The Hated Opinionated One

Archive for December, 2008

Michael Zapruder Rains Heavy With Paper Dragon Frogs

Posted by Scotio on December 16, 2008


For this year, Indie music has seen some remarkable highlights float down the path. One of those golden moments comes in the form of Michael Zapruder‘s Rain Of Frogs band and the Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope album. Zapruder is one of two male siblings with a penchant for lyrical offerings and musical delivery as his brother Matthew is an acclaimed poet, an editor and also a guitarist. But, this review isn’t about his family history as much as his album isn’t about boars, rats and oxes(Chinese Horoscope animals, people). The album has, justifiably, garnered buzz in the indie/college market. Allow me to break down why the album should also hold conference with your ears and attention for, at least, forty-three minutes and forty-five seconds.

“Ads For Feelings” will, somehow, feel the most at home song to you. Not for the fact that everyone will relate to the lyrics that he states with an eerie level of coolness, but because of the melody of the music. The music, with playful woodwind additions during the chorus section, adds in a sense of nostalgia that most of us haven’t recalled since childhood(unless, of course, you are a parent/guardian of a child). The reason for that being that it sounds like a grown-up’s version of a Sesame Street tune. I apologize for all the people that will begin to feel uptight at this point, because I’m not insulting the song. In fact, I tip my hat to it for the fact of bringing forth such a remembrance of peaceful and playful yesterdays while still holding an air of confidence that isn’t obtained until later in life. You would think that the low toned sing-talk that Zapruder does on the song would work against it. Instead, it works with the song. No, for the song. Simply because it allows the music to hold the foreground for the listener and let the lyrics play the assistant to the task of luring you in. It’s an extravagant piece that, out of all the songs on the album, needs to be heard by anyone who’s ever counted to 10 with a muppet.(Note: if he could/does do a video for this, it would be beyond awesome to throw some Jim Henson characters in there)[Ed: as you can see, the video is at the bottom, no muppets, but still houses a Sesame Street-esque video style)

On “Black Wine,” Michael utilizes a more western style for his approach. With it’s mezzo-soprano choir of voices, lonely 1-2 percussion pattern and acoustic guitar being plucked in cowboy fashion, it’s hard not to want to grab your stetson hat and take a ride into the sunset. The song is also the longest out of all of them, clocking in at a whopping 8 mins 54 secs. It’s easy to say that this track will not be released in single format. Though, I find it hard not to believe that Michael didn’t use this track to close a show or 2 due to it’s more broody mood and dark style. Surely, anyone who found a liking to Tom Morello’s Nightwatchman side-project would take fast to this one.

Easily, one of the most interesting songs is “Bang On A Drum.” The Rain Of Frogs crew create such a lo-fi two-step danceable piece, here. Zapruder comes on the perfect combination of Andrew Bird meets Jack Johnson. The percussion section of this track is the most intriguing. Housing a wide array of different “drums” from all over the globe, the total sound can become intoxicatingly sway-inducing. But, just when you think you have the song snagged and set in stone, you’re treated to a homage to the country that of the people listed in the album’s title. Giving their best rendition of a Chinese parade, Michael and company strike various drums that leaves you looking around the room waiting for fireworks and a paper dragon to take center stage. The lyrical content, though, gives the drum theme a totally new and serious meaning, regardless to how smooth they are sung. Talking on the affairs of the world and its people’s warring pseudo-nature. Michael croons “Fool them once, and shame on them/Fool them twice . . . Fool them twice and that is just not nice/ It’s hard to make paradise/ Killing people is good business.” The method of execution and the intelligent remark of banging on a drum being a symbol of marching into war just does wonders and could snake it’s way into a lot of avenues that won’t outright catch the meaning but would love the tempo. It’s hard to say that the song only fits the USA/Iraq situation as it holds true to almost any “world power” that seems to want to extend their reach at the sake of damaging others.

“Experimental Film” stands out as one of the two most electronic track on the album. Due to it being composed of more instruments that require an outlet to be played rather than being blown in or banged, it instantly catches your curiosity. To me, he couldn’t have picked a better spot for this song than the album closer position that he chose. It perks up the ears of the listener enough to have them backtrack through the album to try and pay more attention. That’s a sign of true working trickery. It does help tons with the song actually being very well done and head nodding. By the time the organ solos kick in, you’ll be sure to feel like you’re in a lo-fi church of funk. The other most electronic piece is the, interestingly, the album’s opener “Happy New Year.” It’s an sad piece that completely contradicts it’s title. Seeming more like a narrative of a night’s stroll by a man whom seems to be reduced to only being able to shrug at life. It’s dark and isolated feeling helps you to recline back and better take in the wild ride that lies ahead of you with this album. If this has become a live performance favorite, I wouldn’t at all be surprised with the news. The album is filled with a wide collection of various styles and genres. An example of that is the lounge-styled song “White Raven Sails.” Zapruder’s voice, accompanied mainly by a piano and few other instruments, has a way of lulling you down. There is beauty in solitude. The smoky smooth tune waves a flag for the hayday of lounge music when it wasn’t a jokeful genre of putting tips in a big glass container, but something that was heralded to the point of people picking out the smokiest clubs just to catch a listen of some dynamic minimal music.

Rain Of Frogs might share it’s name with a strange meteorological occurence and even a “sign of the damned,” but only the former holds a stronger similarity to the work of this album. It’s a strange and strong collection of songs that range as greatly as most people’s musical libraries. There are few, if any, missteps on this album, as all the songs can individually stand on their own merit. Couple that with the fact that most people are going for collections of tracks of one particular genre that is characterized only by the person compiling it, and you have an album that can properly argue itself as being a full out album. Sadly, the collection of songs seem to be too “radical” for mainstream media, but a few songs would work wonders for some indie movie scene background music. That isn’t a bad thing, though. It allows the true fans to not have to worry about a group of hipsters flocking to it only because MTV has deemed it the next level of cool, because it goes too far over their heads to even grasp it enough to diminish it. And, to you growing number of truesters, I say that whenever you hear of Michael Zapruder and his Rain Of Frogs group coming to an area near you(which will obviously be a much lengthier pursuit than the 2 weeks it took to create the album) . . . you get to that area to witness him in action. Then, you grab his album to relive it as many times as psychologically and astrologically allowed.



Ads For Feelings Video:


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The Best of 2008(It’s all here)

Posted by Scotio on December 9, 2008

For the past few years, I’ve compiled the “best albums” of the year amongst my friends and I. This year, since I actually have this blog in operation, I feel it best to officially do this for everyone and not just the small circle. This year, I’ll be doing things a bit differently in terms of the formatting of my “recap.” Be advised that if I continue to do this thing every year, I’ll change things around until I feel I’ve reached the perfect format. So, I bring to you, the first ever Official “‘OH’ That’s This Year’s Best Albums” of 2008.

