Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 24

Red by King Crimson

I've recently been checking out King Crimson in an effort to show love to some albums I've had for a while, but didn't give a proper listen.

Red is weird (just like KC), but there are some pretty spectacular things going on here.

The album-titled opening track is a heavy prog instrumental that is repetitive in nature, but I can't not listen to it all the way through. It's no secret that these guys can play, and in a weird way, this song illustrates it. There aren't any face-melting guitar solos or massive drum solos, but the mastery of tension and release combined with some shifting time signatures and off-the-wall tonalities makes this song both haunting and beautiful.

Next up is "Fallen Angel." This is the first of two ballads on this album. I use the term ballad loosely with this track. The content ain't exactly lovey-dovey or heartbroken so don't expect to be reminded of Rod Stewart. The driving rhythmic ostinato gives it plenty of momentum along with some crazy trumpet, oboe, and sax solos. 

Third is my favorite from this one, entitled "One More Red Nightmare." Right out the gate, this one has early prog rock written all over it. Think Jimi meets Cream. Psychodelic guitar riffs mixed with psychodelic lyrics with a dash of craziness from Bruford gives way to a cool sax/guitar jam not once but twice! Dig it.

Next is "Providence." Not really sure what to make of this one. It sounds like a single and/or live take of David Cross having quite a time with his violin. There are moments when I feel like I'm about to hear a full orchestra come in to accompany and others where I'm fairly certain I'm listening to the soundtrack for The Black Swan...

The album's final track, "Starless," is a much more 'normal' ballad in the fact that it is more somber and slow in nature... at least at first. For a 12-minute tune, there are only three real verses so you know there's going to be plenty of instrumental work coming. Once again there's plenty of sax to be heard along with some atonal nonsense from Robert Fripp on guitar and I think David Cross on violin. Just like the opening track, this one is weird and at times hard to follow, but I can't not listen. It's too unlike anything I've ever heard. 

Overall this is a pretty awesome album from one of the first really progressive rock bands. Side note: this album was finished as the group was disbanding, which to me makes it even more impressive that it came off so strongly. If you want to hear some rock that is unlike anything else you've laid ears on, check out Red.

Week 23

Overgrown by James Blake

Here are the two things you need to know about this album:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Week 22

From the Corner to the Block by Galactic

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's time to get funky!

I've been a pretty big fan of Galactic for several years. Super funky, a little dirty, and a dash of jazz. What's not to like!? This is the group's fifth studio album, and it's a concept album in that it features alternative/underground rapper's on almost every track. The Meters got the funk, Tower of Power got the soul, but neither of those have had collabs from Chali 2na or Lyrics Born!

The opening track is one of my favorites. It's called "I Got It (What You Need)" featuring Lyrics Born. Super voodoo funk tune with some dirty, down-home rhymes from Blackalicious' emcee. 

The next two have a similar sound to these ears. Both sound like they belong on the BMC stage with lots of cigar smoke and a sweaty glass of bourbon nearby. Mr. Lif and Gift of Gab lay down the rhymes in very unique styles respectively. 

Next up is "2nd and Dryades." This one isn't a hip hop track per se. Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (of the Mardi Gras Indian tribe, Golden Eagles) tells a story in shorten broken phrases over an agogo-infused breakbeat that's heavy in bass and record scratches. Little different in content here, but still plenty of groove for the head-bobbing.

The next track "Think Back" sounds like it belongs on a Jurassic 5 album. And it should since Chali 2na goes in! The bluesy guitar and bass groove sounds very North Mississippi Allstar while Stanton and Chali bring plenty of the underground hip hop sound. Lots of reminiscing to be done, both from sound and content. 

Next up is one of the disc's two instrumental tracks. This one, "Bounce Baby" ft. Z-trip and the eleventh jam "Tuff Love" ft. Trombone Shorty are both killer. They give wary Galactic fans plenty to love on, not to mention those of us who want to hear some killer horn/sax playing. Stanton does some of his most impressive drumming on these two, whether it be in the broken hi-hat patterns or the funky incorporation of real and electronic instruments. Check both of these out many times please!

