Sunday, November 29, 2009

Song of the Day: Brother Ali's Good Lord



Brother Ali

Brother Ali's "Good Lord"


  If you like this hit me up.  Tell me your feeling it.  I need the love too. 


The Good, The Bad, and The GaGa



So I walked to my mailbox anticipating some hot music to bring to your attention.  I’ve recently ordered five or six new CDs and figured one of the highly anticipated would be here.  Instead, Lady GaGa’s first CD arrives, The Fame.  I set it aside and watch the Law & Order Marathon.  But the CD stared at me like a homework assignment that you must do in a subject you anticipate you’ll loathe.  

The next day I’m knocking Brother Ali and The Fame sits unopened.  I open it and play it, right after “Little Rodney.”  I had to hear it.  I can’t disparage or frown at something I’ve never heard, therefore all of my grousing demanded that I actually give her a shot.  The results … (I’ll listen to Fame Monster later … you’ve gotta know where you’ve been before you go elsewhere), terrible for all the wrong reasons.  






Why?  She isn’t terrible because she can’t sing, though she can’t.  Her range is terribly narrow.  But T-Pain is no Luther Vandross, yet he’s not terrible.  It’s not terrible because of the production.  While it’s not my cup of tea  (read, “May I have a synthesizer-combo, super-duper sized, please?”), it’s not inedible.  She’s not terrible even because all of the songs are crap.  They’re not.  “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” and “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” are both good songs.  There are one or two others.
 



The reasons she is terrible is that her songs are empty, shallow, and are everything that is wrong with music today.  She is brutally honest about what she wants.  Don’t believe me.  The defense calls it’s first witness, Mr. Song Titles.  

“Mr. Song Titles, can you tell me some of the song titles that embody what GaGa is about?”

“Sure.  The Fame.  Starstruck.  I Like it Rough.  Beautiful, Dirty Rich.”

“I rest my case.”




Lady GaGa wants to be famous.   Her album is built for mass consumption.  It is shallow enough never to take a stand on anything, only reinforcing the status quo.  Girls like guys with nice cars.  Guys should be rich.  Gilrs should play a love game.  Money is the goal.  Life is liquor, sex, and parties.  This message is repeated 14 times.  This is the formula for a platinum album.  Rock out to easily consumable beats and recite Hoyle’s Guide to Constructing an Empty Soul, Vol. I.  





 
Lady GaGa is the ugly.  Her music is the ugly because it’s goal is fame.  Her music is the ugly because it’s end product is a hollow soul.  Her music is the ugly because there is no substance.  The product of Lady GaGa is the ugly because it is the triumph of style over substance and the victory of spectacle over music.  It's the Hills.  It's Real Housewives of Wherever.  It's fame at any  price, even if it means whoring your soul.    And fuck it ... I hate it.   It's everything I stand against.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Show Review : M-Lab at the Mercury Lounge, NYC .. M ... N-O.


M-Lab
So I was trolling for music that I haven't heard of before and I stop at one of my favorite spots, Mercury Lounge here in NYC.  If you want to catch a live show any day of the week and literally sometimes twice on Sundays check out Mercury Lounge.  


So I pay my door fee and walk in.  I immediately notice that the place is packed.  I look on the tally girl's clip board and this band M-Lab has more hash marks (five people) than I have seen in a long time.  So I am eager to see what these guys have to offer.  I was excited but it was a weekend, therefore all of the 9-5ers are out and willing to do anything to have a good story to tell on Monday.  So I am eager but wary.

Sometimes wary should win out.

I walk into the backroom Budweiser in hand and proceed to see one of the most terrible bands that I have seen.  Now, let's be fair.  They weren't bad because they were technically non-proficient.  The music wasn't out of tune, the singer while he couldn't really sing all that well (but most male rock and roll singers can't) was bearable.  The keyboard player (usually a bad sign in a rock band but not always) was decent enough and the drummer wasn't off rhythm.  What was terrible was the music.


