Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley – Distant Relatives Album Review


Nas and Damian have put together a fantastic, collaborative, concept album about Africa -the continent that both artists point to as their ancestral and cultural homeland. “Distant Relatives” is a great album, which blends elements of reggae and hip-hop to create a polished, foot-tapping, hybrid sound. Proceeds from album sales will help fund schools that Nasir and Damian plan to construct in Africa.

The first single, “As We Enter” is super-catchy, and is backed by a groovy, Mulatu Atske sample. This song is pure fire, and bound to be a favorite. Also check out “Leaders” and “Friends”. Great message, great tunes. Enjoy.

As We Enter

Leaders

Friends

Brand New Heavies – Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol. 1


I have been meaning to finish up this blog post for some time, and with the recent tragic news concerning Guru, I wanted to get this out today. Listen to the MP3s, leave a comment if you are so inclined and send some positive vibes Guru’s way.

I have two college friends to thank for my introduction to the Brand New Heavies and specifically, the landmark album, Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol. 1. It was the summer of 1993 and I dropped in on Billy Ray and Brownie’s Brighton Bachelor Pad and was greeted by B. Ray, “Yo, check this out. Hip-hop backed by a live band.” At the time this was revolutionary. He threw on the disk, and I was instantly hooked. I think the first cut he played for me was The Pharcyde’s“Soul Flower”. To say it moved me is an understatement. After leaving their apartment, I made my way to Newbury Comics in two shakes of a rabbit’s tail and had that disk in my Discman before you could say “Boo”. To rap and hip-hop fans, the album now holds legendary status. It features a who’s who of golden-age underground rappers, backed by the tightest, funkiest, band around – The Brand New Heavies. Since this release, there have of course been additional live band/hip-hop collaborations, but nothing like Heavy Rhyme Vol.1. It’s now been 18 years since the release, and all I have to say is, can we PLEASE have a Vol.2?

Brand New Heavies featuring Gang Starr | It’s Getting Hectic

Brand New Heavies featuring The Pharcyde | Soul Flower

Spoon – Transference Album Review


With Spoon’s seventh album, this Austin-based band departs from their previous release, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” by limiting the layered sound and accompanying horns that contributed to its greatness. “Transference” retains Spoon’s signature piano and stabbing guitars but casts this sound in a more understated context. At times this album feels like you are listening to an intimate bedroom recording or a demo and not a finished album. This works for me, as I like the intimacy that this creates with the listener. For some, “Transference” may need some time to grow on you (and your ears). Others, like myself, may respond to it immediately. It is the first entry on my list for albums of the year (2010). Sure we can debate the merits of where this album ranks in the overall Spoon catalog, but for the moment, listen to the MP3s and be thankful for 15 years (and counting) of Spoon.

Spoon | Who Makes Your Money

Spoon | Written in Reverse

My Favorite Albums of 2009

Hey everyone. Here it is. What you’ve all been waiting for, my favorite albums of 2009. The first four on my list I have reviewed previously on this blog and have linked to those reviews.

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
The xx – xx
Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Get Busy Commitee – Uzi Does It

Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind EP


Love these guys. This EP feels like a natural extension to MPP. The songs on this EP really have that classic Animal Collective epic, dramatic feel to them. The MP3 that I have posted below features the first ever authorized Grateful Dead sample. See if you can figure out the song. Phil Lesh sings the lead. Leave a comment with your guess. I think I just outed myself as a Grateful Dead fan – something Ryan Adams and I have in common.

Animal Collective | What Would I Want Sky

Deer Tick – Born on Flag Day


A little piece of country-folk-indie-Americana right out of Rhode Island. I heard that Deer Tick evolved from a bedroom project of one John McCauley, into what is now a full-fledged band. McCauley sings with a very distinctive rough and gruff voice, that really lends itself to the country vibe of the music. Hailing from Massachusetts, I take special pride in a band coming out of New England and I look forward to future releases.