Best Alternative Pop Album: Coldplay – Viva La Vida
It’s hard not to give it to these guys. They released a truly phenomenal album. There’s very few things “wrong” with this album. It actually moves away from their easy territory and more into a land that they just briefly teased. The addition of Jon Hopkins for the album intro proved to be a tremendous effect in terms of marking new ground. Fans seemed to have loved it as well, making it one of their most listened to tracks proven by the music social site Last.fm. Though, I will be honest, they did backpedal when they added Jay-Z on their Lost song. Does he really HAVE to be on it? I know it’s to bother the Oasis boys, but come on.

Runner-Up: Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul
The Gallagher brothers released yet another awesome Britpop album. Being more upbeat with their tempo, they surely had folks tapping their toes to the music they made this time around. Sadly, it wasn’t AS good as the release from the band who sided with the rapper that they felt didn’t belong at the Glastonbury Festival. Jiggaman might be on a rapid decline, but the Oasis band seems to march strongly forward through time.

Best Art Rock Album: People In Planes – Beyond The Horizon
I mentioned these guys in my review for The New Regime. I loved their first album under this moniker, and was greatly awaiting what else they had to offer. Though delayed a number of times(to my chagrin), I was on the verge of thinking that the album either had to be amazingly brilliant, or a load of rubbish. Luckily, it was the former of the two. From the album opener to the album closer, they did all they needed to do to demand complete attentiveness to their musical output. They brilliantly added in electronics and other odd influences to their music that made them not only stand out amongst a crowd, but also allows them to stand tall on a pedestal. Gareth Jones has a voice that feels timeless and pure. I haven’t been so moved by an album of this category since I first heard OK Computer by Radiohead. That’s a huge compliment.

Runner-Up: TV On The Radio – Dear Science
This Brooklyn-based band is one band whom deserves the attention that they are receiving. Weaving in sounds from various eras, as well as incorporating the singing styles, they made an album that was as creative as it was accessible. They even go so far as to splice in Prince’s singing style(to Tunde Adebimpe’s acclaim) with an era sound that you would expect from a band updating a song by The Cure. It’s hard to believe that this album didn’t sell better than it did. It has enough style for those indie fans to feel at home with and enough commercial appeal to have it take over radio waves.
Honorable Mention: Hour Of The Shipwreck – The Hour Is Upon Us

Best Indie/Folk Album: Dark Captain Light Captain – Miracle Kicker
This is by far one of the best bands in their field. They demostrated such with their Circles EP, and solidified any doubts with this album. Allowing their acoustic instruments to take the lead while they added in soft minimal electronic atmosphere behind their songs. Hosting an incredible number of six band members, this London based crew shows the impressive gift of being able to bring one cohesive sound out. Not an easy task to accomplish when your band goes over five members and want to add a sense of creativity to a very underappreciated field of music. Still, they do so and bring out enchanting melodies as a result of it. I’d have to call someone heartless if they didn’t like this album.
Runner-Up: Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
I almost feel bad for placing this as a runner-up album. It’s really beautiful and incredible moving. Also for the fact that Ms. Hannigan has played the “sidekick” to Damien Rice for a number of years. This was her first full offering of her view of things. And, it’s a very remarkable view, indeed. She follows the same formula that Damien created for some of the tracks, but gives a more brighter feeling with it. She lets her music take a faster pace, and even seductive sound, on the song “Keep It All.” It isn’t hard to imagine this track playing in the background of some Indie Dramedy Movie’s love scene between the main characters. Sea Sew proves that Lisa wasn’t a moon stealing the light from Damien’s sun, but rather a star that emits her own illumination.
Honorable Mention: Andy Yorke – Simple, Anthony Green – Avalon

Best Indie/Experimental Album: Yoav – Charmed & Strange
This South African man brings some of the most amazing music. What’s even more incredible is that almost all of the sounds are done by his acoustic guitar recorded in layers. Yes, that also includes the electronic sounding ones. As innovative as it is captivating, you can’t find many flaws with this release. It’s not hard to see why this isn’t as popular as it should be; it’s too smart for the masses. I know that seems insulting, but it’s the truth. Sometimes, the truth is worse than a lie. And, it would be a lie to say that the man will be a massive hit in the USA. He’s just too good for that to take place, as odd as that may seem. And, that’s even with his easily pop music ready voice. Well, at least he’ll enjoy a career with a loyal and true fanbase.
Runner-Up: Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer
As the voice and piano half of the genre-creating Dresden Dolls, Palmer brings out a sound that you’re already familiarly associated with in regards to her. But, she doesn’t have to come to a middle ground with Brian Viglione for this release. And, free of compromising restraints we see an uninhibited form of the young lady. Her lyrics are as sharp as they are thought-provokingly comical. Her vocal duties either sail like a cloth in the breeze or jab you like a professional boxer. It all works together wonderfully. Though it’s as lovely as can be, you still hope that it doesn’t signify the end of Dresden(both of them have recently stated that they duo isn’t over, just taking a needed break).
Honorable Mention: School Of Seven Bells – Aplinisms, The Dead Science – Villianaire, Xiu Xiu – Women As Lovers

Best Indie/Pop Album: Duchess Says – Anthologie Des 3 Perchoirs

This Montreal act is just balls to the wall. They seem to want to do a little bit of everything, and refuse to be happy being boxed into one field. Covering a mess of ranges, they seems to somehow end up hitting where they need to. Claiming to be of the fictional Church of Budgerigars is a testament to the type of silliness that they display on their excellent album.
Runner-Up: The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing
This groovy pop duo took the soundwaves by storm with their catchy and moving singles. Housing some of the best annoying choruses that you can find yourself actually enjoying in the whole mixed up musical world, this year. They keep things uptempo and pulsing with their childish sing-song rhythmic chants. Everyone with a stick up their butt had their nose turned up to their tunes. Whereas everyone else who enjoyed actually having fun held this guy and gal paring as one of this years top listened act, and made sure you knew exactly what their name was.
Honorable Mention: MGMT – Oracular Spectacular(this would have been the top album for this category, but I felt that would technically be messed up since this album was digitally released in 2007.)

Best Indie/Punk Album: Johnny Berlin – Find What You Love And Let It Kill You
This groovy act brings in inventive uses for electronics and synths for their Indie Punk assault. Throwing fast paced action and good times at listeners before they are even able to guard against it is a tactical advantage on their part. They’re ahead of their retro-loving crowd, and they better stay that way with their sophomore full-length release as they did with this LP debut.

Runner-Up: Jaguar Love – Take Me To The Sea
You’d be perplexed upon first listening to this act. Lead Singer Johnny Whitney’s vocals make you slightly confused on if that is a high-pitched man or just a toy-voiced girl. It’s the former for your information(as The Blood Brothers fans could easily point out upon name dropping). And, they open the gates to a very in-your-face Punk bash. This is the type of music that your mothers and fathers were told was the devil’s music back in the day. And, surely, this type of music will easily make you seem like you’re acting a tad on the demonic side of things.