M-Lab:  Being Something You Are Not
Suitable Lyric: "I see it, the gimmicks, the wack lyrics.  The shit is depressing.  Pathetic.  Please forget it."
-- Notorious BIG, Applicable to M-Lab



Terrible.  This music is the reason that hard work is bad.  Record labels for all the bad they present often have a reason for what they do.  They sign a person either because they know they can make money, i.e. Lady Gaga (hey, they are a business after all and if you need further explanation, see the post about Lupe Fiasco's Gotta Eat (song of the day today)), or they really see talent, i.e. Bob Dylan.  Either way they discern what they need and pick it up.  Everyone who does not fall into the talent or money categories are tossed aside.  If this was the pre-Internet, self-made label day these guys could go get jobs at the douchebag factory and call it a day.   Instead, because of all the resources made available to all bands these days, worthy and subpar, these guys will survive on the butt cheeks of the musical world like a cyst.  

So what's so bad about these guys?  Well, for one their music is entirely soulless.  Take one look, one listen, and you know these guys are singing to get famous.  You want to piss me off?  Make music for the sole purpose of getting famous.  Yeah.  These guys piss me off.  There is no meaning in their songs and their stage act makes me burn up inside, like a girl is pissed when a guy meets her in real life only to find out that he misrepresented himself over the phone.  They act like musicians but their really just technically gifted fame whores.


M-Lab:  Rule #1 in the Cool Manual:  Trying to look like you don't give a shit, makes you look
like you care waaaayyyyy too much.

Second, the lead singer has a serious case of LSD  (Lead Singer Disease).  The lead guitarist the night of their show was replaced and he was truly awesome.  He could simply play the electric like it was nobody's business.  The lead singer proceeds to sneer at the guy the entire night.  The poor guy didn't even know he was on the chopping block ... all because he had committed the cardinal sin among the insecure ... don't outshine the talentless.  The guitarist's chops were simply superior to all in the band.  When the guitarist in a rock band outshines the drummer easily (as drummers usually are substituting percussion for required meds ... often successfully I might add) you know you've got skills.  Well, that's what happened.  And the lead singer was jealous of someone in his own band.  Strike two.


Blatantly using your position to try to hookup =  Sleezebag


Strike three?  The band is full of sleeze bags.  After the band is on their last song the lead singer tells the fans that they'll be partying around the corner and tells the ladies that they can come over "and spend the night with M-Lab."  This confirmed the douchebag status instantly.  If your in a rock band and you have to spell out that women can come "spend the night" with you, you are a) a rocker that's not hooking up and b) a rocker that weak sauce.

Finally, their fans were the type of fans that don't really like music, but they do like saying that they go to live shows.  There were more conversations in that room during the bands set than Oprah has had over her career.  It was like a coffee clatch in there.




M-Lab?  Maybe they should rename themselves to NO-Lab.  Late.

Song of the Day: Lupe Fiasco's Gotta Eat



Lupe Fiasco's The Cool:  Gotta Eat
  The reason you buy a CD isn't the single.  It isn't the second single.  It's the singles that are never played on the radio.  It's a song that you will never hear unless you buy the album.  It's a song that you play and feel bad for others that they've usually never heard it, or heard of it.  It's an instant bond when you talk to someone who has heard of it, and you're instantly excited that they have heard of it.  Gotta Eat is one of those songs.  No, it's not enlightening.  No, it won't help you on your journey.  It's just bad ass, out of character for Lupe, just simply, it's a song about someone chasing the Cool ... and while you know it's exactly what he warns against (hell the whole album warns against chasing the Cool, you've gotta love the guy that chases the Cool this well).  Hell, you've gotta eat.  Enjoy.  And Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Hope of Hip-Hop is White Muslim From Minnesota



Brother Ali's The Truth is Here.  


Overall

I only give the highest compliment to Brother Ali’s Truth Is Here. Respect Brother Ali. Buy this album.

Real As Can Be
The laidback bluesy beat catches you off guard, just as the well-evolved flow. This artist, and I don’t say that word lightly, artist, uses lyrics as a paint brush hitting the listener with the honest reality of being on the road and the unfamiliarity of being home. Often, picking up an album of someone you do not know of is a disappointment. Then there’s this. This is … Grade: Special.

Philistine David
This synth heavy beat is not going to have you calling Ant in order to immediately order up an album and dub him the next Kanye. However, it’s workable. And Brother Ali puts in work like a Chinaman building a railroad. The flow is about the persecuted and the refusal to be subjugated. Ali flows for “the slave that drowns in the middle passage, I’m Chief Sitting Bull at the hands of a savage, I’m John Brown standing, both guns blasting, crying freedom something must happen.” I don’t know who this dude is but .. Grade: Hot Damn.

