Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bruce Springsteen Is Totally Biting Kiss

I heard a snippet of "Outlaw Pete" from the new Bruce Springsteen album on Sound Opinions yesterday, and it TOTALLY sounds like Kiss's disco classic, "I Was Made For Loving You." Sadly, I wasn't the first to notice. It's mentioned in the P-Fork review, and YouTube is full of mash ups. See for yourself.



PS: Holy shit, Kiss are amazing. The only thing that would make that more amazing is if it were done by an all-female Italian Kiss cover band called Kissexy. Who I saw in Pavia in 2003 with in an empty bar where only me and my friends were there, and it was sort of embarrassing and uncomfortable.

I Am Officially Over Lil Wayne

I'll admit that I was once a fan, nay champion of Lil Wayne. Back before the Carter III, when he was releasing a new mixtape every week, I was into his wacked out flow and penchant for crazy one-liners. His The Leak mixtape is a personal favorite. But dude has been sipping way too much syrup. Weezy was already wearing out his welcome in my book. Being stoned and rapping goofily about goofy shit is awesome for a mixtape or ten, and the Carter III is rumored to be pretty great, but at a certain point you have to expand your palatte. And so he has. By releasing a rock album. First he started singing, with the help of Autotune. Now he has a rock album on the way.

Why? No, really, why?

You can hear his first single here. Hint: it sucks. Unless half-assed alt-rock is your idea of a good time. I'm not saying a black man can't play rock n' roll. Many have, and many do (and that's not even going into the whole inventing the genre thing). But being a good rapper doesn't make you a good singer or guitar player. I don't want to hear Jack White rap, and I don't want to hear Lil Wayne rock.

Fela Kuti Review

My review of Fela Kuti's "The Best Best of Fela Kuti" is up at RapReviews.com now.

I was first turned on to Fela by Pitchfork, and he deserves all the praise he gets. It's James Brown meets Sly Stone meets John Coltrane. Solid.

Here's my favorite Fela song, "Lady".

Lady - Fela Kuti

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Guilty Simpson - Ode to the Ghetto

Guilty Simpson
Ode to the Ghetto
Stones Throw, 2008

This was an album I was super excited about, then super disappointing by, and now am learning to love. I saw Guilty perform live a few times, and he was always a great presence. I also liked his guest spots on the J Dilla album The Shining, and Percee P's debut. Guilty has a more hardcore style than the rest of the Stones Throw crew, and it worked for me. He was also the classic sensitive thug, doing a track about his abusive father over James Brown's "It's A Man's World."

Mans World - Guilty Simpson

Then his debut, Ode To the Ghetto, finally came out last March. Pitchfork gave it a meager 4.5, and what's worse, they had a point. It was sort of sub-par gangsta rap, and there was a lot of generic shit on it. Robbery is probably the worst offender, with not even Guilty sounding sold on his half-baked lines:

02 Robbery.wma - Guilty Simpson

"A broke-ass nigga I'm not gonna be/That's why I keep a glock on me." Ugh.

Still, the beat is nice, which is true for most of the album. Guilty was championed by the late J Dilla, and the album is full of top notch production work by fellow Detroit producer Black Milk and Madlib. It was the beats that got me to stick around and actually give Ode to the Ghetto a chance, and I finally started warming up to it. Yeah, Guilty's flow is a little basic and unadorned, and his choice of subject matter is played out, but when he's on he's on. My favorite track is "Pigs," a police diss that makes good use of Madlib's "Freeze" beat from The Beatkonducta in India:

09 Pigs.wma - Guilty Simpson
The Bollywood beat contrasts nicely with Guilty's tales of urban America. In the end, the production work and Guilty's more shining moments on the mic won me over. I hope that in the future he does less stuff like "Getting Bitches," and more stuff like "Pigs." The world doesn't need another dumb thug, but it could use a gangsta backpacker.

(Image borrowed from TradingTapes.)

Kasai Allstars

The Onion reviewed Kasai All Stars debut, In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into A Swimming Fish And Ate The Head Of His Enemy By Magic, and included a sample of "Mukubu." Like the Animal Collective album, it is unique sounding, built upon repetition complex rhythms. I just downloaded the complete album, and I'm pretty into it. It's different from a lot of what I listen to, and acts as a nice contrast to the rest of my music collection. Some of the songs sound like American blues, and some sound like the blueprint for Western dance music. I place it in the same category as Panda Bear's "Person Pitch," in that it is trancelike but pleasant on the ears. I've been listening to more African music the past few years. It started with Fela Kuti, who I learned about through Pitchfork, and since then I've been sampling things here and there. What I love about African music is that it contains a lot of the rhythmic elements I like, but puts a different spin on it than Western music. African music has become a bit trendy in the indie scenes, with everyone from Vampire Weekend to Abe Vigoda to M.I.A. borrowing ideas from African music.