Best Dream Pop Album: Alt-Ctrl-Sleep – Alt-Ctrl-Sleep
I heralded this band, and, amazingly enough, a lot of you followed. This husband & wife duo brings some of the most soul-stirring music out into the world. It’s a gift and a blessing that the two of them found each other. Not just for their sake, but for us listeners, as well. I feel it best to try to backtrack my archives so that you can read my review on their album. It best sums up how great the album is. I would like to add that they posted up Demos for their new album, and it sounds equally as impressive. It’s not hard for me to say that I’ll be adding that album to my list of music I’ll be eagerly awaiting next year.
Runner-Up: Loquat – Secrets Of The sea
I’m actually glad I took a chance with this band. A friend of mine stated that they were really good, and they actually are. The lead singer Keylee Swenson has a bewitching vocal ability. The backing music coasts wonderfully behind her siren call. With an album that seems to adapt to any season, it’s hard not to get taken in by it’s extraordinary coolness. This is another band coasting under the radar that should, by all means, come up as more than just a tiny blip.

Best Dance-Punk Album: The Presets – Apocalypto
These Aussies know how to get the party going. Right out of the gate, they force you to make your way to the dancefloor and shake what your mama(and papa . . . it takes two to make it) gave you. Filling in almost-tribal vocal sounds throughout the album, it isn’t any bit difficult to understand why people unleash their inner animal when they are dancing to these boys. What they do that is pure genius is that they don’t take themselves entirely serious. This is a party album, and parties are meant to be fun, not serious. Even if they do try to show a more artistic view in their videos(This Boy’s In Love, perhaps?), they don’t add that into their music. They stay straight on their course and drive their position clearly home.

Runner-Up: Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
These three(four if you’re counting their live additonal member) boys from Britain have everything that you would need in one package. Like, just imagine if Coldplay, LCD Soundsystem and some Devo all rolled into one. Then, MAYBE you have an idea of how groovy this band is. Being hosted on the “infamous” XL Recordings marks how upbeat dance grooves and creativity this release holds. With a debut LP like this, it leaves one to wonder where will they find themselves on their follow-up record. Hopefully, back in the creates of Dance-Floor crowding DJs.
Honorable Metion: Grafton Primary – Eon, Walter Meego – Voyager, Sebastien Grainger – Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains

Best Pop Album: Santogold – Santogold
This Philly-Born Brooklyn transplant gives out the best case of danceable music. She makes Pop tracks, she knows that. She enjoys it. She is about making people feel happy. That’s what pop is all about, right? Well, if you walk away from listening to this album feeling down in the dumps, obviously you have some serious dilemmas going on in your personal life that hinder you from proper enjoyment. With help from a dynamic team of producers, Santo brings everything from Electro-Pop to Alt-Pop music.

Runner-Up: Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
This Aussie-born British transplant delivers a very head-turning debut album. Housing every ounce of pop sensibility from the 80’s era, she brings back nostalgia with perfection. Instead of sounding like someone trying to sound like someone from Pop’s Decade, she time travels in Doc Brown’s Delorium and captures everything that made that music hip swaying inducive. With old being the new “new,” she’s firmly planted ahead of her contemporaries.

Best Trip-Hop Album: Portishead – Third
After spending nearly a decade on “hiatus,” one of the most pivotal Trip-Hop bands/acts in the game returned. Third carried a more lo-fi sound to the band’s already “minimal” trademark. Of course there were folks who seemed to have wanted a song on there that sounded like it was co-written by both lucifer and jesus, but that didn’t happen. What was given was Portishead. And, that was more than enough to reconfirm what I’ve been saying for the past 3 years: “TRIP-HOP AIN’T DEAD!!!”

Runner-Up: Costanza – Sonic Diary
It’s odd that this is actually better than the Tricky release. Not to take anything away from Mr. Thaws, but Ms. Francavilla has taken what he taught her and ran with it. Featuring some of the best music of today let alone of the Trip-Hop field, she impresses far more than a lot of protégés of other artists. With stand out tracks like “I’ve Been Waiting For You,” “Burqa” and “In The Sun” she shows that she isn’t just a good “Robin” but also a great “Nightwing”(That’s a comic joke. For those not keen on comics, it means that she’s impressive on her own as she is with the “main” star).
Honorable Mention: Tricky – Knowle West Boy

Best Emo Album: E For Explosion – Reinventing The Heartbeat
Jamison Covington, formerly one half of JamisonParker, reinvented himself and went to reinvent beating hearts. This album is tremendously atmospheric and heavy with emotional lyricism. Jamison adds in shoegazing elements to the music and totally reshapes everything that you formerly knew of him. The album is highly impressive and cancels out any fears that folks had in believing that the material released after the break-up of JamisonParker might not match the level of acclaim from fans.
Runner-Up: Brightwood – Wake
This Portland, Oregon four piece’s LP debut is instantly moving. Housing some of the best guitar work that I’ve heard in a long time from this category as well as the best “smooth vocaled” singer, these guys are set for a lengthy career. Showing multiple methods of execution with their music, all they need is one big hit, and they will dominate MTV viewers.
**Note: I don’t like Pop-Punk emo like that. The “Emo” I enjoy is the one that is enjoyed by those whom flock to Starbucks on a daily basis, and usually ends up writing what they feel will be the next great American novel. So, don’t complain about these albums listed here, they still are under the Emo umbrella . . . just not “mainstream emo.”

Best Shoegazing Album: True Widow – True Widow
D.H. Phillips returns with a new endeavor. True Widow’s self-titled album comes through with such a growl and slowgrinding shoegazing sound that it should be listed as a narcotic. It’s hypnotizing psychedelic groovy envelopes you to the point that you’re not quite sure if you’ve taken some type of illegal pill before you clicked play. As swaying as it is lo-fi artistic, the album is seriously an all around contender for one of the best albums released this year. If you’re not a fan of this group and a fan of the categories that it’s labeled under, I suggest you get familiar with them. They’ve been what you’ve been waiting a long time to hear.
Runner-Up: Uzi & Ari – Headworms
Mixing together acoustics, shoegazing and low-key/lo-fi electronics might seem like something that would come to anyone’s mind whom likes all three, but I doubt few would execute it as sensationally as this “band” does. Easily mixing up some of the best all three and topping it off with a singer who’s voice sounded like the perfect middle ground for Ben Gibbard and Thom Yorke, you have magic in a bottle. This is, arguably, one of the best rated albums amongst the listening community online for this year.
Honorable Mention: M83 – Saturdays=Youth

Best Hard Rock Album: Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy
I KNOW!!! It actually came out! What’s crazier is that it was actually pretty damned good! Though it still doesn’t justify the almost 13 year creation period that it took to be finalized, it still is a very awesome album. Axl has, almost, never sounded better. His lyrics haven’t been more provoking(minus controversial provoking). And the large source of backing instrumentalists have made GNR seem like something bigger than it ever was. Now, the question is, since he has a current line-up, will it take him another decade+ to release a new album that will build upon what was just offered?
Runner-Up: Ra – Black Sun
Ra returns with another thundering release that rocks hard and heavy. Sahaj sounds just as powerful and on point as he did with their major label debut. Released independently, this shows that they are still a force to be reckoned with and is a perfect slap in the face of the major labels’ ignoring them. With heavier promotion and decent touring, this album could/should become a must-have for all Hard Rock lovers out there.