Little Rodney
First, the beat has an inherent crip walk. In a song that is about prison from a prisoners perspective, in a format that Brother Ali adopts that is a letter to him from Little Rodney, genius. The song is very listenable, but because of the intricacies and well crafted lyrics, one must listen to the song multiple times in order to fully appreciate the song. You can listen just once, but why? Grade: Strong plus.




Palm The Joker
A beat that brazen pushes Little Rodney aside and proclaims it’s presence in a gospel-esque anthem. Brother Ali meets Ant, the producer, with an amazing rhyme about the self-created plight of the inner city community. But Brother Ali rises past the occasion through hard work, by pointing out the strengths and the weaknesses of the poor, and advises a strategy for the poor that would make Jay Gould proud. This kind of bravery deserves one grade. Grade: Lyrical acclaim.

Good Lord
Okay. This has just got to stop. How is he gonna place a dance track on the song without the floss or a saccharine message. On this track Ant practices the dark arts by mixing his soul with that of a blues player, and Ali decides to play the foil, mixing God’s righteousness with his own swagger. I can’t give this grade twice on one disc but I have to. Grade: Extra Special.



Baby Don’t Go
This hurts. No one that I haven’t heard of can’t be this nice. Lupe watch out. Someone else is just dropping science. Could hip-hop have found one of it’s heros in Wisconsin? WTF? The beat walks through with the swagger of a college Division One player guaranteed to go to the NBA in a month, but is still on campus. Brother Ali vastly elaborates and creates an entire song out of the idea LL Cool J put forward on “Loungin’,” proclaiming for four minutes that “Man made the money, money never made the man.” Grade: Super nice.

Talkin’ My Shit
The original Foxy Brown shows up on this track. Thanks Ant. He’s just talking shit. He’s a guy feeling himself and decides to let us in on his psyche. With snide pointed lines at other rappers like “He’s got his fist up, still trying to get his dick sucked. Some bitch,” Wow. Why don’t we just stop here. Grade: Madd hetro, aka Super Straight.



The Believers – featuring Slug
The beat doesn’t grab you immediately but it grows on you quickly through the flows of Brother Ali and Slug. The beat is like a train station in Chicago, everyone going their separate ways but in a peculiar rhythm. Brother Ali picks up on this off-beat beat and raps about his faith, but not in a corny way, but rather genuinely, a faith that isn’t sold on TV or pedaled in politics, but rather is the faith of a real believer, something that truly sustains his soul. Slug represents as well, but this is Ali’s record. That’s clear. Grade: Solidly Aiight … Aiight in a real good way.

Begin Here
“Brothers and sisters I know we had a good time this evening,” Brother Ali begins. I quickly have to agree, “Yes, we did.” In this track he brings it back, and slows it down, like a DJ at the end of the party. Except he is giving the listener something to go home with. “A lot of people waiting for their big break to make it. You gonna spend your whole life waiting till you learn that anything given to a man can be taken. Only this ever really yours is really earned.” He continues just to drop relentless soul sustaining science. Grade: Spiritual food.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't Buy These Cubic Zirconias: Diamond District's In the Ruff




Overall 
Don’t buy.  Don’t buy this album unless you’re a beat junkie like me, who would buy it just to get “Who I Be”. But if you’re looking for a solid all around album, this is not it.  While it does remind one of the late 80’s, early 90’s brand of hip-hop, where the music was a gritty report about the inner city, lyrically it falls waayyyyy short.  The rappers seem focused on hip-hop as a means of financial advancement without an appreciation for the craft.  There are a couple of highly notable beats on this album, produced by Oddisee, but otherwise, steer clear.

Intro
While the beats aren’t as complex and you can tell by the CD packaging that the big money was not behind this project, it is like a small restaurant, which has the hallmarks of high quality, and the quality is apparent. 

Streets Won’t Let Me Chill 
This song’s production is solid.  No, it’s not Nottz, they probably couldn’t afford it.  No, it’s not Just Blaze … he’s probably too much also, but what’s inspiring is that they don’t even try to use that as an excuse.  They simply take the well-engineered beat and deliver lyrics that aren’t mind-boggling, but still hit bone.  Pardon my French, but just a good fucking song.  Big Ups to the producer, Oddisee.  Grade:  Solid.



