Kairos sounds like it was recorded in a cold, abandoned warehouse and every syncopated beat reverberates through that chilly space. Casey Dienel’s lovely voice stands out in that vast expanse and, while the music is mostly weird synthetic scratches and rattles, her warm welcome keeps the cold at bay. The contrast between Dienel’s voice and the music is what makes Kairos really shine.
Feel that? That’s soul. And funk. Maker’s beats are rich and really easy to groove to, and he’s done some fantastic scratching. Qwel’s flow, once so fast it was nearly impossible to follow, has chilled out and sounds much better for it. I don’t have a ton of stuff to say about this album, it’s just a kick ass modern hip-hop album, with smart lyrics, clever word play and bumpin’ soul beats.
You know how on Futurama, when people speak of Fry’s era, they tend to combine things from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s into a weird mish-mash of pop culture? This album sounds like something that would arise from that blurred, distant view of the late 20th century.
It makes sense, kind of, since Damon Albarn’s inspiration for this album was all the bits of plastic detritus that washed up on his beach. It’s almost like all those pieces of culture were melted down in a big vat, like recycled plastic, but you can still see the swirls of color that betray their source. Songs like “Stylo” and “Rhinestone Eyes” would be perfect for a montage of dudes of in white suits snorting cocaine on the moon. He even recruits icons from different eras: There’s an alt hip-hop song featuring De La Soul, an intro by Snoop Dogg, some soulful crooning from Bobby Womack and a Lou Reed appearance. The weird thing is that, even with all those eclectic elements, Plastic Beach the Gorillaz most cohesive and consistent album.
This, man, I don’t even know what this is. I mean, it’s experimental electronic music, but beyond that I don’t have much of a grasp on it. Every song takes from the previous song and builds towards the next one, breathlessly pushing toward some extra-dimensional plane. The beats hit hard and propel the music forward, like instrumental hip-hop, but it’s all so amorphous and glitchy that no descriptor really fits. Flying Lotus has created something really original and that makes it hard to talk about. Ask me again in 5 years, maybe by then I’ll have caught up.
Good hip-hop makes you feel good, and that’s TSOL‘s greatest strength. It’s an instant mood lifter. Shad is optimistic and funny, bragging about his small success then humbling himself with self-deprecating humor. A couple songs are super serious and a little cringe inducing, but for the most part TSOL radiates good vibes. I love the video for “Rose Garden” which is a pretty awesome tribute to the Pharcyde’s classic video for “The Drop.
What kind of odds could I have gotten in 1996 that in 2010 a Cee Lo Green song with a profane title would be covered by a popular white actress on a show about drama club kids? 1,000:1? 10,000:1? It doesn’t matter, because I wouldn’t have have taken the bet anyway. It just feels like an impossible scenario for a the frustrated young man that was key member of the Goodie Mob.
Of course, Cee Lo is the kind of guy that lives to defy expectation. At first glance, The Lady Killer is a pretty straight forward modern soul album. Cee Lo’s personality sets it apart though. Turning profanity into the year’s best hook is something only Cee Lo could pull off. It’s just so wonderfully subversive. There are other great songs on this album, like the threatening double entendre of “Bodies” or the ode to vintage Micheal Jackson that is “Bright Lights Big City”. Not every track is a winner, but there’s are so many good ones it’s easy to ignore the misses.
Enslaved is the kind of black metal band I can get behind. For one thing, they have a sense of humor, and that alone makes them ten times more palatable than most black metal dudes. They also understand that recording on to an answering machine in your basement isn’t artistic, it just makes your music sound like shit. For Axioma.. they teamed up with Steven Wilson, head song writer/singer/guitarist for the prog rock band Porcupine Tree, and have made their best sounding album. My only real problem with it is that they settle pretty quickly into the light-heavy-copy-paste style of songwriting that Opeth is famous (and often criticized) for. It’s not a bad style, but by the 5th or 6th song it becomes predictable and little monotonous. The linear twists and turns of Mardraum: Beyond the Within prove that Enslaved are capable of better, but I still really dig Axioma Ethica Odini.
If viewed up close, this album is a huge tangle of instruments and concepts. Xylophones, guitars, saxophones, bells and keyboards mix with cryptic, melodramatic lyrics to form dense, dark indie rock. If you pull pack a bit though, you’ll find a bombastic and easy to enjoy band that has a strong pop sensibility and draws comparisons to bands like Blur and U2. Regardless of how you chose to view them, Mines is pretty fucking awesome.
Holy shit, this a righteous ass kicker of a death metal album. It’s hard to pinpoint why Heirs to Thievery is so much better than the rest of Misery Index’s fairly mediocre discography, but it is. It’s just 35 of kick ass death metal riffs and blast beats. I want to call it vicious and relentless, but those words have lost all meaning in the world of death metal and grindcore. Oh, and no matter how you feel about his politics, it’s nice that Jason Netherton writes about class warfare instead of fucking Jesus with a chainsaw or whatever. I have no problem with violent juvenile fantasies, but it’s nice to hear something a little different.
Homeboy Sandman is the best emcee on the planet right now. His flows are fucking ludicrous, his vocabulary is gigantic and his grasp of the different ways words can be paired together is unmatched. He makes syllables and pronunciations malleable, bending words in ways that sound incredible. The music couldn’t stand on its own, but Sand’s lyrics are the star and the complex beats allow his skills to shine. In “Mean Mug” he gives a playful criticism of the stereotypical hip-hop frown, advising “My dude, food consumed will affect your mood/Micky D’s be pumped with drugs. One result? Mean Mugs.” He also put in a strong bid for music video of the year, with this funny (and slightly disgusting) backwards shot short.
The Good Sun has a couple bad songs (like the boiler plate love song “Listen”) and it isn’t quite on the same level as Actual Factual Pterodactyl, but it’s further proof that Homeboy Sandman deserves more attention. His ability to weave complex rhyme schemes and remain thematically consistent is uncanny. The word “fresh” was invented to describe dudes like this.