Best Metal/Nu-Metal Album: Dir en Grey – Uroboros
Being one of the best progressive metal bands in the world and one of the most underrated has to be something that makes you smile and frown at the same time. Inching their way towards worldwide stardom is DeG’s goal. With an album as truly breathtaking as this, it’s hard to figure why the world can’t seem to catch up to the japanese wave of metal albums. I don’t care if you can’t understand/translate what Kyo is belting out. You need to take heed and pay respects to the most prominent metal band out right now(That’s only because Tool has re-entered their “Are we on hiatus?” stage). EASILY the best release of this category this year.
Runner-Up: Slipknot – All Hope Is Gone
Sure, you can bash them, trash their name and their fame and even sit there and declare them a “gimmick act.” But, after you’re done doing all of that, you need to bow your head and respect their craft. Still hosting the largest number of members in a mainstream metal act, these Iowa Boys return for more of what you love about them(or hate). They ride off of what Rick Rubin taught them, then splice that up with their more traditional sound and create one seriously badass album. You don’t have to be a maggot to nod along. But, you should at least exercise your neck before you go about headbanging.
Honorable Mention: Metallica – Death Magnetic

Best Punk Album: Rise Against – Appeal To Reason
Torch bearers of the Mainstream Punk music, Rise Against comes out with another hard hitter. And, it keeps fans’ fist pumping and the crowd moshing all throughout the length of the album. To look past this and for something else as the best album for the category would be foolish and unwise to a level that you should be declared insane.
Runner-Up: Fall From Grace – Sifting Through The Wreckage
This band is probably the best one to take over when Green Day either falls off completely or calls it quits. They contain that same commercial appeal that Green Day does, and even have the same drive that Green Day DID have(caught that?). This is a young band and they can only become more sharpened and better honed for the mainsteam as time marches forward.

Best House Album: Deadmau5 – Random Album Title
The long awaited official LP release came and shook house(pun intended). Joel showed why he’s been deemed the next best act by some of the best acts in the game. With pulse pounding basslines, groovy rhythms and the occasional crooning, this album took you were many others have gone before(but they went there on a substance). Released as a mixed together album and a non-mixed version, there were just the right dose of everything all the ravers wanted. But, be advised, the mixed album houses more songs. So, that translate to longer glow stick parties for you college kids going wild.
Runner-Up: Benny Benassi – Rock’N’Rave
The Italian Satisfction King returns to the scene with a full length solo album. And, it’s even a double disc(with the 2nd disc housing primarily remixes). It’s something to seriously get your party start and stay on for the duration of the night. Seldom do you find albums that can keep a party moving all by itself. This little puppy sure can do its damnedest to come close to accomplishing such a task. He does a Pump-Kin method of letting you know Who’s Your Daddy. And, all you can respond back with is “Your my daddy.”
Honorable Mention: Kaskade – Strobelight Seduction

Best Post-Rock Album: Kyte – Kyte
This group floored me. If I could have literally dropped my jaw all the way down to the ground, it would have happened when I heard their music. It’s just some of the best, period. It’s enchanting, spacey, mesmerizing and purely orgasmic. Combining Post-Rock ambient guitar playing with shoegazing elements and soft atmospheric electronics, they have everything you’ll ever need. The lead singer, on every song, seems like he’s singing in an ethereal voice. Every song is damn near an anthem for the soul. If you haven’t heard of these guys, I advise you to stop reading this and search out their music immediately. You can thank me afterwards.
Runner-Up: Mogwai – The Hawk Is Howling
Two years after releasing the incredibly impressive Mr. Beast album, the Scots return to form and muster up something that only they can perform with Hawk Is Howling. It’s bold, lush and as magnetic as all of their work. You’d have to be made of pure plastic not to feel some false sense of pride after you push play on this album.
Honorable Mentions: We’re From Japan! – Now Breathe, Sigur Rós – Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust

Best Post-Hardcore Album: From First To Last – From First To Last
After going through yet another member shift(they lost Sonny to a solo career, remember), the team decided not to sulk but to do it with just them. They felt they had something to really prove with this album. Luckily for them, they totally proved it. They didn’t need Sonny Moore or Phillip Reardon. Matt Good, indeed, had the goods. The band returned better than good and standing on great. They shushed all those fretting over the quality of their music with the lead singer loss and made Capitol Records slap themselves in the face and ass for losing their talents to Interscope.
Runner-Up: Sky Eats Airplane – Sky Eats Airplane
These guys have been fighting hard for their music to be heard for so long. Adding in a good deal of electonic sounds to their pulse pounding P-HxC music was, what they felt, the best way to come across as a determined young creative band in a bland field. Equal Vision believed them to be true. Being a fan of their EP before being signed, I can say that I wasn’t surprised at the music that was featured on the album. That was NOT a bad thing. The band stayed true to form and drive it home the best possible way that only they could. For anyone wanting more in their P-HxC, let a sky eat your airplane.
Honorable Mentions: Emarosa – Relativity, House Vs Hurricane – Forfeiture, Take The Crown – Relapse React

Best Post-Punk Album: Bloc Party – Intimacy
Looking up to their artistic big brothers(Radiohead), these four british guys decided to up the ante and add in a bunch of new things to their already established sound. Maybe it was the lukewarm reception from A Weekend In The City or just growing pains, but either way these guys have really stepped it up a notch. They decided not to rehash what made them great from Silent Alarm. Instead, they chose to show the world that they are just plain old “great” by offering out one of the most head-turning albums of the year. Folks can say that it rubbed them the wrong way, but those folks need to understand that they aren’t the youngsters that they were when they first appeared. They are grown men with new fears and larger ambitions.
Runner-Up: Haunts – Haunts
This debut has the underground scene whispering up a frenzy. It features all the things that mark a young band for future superstardom. They even decide to slow it down for a song, letting listeners know that they aren’t a one-trick pony. With them having more cards up their sleeve than they released on the table coupled with the fact that the cards on the table are some stunning ones, it’s going to be a lot of excitement in the air when they get ready to unleash their follow-up album.

