Posts Tagged ‘2010s’

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PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Monday, December 10, 2012
PJ Harvey (2011)

PJ Harvey (2011)

It’s a PJ kinda week/month.

Second album to review by Harvey, and I am still floored by how good she is. It wasn’t like that at first. I thought this album was kinda weird.

Then again, I’ve listened to lots of albums that were weird and they ended up being some of my favorites. Let England Shake has really grown on me. It might like it better than To Bring You My Love. In fact, I think it is.

Stylistically, it’s much different from her past work. It’s sedate, refined, and apocryphal. She uses a lot of imagery that evokes WWI, and war in general. It’s sort of folky and protesty, but not really. Most of the songs feature jangly guitar and piano, and it feels very minimalistic and bare bones (in a good way). Harvey’s voice goes high here, soaring way into the soprano (“On Battleship Hill”). That husky voice of albums past is mostly gone here, and the range really shows her versatility.

The lyrics and mostly somber attitude of the songs make this a contemplative album. The albums carry themes of death, and they lyrics are downright chilling. (“The scent of thyme carried on the wind/Stings my face into remembering/Cruel nature has won again/Cruel nature has won again”).

Harvey’s lyrics here are at her best, in my opinion. She captures the sadness of how pointless all wars seem years after they happen. Wars always seem so important to the people fighting them at the time. It is only looking back, years later, that we wonder what it was all for. The wise among us wonder what it is all for now. It makes me wonder how future generations will judge all the conflicts our political leaders lead us into; the same way, perhaps, we judge the conflicts of WWI as pointless and futile in retrospect?

I will definitely be listening to this a lot more. PJ has release perhaps her greatest treasure with this one. It’s rare that an album makes me think as much as this.

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Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Black Up (2011)

Black Up (2011)

This is easily one of the weirdest albums I have hearkened upon. It is my first foray into experimental hip-hop (at least I have heard nothing quite like it), and if it’s any indicator, I will definitely be coming back to it.

Very eccentric beats, smooth delivery, wonky and dubby and glitchy. I actually got Black Up back in 2011 when it first came out, but it’s taken a few listens to digest. Okay, so it sat in my queue for well over a year, but better late than never, right?

The album is surprisingly short – I notice the ten tracks fly by whenever I listen to it, which might make its experimental nature easier to digest.

To me, what makes this album are the amazing beats. They jump around and force you to focus all your attention. There is also some soul infused into it. I like to think of this album as if post-rock and hip-hop married.

Needless to say, the album is a challenge in a good way. Fans of hip-hop looking for something more out there will not go wrong with his.  Maybe it’s a bit pretentious, but hey, it’s what you get your indie friends to listen to get them into hip-hop.

Highlights: An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum, Recollections of the Wraith, Swerve… The Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding)

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Other Lives – Tamer Animals

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Tamer Animals (2211)

Tamer Animals (2211)

I first heard/saw these guys as the opening act for Radiohead earlier this year in Dallas. Even then I was very impressed with their talent, but never gave Tamer Animals a listen until last week.

In my opinion, these guys are the best act in Oklahoma. They deserve much more attention than they currently have. Hailing from Stillwater, they bring that Oklahoma red dirt flavor to blends of folk, indie, with a tinge of arena rock. The music is expansive, even hypnotic. There’s an almost holy aura to it, like a Gregorian chant. It’s really hard to place, but Jesse Tabish’s voice sort of reminds me of Paul Banks or Ian Curtis, and their atmosphere is reminiscent of Radiohead, if Radiohead were earthy and American. There is something soulful and surreal in their delivery.

Besides the usual instruments of drums, bass, and guitar (mostly, if not all, acoustic) there is excellent interspersing of piano and strings.

If you haven’t listened to these guys yet, don’t miss this.

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Soundgarden – King Animal

Monday, November 19, 2012
King Animal (2012)

King Animal (2012)

We live in a time where it’s rare to see a straight up “rock” album recorded. We live in the era of space rock, indie rock, folk rock, electro-rock, etc…

That’s what King Animal is: a straight-up, no frills rock album – guitar, bass, drums, and heavy, heavy riffage. In a way, it’s refreshing in simplicity…but in another way, I kind of wish Soundgarden had pushed the envelope.

I was nervous about this for good reason. Soundgarden’s first album in 15-16 years. I had no idea what to expect, and artists are notorious for going to seed in old age. I could see King Animal going one of two ways: Soundgarden sticking to their signature sound of grungy, doomy riffage, or completely surprising everyone with something off the wall.

They decided to go the safe route. This album is a time capsule. Any of these songs could have fit on any of Soundgarden’s other albums. It’s good, it rocks, don’t get me wrong…clearly Kim Thayil hasn’t lost his touch (even if Cornell’s voice is noticeably weaker). But King Animal doesn’t stand out from the rest of their discography. I was really, really interested to see if any more modern music influenced their sound. From the few listens I’ve had, I would say no.

After all, these guys have had sixteen years to learn, grow, and listen to new stuff that might have influenced their current sound. But then again, perhaps the homage they paid to their old sound was a conscious decision. I read somewhere that there was a lot of disappointment with the release Down on the Upside because of a departure from their signature riffage.

