Alright so, It’s another audio onslaught of the latest albums I’ve gotten to see if they make it to my library. For your review we have albums from a bunch of acts. Let’s start, shall we?
Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record: I’m starting to think that there are times that BSS needs to go back to their more low-key instrumental roots. The opener, “World Sick”, is a good example: it really can do without Kevin Drew’s vocals on it. Thing is, not even Emily Haine’s vocals on “Sentimental Xs” saves the fact that most of the songs on this album sound like bloated hippie messes to me.
The Chemical Brothers – Further: I’ve thought that since their masterpiece Surrender, they’ve progressively lost their groove with each successive album, especially on the last one. However, I honestly believe they came back to form on this one. The Chem’s overall decision to lessen vocal duties and increase the synthesizer work, especially on songs like “Escape Velocity, work incredibly well. I will admit that it does peter out a bit at the end after the single “Swoon”, but everything before that makes for an absolute sonic party.
Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II: The Canadian duo definitely upped the glitch ante since their first album, but they’ve also done the smart thing of adding more accessible beats to compliment them. Clearly with the choice of album cover and the haunting melodies of the tracks they were going for something darker, but even a track with a name like “Suffocation” has a dream-pop like sound.
Drake – Thank Me Later: Mr. Graham (Can I call you that? I still can’t really call you by your nom de rap or by Jimmy Brooks), I’m still pretty much torn about you. I loved So Far Gone and all your cameos on other people’s things, but I don’t know, something about this album just doesn’t click with me. I think it’s with your singing, so to speak, but overall you put out a better début than all the other so-called “saviors of hip-hop”, even if it is a hardcore radio-friendly album. I will say that your slow jams like “Shut It Down” and bangers like “Over” definitely will give you a strong career, so keep that up. I’m just not sure I’ll be one of the guys following you. (sidenote: Will you be singing the new theme song for Gears of War 3 now that you’re part of the cast?)
Eminem – Recovery: Crazy Vince ShamWow hilarity aside, I kept hearing that this was actually a return to form for Detroit’s angriest white boy, so I gave it a shot. A note to Emile: the Em + classic rock samples formula is not a good idea, we learned this during Encore, and yet it’s tried again on “Going Through Changes”. Speaking of rap/rock combos, I’d never thought I’d see the day DJ Khalil get it right on “Won’t Back Down”, although I could probably do without the Pink cameo.
Holy F&#K – Latin: The Nova Scotia electronic group has got a lot of press lately, so I checked out their album to see what the hubbub was about. Man, this one is an odd, but good one.Their musical style has a bit a similarity to another band that has a expletive in their name (who also has a kick-ass album, might I add), and songs like “Latin America’ and “Silva and Grimes” should appeal to any Battles fan as well.
Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid: In case you don’t know about this album, you should definitely check her earlier outing, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), which is really good. Like Metropolis, the ArchAndroid is great in that it’s refreshing to see an honest-to-god synthesis of soul, hip-hop, and R&B with over the top afrofuturism. The album is not as tight as Metropolis was, but what it loses it gains in bringing in songs as varied as “Dance or Die”, the single “Tightrope”, and “Come Alive (War of the Roses)”.
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening: So their last album has dropped, and the verdict for this swan song is that it is …not that great. Half mediocre Human League, half played-out James Murphy-isms lead to an all-out yawn on the hipster dance floor. There’s nothing on this album that can touch anything from the previous two, and It’s a pretty big letdown.
Kele – The Boxer: Ugh. The solo career curse strikes again, and sadly, Mr. Okereke doesn’t get any better even with the help of producers like XXXchange. Although there are some good beats and rhythms in some songs (“Walk Tall”, “Everything You Wanted”) , the album itself sounds like the worst parts of Intimacy turned to eleven. Here’s hoping that I find a song here a couple of months down the line like I did with “Signs”.
Robyn – Body Talk, Pt 1: Now, if you want a good example of electro-pop done right, leave it to one of Sweden’s finest. The Royksopp-produced “None Of Dem” is straight-up club material begging to be remixed by a million and one DJs, not to say that it isn’t amazing on its own. Likewise, songs like “Fembot” and “Don’t F@#king Tell Me What to Do” are also great dance beats.
The Roots – How I Got Over: I’m not going to make another joke at the expense of Jimmy Fallon like other writers have (although I still want my Late Night with Dave Chappelle fantasy to come true), so this will be a straight review of the Philly group’s latest. First off, I never thought I’d see the day when Joanna Newsom and ?uestlove would be on the same song (“Right On”). Second, the perennial Roots cameos of Peedi Peddi, Dice Raw, and Truck North are on point as always on songs like the title track and “Web 20/20”, and adding Phonte and Dirty Projectors make for some solids songs (“A Peace Of Light, “Now or Never”). This album is a really interesting departure for them, and it works well.
Keep: The Chemical Brothers, The Roots, Holy F#$k, and Robyn definitely get a spot in my MP3 player.
Second Listen: Crystal Castles, Janelle Monae, and Eminem are going to need some repeated listens before I give them a final verdict.
Toss: Broken Social Scene, Drake, Kele, and LCD Soundsystem, how would you like to meet my Recycle Bin?