Monthly Archives: September 2011
OK, it’s that time again where I get my serious writing on. I’m already working on a few things already but I’m not going to count those words – or edits/translations of old stuff – because that’s cheating. And I only cheat at Monopoly, or on final exams.
Anyway, The new deadline will be All Hallow’s Eve, so starting tonight, that gives me a month to write:
OK, let’s get there.
Atari Teenage Riot – Is this Hyperreal?
Most reviewers criticized this album for having a dated political screed and a lack of change in their sound but honestly it doesn’t matter. A great comparison of this album is The Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die. The band always kept true to their sound, with a couple of stumbles with Always Outnumber Never Outgunned aside. They came back out guns blazing, which wont to do for groups like The Prodigy and ATR. “Activate” opens the album with an upgrade to their electropunk sound, but only slightly. Adding CX Kidtronik to the band brought anew kick into the system, and as far as his opening statement on racism and Barack Obama on “Re-Arrange Your Synapes”. Other songs of note are “Black Flags” and “Digital Decay”.
Das Racist – Relax
I don’t even…just get on this. Heems and Kool A.D. are insane on the wordplay ( and that’s not to say anything of El-P’s bars on Shut Up, Man) and their references make Childish Gambino sound like a punk (sorry Donald, stick to funny). Oh, and “Punjabji Song’ is reminiscent of Punjabi MC on Jay-Z’s “Beware the Boys” but this song puts a flag on that then drops 16 weed-filled deuces on it.
DJ Shadow – The Less You Know
OK, I have to finally admit one of my greatest sins: Up until recently, I’ve never had a good pair of headphones. I’ve always rocked the cheap Sony wrap-around blue sports one – it was the only one that’d survive my clumsiness – and now that I have these massive Skullcandy ones with the ultra bass, I’ve heard songs in completely new ways. I’m still not a snooty audiophile (I’m too lazy to convert to lossless formats) but…oh, the drums..the drums on a Shadow song on them.
Truth be told, The Outsider sucked. Only Phonte on “Backstage Girl” and “Artifact” saved that album for me. But from track one on The Less You Know… Shadow established that his scratching is back. The follow-up song”Border Crossing” sound like a poorly made 90s action movie version of “Artifact” (actually, check out “HYPERPOWER” from NIN’s Year Zero if you want a better version of this song). The “Stay the Course” team-up of Posdnuos and Talib Kweli is pretty solid; Kweli especially got to me seeing as he’s been off my audio radar for a minute. It’s amusing that Shadow dropped an emphasis on the lull in the next three songs by putting up a song titled “Tedium”. The slowed down vocals and acoustic guitar on “Enemy Lines” gives the album an Entroducing pick-me-up before the break beats of “Going Nowhere” rolls in. that, along with “Run for Your Life” should get any Shadow fan at attention. Sadly, on “Scale It Back” Yukimi Nagano does her first lackluster performance on a song she’s featured on.
Now, let’s get to the singles. “Def Surrounds Us” renewed my faith in Shadow with his effective use of vocal samples, pounding drum beats, a sprinkle of hyphy and dubstep, and pianos and apocalyptic choir singing. “I’ve Been Trying” was in the first lull I mentioned, so I didn’t realize it was a single. Oh, back the topic of new headphones: listen to the other single “I Gotta Rokk” on them. Trust me on this.
Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
It’ s a little late to review this album without looking like a punk against ones like the fake Ghostface’s review. Instead, I’m just concentrating on the singers. First off, Frank Ocean dominates on his two songs; even if “Made in America” was one of the lesser cuts on WtH, he still delivers on it (and don’t get me started on his hook on my new banger “No Church in the Wild”). Truth be told, the only other ones of note is Elly Jackson of La Roux on “That’s My Bitch” and The-Dream on “No Church…”; I didn’t know that the unintelligible bridge on the “That’s My Bitch” was Bon Iver, nor did I really care. As for Beyonce on “Lift Off’, the song was pretty bad on its own, and she didn’t really help to bring it back. Mr. Hudson’s voice on “Why I Love You” reminds me of how the last time he brought something good to an album is still 808s & Heartbreaks. Oh, and Swizz Beatz needs to stop putting his “talking while straining through a bowel movement” voice all over a track.
Kasabian – Velociraptor!
Halfway through, I stopped listening it and went back to West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.
