Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Second Quarter Review

I totally slacked on writing this second quarter, which I might try and rectify with a series of reviews because there were some REAL standouts between April and June.

There is one album that I'm omitting: The new Stars record. I haven't had time to digest it and listen. So I'm sure it'll be a part of the third quarter review.

Without further adieu
  • Broken Social Scene's Forgiveness Rock Record This is a really fun dance record. BSS, a band (collective?) that I always found too hard to really get into, delivered in solid form with Forgiveness Rock Record. Texico Bitches is going down as one of my favorite singles of the year. Favorite Tracks - Texico Bitches, Art House Director, Ungrateful Little Father, Highway SLipper Jam
  • Cassis Orange s/t EP Autumn Ehinger, the tiny but awesome one woman force that is Cassis Orange is a friend of the Shake that we met at XX Merge last year (she was covered in pink duct tape, Imperial Teen's No 1 fan). Somehow she's able to capture all her energy and push out on four excellent songs. Lots of pianao, very solid beats, she has an ear for perfect pop.The EP is free at her website, and hopefully she'll do us a solid and play at the ISIS HQ backyard party this summer. Favorite Tracks - Listen Heartbeat, Kotzebue
  • Hold Steady's Heaven Is Whenever Not my favorite album by this band, but I guess like Craig Finn's characters, you can't stay boozy and druggy your whole life. Still anthemic, and still rocking, the departure of Franz Nicolay and his keyboard leaves a noticeable whole. Despite all that, it's still one of the out this past quarter (though don't expect it to make on EoY lists). Favorite Tracks - Heaven Is Whenever, Hurricane J
  • Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid One of my favorite albums for the year. Genre hopping, with rock, funk, hiphop, cabaret (?!) and soul, this is Monae's second and third installment of her ArchAndroid suite. Yeah, the idea is a little out there, but it works. Favorite Tracks - Cold War, Tightrope, Oh Maker
  • The New Pornographers' Together This is my first New Pornographers album, and all it made me want to do is go buy the others. Every song is a pop masterpiece, and I'm firmly in love with Neko Case. My Shepherd, what AC Neman calls his 'torch song' will make you want to cry. Get this album now and put it on repeat. Favorite Tracks - Crash Years, Silver Jenny Dollar, My Shepherd
  • Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings' I Learned The Hard Way You think you got problems? Listen to a little Sharon Jones, and you'll think twice. I Learned the Hard Way is perfect retro soul music, and serves as the perfect stage for Jones' incredible voice and the Dap Kings tight playing. Favorite Tracks - The Game Gets Old, Better Things, She Ain't a Child No More
  • Tokyo Police Club's Champ Another followup effort from a band that I wish had done better. TPC's blast of EP's in 2007 and it's energetic Elephant Shell in 2008 put a lot of hope for a return. They've grown up a bit, and they're still making similar pop, but it lacks the punch of their earlier stuff. Wait Up and Bambi come the closest, and are by and large the standouts on the album. Favorite Tracks - Wait Up (Boots of Danger), Bambi
  • Sleigh Bells' TreatsI don't know how to describe this album. Post apocalyptic cheer rock hip hop? Over distorted dance noise? I tell people it's weird, then play it, and they love it. Super accessible, very very fun. Liek I said on Twitter, perfect for a late night dance party with tons of rose wine. Favorite Tracks - Kids, Run The Heart, A/B Machines
  • The Roots How I Got OverAfter one listen, this is on my shortlist for Album of the Year. If you thought playing late night walk overs for Jimmy Fallon would make them soft, forget it. How I Got Over is the best hip hop album so far this year. Every track is a winner, from start to finish. And things I was sure wouldn't work (Joanna Newsome? Monsters of Folk???) are PERFECT. Am I jocking it hard? Yes, but only because it's THAT GOOD. Dear God 2.0, Web 20/20, Hustla, Walk Alone
  • Shelby Lynne's Tears, Lies and Alibis Since I first listend to I Am Shelby Lynne, I've been in love with her voice. Tears, Lies and Alibis is kinda return to her mix of soul and country, still with that aching voice and love done me wrong songwriting. I think you'll love Shleby
The links are all for Amazon, but you can find most of these artists at eMusic or another online independent retailer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What We're Listening To - Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid

I remember when neo-soul was a cheap way to lump black artists who were doing things that pushed the boundaries of contemporary R&B and hip hop.

It essentially was indie rock for black people.

RES, the original Black Eyed Peas, Knaan, India. Arie. This is just a sample, but these were artists with little to no commercial appeal, peddling their brand of music to highly educated black 20 somethings.

I blame the movie Love Jones.

So now we have Janelle Monae, who's making records about android uprising and falling in love, garnering 8.5 from the color-phobic Pitchfork, and sampling every single music genre, collaborating with some of ATL's finest.

My friends, this shit is indie (well polished indie, as it's on Bad Boy. If Diddy did any producing, you can tell he restrained). It's a close cousin to what Cee-Lo was doing before he met Danger Mouse.

The middle two parts of her four suite Metropolis story, The Archandroid crams 20 mostly brilliant songs (or song thoughts... Neon Gumbo is a 97 second cascade of blips and sounds) into what should be a double album. It's dizzying and tiring.

You spot influences all over. "Oh Maker" is probably the best Lauryn Hill song that Lauryn Hill never wrote, except it's about robots. "Say You'll Go" is beautiful Stevie Wonder-esque love song. She channels the helluva out of Prince on "Mushrooms and Roses." "Tightrope" could be this summer's jam and YouTube dance sensastion, straight off of Stankonia.

Her inner rock goddes takes hold and she invites Of Montreal to help her rock it on "Make The Bus", but she's capable all by herself on the much better and more resonant "Cold War," borrowing some of Andre 3000's freakiness (and his Bombs over Baghdad drums) with some of her own blend of weird thrown in there.

The concept, like most album themes, kinda gets old. Her voice and the music doesn not.

Seeing as how Outkast isn't putting anything out for a bit, pick this not to hold you over or replace, but to fall in love with, to remind you that weird is good.

Buy Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid from Amazon's MP3 Store