Thursday, December 9, 2010

Yeezy Taught Me

In the blur of negative press about Kanye West, it's easy to forget how talented he is as a rapper and producer, but his new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is a strong reminder that Kanye is not only relevant, but needed. Easily one of the best records to drop this year, and maybe the best of his career, MBDTF delivers ridiculous beats, a roster of cameos that reads more like a guest list to the Grammys (spanning from Nicki Minaj to Elton John), and a self-awareness that is lacking in many of today's mainstream hip-hop artists.

A clear standout is single "Power," on which Kanye uses his swollen ego to his best advantage spitting rhymes like "At the end of day, goddammit, I’m killin’ this shit/I know damn well y’all feelin’ this shit/I don’t need yo’ pussy, bitch, I’m on my own dick" interspersed with moments of vulnerable introspection when he confesses, "Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic/He know, he so, fuckin’ gifted/I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts/Got treasures in my mind but couldn’t open up my own vault."

Thought MBDTF is not rife with club bangerz, "All of the Lights" (featuring John Legend, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Tony Williams, Charlie Wilson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, and Elton John) is a surefire hit and will definitely set any party off. With a super catchy hook sung by Rihanna, an epic horn section, and a hard-hitting bass line, it's instant ear candy.

My personal favorite is "Monster," where Kanye throws down an old school beat and Jay-Z, Ye, and Rick Ross put on nice guest appearances, but Nicki Minaj really steals the show with what has got to be the most dynamic flow on the scene right now: she switches her inflection from Caribbean-tinged to Lil' Kim hard hitting to little girlish to valley-girl in the span of a single verse and proves that on the mic she's definitely a "mothafuckin' monster!"

Other standouts include "Lost in the World," which features Bon Iver in three-part harmony run through autotune then jumps straight into a great dance track, and "Blame Game," which has a tight flow and one of the most jaw-dropping burns that I won't ruin for anybody who hasn't heard it.

Long story short, this is an album that will be remembered as long as Kanye, and I really can't say enough good things. Does it merit the 10/10 that it received from Pitchfork? I'd argue nothing does, but hell, it's a worthy contender. Buy it, download it, steal it from a friend - whatever you do, give it a listen. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lady Dragon AKA...

(Disclaimer: I know it's been a while, but let's get down to the brass tacks: I haven't posted in longer than I'd care to acknowledge. In a moment of inspired insomnia, I'm getting back on the horse. There, I'm on the horse.)

Dragonette. Holy Canada, Batman! Who knew Toronto could churn out such bangin' femme poprock? The four-piece group, fronted by lead lady Martina Sorbara, has just released their major label debut on Mercury Records called Fixin to Thrill and it's definitely solid. Their sound is reminiscent of Metric, circa Fantasies, and the poppier side of of Yeah Yeah Yeahs It's Blitz (think "Head's Will Roll" and "Hysteric"), which means their music, at its best, is quite simply my jiggity jam. Though not nearly as seasoned or prolific as Metric or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and definitely not as vocally distinct as Emily Haines or Karen O, Dragonette's songs are, more than anything else, super catchy. "Pick Up The Phone" is my personal favorite, and was actually brought to my attention by my friend, and ridiculously talented DJ/Producer Dan Alcala, who just recently won Dragonette's remix contest for this very song. The original's got a sick, industrial kick drum beat that pulses steadily as Sorbara's airy vocal hits hard on the chorus. "Fixin To Thrill," the album's second single, boasts a more aggressive, synth-dominated sound reminiscent of The Noisettes, but can be most aptly described as a song that should have been playing over The Valley scene in Clueless. "Gone Too Far" has more of a radio-friendly sound and is unsurprisingly being pushed as their first single. I will admit, the rest of the album is definitely spotty, but overall a good listen. Currently on tour with Little Boots (whom I just saw play live last week and kicked ass/had a sweet laser show, which pretty much sealed the deal for me - if you have the opportunity to catch that show I'd highly recommend it), get the album, see 'em live. With hard hitter Mercury Records behind them, you should be hearing about these kids soon if you haven't already. Three thumbs up!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Boys Like...

Girls is now among my favorite things to come out of San Francisco sharing the honor with recreational inline skating and pride parades. They've got a sound reminiscent of the Beach Boys with a vocal sound comparable to The National and lyrics fit for Conor Oberst. "Lust For Life" is a dancier song of theirs bringing energy to their airy, harmony driven vocal. "Hellhole Ratrace" is a slower, melodically driven song that drives straight to your heartstrings. "Headache" is a down tempo song that lazes along to the beat of a warm, sunny day, which we could all use a little bit of in this cold. If you're into these clips, the whole album, cleverly entitled "Album" is worth a listen. Pitchfork has given it an impressive 9.1, and the blogosphere is drooling over it, so any budding music enthusiasts would be wise to get familiar quickly and pride themselves on early discovery of this great new band.