Deer Tick | Little White Lies

Built to Spill – There Is No Enemy


With “There Is No Enemy”, Built to Spill has released an album that is right up there with “Perfect From Now On” and “Keep It Like a Secret.” Yes, it is that good. Gorgeous melodies, strong rhythms and Doug Martsch’s fantastic guitar playing. Some of my best memories are seeing these guys over the years. I haven’t seen them perform live since ’99, I am due!

Built to Spill | Life’s a Dream

Girls – Album


This album got a lot of play this year. It is a gorgeous album of dreamy, ethereal, California pop. It feels like Brian Wilson or Panda Bear could have possibly had a hand in this. My whole family dug this album, especially the kids. A few months ago, while driving in the car Cece shushed Maya because she was talking to loudly while we were listening to Girls. Sounds exactly like something I would have done to my sister back in the day.

Girls | Hellhole Ratface

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone


In case you have been living under a rock, Neko Case has a stunning voice. It seems to hover above her music, which creates a haunting, otherworldly effect. With this album, Neko continues to redefine country music on her own terms and in many ways has created her own sub-genre of country.

Neko Case | Fever

Japandroids – Post Nothing


With just a guitar (and lots of pedals) and drums, these guys produce one hell of a sound. Rooted in garage-rock, but more complex with their use of noise. Yes, they are loud, but inside of the noise, exist some really incredible melodies. I saw these guys back in November and they put on a fantastic show, one which I highly recommend.

Japandroids | Young Hearts Spark Fire

Buju Banton – Rasta Got Soul


This album by Buju Banton really surprised me. It is a fantastic roots-reggae album. I realize many will disagree, but I like it better than “‘Til Shiloh.” Buju’s enthusiasm on this album is boundless.

Buju Banton | Rastafari

Handsome Furs – Face Control


Handsome Furs is the husband and wife team of Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade) and Alexei Perry. Together they create high-energy, electro-punk (is that even a genre?) that is catchy and infectious and danceable.

Handsome Furs | All We Want, Baby, Is Everything

The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love


For some reason The Big Pink (isn’t that a Band album) remind me of the The xx. Both are youngsters from the UK, that create dreamy, electro-pop songs that stick to your ribs. This is a great album, noisy at times, but with enough melodies to have you tapping your toes and singing along. Listen to Dominos (MP3 below) and get a taste of what The Big Pink is all about.

The Big Pink | Dominos

The Get Busy Committee – Uzi Does It Album Review

GBC

I received an email about three weeks ago from a friend with the following message:

Your new favorite album has arrived.

You’re welcome.

In his email, he also included a link to download the album as an MP3. We have a pretty similar taste in music, and furthermore, he is quite passionate about what he likes, so I figured this wasn’t just hyperbole. The band is “The Get Busy Committee” and the album is “Uzi Does it”. It’s hip-hop with a healthy dose of humor and satire, and is already one of my favorite albums of 2009. Do yourself a favor and head over to their website pick this up, you will love it.

Here are a couple of my favorite tracks.

The Get Busy Committee | I Don’t Care About You

The Get Busy Committee | Chillin out Maxin

Mos Def – The Ecstatic Album Review

mosdef

Finally Dante delivers. If you are a fan of Black Star or Mos’s first album, “Black on Both Sides”, then you owe it to yourself to give this a listen. “The New Danger” and “True Magic” just didn’t do it for me. Sorry Mos. The Ecstatic on the other hand is great. The beats are solid (especially the drums) the use of samples is right on and Mos delivers with his detailed rhymes and stories. For all you doubters, listen to this with an open mind.

Mos Def | Priority

Mos Def | Casa Bey

The Middle East – The Middle East EP Album Review

me

Since this band isn’t from the States, I suppose I can’t classify them as Americana. How about Australiana? Yup, hailing from Australia this six piece offers up five fantastic songs on this EP release. What’s more, for a limited time, you can pick up the EP as MP3 from their website for a mere $1.00. The Middle East craft sparse, atmospheric folk/pop songs that employ haunting, harmony vocals. After purchasing the MP3 I did two things; listened to it over and over, and told everyone I know about it. Guess I am just doing more of the same here, but now you get a listen as well. This EP does not disappoint. What’s more it “feels” like an autumn album; perfect for this time of year.