Ladytron – Gravity the Seducer
It’s interesting to see the career trajectory of these electro-Liverpudlians, not just in their sound but in their whole look. The aesthetic in their music videos and photos from each album mirrors the songs of the album attached to them. In this album’s case, there is this a baroque, upper-class sound far different from the utilitarian beats in 604 or the cold grinding pulses from Witching Hour. There are some glimpses of Velocifero in “Melting Ice”. Songs like “Altitude Blues” and “White Gold” reinforce an 80s sci-fi soundtrack vibe (even the album art is reminiscent of the opening scene from Blade Runner). One of the biggest issues with the album is that there are too many songs that sound alike; “Ace of Hz”, “Mirage”, and “Aces High (which is just a boring instrumental of “Ace of Hz”) are the culprits of this. Overall, this is not as good as album as the previous one.
St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
It took one song from her Actor album to really make me into a stan for Ms. Annie Clark (go listen to “Laughing With a Mouth of Blood. The title is deceiving.). “Cruel” lets her gets it starting with her great vocals (it kind of reminded me of Feist) on the end of her verses. Then she reminds you “Oh yeah, I still got the grind” on “Cheerleader”. The eponymous track has an 80s synth thing going on until it hits you with her guitar/vocal one-two punch. The album fades out a bit until “Hysterical Strength” which reclaimed my attention with its driving drums and piano.
Watch the Throne is already in my library – hearing Kanye beat out Jay-Z on this (I think that’s intentional, but on the other hand, Jay’s skills are waning) is good enough to make it a keeper. DJ Shadow and St. Vincent stay as well. I can’t say no to Shadow’s masterful sampling/mixing and Annie Clark’s singing/rocking.
Ladytron might grow on me like Velocifero did. We’ll see.
ATR and Kasabian
The second day of Outside Lands started with a quick listen of Grooveshark playlists filled with the bands playing that day. What stuck out from the wave of dubstep and indie rock was Ana Tijoux whispering the hook, “mil noveciento setenta -“. That missing word is the number siete, completing the first single from her album 1977.A French-Chilean MC, Tijoux mixes her down tempo voice with golden age of hip-hop beats. However, her performance was more a testament to her rapid-fire delivery in castellano. The aforementioned song sounds like a sped up South American take on Digable Planets’ “Rebirth of Slick” (trumpet player and everything). The crowd (a mix of locals and affluent Latino graduate students) shouted in all sorts of accents.
Another new surprise was electronic/indie pop band Starfucker (which use the name STRFKR on tour). As you can see by the dress and leggings frontman Josh Hodges is rocking the band is one to see live, not just for the semi-transvestite band members, but for a good performance.
The trek through the camp surrounding center stage on day 2 ( The aging hippies now replaced by Black Keys and teenage Muse fans) was not worth it to see Arctic Monkeys. Their stage presence only went as far as the lead’s leather jacket.Luckily, Australian singer/songwriter Sia was delivering a better show on another stage during the Arctic Monkeys set. In between her songs, she would make casual jokes for the crowd. For example, she pointed out one girl sitting on top of someone’s shoulder, and told the crowd the girl wasn’t wear”It’s pretty cold out, huh? she’s got nipples like bullets out.”
The Roots put on a monster set, which is not surprising if anyone has seen the Illadelph crew live. ?uestlove was the first to get onstage, sporting cornrows instead of his signature afro .At their live shows the star is always “Captain” Kirk Douglas. Between his use of the vocoder on the extended solo he does when performing “You Got Me” and the medley of riffs he plays ( Immigrant Song, Sweet Child of Mine, Bad to the Bone), his part of the set always keeps your eyes fixated on him. Two of the VIP members got on stage, serving as impromptu hypemen surrounding Black Thought as he spit his verses.
As night fell, the glowing spectacle and light show of Muse concert filled up the San Francisco sky. Besides the usual songs and image combinations, like the robot on-screen accompanying “Supermassive Black Hole” (I know this because I’ve seen them two times before. It’s about time I call myself a Muse stan), the new images for song from The Resistance are also very interesting. A wall of head shot photos in a style reminiscent of a concentration camp/suspect mug shots filled the screen, zooming out and forming a mosaic of letters that were too hard to make our from the distance but were interesting all the same.
They performed a cover of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”, which I had only heard on a bootleg. Bellamy’s guitar turned the bluesy intro into a space rock grindfest. The set ended with the extended “Stockholm Syndrome” but the penultimate song, “Citizen Erased” was better if only for the Dominic Howard’s booming drums shaking the ground.