Girls - Lust for Life

Girls - Headache

Better than the River

Mr. Hudson is Kanye West's new project, and when Kanye's paying attention, you should too. It's definitely a sound evolved out of West's 808s records, as Mr. Hudson's consistently auto-tuned clean vocal sounds like a mix of The Fray with a touch of David Bowie's panache played over Kanye West's immaculate beats. "Supernova" is a potential hit with a Coldplay-esque, emotionally charged chorus. "White Lies" is reminiscent of "Coldest Winter" off 808s, while "There Will Be Tears" provides a nice change of a pace to an Imogen Heap/Frou Frou inspired production quality while the lyrics show a more emotional, raw side (while still auto-tuned). Look for Mr. Hudson to blow up within the next few months, his sound is begging for an audience. Won't you be his?

Mr. Hudson - Supernova

Mr Hudson - White Lies from MrHudson on Vimeo.

Mr. Hudson - There Will Be Tears

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

For Those Who Like It Ruff...

Born Ruffians are the best thing to come out of Canada since the word "eh" (sorry, Drake...better luck next time). They bring enthusiastic, charmingly-boyish folk-infused indy rockpop. Yeah, those are a lot of adjectives, but they've earned them. "Badonkadonkey" is the funnest of the fun with a nice lil' nonsensical set of lyrics guaranteed to combat any morning blues. "I Need A Life" is anthemic, ready to party, and the perfect little indian-summer-of-a-song antidote for this obnoxious early cold. "Little Garcon" is a cute, folk acoustic number that's a great change of pace and showcases their folky, adorable vocal harmonies and yelps reminiscent of Fleet Foxes crossed with a less annoying Landon Pigg (in real life, not Whip It! in which, I'll admit, he was pretty effing endearing). For a good time, call Born Ruffians...or you know, spark a j. Whatever works.

Born Ruffians - Little Garcon

This La Roux-lz

If you haven't heard of English group La Roux, you're definitely not British or an overzealous music nerd, because overseas, they're huge. And with good reason. Ben Langmaid's blend of synth-heavy, ├╝ber-kitsch electro pop with Elly Jackson's ethereal tone boasts some of the catchiest hooks on the alt scene since Lady Gaga was relatively undiscovered (not to say I told you so). Their sound is a one-off of The Gossip with more mainstream sensibilities. Admittedly, their lyrics can fall into the trap of easy rhymes and trite imagery, but their hooks hit where it counts. Off their self-titled, major label debut, "Bulletproof" is the clear standout. It has one of the better chorus lines I've heard all year as Jackson croons, "this time, baby, I'll be bulletproof." Other noteworthies include "I'm Not Your Toy," which features a heavy 808 sound and calls out, over an uppity, video-game-esque synth line, "you don't like me you just want the attention/I'm not your toy." "In For The Kill" is one of the more solidly produced, pared down tracks with an airy, synth-light arrangement that leaves room for the vocals to harmonize and intertwine beautifully within. My personal choice (it's a grower, not a shower) is the unassuming "Armour Love" that weasels it's way into your brain and won't let up with it's epic, gorgeous melody and raw lyrics. For some solid, soon-to-be-mainstream pop, La Roux delivers in spades. As an added bonus check out Elly Jackson's acoustic version of "Quicksand."

Quicksand (Acoustic)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Get Your Topsiders On...

I'm kicking myself right now for not posting this 3 weeks ago when I first heard Yacht's new album, See Mystery Lights, as Pitchfork has now beat me to the punch (damn you, Salazaar!!), but this album is too perfectly happy and summer-encapsulated to not fawn over publicly. Jona Bechtolt (you know him as an ex-member of The Blow) is the driving force behind Yacht, and deserves a trophy or a cookie (or at least a stroke on the ego from a Miss September) for the triumph that is Yacht's sophomore effort, See Mystery Lights. And what of the other half of Yacht, you ask? Well, Claire L. Evans' vocal recalls the spacy, assured timbre of The Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson, with a vibe much closer to that of The Blow crossed with other Swedish faves The Tough Alliance and JJ. "I'm in Love With A Ripper," features a dubstep backbeat with an overall sound that rivals "I'm In Love With a Stripper" for pop appeal. "Summer Song" features a much richer, deeper arrangement complete with funk tinges, such as a cowbell and choppy, rhythmic guitar hits, and shouty interjections that make it a guaranteed hit with any block party and/or friendly neighborhood hipster kiddo. "Psychic City (Voodoo City)" has a hook so repetitive and catchy it'll tear a hole in your brain and have you lapping up the excess. As long as you're making tracks this juicy, Yacht, what's mine is yours. mmm brains.

I'm In Love With a Stripper - T-Pain f. Mike Jones (to prove my point)

YACHT - Summer Song from Jona Bechtolt on Vimeo.

YACHT - Psychic City (Voodoo City) from Jona Bechtolt on Vimeo.