Track seven, "Hustle Up" yields mixed feelings. It's one of the disc's most hyped tunes, and has some of the coolest rhymes. But, it also has a lot of offputting verses that I don't necessarily think are needed. Boots Riley is the emcee and he brings it... but maybe too much? You decide.

After a minute-plus jam entitled "Sidewalk Stepper," we get the title track with none other than Juvenile on the rhyme. This is probably my favorite from this album. Super funky brass, tasty second-line bass and drums, and thankfully, Juvenile brings it ol' school. If rhymes could be said in different genres, this would be rap's second line. Funky, unpolished, with just a dash of wit. You get the best of early Galactic with the best of the new in this track.

Next up is "Squarebiz" with Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets puttin' it down. This one has a distinctly different sound than anything else on the disc and it's hard to describe. It's a little more polished but thanks to some effects and Zigaboo-esque drumming, still sounds like it belongs in NOLA. Haven't made up my mind on this one. Oh well.

Three songs from the end, we get Lateef the Truthspeaker on "No Way." Kind of like "Squarebiz" this one has another sound and I can't really place it on the album. Got a cool hook and some quick rhymes, but I hear less Galactic in this one...

Before the last track, there's another minute-plus jam called "Fanfare." Who's down for 1:25 of groovin' out!? Anyway... the album's final track is "Find My Home." This one is a little different but thanks to the rhymes, I dig it. Even though, the Galactic side is a little weaker on this one, the rap is killer. Very ol' school in both sound and content. Ohmega Watts doesn't build up, he just goes right in, speaking about both the struggle and getting out of it. 

All in all, this is one of my favorite Galactic releases even though it's a little different than most. I'm a huge hip hop fan, so I totally dig the concept here, but even if I wasn't, I think I'd still enjoy the playing by the funky guys from NOLA. Give it a spin for yourself!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Week 21

Double Review: Now You See Inside by SR-71 

This is an album that I purchased around 2004 or 2005 when I was pretty into the pop-punk scene (think Amber Pacific, Blink 182, Unwritten Law, etc.). I'm pretty sure I got turned onto this group through some sort of music discovery tool like TuneGlue. Burned a copy of this one from iTunes this week and I've been pleasantly reminiscing. 

These guys have their own sound that to these ears, is a mash of Good Charlotte, Wilco, and Spin Doctors. Even though most of the album's songs have a very polished punk-pop sound, the song-writing is surprisingly good, not to mention some pretty solid harmonizing going on. Check out "What a Mess" and "Fame" to see what I mean. They've also got a soft side that gets away from the disgustingly sappy "ballads" that we've come to get from Blink and Green Day. "Alive" is a good one that strikes a nice balance between songwriting quality, pop sound, and radio-friendly pacing. My favorite tune from the album is the first one, "Politically Correct." High energy, wordplay, and just a dash of teenage angst. What more could you want? 

Overall this is a surprisingly good album from a group that mostly flew under the radar when they were on the scene. 

Throwing the Game by Lucky Boys Confusion

Lucky Boys and I had a love/hate relationship back in the day. This is one I got around the same time as the SR-71 album. These guys definitely have a little more ska in their sound, but they still can lay down some blast beats and poppy guitar riffs. Compared to SR-71, LBC is a little more aggressive in sound, but certainly not a hard rock outfit. The opening track, "Breaking Rules" makes you think that you're in for another Good Charlotte wanna-be ride, but the one-drop breakdown in during the bridge lets you know that these guys are a little different. Another great ska-spiced tune is "Bossman." This one was my jam for many weeks. Chill verse; in-your-face chorus. Boom. Plus the music video is pretty great. Have a look:

Other standouts from this disc include "Fred Astaire" (great song!) and "One to the Right" (SOAD-esque? you decide). 

Bottom line: if you can dig on groups like Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Streetlight Manifesto, or Less Than Jake, you'll like LBC. Also, if you're a 17-year old boy who likes to dance, but can't really...

Give these albums a listen people!