Which would be an understandable decision. If fans have been demanding a new Soundgarden album, how cheated would many have felt if they got something un-Soundgarden-esque?

King Animal is a decent album. I just get this inkling that it could have been so much more. Then again, maybe I should just let Soundgarden be Soundgarden, and enjoy what they have offered up – a great rock album and a fitting tribute to their legacy.

Highlights: “Been Away Too Long”, “Blood on the Valley Floor”, “Black Saturday”, “Rowing”

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Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
goodkidmaadcity

good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012)

This is album of the year, hands down. Okay…I wrote this whole other post about this, but accidentally exed out of it, so here’s take two. Sorry for any craptacularness.

I’ve listened to this at least twelve times. It’s not often that I’ll call an album perfect. But this fits the bill in every way that matters to me. There’s not a single bad track. I can listen from start to finish without ever getting bored. There is always something new to discover. None of these songs are surface songs, and all of them say something.

“Sing About Me / I’m Dying of Thirst” will forever go down as one of rap’s greatest songs. 12 minutes of poetic masterpiece. Plus, features from Dre and Drake.

Highlights: everything.

I’ll say it again. Album of the year.

It blends the experimental and the hooks so well. Maybe the typical losing innocence in a harsh neighborhood isn’t new, but Lamar puts his own spin on it and makes it his own. His rapping about religion, family, and conscience add a lot of humanity far beyond the typical guns, violence, and sex gracing most ganster rap. It’s like two wars going on his mind and this album is his poetic gift to the world.

Lots of nods to past masters. At points, felt like I was in 1992, but then it would get all dubby. Very weird, yet awesome.

Don’t miss this. If you’re reading this, then you probably haven’t. But still.

Get it.

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Adele – 21

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

21 (2011)

I didn’t plan on writing anything today, because I’m sooo tired, but here I am, being a good boy.

Adele might seem a strange choice, following the stylings of Joy Division and Drake. But I’m a bit bipolar when it comes to music (and perhaps in a broader sense?). But that question is not the subject of this post.

Adele…I can’t remember a single artist in recent memory that me and all of my friends listened to, along with all of their friends, all of their grandmothers and nieces and uncles and peoples of all stripes and colors and folks of different spokes and other such whatnots, along with anyone else you freaking asked. In fact, Adele is the artist that has come closest to achieving world peace through her music (maybe). I’m always late to hop on a bandwagon, and I didn’t listen to Adele until the beginning of this year, maybe. Then I heard the songs and was like, “oh yeah. I’ve heard all this before.” And I wanted to talk to all my friends about Adele, and they would give me quizzical looks, and tell me Adele was so 2011.

No. She’s. Not.

Anyway…coolstorybro. That’s all have to say about Adele. Not really. Let’s see if I can make it through his rambling without mentioning her amazing voice. Oh wait…

Yeah, Adele has an amazing voice. Probably one of  the most amazing female voices I have heard. It is simply stunning in its power, especially in “Rolling in the Deep”.

This album has a lot of highlights. My favorites are “Rolling in the Deep”, “Rumor Has It”, “Turning Tables”, “Set Fire to the Rain”, and the cover of “Lovesong”, which took a while to grow on me. I’m also quite partial to “Hiding My Heart” (Yeah. I admit it). As a sidenote, “Someone Like You” is excellent crying yourself to sleep music, and now and forevermore joins the pantheon of such inscrutable as “I Will Always Love You” and “How Do I Live (Without You)”, which, if you’re like me, has soaked more than your share of pillows.

Anyway, I digress. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about this album, because I feel like everyone’s heard it and I have nothing useful to say about it. I think it might have won a Grammy. That is, a trophy of some sort, not a grandma. Anyway, it is late, and I must sleep.

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Drake – Take Care

Monday, May 14, 2012
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Take Care (2011)

I don’t know how to phrase this but…sigh…I like Drake.

There, I said it. Haters are gonna hate, but there’s something endearing about this Canadian (or maybe American?) rapper I can’t place my finger on. Maybe I sympathize with him, in some strange way. Yeah, I’m not millionaire (it’s only four figures when they tax me), and I don’t have sex four times a week (as alluded to in “Marvin’s Room”). But for some reason, this album speaks to me, and it’s nice to sit back and chill out to good beats and a good flow.

Damn…the beats. The beats are absolutely stellar on this album, from the first lines of “Over my Dead Body” to “The Ride”. There’s a ream of amazing guest artists that almost steal the show (Rihanna, The Weekend, Nicki Manaj, Lil Wayne, and André 3000, the latter’s whose rapping borders on poetic brilliance in “The Real Her”, perhaps my favorite track on the album, in close contention with “Crew Love”).

I’ve listened to this album many times through, and haven’t grown tired of it yet. For a while, I’d play “Over My Dead Boyd” in the car real loud after I got off work each day, and it would take me away. I’ve listened to that one so much that I can almost recite the lyrics verbatim (even if I feel utterly ridiculous doing so).

Undeniably, there are several down tracks, but for the most part, Take Care is solid throughout, especially from the first track through “Marvin’s Room”. Even if the lyrics are lackluster at points, Drake’s sincerity more than makes up for it. Besides, it’s the general feel that appeals to me most. Take Care accomplishes that and then some.