Of course, the term "African music" is a bit ignorant, since Africa is a very large, diverse continent. The Kasai Allstars are from the Congo, and what they do sounds a lot different from what Nigerian Fela Kuti was doing, the Malawian sounds of The Very Best, or the South African music that inspired Paul Simon's Graceland and then the Vampire Weekend. There is also something vaguely touristy and patronizing about Westerner's interest in African music. No doubt the reasons why an American indie kid might get into music made by people from the Congo or Nigeria or wherever aren't totally pure. Cynicism and suspicion aside, though, there are also legitimate reasons. Most importantly, the music is good. Also, there is something very reaffirming and comforting about listening to music from other cultures. It reminds you that despite our differences, we are all people, and we all share similar emotions and feelings.

The Kasai Allstars album is part of the Crammed label's Congotronic series. Check out their website. The first album in the series, Konono No. 1, is rumored to be a little more accessible.

Mukuba - Kasai Allstars

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

NPR's All Songs Considered is streaming the Animal Collective's new album, Merriweather Post Pavillion. Critics are losing their shit over it, and it has a 91 on Metacritic, which is impressive since so many places have reviewed it. There are two reasons why critics are so jazzed about this album:

1. It's different. It doesn't sound like anything else out there. It is basically the Beach Boys if they were an African band doing Chicago house and/or Pink Floyd. It's trippy, there is a lot of repetition, there are some dancey elements, some jammy elements, and a whole lot of harmonizing. It's accessible but new, kind of like Radiohead. For jaded critics sick of reviewing records that all sound the same, Animal Collective are a breath of fresh air, someone finally doing something unique and interesting. For the unsophisticated masses, it's a chance to feel arty and smart.

2. It's pretty damn good. I was willing to give it a pass until I heard "My Girls," which truly is the Beach Boys as an African band doing Chicago house, and now I have to go to Amoeba when it opens today to buy the album. Plus, the cover is hella trippy.

My Girls - Animal Collective

They also did a video for "Girls" which is pretty cool. Here.

By the way, one of the bands that the Animal Collective said they were influence by was the African Brothers Dance Band (International). I couldn't find anything about them online, including a legal way to hear or buy their music, but I did find a site that has a download of it. Here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lootpack and Von Pea Reviews

I reviewed two Madlib-related projects on RapReviews this week. The first was a review of Lootpack's 1999 debut, Soundpieces: Da Antidote!, on which Madlib was producer and rapper. It's a low-key backpack album, good in small bites but somewhat monotonous taken all 24 tracks at once. I like the album, but it took me a long time to get around to writing about it, and even then my review is a little terse. I don't know why. It does have an anti-weed dependency song, "Weededed," which is a little odd given Madlib's love affair with the herb. My favorite track is "Answers," which features Madlib's alter-ego Quasimoto:

Answers (feat Quasimoto) - Lootpack
My review is here:

I also reviewed Von Pea from Tanya Morgan's free mixtape, The Further Adventures of Von Pea. I like Von Pea's laid back, slightly sloppy rapping style, but I'm more excited that he is mining Quasimoto's 2005 The Further Adventures of Lord Quas for beats. That is one of my favorite hip hop albums ever. It's like the hip hop equivalent of Sgt. Pepper's, Revolver, and the White Album rolled into one. There are a ton of crazy, trippy samples, and the whole record has a psychedelic vibe.

My review of Von Pea's album can be found here:
And the album can be downloaded on Von Pea's myspace page at www.myspace.com/vonpea.

Here's "Greenery," one of my favorite songs from The Further Adventures of Lord Quas. Ok, so it's a track about smoking pot, and Madlib duets with himself. Still, I love that beat, and the whole thing is wonderfully bugged-out.

Greenery - Quasimoto

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bon Iver Meets T-Pain

Bon Iver
Blood Bank EP
Jagjaguwar, 2009

Bon Iver's new four-song EP Blood Bank came out today. I've only done a once-through, but it sounds a little more rocking than the debut, and sounds more like a band than a dude in a cabin. They are definitely progressing.

It opens with "Blood Bank," which features him singing in his normal singing voice, versus a falsetto. I think I love it as much as anything on For Emma, Forever Ago.

Blood Bank - Bon Iver

"Beach Baby" is delicate acoustic guitar with falsetto, and may have been recorded at the same time as For Emma. "Babys" opens with a long piano thing that sounded a little like one of the instrumentals from Sufjan Stevens' Come on Feel the Illinoise. I'm not madly in love with it, but whatever, I'm along for the ride.

Im not nearly as convinced by the EP closer, however. "Woods" features Justin Vernon singing with, yes, autotune. As in T-Pain, Kanye, and Cher. As in, not a good look. As in, I thought those weren't going to be allowed to enter 2009. I thought Obama specifically mentioned how wack autotune was in his inauguration speech today. There is no place for robot voices in an Obamanation. An African-American man didn't get elected President of the United States just so people could mask their true voices with an electronic pitch-correcting program. "Woods" is actually kind of a cool song, and sounds a little like a Daft Punk chill out track, so I'll forgive Bon Iver. I just hope their new album isn't full of this autotune shit.

Woods - Bon Iver

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