Who I Be
Oddisee delivers another solidly gritty track, which reminds one of New York in the 80’s.  Funny enough it reminds me that though NY has improved in terms of crime rates the rest of Black America hasn’t.  DC is still going through it.  Hip-hop used to be the ghetto CNN.  Just as Native Americans used smoke signals to communicate, and not for movie magic, Diamond District uses hip-hop for it’s original purpose, to communicate pain.  But Oddisee does this by himself, just with a beat.  As for lyrics, they’re decent, a general rendition of representing oneself in the hood, but the beat just runs away with the song.  Grade:  Special.



I Mean Business
Well, everybody has bad days.  The beat isn’t super impressive, though it holds it’s own.  And the flow of the group isn’t like a samurai’s soul, it doesn’t glow.  Therefore, in this case, if the beat doesn’t support the song effortlessly, it seems that their flow will not carry the tune alone.  As for what the song is about … it’s unfocused, and therefore unclear.  However midway through the track it switches up with a verse that redeems the song.  Hmmm … maybe I’ll keep an eye on these guys.  Grade:  Resurrected.




Get In Line
This song resonates with brothers still on the block, with poor educations, but unlike The Clipse or Young Jeezy, it doesn’t glorify, but rather recounts like Henry Hill in Goodfellas (the book).  The mix needs to be redone, due to the fact that the vocals don’t pop, but it works.  The substance of these songs is the lives of peripheral characters on the Wire.  Grade:  Well done.



In The Ruff 
The lyrics once again aren’t inedible but they’re not gourmet fare.  However, the beat, it’s cool.  Grade:  Aiight plus.




 The Shining
The lyrics sound like the Outlaws (remember Tupac … and the Outlawz … yeah them).  It’s like it’s really filler.  While the third verse is average plus, maybe even decent, the other verses are just peanut butter.  Grade:  Aiight minus.



The District 
A song about DC.  Didn’t even grab my attention.  It seems as though these guys rap for fame or to eat (which I don’t knock the hustle) but not out of raw love or talent.  Therefore, it’s bland. Actually part of the hook is “Shining is Our Goal. Look at me shining.”  I guess they said it themselves. Grade:  Weak.



Make It Clear
Using a little Jigga in the ‘hook’ is a clever way to buy some fame/shine but other than this the track is wholly unmemorable.  The first verse talks about some basic hood grudges, there’s a slightly notable name check to the stock market, but then the return to the shittyness of the hood and gentrification.  However, there is no delving into any of these topics and no Notorious BIG cinematic flow, no Jay-Z dropping the science, no Lupe dropping wisdom, no Ludacris entertainment, no Eminem flowtastic, no Cee-Lo spirituality, no Dre creativity, no Big Boi hood-floss, no, no, no … Grade: No.



Off The Late Night 
This track grabs you from the outset.  The ménage-je-trois of the trumpet, organ, and the bass are braided together in a sloppy but still sexy way, the way a middle aged chicks boobs are still hot, saggy but still hot.  Oddisee’s verse, or rather his semi-nasal tone allows for his delivery to grab your attention, but it won’t for long due to the fact that the content is not that interesting. Grade:  Cool (due to the track).



Let Me Explain
This song reminds me of King Geedorah.  It’s just words but there’s no emotion or message.  Just not good.  Grade:  Not good.

First Time 
This song is interesting for the same reason all the others are not lyrically.  This is the first time (haaa!) that these rappers are speaking personally in terms about themselves.  It grabbed me from the first verse because he begins (there are no liner notes) with a lyric about the first record deal he ever signed.  Now that he was speaking in the first person about his life specifically I wanted to listen, instead of speaking in general.  There still isn’t any lyrical acclaim, but it’s a starting point.  The beat … it was aiight.  Song:  C+.



Something for Ya’ll 
A little audio soft-core porn for the ladies (I gather from the title).  It’ll work for some chicks but there’s no romance or mischievous intent, there’s no slickness and therefore it fails.  The beats don’t fail, the lyrics do however.  The second verse gives some pause for a minute due to the nasal and crisp intonation but it fails in the end.  Grade:  No good.



