catchy doo-wop feel that is reminiscent of “Grace Kelly” crooner Mika—yes, there’s even some falsetto involved. Janelle Monae makes an appearance on the next tune, “Our Riotous Defects,” which is an amusing speak-singing narrative following a hipster romance with a crazy chick. Monae’s presence, sorry to say, certainly brings down the momentum of the song, and seems hastily tacked on with no real value. And while there are some witty lyrics, “Coque Coquette” drags on a bit unnecessarily, and has a rock vibe that doesn’t suit the group so well. “Godly Intersex” had me a bit worried at the beginning with its sluggish pace, but picked up with some pleasant excitement in the last minute or so. The next Janelle Monae duet fares much better than the first—“Enemy Gate” has some dark energy flowing throughout, but is still quite catchy with some fine work by the drummer here. “Hydra Fancies” simply screams of MGMT with its funky electronic beats, guaranteeing a captivating, psychedelic listen. Vote for some of the strangest lyrics I’ve ever heard goes to “Like A Tourist”—“Unicorns eating baby meat/There’s a dragon rape if you want one/ One’s the loneliest number.” Don’t know what was in their pipe, but I’d sure like to try some. Although rather odd, reading the lyrics to this song definitely increased my respect for the group. The next tune “Sex Karma” features Solange Knowles (yes, the other half of that random chick you hear on the radio, Beyonce). I would say it’s my favorite of the 3 major duets on the record if not for the sole reason that Knowles’ voice blends perfectly with that of Barnes. It has a tarty-sweet beat to it, which segues right into “Girl Named Hello” flawlessly. While less intriguing than its predecessor, the tune still drips with energy that is impossible to enjoy. The band slows the pace down some for “Famine Affair” which isn’t a bad song by any means, but is simply not all that interesting. Uninspired beats, cliché lyrics, and vocals that are slightly grating to the ears. It at least has some more stamina than “Casualty of You,” which feels like the group was losing steam and decided on a melancholy tune ending in chaotic noise that was supposed to sound “desperate” or “woeful.” Woeful for the 3 wasted minutes of my life, yes. They luckily redeem themselves with the futuristic “Around the Way,” and finish off in style on the musical roller coaster of “You Do Mutilate?” Exploring multitudes of beats and genres within the near 7 minutes of music, Of Montreal reminded me of why I liked them in the first place.

Why is that, you might ask? Well…besides the fact they’re from Georgia and have a legit name. It’s because they have unique music that transcends the usual hipster mold of music and creates an all-around satisfying listening experience. Yes, there are a few weak links, but False Priest shows that even after 10 years, Of Montreal still has the contagious originality of a newcomer. And for that, I applaud them with my skinny jeans and Vans in tow.