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|Reasons To Be Miserable, Pt. Deux|
|1||Messiah J And The Expert|
Now This I Have To Hear
As relative upstarts and leaders of the minute Irish hip hop scene, MC Messiah J and producer The Expert probably know a few things about making "Something Outta Nothing," and that's what they named the lead single from their second album Now This I Have To Hear. The album is sonically comparable to Gnarls Barkley's ground-breaking debut, in that it blends indie rock and hip hop in a way that's instantly familiar but completely unique but, unlike Cee-Lo, MJ is 100% an MC and doesn't even attempt to sing (take note, Kanye). Guests are few but impeccably chosen: the single features unknown soul diva Leda Egri, 'When The Bull Gores The Matador' couldn't be more appropriately titled as New York freestyle giant C-Rayz Walz steamrollers the track with a hair-raising guest rap, while 'No Bagsies, No Keepsies' benefits immensely from the cherubic tones of folk-pop songstress Nina Hynes. It's not often that the phrases "true innovation" and "pop" can uttered in the same sentence; when they are, make sure to take notice.
The Rise And Fall Of Butch Walker...
Butch Walker's never been one to evoke a luke-warm reaction- his steadily evolving musical style is about as offensive as pop music can be, and that's not about to change with the release of this semi-concept album, an attempt to stylistically and thematically tread the same ground as David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust did over 30 years earlier- the perils of rock n' roll stardom and the non-existence of redemption through indulgence. Through T. Rex/Bowie aping numbers like 'Hot Girls in Good Moods' to countrified rockers like 'When Canyons Ruled the City', The Rise and Fall... is a record that flows smoothly, only occasionally dropping in quality on the flip side of the record. The choice takes from the album are lead single 'Bethamphetamine', a glammy Lou Reed-type number which reverses the classic riff from Sinead O'Connor's 'Mandinka,' and the haunting Broadway-style ballad 'Dominoes.'
Better known as the band Damien Rice left at the proverbial altar seven years ago, Bell X1 have finally hit their stride with their third and most accomplished full-length, Flock. Shedding the moroseness and overt Radiohead-ness of their previous efforts, and the last of their links with Rice's compositions, the group have embraced some of the popular post-punk sound of Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party as well as Coldplay to produce one of the more lively and well-crafted pop-rock releases of the year; lead single 'Flame' was a hit by virtue of its football-terrace chorus, while the more thoughtful 'Rocky Takes A Lover' became so popular on the basis of a single radio performance that the group decided to release it nationally. With a string of sold-out concerts across the UK this year, Bell X1 are ready to take on the world once again, this time without the need to ride on the coat-tails of their one-time bandmate.
|4||As Fast As|
Open Letter To The Damned
As Fast As' major label debut sees the band improve upon their genre-shifting indie records with slicker production, stronger songwriting. Instantly familiar yet rarely imitative, Open Letter to the Damned is succinct with barely a hint of filler. Pop tunes through a hard rock prism is what As Fast As excel at; of the eleven, seven are born for radio, instantly likeable but not disposable, including traditional pop numbers like single 'Florida Sunshine' and the Elvis Costello tribute 'Blame it on the Drugs' to the soul-infused 'This Time' and the McCartney-esque 'If I Only Knew'. Singer Spencer Albee's tone and melodic sense, clearly indebted to McCartney and Stevie Wonder, has led more than one online commentator to proclaim him "the next Robyn Hitchcock". He's perfectly complimented by guitarist Zach Jones, who trades off finger-burning guitar solos with surf harmonies, and the jazz-influenced drumming of Andrew Hodgkins.
Gnarls Barkley kinda came out of nowhere, didn't they? I'm generally pretty much allergic to hype, especially indie hype, so I didn't exactly approach this duo with an open mind. And, sure enough, I heard 'Crazy' a dozen times a day in various media and, feeling thoroughly self-satisfied with another prejucide well-founded, I found myself accidentally loving the damn thing. Soon, I was completely enamoured with Cee-Lo's impossibly high-pitched picture of soul and the "oh god, why didn't I think of that" indie rock-based instrumental tracks Danger Mouse was laying down as if such a mix of styles was commonplace. 'Crazy' may be one of the best singles of this century, 'Gone Daddy Gone' one-ups the Violet Femmes and 'The Boogie Monster' captures a child's fear of the irrational and imaginary to perfection. Some albums are just classics, and St. Elsewhere is already assured of that status.