Hologram 
A backpacker beat with a decent third verse, but it’s not enough to save the song, but it is notable.  I want to give it an okay but the truth is … Grade:  Weak.

The New York Howl: Songs of the Day, Dead Band of the Day Also



Which is more sad?  A dead person or a dead band?  A dead band, because at least a dead person is out of their misery.  A dead band is the living dead.  It's something that could have been, would've been, and in the case of the New York Howl, should have been.

I saw a show by these guys.  Let's not b.s. each other.  I was far less than impressed.  Like most hip-hop shows they're just better recorded than live.  But that doesn't mean they don't have some kick ass music.  Don't believe me ... you'll learn.  The Musical Jedi is always right.  Peep two songs that will become your favorites.  And like a vintage wine, there's no more to come.  So savor these, and then just like that wine, it's gone forever.

Song 1:  "Can't Get It Right, Right Now"



Digital Press Kits 
Some bands want to be Nirvana.  Some imitate, i.e. the Black Eyed Peas at the AMA's two nights ago.  Some just are ... at least for a moment.  This song is just a bad ass fuck you, it's now or never song.  You can skip next two songs, but I don't blame you if you want to add this one to the permanent library.

Song 2: "Gasoline"
Ever felt beat down?  It's midday and you take a look around and wonder, what the fuck is going on in my life?  How the hell did I get here?  Yeah.   Me too.  Well, The New York Howl has the answer, "Gasoline."  This song is a cure for the occasional blues that all of us get.  No, it won't make you feel all geeked and better.  What it will do is give you the solution for what to do with your pity-party-woe-is-me-cry-me-a-river ass.  

Yeah.  You're welcome.  Discovering bands like the New York Howl is why I write this blog.  Deuces.   

Monday, November 23, 2009

Song of the Day: Extrahard by Little Brother




Extrahard
A great song that is needed on a Monday.  It's a sample.  If you like this song out of North Carolina check out some of their other stuff off of The Getback (previously reviewed).  Tell me what you think about this song.  Also if you have any ideas about a group that we ought to review or a CD or a live show or anything in the realm of music that we need to know about ... let me know!



 
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Skyzoo Should Land Immediately : The Salvation Should Save Itself




The Opener 
The first thing you notice is the extremely high production value.  The piano is beautifully played and the girls in the trio are trained somewhere.  Then the production of the track gives pause. The overall professionalism in the mixing and the technical value is top notch.  However, Skyzoo disappoints quickly with a lack of variety in his delivery and his non-descript lyrics which give very little inclination to what he’s trying to say.  He mistakes the number of words for direct correlation to what he’s actually saying.  It’s a mistake, one that I fear he’ll continue to make.  Right now, he’s just another back pack rapper.   Grade:  Subpar.




Return of the Real 
The production by Just Blaze, is a respectable Just Blaze track. It’s not the hottest he’s made but it’s a very respectable track.  However, Skyzoo continues to disappoint.  His lyrics lack what Notorious B.I.G. had, “My slow flow’s remarkable.”  Skyzoo has no cadence or flow that draws you into his lyrics.  He just raps as though late 80’s rap styles will cut it today.  Grade:  Subpar … again.




The Beautiful Decay
9th Wonder represents on a Baby Benz track.  Skyzoo spits some hood hallmarks, giving name checks to Southside, Brooklyn, and quarter waters, but it’s subpar.  There was one notable lyric (2 lines about “everything they didn’t do is everything they want to say …”) but all the other lyrics are not good.  It’s becoming painfully apparent that Skyzoo needs a hookwriter the way an Iraqi Vet needs therapy.  Grade:  Not Okay.




My Interpretation
Best Kept Secret over-produces a track, like a girl that wears too much makeup, but Skyzoo continues to fail to disappoint in his consistency of disappointing.  Just no good, all around.  Grade:  Bad.






Popularity
Nottz drops a very interesting track, the right rapper could do something special with a track like this.  Skyzoo begins to do a little something on the first verse but his hook writing is subpar. He is not a hook writer.  No good.  But his flow has notably improved though, ironically, the stripped down yet sophisticated beat which has allowed Sky to ‘flow’ has exposed another weakness in his game … CONTENT.  What the hell is this kid talking about?   Grade: No bueno.