Best Electronic/Experimental Album: Sébastien Tellier – Sexuality
With Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk fame producing your album + Calling the album Sexuality + Basing your album on sensuality, it’s pretty damned hard not to = Brilliance. Mr. Tellier’s album is brilliant. From front to back, you’re treated with some of the most romantic electronic music this side of an actually talented softcore porno music composer. Taking the listener on dozens of bedroom music rides, you’re left to wonder if some sort of contraceptive isn’t required to listen to the whole thing. I guess this is kind of what it would sound like if Daft Punk decided to start being “sexy.”
Runner-Up: Nite Club – Nu Nite
Ok, I’ll confess, this album did not come out in 2008, rather 2007(I understand that this may seem hypocritical in the case of MGMT, but I don’t care). The album received virtually NO attention . . . aside from it’s minimal Japanese audience. Which is criminal. This Brooklyn young man offers some of the best Electronic pop music that you’ll ever find. It’s airy and mildly complex in structure/execution. It’s just down right beautiful. I seriously hope that he’ll find an American/UK Label(indie or major) willing to take a chance and toss his album out to a much broader audience. I have yet to actually find an American outside of my group of friends whom have even heard of the guy, let alone any of his music. Criminal, I say!!!
Honorable Mention: Digitonal – Save Your Light For Darker Days, The Whip – X Marks Destination

Best Synth-Pop Album: Thieves Like Us – Play Music
I don’t know what it is about these guys. The lead singer seems like he half-asses through the whole thing. The beats clearly aren’t the best in the entire field, and the song structures and themes are jokeful at best. Yet, for some odd reason, I love them. They just hold something in the midst of all the elements that they contain that SHOULD make them a horrible act, yet it makes them a memorable one. The Play Music album is a finalized(meaning fully mixed and mastered) version of their Play Music For You “album” that was released last year. You should take a ride with three guys from 2 different parts of the world. You might enjoy where they send you.
Runner-Up: Ladytron – Velocifero
Switching up their style from an Electronic Band to a Synth-Pop one completely paid off for Ladytron(though, I’ll admit, the switch wasn’t that large of a leap). With Alessandro Cortini leading them along their journey, they hit hard and they hit true. They bring more sass and swagger to the battle field, and you’re left with nothing to do but groovy to the vibe. The music goes from Eroctic & Demanding to Dark New Wave(so what if I made that up) to Dreamy with the flip of a fast forward button. But, why fast forward through something that should be coasted through, I ask you?

Best Electro-Alternative Album: ModWheelMood – Pearls To Pigs
Breaking up an LP and releasing it as a 3 part EP series is a very pecular thing to do. But, being that Alessandro Cortini & Pelle Hillström come from some very interesting and intriguing bands(with intriguing antics to match), it leaves less of a wonder why they would contrive such a notion. Pearls To Pigs is meant to be viewed as one cohesive unit rather than three separate parts to the same series/idea. The “Album” showcases the tricks of the trade learnt from their other bands and a nice spice of self-creativity on their own parts. It’s as hard to categorize as it is to breakdown which instrumentals and effects were used in all the songs. Being released as only digital copies tend to place me in a somewhat bothered state. I enjoy having a physical fully mastered copy of material I seriously enjoy.
Runner-Up: Innerpartysystem – Innerpartsystem
Coming from the outskirts of Philadelphia is Innerpartsystem. They bring to the table a sense of “WTF” not felt since The Killers’ Hot Fuss album, but in a totally different sort of way. Being able to rock the house in an Aggressive Electronic method as well as crank the crunk in a party in an Electronic Dance format similar to something from Timbaland as well as switch gears so you can get close and get a girl moist(not from sweat), these guys are just too creative for their own good. Their gift can be viewed as a curse. Displaying all of the ways their most cherished bands have influenced them leaves them scattered across such a large musical palette. Luckily, their controversial videos can nudge out any chances of calling them “Pop In Disguise.”

Best Progressive Alternative Album: The Sound Of Animals Fighting – The Ocean And The Sun
Supposedly, this will be the last album released from this experimental/progressive collabrative effort. Shame, because they are as deranged and schizophrenic as they are ingenius(the albums, that is). Adding even more electronic addition to this album, it builds rather than distracts. Each member plays their position like pure professionals. It’s unknown if the formula that they recorded the first album(Each member recording their part without knowing/hearing the other members contributions), but it is even more bewitching than the other albums. Clearly a hallmark in music, this should be collected by any and all members of experimental/progressive alternative music. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they pay hommage to one of my favorite novels on here, also(House Of Leaves).
Runner-Up: The Fall Of Troy – Phantom On The Horizon
This EP came out as a sneak attack. This EP has been the most talked about thing for the fans of this band when it was released as a CD-R(and on the net). There were constant talks about “it’s going to be release, we just don’t know when.” Even since it hit the interweb. Well, low and behold, 2008 seems to be the year for the shocking releases. This one, completely and totally, lives up to the hype established from the Demos. It’s as epic and dramatic as any song that you’ll find on Led Zeppelin track(Yes, I gave them that type of compliment). It’s really awesome, and I wish I knew about the pre-orders for the EP before they RAPIDLY sold-out. This is a collector’s item if I’ve ever known one. Oh, did I mention that they built upon the demos and made the songs even more epic? Thought I should add that in. Oh, and this is the first studio release featuring Frank Black performing duties.

Best Darkwave Album: CruelBlackDove – Full Powers
This New York band is something to behold(or be-hear?). Bringing a combination of various sounds, including Industrial, Post-Punk and Darkwave. Featuring an equal guy to girl ratio in the band, the females end up being the more outspoken and lyrical ones of the band. Anastasia Dimou is the lead singer, and she brings a powerfully beckoning sultry tone to the lot of them. There is much “debate” over the actual typeset of the band’s name(CruelBlackDove or Cruel Black Dove), but regardless of which of the two choices you choose, choosing to listen to the band leaves you a winner all around.
Runner-Up: She Wants Revenge – Save Your Soul
An EP from the newly label-freed duo of SWR shows them doing something that most people have nagged them to make: a full sounding release. These four tracks exude pure confidence and charisma, even when it lyrically suggests otherwise. Justin & Adam have never sounded so sure, with themselves and their music. Their cockiness isn’t a hinderance, but rather their greatest appeal for this release. Given to whet the appetite, fans are now hungry to hear this new “fleshed out” sound that this gothic twosome can bring out. And hopefully, it will be similar to a nympho insecure Dracula on the prowl.