Food & Liquor
Almost three years in the making, Lupe Fiasco's debut CD was one of this year's most strongly hyped CDs. Bolstered by his guest spot on fellow Chicagoan Kanye West's 'Touch The Sky,' Food & Liquor features guest spots from Pharrell and Jay-Z, while both Pharrell and West offer production on single 'Kick, Push' and album track 'The Cool' respectively. Though closely aligned with the broad Chicago sound, Fiasco modelled the album after Nas' classic It Was Written, creating a mood that's positive and thoughtful, if not preachy. Jigga's guest rap is disappointing, and Lupe fails to take advantage of 'Daydreamin''s classic choral sample, but the vast majority of Food & Liquor is both intellectually and dancefloor-ally challenging- and, hey, it's been a while since we white people have had a popular rapper we can identify with.
Whatever People Say I Am....
Remember what I said about some albums just being classics? Keep it in mind. Remember what I said about indie hype? Keep it in mind. I really tried to dislike Arctic Monkeys, I really did, but there's something about this band that just screams "obnoxious," and it's 100% endearing. Having been hailed as the new Morrissey, with an inside line to the youth of today, Alex Turner has quite rightly told the masses where to go; exhibiting a style that's 50% Mike Skinner, 25% Bavaria lager and 200% Liam Gallagher, Turner's half-sung, half-rapped vocals are often ugly but always tuneful. And it's ultimately the singer that sets the group apart from blander bands like The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things; like Oasis, their insular perspective will alienate from them from foreign markets, but with only one album behind them, they have the potential to avoid all the radio rock clich?s their Mancunian compatriots fell into.
Very often, critical reaction to an album differs wildly from the reactions of fans or the consumer public. Decemberunderground presents such a case, as many fans have either embraced wholly or brashly rejected the latest turn in AFI's ever-sophisticating studio career. Though considerably poppier than even the group's early horror-punk showings, Decemberunderground builds on the increasingly complex and colourful arrangements the group seemed to have perfected on Sing the Sorrow; there's a strong New Order-like undercurrent running through much of the album, and the brighter, more assured sound is not altogether unlike the aforementioned took after the demise of the gloomy Joy Division. 'Miss Murder' is an unabashed pop song, jumping straight into the chorus and showing notable sonic similarities to Green Day's 'Holiday,' while the electronically-inclined 'Love Like Winter' is a contender for single of the year. 'Kill Caustic' and 'Kiss And Control' hark back to the band's hardcore days, but Decemberunderground is undoubtedly a step away from where the band was a decade ago and, whether a good or bad decision, it's definitely a challenging album for those who choose to embrace it.
Songs From The Deep Forest
Who is Duke Special, you might ask. You'd be well justified in asking, he's achieved little more than minor success in Europe, but already he's built an impressive number of admirers within the industry, including Rufus Wainwright, Beautiful South mainman Paul Heaton and Jack White. Fronting what he describes as the "hobo chic" image, Peter Wilson is a Belfast-based singer-songwriter who's compared in a good light to Elliott Smith and the aforementioned Wainwright, to the latter both in his distinctive accented vocal style and his fascination with vaudeville and music hall. The arrangements on Songs For The Deep Forest are sometimes a little too predictable and, well, hammy, calling to mind the likes of Keane, but the songs are expertly crafted, as you'd expect from an artist who frequently performs accompanied by a single gramophone. If you don't hear 'Last Night I Nearly Died' and 'Freewheel' on your radio within the next year, call your lawyer.
It had to happen, didn't it? With FutureSex/LoveSounds, JT's reached a stage in his career few others have reached in recent year; neither of his solo albums have come close to realising his massive potential, yet he's getting love spanning the length of the culture divide nonetheless. The highly publicised Rick Rubin collaboration turned out to be a damp squib, the Jackson-esque '(Another Song) All Over Again' limping across the finishing line, but the majority, produced by Timbaland and prot?g? Danjahandz, is a triumph. 'SexyBack' is charming, despite being the sonic equivalent of being beaten in the face with a mallet, while follow-up singles 'My Love' and 'What Goes Around' demonstrate his keen fusion of Prince's natural falsetto with Jacko's ear for a honeysuckle melody. FutureSex/LoveSounds is either 100% derivative or just 99%, but he's ripping off his heros better than anyone else right now, and that's all that really matters.
|James Brown just died. That's another good reason. Anyways, props on taking the time to write out those descriptions even though I'm far too lazy to read them.|
Where's part une?
|Dude, I love "SexyBack"....|
|Hilarious descriptions + great list. I don't understand the comment you left in my list, though :@|
|Hrm, those descriptions were good reads. A nice list this is.|
And Jom, I think he was talking about how you spelled "Sparrows" wrong in your list.
|Oop. Nevermind. It appears I know nothing about that.|
|Haha, no, it's cool, it's just one of those few times where Dave's wrong. It got submitted to the database incorrectly is all.|
|I still need to hear this stuff you've been recommending for months but from what I've heard off the list you've got some pretty good taste Spat Out Plath |