Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tanya Morgan

Tanya Morgan
Loud Minority, 2006

My review is here.

This is one of my favorite albums in a while. Good, solid, positive hip hop.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bad Luck and Nathan Blaze

This week on www.rapreviews.com I reviewed Bad Luck’s Make It Brief. He’s a young NYMC who is sort of like a gutter Kool Keith, which is kind of cool. EDK supplies the beats and do some of that somber NY shit mixed with a little esoteric/indie flavor. Not brilliant, but not bad, and worth keeping an eye on.

I also reviewed the demo by Nathan Blaze, which I wasn’t feeling. I never have liked white MCs, especially when they do that Eminem-being-serious thing. It’s like they are trying to hard. Meh. You can go to www.nathanblazemusic.com to sample and purchase if you feel so inclined.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Am A Fucking Hippy Who Listens To Jam Bands

I have a deep, deep hatred of hippies, dating back to my childhood growing up near Santa Cruz California being suffocated by mellowness. I used to want to make a mock up of the Sex Pistol's God Save The Queen art, only with Jerry Garcia's face. As I've gotten older, however, I've started to embrace some of the very hippy tropes that used to make me want to throw up on myself. For example, I go to yoga, I try to eat organic, whole food, I wear hemp shoes, I recycle, and, most disturbingly, I wear essential oils, including the dreaded patchouli. Patchouli has become my signature scent in some ways, because I use Lush's Aramaco deodorant which has patchouli.

A staple of being an Angry Punk Rock kid was hating the Grateful Dead. I still don't fuck with Jerry and Crew, but I no longer detest them, and compared to a lot of the horseshit being put out today they seem downright innocuous. What really freaks me out is that I've gotten in to two bands recently who are basically (GASP) JAM BANDS.

The first is My Morning Jacket. They are from Kentucky, and do a kind of stoned, Southern-fried indie country that is much, much better than it should be. I have only heard Z, which came out a few years ago, but it is one of my favorite albums of this decade. They got the chops, the songwriting, and they reference classic rock while still being interesting and innovative.

The other hippy-ass band i've been listening to is Wilco, ten years after everyone first started telling me they were amazing. I saw the documentary about them called "I Am Breaking Your Heart" a few weeks ago, and have been listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot obsessively since. Like MMJ, they mix classic rock elements with alt-country, and then fuck with it enough to make it sound new and un-tired.

As I was cruising up the Sonoma Coast last weekend in a rented Prius, "Kamera" came on, and I realized that with it's sweetly sung, country-lite harmonies, it could easily be a "Working Dead" era Grateful Dead song. And still I love it. I still detest tie dye, so I got that going for me, but I'm wondering these days when I became such a goddamn hippie. Maybe getting older means becoming what you hate, and realizing it wasn't as bad as you thought.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rilo Kiley LIVE!

I saw Rilo Kiley at the SF Design Concourse last night, which is located near the Trader Joes/Mars Bar at 8th and Bryant. It was my first show at the venue, which is a little funky - it sort of felt like a warehouse with astroturf carpeting. It's a large space, and was about half full, and about half that crowd were young women who were probably too young to drink. About 2/3rds of the remaining crowd were cuddling couples, and the rest of the audience was made up of single people trying not to throw up on themselves because of all the excessive snuggling.

In rare perfect timing, I arrived exactly as Rilo Kiley came onstage. I don't go to too many shows that are frequented by large numbers of girls/ young women, and the enthusiastic screaming that accompanied everything Jenny Lewis did was new to me.

Speaking of Jenny Lewis, while she remains very fetching, I have to say that standing in a crowd with 1,000 other people who thought she was hot diminished her appeal in my eyes. I've always hated liking things that were popular. Her voice was great, however, and she definitely brings a lot of personality and sex appeal to a band that would otherwise be a bunch of nebbish dudes.

The band sounded pretty good, although it did show that this was the first night of their tour. Jenny fucked up one of the songs and had to start over, and there was a general awkwardness, like a party before people have finished their first drink. The best sounding songs were from their new album, which are more complex and energetic than a lot of their early stuff. After watching Jenny strut her stuff to the pop/R & B of "breakin' up" I wondered if she is due for a pop album soon, reinventing herself as an indie Ashlee simpson or something. They encored with "Portions for Foxes," which was sloppy, but still thrilling to hear Jenny sing "talking leads to touching/and touching leads to sex/ and then their is no mystery left/ cuz I'm bad news/ baby I'm bad news." During the closing chords we rushed outside and caught the first cab that came. It wasn't the best show I've ever seen, and I'm not sure it was quite worth the forty dollars the tickets cost, but whatevs. It beat sitting at home and watching the office. Plus I got to bed by 11:30, so it was perfect for an old fart like me.

Most importantly, we went to Sushi Zone, which was fucking awesome AND cheap.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

King Vision

Grand Buffet
King Vision

Review here.