The Middle East | Blood

The xx – xx Album Review

me

Wikipedia tells me that the xx are a foursome coming to you live and direct from the UK. Apparently the foursome are alumni of the Elliott School which also counts Burial, Hot Chip and Four Tet as graduates – some serious talent coming out of that school. The easiest and most common mechanism to describe a band (or a book, film or play ) is to identify something comparable and use it as a reference. We all do it. Not sure it is possible with The xx. They are truly something different. Try to imagine programmed beats coupled with instrumentation which is at times stark and austere. The album feels like a concept album in the sense that there isn’t a lapse or a song that doesn’t fit. Take a listen. Hoping to catch them at Neumo’s on November 27th where they will be sharing a bill with Friendly Fires

xx | Islands

xx | Basic Space

Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People, Lasers Do Album Review

major_lazer-guns

I picked this album up at the beginning of the summer, have been killing it not stop, and am now just getting around to posting a quick review. Major Lazer is the nom de plume of Diplo and Switch (the guys that produced “Paper Planes”). The fictious back story of Major Lazer is that he is a Jamaican commando who lost both arms, and is now outfitted with prosthetic lazers, thanks to the United States Military. Pretty silly if you ask me. I bought it for the music not the mythology. Now, on to the tunes. Diplo and Switch have produced a great mashup of classic Jamaican dancehall-ragga, rocksteady and pop that is the perfect soundtrack for the summer. If Diplo and Switch set out to re-introduce dancehall to the club kids (as some have speculated), this album certainly has the chops to get the job done.

Major Lazer | Hold The Line Feat Mr Lex & Santigold

Major Lazer | Can’t Stop Now

The Melvins – Showbox Market 5/22/2009

melvins
So I am finally getting around to writing this Melvins review. I figured it was about time that my one dutiful reader farming his days away in Western PA had something new to read. A caveat here, I am not a HUGE Melvins fan. I am however a HUGE “Houdini” fan. I know that to many core Melvins fans, “Houdini” is not considered their best album or most representative of the Melvins. Hell, after reading The Stranger’s preview, it sounds as if King Buzzo himself is not even that big of a fan.

That said, the show rocked. Did I mention that Green River played as well? For those not up on their Northwest Grunge history, here is a little primer. Green River featured singer Mark Arm, bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard. Later, Mark Arm would be known for his work in Mudhoney and Ament and Gossard would go on to be members of Pearl Jam, and prior to that Mother Love Bone. During roughly the same time period, The Melvins were playing similar music in Montesano, WA and would soon influence a young Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, both of whom would go on to form Nirvana.

Later, after “Grunge” became part of the zeitgiest, Cobain used his influence to get the Melvins a major deal with Atlantic, and the forthcoming release was 1993’s “Houdini”. To many, including myself, this is the album that sparked an initial interest in the Melvins. But I digress.

The show. The show. Well the lineup was as follows; Melvins playing as they did in 1983, then Green River, then the Melvins playing “Houdini” from start to finish. I attended the show with some friends who are musicians and HUGE Melvins fans. They, as did I loved the first Melvins set. Heavy on the punk influences, less on the dirgy, stoner metal. Not too long, just a tease really. After a short set break, Green River came on with Mark Arm attacking the stage like a young Iggy Pop/Mick Jagger. Arm hasn’t aged a day. He looked liked he just graduated high school. Fun stuff seeing these legendary musicians playing in a band that they last played in back in 1987. You could tell how much fun they were having, and the crowd really responded. I thoroughly enjoyed the cover of Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”, but what I really wanted was “Houdini” and that slow, sludgy, stoner metal. Not to be disappointed, the Melvins soon took the stage.

Not only was the lineup different for this, the final set, but the volume was turned way up. At the first chord of “Hooch”, the pit began to swirl – lucky for me, I was nowhere near the pit, but safely up on the mezzanine area by the bar. Highlights include the Kiss cover “Going Blind”, “Set Me Straight”, “Honey Bucket”. Just an amazing show. Like I said the day following the show, if the Melvins are coming to your town, do not miss them.