Best Rap/Hip Hop Album: Common – Universal Mind Control
Folks seem to really be in a tizzy over this album. I don’t get why, either. I mean, should the main remain stone-faced his entire career? That would case far too many forehead creases on his flesh. This is a fun and upbeat album. It’s truly worth, at least, a few listens in the old media player. Common seems to have grown enough to understand that life is short, and only a fool is 100% serious throughout the course of it. If you’re too uptight to have fun with him, the move on and light him get his party on.
Runner-Up: Blu = Johnson & Johnson(with Mainframe) + C.R.A.C. Knuckles(with Ta’Raach)
This young man is the west coast’s answer to Lupe Fiasco(no they aren’t battling. Don’t start that). He houses a spirited mic presence as well as holds the lyrical ability to create a highly impressive record(as in lifeline). He dropped two releases this year, and both are equally head nodding. He checks mics like it’s a part of his to-do list, and drops not a spill of ink where it shouldn’t be. At the ripe age of 25, and already boasted by XXL as one of the 10 best “freshmen” of hip-hop, get ready to find out just how real hip-hop can get with this next generation of emcees.
Honorable Mention: Gza – Pro Tools, Q-Tip – The Renaissance

Best Dubstep Album: iTAL tEK – Cyclical
This is clearly the top runner for this position. There wasn’t an album released in this genre that could compete against the fullness and bass-heavy creativity that this album offered. With Burial not releasing his follow-up album this year, and Kode9 deciding only to release a glorified single, this was almost easy pickings for Alan Myson. I’d find it impossible that any self-proclaimed Dubstep fan would have not heard this album this year.
Runner-Up: Barry Lynn – Balancing Lakes
Ok, so it wasn’t all easy pickins for iTAL tEK(and I did say “almost”). Barry Lynn decided to step out from behind his Boxcutter moniker and release an album using his real name. He says it isn’t dubstep, but I’m not fooled easily. I’m on to you, Mr. Lynn. This is far more atmospheric and ambient than any other Dubstep album released this year. It shows a nice pseudo-flip-side to his Boxcutter image.
Honorable Mention: 2562 – Aerial

Best Industrial Album: Mindless Self Indulgence – If
Though detracts have called this “even more mainstream Industrial than Nine Inch Nails” and some going so far as to refusing to label it Industrial, I know the truth. And, this was as quirky and entertaining as very few albums of the year. It showed tremendous growth with the band. The musicship of the foursome has stood up in a more adult manner, even if the adult is as goofy as a cartoon.
Runner-Up: Nine Inch Nails – The Slip
Now, I love this band. I’ll punch you in the mouth with hopes that some teeth fall out if you doubt that. But, this album wasn’t as “full” as the other works from them. There were some incredibly great songs housed on it, but the album as a whole didn’t possess that “umph” that I was looking for. It’s a great companion piece to those whom loved the Ghost I-IV album(which is fan-friggin’-tastic). But, for those looking for that NIN “push the envelope” feeling, it wasn’t there for this one. Maybe next time. Trent has time to think things through, now. I’m sure the next one could possibly be AS good as TDS or WT(you fans know what those initials stand for).
Honorable Mention: Angelspit – Blood Death Ivory

Best Remix Album: Puscifer – “V” Is For Viagra: The Vagina Remixes
Maynard James Keenan has caused quite a stir with his Puscifer project. A lot of people seem to be greatly divided in regards to it. Either they love it, or they feel that it’s a slap in the face to the fans. No matter where you land, you have to respect the man for doing what he wants to do, and finally doesn’t have to answer to a label in regards to it. The Remixes of his V Is For Vagina album are as ballsy as the original material, and sometimes moreso. Sometimes it’s even better visioned than the original versions. Either way you take it, you know what the V is for.
Runner-Up: Anthony Green – Avalon Remixed
Anthony’s Circa Survive comrade decided to pick up where Anthony left off. Rather, he picked up what Anthony dropped off. Colin Frangicetto decided to add an electronic view to the Avalon songs that Anthony released near the tail-end of summer. They are as lifting as the original tracks, but with a whole new air to the project. Is it possible that we could be seeing hints of what their main progressive act might be adding in the mix for their 3rd album? Only time can tell.

Best MiniAlbum/EP: CruelBlackDove – Full Powers
This Brooklyn band’s EP has been in consistent play mode on my iPod. Be it I’m taking a walk, pondering on how I want my novel’s next few chapters to be written out, or just brushing my teeth, this plays as some good moody background music. It’s awesome, and dare I say enticing. Now, I’m waiting for them to throw the sheets back and reveal a full-length album.
Runner-Up: Robotanists – Close Down The Woods
Flipping their name from Philistine to Robotanists was a strange twist. It left a few people lost as to who that engaging band featured on the Blood & Chocolate soundtrack ended up at. Well, here they are. And, they have much to offer their small yet growing fanbase. I heed all to jump on this ship before it fully sets sail. That way, when it’s going on it’s 3rd worldy trek, you can say that everyone else was following after you(and you were following after me *wink*).
Honorable Mentions: She Wants Revenge – Save Your Soul, Person L – Initial

Best Full-Length Album: Alt-Ctrl-Sleep – Alt-Ctrl-Sleep
There were a slew of albums that I was greatly anticipating this year. Sadly, most of them were delayed until next year(Curse you!). Still, an album that I didn’t know existed UNTIL this year that held me captive the most(regardless to what my iTunes lists) is this Husband & Wife duo. There’s just so much magic in this album, that it’s completely hard to explain if you’re not a DEEPLY passionate music fan. They hold their own amongst a large group of . . . well, groups(I listen to tons of music. Check the technique!). This album, mark my words, will stand the test of time. And time will feel tested when this album is played years down the line by music lovers forced to backpedal to find the good stuff.
Runner-Up: Beck – Modern Guilt
I know a lot of you are completely flabbergasted by this pick. But, that’s something you’ll just have to deal with. This album is just pure bliss. Call it Beck’s constant urge to do something new, or call it the genius of Danger Mouse(he produced it, you know?). But, no matter which way you call it, you better call this a solid album. It seriously, SERIOUSLY, is such a thing. And, in my opinion, Beck hasn’t released a SOLID album in quite some time. This, my friend, allows you to finally breathe easy, Beck. You’ve done it. You’ve made the album you were looking for that would reinvent you. Kiss the man in the mouse suit, he helped you achieve it.
Honorable Mentions: Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night, Nine Inch Nails – Ghost I-IV(Note: this would be up as the best full-length if it wasn’t a part of a growing project. I feel that to be cheating to place this as the top since, per Reznor’s own words, Ghosts is far from being finished. So, I’m just being fair, folks. Don’t get knotted up.)

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The New Regime Coups In A Destined Direction

Posted by Scotio on December 7, 2008


So, Nine Inch Nails has a new drummer coming up. And, it’s a guy that’s under 21 years old. Interesting considering the shoes that the kid will have to fill from those that came before him. Ilan Rubin is his name. And, more interesting is the fact that he has a solo record. Did I mention that the guy has also been playing the drumming role for lostprophets since their drumming position was left open? Already possessing a very impressive record all before he’s even legally allowed to drink in the USA, young mister Rubin seems to be a force to look out for. This review is on his solo album titled Coup. His “band” name is The New Regime. I use the quotation marks around the word band because he seems to have taken a number out of his new boss’s page in recording the record: performed all the instruments himself. Though there are tons of kids coming out of the woodworks with their “bedroom band” ideas, this isn’t one of them. It’s as polished as the bands he’s already played in. Coup brings about a likeness to other already established acts in its execution. Me being a super huge fan of Captain M.T. Reznor, I feel obligated to apply a “hawk’s eye” view for the works of the people that play in the live incarnations of Nine Inch Nails. I wouldn’t be a good and true fan if I did not do such.

