Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Aztext and Generation Bass Reviews

I reviewed The Aztext second installment of their "Who Cares If We're Dope?" series this week at RapReviews. This time the group worked with with SF producer Touchphonics.

I also reviewed Generation Bass's Transnational Dubstep comp. It's a solid collection of dubstep containing elements of Indian, Latin American, and European folk music. I rated it a little low only because I have a limited capacity for dubstep.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What I'm Listening To

I've been studying a lot, which has changed the music I listen to. I can't study to hip-hop - it's too abrasive and distracting. Instead, I've been listening to a lot of jazz. A lot of jazz albums are cheap on Emusic, so I got a bunch recently, including Oliver Nelson's The Blues and The Abstract Truth.

I also got John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, which is brilliant. It's one of those amazing pieces of music that makes me feel alive. I just wish I knew more about music theory, because I'm sure Coltrane's work is a lot deeper than I'm able to digest.

I've also been listening to old hardcore punk. I put my old Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, and Germs records on my iPod so I can relive my adolescence on my bus ride home. I find 80s thrash oddly soothing.

I also found a Stitches album at Amoeba for five bucks. They were a trashy Heartbreakers-inspired band who I saw in the mid-nineties opening for the Workin' Stiffs at the Purple Onion. Their friend Dusty was sitting at our table with a box of seven inches to sell. He was drinking Old English from a can, ashing into it, and then taking swigs. They were a toxic, druggy band who had a decent song or two. The album is pretty terrible.

Finally, I've been listening to a lot of 70s deejay music. I went almost all of January without listening to any reggae, but the second school started up again I started listening to reggae again. It's soothing yet a little aggro. I found a used copy of Trinity's Shanty Town Determination at Amoeba, which I'm enjoying. He sounds a lot like Big Youth, but that's not a bad thing.

Serge Severe Review

I reviewed Serge Severe's new album Back On My Rhymes this week at RapReviews. He's a Portland MC whose sound is a throwback to the days when being a rapper meant having solid microphone skills and a dedicated DJ on the decks spinning vinyl. I liked it. A lot better than Busta Rhymes 2009 album Back On My Bullshit, which I bought last month, and which I don't like at all.

Here's "Can't Stop, Won't Stop, with Braille.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Maggot Mouf

I reviewed Maggot Mouf's You're All Ears this week on RapReviews.

It's Australian horror rap, using horror imagery to talk about the drama of everyday life. Much like a Burgermeister hamburger, it's done well, but not the kind of thing I'm into.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself

The White Stripes officially broke up this week. It's not surprising, and they had painted themselves into a corner, but I'm still a little sad. They haven't put out a new studio album since 2007's Icky Thump, and their last tour was canceled when their drummer Meg had a nervous breakdown. Jack White has been doing his own thing for a while now, both as a musician with the Dead Weather and Raconteurs, as a producer with Wanda Jackson, and as a label owner.

Realistically, there was nothing left for the White Stripes to do BUT break up. They formed in 1997 under a very different musical climate. The guiding philosophy was "more is more." The charts were dominated by manufactured pop and aspirational hip-hop. The rock world had deteriorated from the grunge days of the early 90s into self-indulgent emo and watered down alt rock like Nickelback. Advances in studio production and home recording capabilities meant that music was more synthesized and embellished. MTV was trying to convince us that electronica was the new rock.

Into that storm rode the White Stripes. Simply put, they peeled it the fuck down. Guitar and a not-very-good drummer. That's it. They developed a color scheme gimmick to match their stripped down sound - the band was only photographed wearing red, white, and black. Their first singles and album was noisy blues rock that hadn't quite found its way, but 2000's De Stijl, named after a Dutch minimalist art movement, hit home. The chaos and noisiness of their earlier work was gone, replaced by raw blues, Led Zepplin channeling Robert Johnson without the gongs and violin bows. Interspersed were Brit pop songs like "You're Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl)," that showed there was more to the band than Page licks and Plant yowls.

They perfected their pop licks on 2001's White Blood Cells, which contains their most perfect song, "Fell In Love With A Girl." The song, like much of the White Stripe's work, was deceptively simple, so dumb it was smart, pop music pared down to its bare essence.

In 2003 they released their most successful album, Elephant. From opening single "Seven Nation Army" it was evident that the band was reaching the end of what it could do under its original model of guitar-drums. "Seven Nation Army" featured a bass guitar, adding a new element into their mix. The album hit #6 on the Billboard charts, and went on to sell over four million copies worldwide. It also contained an amazing cover of Burt Bacharach's "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." Jack White was evidently irritated with the video, directed by Sofia Coppola, in which Kate Moss writhed on a stripper's pole. He didn't see the connection. (I didn't mind.)

Something else had happened in that time period. Stripped-down indie rock had hit big. The Strokes had a hit record doing pared down Lower-East-Side junkie rock. The Shins were doing pared down West Coast rock. In the wake of the economic crash of 2000 and September 11, 2001, big dumb blingy music seemed gauche and outre. Garage rock was in.

The follow up, 2005's Get Behind Me Satan, showed that the band was getting tired of its own schtick. They continued to experiment with new sounds, and the production was fuller. Notice they've expanded their wardrobe colors as well.

2007's Icky Thump, went even further in the more is more direction. Both albums offered diminishingn returns, and the Stripes were starting to seem anachronistic. The machine they were raging against no longer existed. They had conquered the record industry, won a Grammy, and recorded about all the guitar-drum songs they could.

White started the Raconteurs, and then started the Dead Weather. Meg had a nervous breakdown and avoided the press. The record industry went down in flames. Arcade Fire, in a reaction against the navel gazing of early 2000s indie rock, went for a bigger, more ambitious sound. They won a Grammy.

I still love the early White Stripes, but I'm glad they called it quits. One thing I'm learning in my Nonprofit Administration program is you have to know when to abandon or shift your mission. Just because something was a good idea 13 years ago doesn't mean you have to keep doing it. Cheers to Meg and Jack for putting an end to it in style.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


I reviewed a four-year-old mixtape from NYOil this week for RapReviews called 9 Wonders.  It showed up on my doorstep, so I reviewed it. I hadn't heard NYOil before, but I was into it. Sort of righteously angry ala Chuck D or KRS-One. Half the mixtape is NYOil rapping over 9th Wonder beats, the rest is outakes from his album and some exclusives. You can download it for free at DJ Trackstar's website, so go do so.

I just realized that the Carrie Brownstein in the new series Portlandia is the same Carrie Brownstein who writes for NPR's Monitor Mix and appears on All Songs Considered, red, and is also the same Carrie Brownstein who was in Sleater-Kinney. I kinda have a crush on her. Only she's gay. Which is fine, but it just makes the crush seem that much more pointless.

I've only heard Sleater-Kinney's 1997 album Dig Me Out. I liked it, but Corin Tucker's voice kinda got on my nerves, so I never invested in them after that. Somehow I downloaded "You're No Rock N'Roll Fun," which for whatever reason pops up every time I put my iPod on shuffle. I like that song. Maybe I should buy more of their albums. Carrie has a new band that is supposed to put out an album this year. Maybe I'll buy that. Maybe I'll check out Portlandia. Maybe I'll visit Portland.

Blog Archive