Last week was huge for new music releases, although one can contest whether official release dates continue to be relevant in an era when albums are leaked and available weeks or even months before the ‘official’ release date. Whatever. Lets pretend it matters and proceed!
I figured I would break this blog post into two parts for two reasons.
1) I have a lot to write but would rather not write all of it at one time.
2) You won’t read a blog post that is the size of a dissertation in any case.
So, what tasty treats should you dedicate you limited time and attention to?
Artist: LCD Sound System Album: This is Happening
LCD Soundsystem’s (supposedly) final album boasts a veritable cornucopia of influences, particularly from the 80’s New Wave scene. Listening to the album, I can’t help but hear echoes of Iggy Pop, Bowie, Culture Club, Joy Division….the list goes on. At the same time, LCD maintains its cultural and musical relevance, resulting in a sound that is inspired by a previous era, but is not derivative or lacking in creativity (although ‘Somebody’s Calling Me’ does sound a little too much like Iggy Pop’s ‘NightClubbing. ‘This is Happening’ doesn’t mark a major shift from LCD’s earlier albums, but defnitely has a more celebratory and whimsical tone than the brilliant ‘Sound of Silver.’ The guys have certainly gone out with a fun loving bang. I can’t wait to see them live in Sydney in July!!
Top Songs: You Wanted a Hit, Dance Yrself Clean, Pow Pow
Artist: Nas & Damian Marley Album: Distant Relatives
I have been eagerly anticipating this release ever since I heard about the project over a year ago. Their collaboration on ‘Road to Zion‘ from Damien’s (who is the youngest and the most talented of Bob Marley’s sons) fantastic ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ album was nothing short of spectacular, effortlessly blending hip hop and numerous forms of reggae into a sonically and lyrically impeccable song. When news broke that one of the most decorated hip hop emcees and reggae’s foremost young talents would put together a whole album, I knew that they’d make something worth listening to. After listening to Distant Relatives a few times, my reaction to the album is more sanguine than expected. Perhaps I expected too much (an album full of tracks with the quality of Road to Zion perhaps?), but Distant Relatives strikes me as a somewhat inconsistent release. Although I respect the fact that both artists are socially and politically conscious and want to reflect this in their lyrical content, the execution can at times be a little too direct, resulting in some poor lyricism and irritatingly simplistic political rhetoric. In general, the two are at their best when Damien takes full advantage of his ‘toasting‘ style while Nas places more attention on perfecting his flow rather than perfecting his message (the message is far better received when it isn’t shoved down our throats anyway).
Despite it’s imperfections, Distant Relatives is a decent release with a few excellent bits that make it a more than worthwhile collaboration.
Top Songs: Nah Mean, Despair, Patience
Artist: The National Album: High Violet
It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes The National so compelling. On the face of it, they are just another alt rock band with a penchant for putting out gloomy songs with melancholy lyrics. Yet these guys really do set themselves apart. ‘High Violet’ follows 2007’s superb ‘Boxer’, and thus expectations for this album were perhaps insurmountably high. Nevertheless, ‘High Violet’ stands on its own two feet and the band has managed to expand its sound, incorporating a greater variety of instruments, harmonies, and lyrical flourishes that evoke a mood that is simultaneously somber yet strangely cathartic. Have you ever wanted to be unhappy, perhaps to wallow in the comfort of self pity for just a little longer? ‘High Violet’ reminds me of the the desire to prolong heartache, almost fearing that getting past it will reinforce the end of something that you know you can never have but are unwilling to accept.
The other thing about The National is that they sound vaguely familiar, almost as if you’ve heard their songs but don’t know where. Again, like LCD Soundsystem, The National clearly have strong influences. Joy Division and Dire Straits are two bands that immediately come to mind, along with Johnny Cash (frontman Matt Berninger’s baritone voice and his penchant for vivid storytelling interspersed with dry humour is definitely a page from Mr. Cash’s book) and REM.
‘Don’t leave my half a heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.’- Sorrow
Come on, how can you not want to listen to that once in a while??
Top Songs: Sorrow, Lemonworld, Bloodbuzz Ohio
Artist: E-40 Album: Revenue Retrievin’
E-40 has been rapping for over 20 years, and has become a legend of the Bay Area hip hop scene, and is well known for making the hyphy movement known beyond the Bay. 40 is definitely an unconventional rapper. His cadence and rhyme sequences sound pretty alien when compared to most hip hop, and its is certainly an acquired taste. His latest album, Revenue Retrieven’ is a massive double album which, like most double albums, varies hugely in quality and consistency. Nevertheless, there are some really fun tracks on this album which showcase the Bay Area Hyphy style. The album has some great traditional Bay Rap as well as some great car and party tunes! I would pick and choose tracks to purchase/dl rather than get the entire thing. E-40 isn’t for everyone, so don’t yell at me if you don’t like it!
Top Party Tracks: More Bass, More Treble, Lightweight Jammin
Top Traditional Bay Rap: I Get Down, The Art of Story Tellin
Part II coming soon….