I was somewhat excited by their mix of hip hop, electro punk, and Naked Lunch, but not so much to prevent me from selling it back to Amoeba.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Under the Blacklight

Rilo Kiley
Under the Blacklight
Warner Brothers Records, 2007

I’m going to see Rilo Kiley this Thursday, so I thought I’d catch up on their music. All I really know about them is that Jenny Lewis is really pretty. She has alabaster skin, ginger hair, a gorgeous voice, and a potty mouth. Her musical persona reminds me of the kind of woman whose kisses taste like cigarettes and gin and tonics, whose fragile beauty is on the verge of being destroyed by age and hard living, who drinks enough to qualify her as an alcoholic, and who would feed your heart to the pitbull owned by one of her other lovers. In other words, the kind of femme fatale that has made film noir such a compelling genre for sixty-odd years.

Under The Blacklight is Rilo Kiley’s pop album, and it sounds like it was produced by the team that handles American Idol winners. It’s got a glossy sheen that is a striking contrast to their indie roots. To me it sounds like the soundtrack to a romantic comedy where an impossibly beautiful heroine is dumped by her gorgeous yet oily corporate boyfriend, which leads her to romp throughout Manhattan or Beverly Hills in stilettos in an intense bout of retail therapy, only to find true love in the arms of a chiseled, rugged mensch with tussled hair who can cook and likes kids. And at the end they kiss, the repeat the first thing they said to each other, he says something impossibly romantic, and the film ends assuming that they live happily ever after.

Like a mainstream RomCom from your favorite quirky indie director, Under the Blacklight has it’s share of embarrassing moments, namely the wretched “The Moneymaker,” and the lame, Miami Sound Machine-esque “Dejalo.” They are redeemed, however, by some truly sublime moments, like “Close Call,” the Fleetwood Mac-esque “Dreamworld,” and “Smoke Detector,” which is raunchy rock n’ roll.

Essentially, the album is the mainstream attempt by your favorite indie crew, and as such loses some of what makes them so charming in the first place, and it isn’t entirely successful at achieving the mediocrity that it shoudn’t ever have tried to duplicate in the first place.

I admire Rilo Kiley’s ability to take chances and expand their musical range. I like that they aren’t just treading the same well-worn indie country boards. However, I hope they find a sound that is more comfortable and organic with what they are. The world doesn’t really need another overproduced, dumbed down pop record, and that’s what Under the Blacklight is in it’s lesser moments.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crack, Strippers, and Guap

Yung Ralph
The Juug Man DVD
Review here.

Naked strippers cooking crack. Yessirree.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

You Think It’s Alright, But It’s Really Just Shite….

WNYC Soundcheck had a debate between critics Michael Azerrad and Jim DeRogatis about REM’s new album, Accelerate. Jim thought they were bloated, rock stars, Michael thought it was their best album in years. Listening to cuts from the disc, I have to say I can’t be bothered to give a shit. REM were interesting and relevant in the 80s, and made some brilliant music with Out of Time and Automatic For the People. Ever since then, it’s been diminishing returns, Monster was their attempt to get on the grunge bandwagon a day late and a dollar short, and then they just veered into Adult Contemporary blandness. It’s rarely a good idea for a band to decide to rock out late in their career, but especially so when the band never really rocked to begin with. That’s exactly what Accelerate is: a bunch of middle aged dudes trying to rock out/ sound like U2. Some fans are gonna eat it up, and that’s fine. A lot of people like middle-of-the-road, boring rock: just look at Nickleback’s album sales. I am personally reminded of Sick Boy’s succinct appraisal of Lou Reed’s career in Trainspotting: “You think it’s alright, but it’s really just shite.” There is too much interesting, vital music out there for me to waste my time with late-period REM, or any other half-assed effort by musicians past their sell-by date who refuse to grow old gracefully.

That said, I need to remember to buy the last John Doe album: there’s one aging rocker who is still putting out interesting music 30 years into his career.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Joke Rap Is No Joke

Sudden Death
Fatal Error

Review here.

Me and my friends used to do joke raps when we were in jr. high. These guys have been doing joke raps since I was in jr. high. The difference is, me and my friends and I were 13, and we stopped. I have always hated joke bands and "funny" music, be it They Might Be Giants or Weird Al, or basically anything on Dr. Demento. The humor is always horribly corny, and I feel like when you make a song a joke, then it diminishes it's enjoyability. I want to hear a song a million times, but a joke, only once or twice. Even good funny music, like Spinal Tap or Monty Python, I just can't get with it.

This Sudden Death album was monumentally dorky, and painful to listen to. They seemed nice, so instead of given them a shitty review, I rated them on a joke score that is as corny as their music. Happy April Fool's.

PS. Corny is an awesome word, and more people should use it.

Spank Rock

I did a "Back to the Lab" review of Spank Rock's YoYoYoYoYo for Rapreviews this week. Here.

I love that album, and I'm not a fan of the whole dayglo-tight pants scene. I hear they are awesome live.

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