“Take Control” is a very impressive song. So impressive was it that I found myself telling myself “I enjoy this new People In Planes track.” I had to respond to myself with “But this isn’t People In Planes.” Now, some might assume that when I reminded myself of that, I would be giving a negative mark to The New Regime. No, such did not take place. Actually, it was the contrary. I find People In Planes to be one of the most imaginative and creatively on cue bands that have graced my ears. Yes, that means ever. So, for Ilan to perform such a task all by his lonesome really speaks volumes. And, those volumes echo vibrantly. The drumming on the track is probably the most impressive drumming I’ve heard from such a young person since Travis Barker started letting his inhibitions go or when Dave Grohl grabbed the time keeping reigns for Nirvana. It not only keeps the pace for the song, but it, for me, showcases that the young sir should be able to bring as close to a Josh Freese element to NIN that can only be topped by Josh himself. Rubin’s attacks are on point and extremely percise. If this is him at 19(age when recorded the song), I eagerly await him breaking the 30 mark in age and where he’ll be musically. His guitar work is excellent, as well. Beautiful layering his work overtop of itself to make it sound like a sonic cloud for the chorus. During the verse section, the guitar runs with in a simple two hit manner that shows minimized genius. Surprisingly, the kid has some pretty good singing chops on him. Not many people who plays in the background section would be as willing as he to belt out vocals like he does for the chorus. The song shows massive maturity in such a young individual.

“This War Time” fully displays his California roots. I have to admit, I’m not too keen on this track. Not for the fact that it lacks, but for the fact that when compared to the first half of the album, it just seems so Pop Rockish. If I had to compare it to another band, it would have to be the current form of Incubus. And, just like that band today, Ilan is much better than this song. It’s a good song for a good band, but he’s not good. He’s great. Still, this type of song does well for people his age(and moreso his home state). I just wish that he could have used this for a soundtrack single or something else. Possibly a B-Side or something. “The Credit “We” Deserve” is of that same vein. It’s nice in it’s attempt, but why shoot for nice when you have the ability to give out awesome? Instead of Incubus, this sounds more like something from Rooney. If the show The O.C. were still active, I could seriously see the producers throw this song in the midst of an episode and on their seasonal soundtrack release.

“Order Restored” is perhaps the first song that caught my full attention. With it’s Workstation Organ pushing out something that the Phantom of the Opera would be playing if he was trapped under Guitar Center as it’s opening tune, I couldn’t help but be taken in with it’s sinister vibe. Instead of allowing the song to become cliche, he builds on top of the opening and go in a more artsy progressive alternative direction. I really can’t hold against him the fact that his voice is similar to Gareth Jones. Yet, I will say that with that being said, it does add another comparable note to People In Planes. And, again, I have to tip my hat at the young man instead of ridicule him for the almost parallel sound.

I do have another mild vexation. That comes in the form of the tracks “Time Erase” and “Haunt My Mind.” With the former, the track is Nightmare Before Christmas-ly beautiful. Though, I would have preferred him singing in a less airy tone of voice. Something with more heaviness would have completely set the proper mood for the tune. His piano work is as brilliant as some stuff that Danny Elfman would create for a Tim Burton movie. That isn’t my irritant with the songs. Actually, allow me to state such before I begin talking about “Haunt My Mind.” See, the bother deals with their actual placement on the album. Positioned at the middle of the album, I feel it forces them to lose their power that they could possess if they were in fact placed as the last two tracks on the record. “Haunt My Mind” follows up brilliantly where “Time Erase” leaves off in the dark melody since. The song enters in with complete digital sounds. Ilan, singing of his loneliness to a lost one, could make even the most melancholy of emos blush with envy. After singing the line “I count the days until I can have my freedom back,” an erupting cadence of snare attacks takes place before the full force of the additional instruments detonate in the listener(s) ears. The song is, EASILY, the most powerful of all ten tracks. With such a performance piece, it’s hard to live up to the new heights that it reached. Sadly, all the tracks after that does not. Because of that, it would have been best to place these coupled songs at the end of the album rather than the middle. Though they do showcase the end of one “side” of this release, the other “side” just seems to not be able to top what has come before it. Such a thing forces the listener to have to pause or stop the album, clear the palette, and then play the last half of the album with a clean slate. Not a good thing for an album.

Coup also has a eerily similar cover as Have A Nice Life‘s Deathconsciousness. Yes, the covers are of the same Jacques-Louis David’s painting(The Death Of Marat, to be percise). But, where Have A Nice Life have zoomed in on the image, The New Regime chose to show the entire painting(albeit with a few modifications). This similarity, though, is more than likely merely coincidental(due to the fact that Have A Nice Life are an pretty seriously independent band). In terms of the similarities in sound with the other bands, I doubt that is less coincidental and more influential. I don’t believe that Ilan is imitating them, rather taking the aspect that he enjoys from them and tries to incorporate those aspects into his own sound. With this being his first release, he shows more promise than a little bit. His multi-instrumental skills revival those of Dave Grohl(whom, I might add, also did some work with NIN). He is a talented young man through and through. The New Regime should be a name/band/project that should, rather needs, to continue forth to display the growth that Rubin will achieve throughout the years. Coup, if nothing else, is a testament that Ilan can indeed hold his own with the best of them. It also shows that Trent Reznor has just acquired a more Alternative Art Rock young version of himself.



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Common Controls The Hip-Hopniverse With His Mind

Posted by Scotio on December 1, 2008

I know it’s been a while since I last released a review on something. Situations of life has caused me to not be able to do so. But, I’ll be delivering a review(and maybe try to squeeze in a few more) right now.

Common(born Lonnie Lynn), and emcee heralded in the hip-hop community, is geared up and ready to unleash his new(and 8th) album, titled Universal Mind Control. Now, most of you have probably heard the lead single to this song collective, but I’m sure you thought that it was merely a gimmick to gain attention. One that would leave you with a bunch of soulful Hip-Hop tracks behind it. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, folks. That’s not the case. The whole album moves in this new and(for Common) uncharted territory. It’s hard to call it flat out Commercial Rap, as the man with the pen is still very lyrical with his delivery. Yet, at the same time, all of you purists out there would have a tough time biting down on this being labeled Hip-Hop.

Now, before I go into my usual task and manner of review I’d like to touch on something I stated in the last sentence. Folks seem to have a very tough time dealing with anything new in terms of the Hip-Hop label. Just because it’s not a constant looping of old soul music that you’ve heard a thousand times and know exactly where the sample came from does not, I repeat, does NOT mean that the offering isn’t Hip-Hop. Now, I won’t say that the silliness of Lil Wayne, Yung Joc, Young Jeezy or even Kanye’s radical departure with his 3rd & 4th albums constitute as Hip-Hop either. They don’t, not in the least bit. But, what this album is, truly, can be called Hip-Hop. The musical artform that showcased and thrived on difference, experimentation and creativity. Much like how the Trip-Hop classification has grown plentfold since it’s original incarnation, so has Hip-Hop. There’s more than one face to this creature, and it’s time to embrace those other faces and not hold dearly to that only one. Don’t go tagging things that clearly lack intelligence, creativity and true lyricism as Hip-Hop, but don’t shy away from something new and air freshening in that stale room that you locked yourself inside of.

With that being stated, allow us to continue down our routine path, shall we. . . The intro of the album is a woman speaking to the listen in the French language. Saidly, I haven’t fully gotten knuckle deep with that language since High School. So, I’m not the one that you should come to for a translation(Note: If/When I do find out, I will post it here). Followed by that spoken piece, you’re treated to the single that you’re familiar with from the album, the title cut(“Universal Mind Control”). This song houses combinations of robotic future and tribal past. With the brilliant use of Star Trek inspired Synths & the sounds of live drumming(Pharrell is a drummer, you know?) The Neptunes showcase why they were the music industry’s top-billed producers at the beginning of the decade. With the work here, it’s a great closer to the dynamic opening that they had starting in 2000(though in the middle, they did flip-flop for a while). Common, though, has never appeared to be more in tune with a beat than he is here. Flowing in and out of the beat like a master weaver unveils something that Mr. Lynn has been hiding under his gatsby hat for some time. His cadence is perfectly timed. He speaks each word without giving the listener worry of garbled over words and sentences that most in his place would have done. It’s seriously a great track, and a good display for Common & The Neptunes to show that Hip-Hop isn’t a box.

Another surpriser is the track “Make My Day” featuring the crooning of Cee-Lo(member of Goodie Mob, one half of Gnarls Barkley). Honestly, when I first heard this, I was a bit confused. It was just something that you didn’t imagine Common on(I act like Electric Circus didn’t happen). The track is produced by Mr. DJ of OutKast fame. And, yes, the beat does sound like something that Big Boi and Andre 3000 should be featured on(Do I smell a feature remix collab?). Common does a sing-song flow on the track. Not in that annoying “hey I can sing” type of deal. More of a happening that occurs when you’re having fun and talking like you’re in some sort of Show Tune movie. I know that if you’re as silly as I am, part of you has to force yourself not to bust out with the Carlton Banks dance while listening to this song. It’s a fine testament of how he feels of his woman. Though most would argue that this would have been better served as it’s original summer song intention, you could argue against it if you’re really deeply emotionally connected to a female. Because, if you are, just being around her would make a wintery white day feel as warm as summer. No, it’s not sappy, it’s realistic. Grow up, people!

A track that I’m not all that into, and I kind of feel bad about it, is the one titled “Changes.” It’s just something about the song that just alludes and doesn’t fully connect. It’s too magical in a fantasy sense, the music. Not Sci-Fi like majority of the rest of the album, but it sounds like something that should be featured in a Jim Henson movie. It’s too distracting. Plus, with Common uttering lines like “I spoke like a child/I wrote like a child/I always smiled, let my mind float like a child” doesn’t help to take away that storybook feeling that the song emits. It’s just something about it. I can’t say it’s outright bad, it just leaves you lost without any directions to find a common ground between you and Common(pun intended). Another misstep is the track “Punch Drunk Love.” It feels TOO much like a Neptunes track. What I mean by that is that the song fills like something that either Pharrell or The Clipse should be on. Not someone like Common. Still, Common does give his best attempt to make the song his. And, any chances of that being accomplished is destroyed by Kanye on the chorus. His overly boastful ego just makes you dislike him and the song. When chorus comes on, you’re stuck spending too much time squinting at his attitude than you are getting deeper into the song.

There are other strange moments on this album. One of them happen to be “Gladiator.” Common raps over a distorted horn section with a marching band’s performance backing it up. Common comes out swinging as hard as he can. At times, he seems to end up hitting himself in his arm sailing that seems like he’s kind of flailing his arms to bring fear into his fictional opponent. It’s a nice song to get your adrenaline and courage pumped up, but not something that you would sit there and listen while in a chilled or party-happy mode. Pharrell featured on the hook complete contrasts the rest of the song. Surely, that was the plan. But, you can’t do it too drastically, or it ends up looking like a self-parody. And, in a very strong sense, that is how this song can be viewed. Star Trak’s new band Chester French makes an appearance on “What A World.” The lead singer, oddly, sounds like Pharrell. Don’t know if that’s intentional, or just coincidental. Either or, it does work for this song. Easily Neptune-ized through and through, the track brings a sense of funk that hasn’t really been felt by the duo since they produced that Austin Power’s third movie lead single by Beyonce(Work It Out is what the song is called, people). Common coasts on it suavely like the most mellow of Cat Daddies from the 70’s who entered into the early 80’s rap scene. “Announcement,” again, featuring Pharrell(his on almost as many tracks as Common is) seems like a updated and revamped version of something Bad Boy Records would have put out during their hayday. But, that could also be attributed to the pretty blatant Notorious B.I.G. lines and hommages used throughout the song(Hell, even Pharrell huskies up his voice for rapping a full verse). The only thing that throws it off from the whole Bad Boy vibe is Common using the word “Finna” during the chorus. Though, that isn’t a bad thing. It wouldn’t be right if he got stuck under that tab of duplication.

Now, I saved the best for last: The best song on this offering is the closing track “Everywhere” featuring the iconic trip-hop voice of Martina Topley-Bird(From Tricky’s Maxinquaye fame and even her solo material). Mr. DJ returns as the producer for this one. It’s just brilliant and dynamic. Mr. DJ’s work could easily contest that of newly megaproducer Danger Mouse. Martina clearly controls this song. It’s almost like it’s hers featuring Common, instead. Her voice is properly layered and still enchantingly airy. When Common comes on, he doesn’t disturb what was already laid out on the song. He fits into it accordingly, and, at times, seeming like Black Thought of The Roots on the track. I say that because of his use of flow, his ability to adapt to the track and not ruin it, and even his lyrical pattern. Not that he stole it from him, they are friends after all. But, it is a good tribute paid to his often overlooked friend. The song truly does sound like a missing track from her Blue God album released earlier this year. With Common’s 1 verse on the song, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t originally that. If it was, Kudos to Common for being wise enough to throw it on his album.



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