Overall: 

Okay, I’m done.  Five bad tracks in a row is where it stops.  There are eleven more tracks on this album but this is a TKO.  Buy this album at your own risk, like smoking cigarettes.  If you care about your ears, don’t buy.  Or don’t buy period. 



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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don McCloskey is Laying Down the Big D in Bombs Over Bristol




Overall:

This CD is like A Weekend at Bernie’s.  This isn’t a serious CD.  If your looking for something very serious and thoughtful, i.e. a Jill Scott CD, this is not for you.  However, if you want some good old fashioned college level debauchery and a couple of lighthearted messages about a vagabond musician whose a poor man’s pimp, then Don McCloskey’s CD is for you.  Buy. 





Up In This 

It’s college rap for frat boys and sorority girls.  It’s Asher Roth to bango and drums.  The lyrics are girls, weed, trouble, and “baby batter.”  It’s kitchy and cute, it’s rap without being dangerous.  It’s NWA without the N, and a lower case A. White kids across America would dance hardily and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But it’s a novelty item, like Asher Roth now or Josephine Baker’s earlier work. Grade:  Decent.


Apocalypservice 
A harmonica, a bango, and a Bob Dylan-esque message modernized and a Dylan-esque delivery, mixed between talking and singing.  It’s actually good.  You get the feeling he’s not imitating Dylan but rather inspired by him.  Grade:  Entertaining and good.





Live From the Other Side  
It’s a great song about being a broke but happy artist with a little Loki thrown in.  Kids that like Schwayze and Sublime will like this song.  It’s for a car ride up to Tahoe, built to chill.  Grade:  Chillax.




Don’t Tango With The Freak Show 
A vaudeville-esque work with a verse spit in the middle and a bunch of THC-induced-mixed-with-a-shot-of-whiskey guitar, piano, and drums.  Grade:  Laid-back

Funk University
A little electric guitar and a porno-hook sung by a narrow ranged young lady.  This guy loves chicks and he’s not afraid to talking about being sexually active to say the least.  Grade:  A bit over the top, but aiight.  Not all right.  Aiight.

Happy So Happy
An instrumental track that is substandard.  There is nothing intriguing about the melody, rhythm, or anything else for that matter.  It doesn’t really stand up to the title and Don doesn’t seem to have the skill to make the guitar say what he means.  His instrument is his voice and he refuses to use it in this case, therefore, … Grade:  Subpar.

Lower Your Standards
A little techno beat with some Southeast Asian-esque guitar thrown in.  An attack on radio programmers, with a hook “You’ll have a much better time listening to the radio if you just get a lobotomy.”  Then Don gets into something he’s a lot more familiar with, women.  His verse gets into a little sex-addicted advanced Dr. Seuss.  After a while though you start thinking, “Is there anything else?”  Grade:  Okay.

That Love Card 
Don talks about being broken hearted in his lighthearted fashion but this time without being flippant.  It’s an honest song with a set of compatible lyrics.  What actually interesting about this song is the fact that he’s not in the process of pain, but he’s actually healed from it.  A much needed and solid change up.  If he can keep it going this CD may actually turn out to be kinda exemplary.  Grade:  Substantial.

Bombs Over Bristol
The song starts with some discordant electric guitar but quickly gets on track.  The music sounds like a depressed Offspring track.  Halfway through the song one begins to wonder, what the fuck is the point of this song, and why is the album titled after it?  It points at the juxtaposition between the fascade and the often cynical reality.  It’s cool once you get that but if you have to listen to a song twice to understand what it’s talking about … Grade:  Okay player.

Mr. Novacaine
A song about someone who Don apparently met who had a rough life because of his goodness.  The song is a tribute and a semi-warning full of adult lessons no one teaches you.  A decent song, substantive but the message is a bit murky due to some weak writing.  But not bad.  Grade:  Aiight.




King of Discount Ho’s
Very entertaining.  Don should do more storytelling.  Even though he falls easily into tales of debauchery (Too Short would be proud) this song is an original.  He quickly recounts a variety of broke down girls.  You’ve gotta buy this CD just for this song.  Grade: Superior.




Ending the Mission
An introspective song about ending a relationship, ending other people’s expectations of oneself.  It’s a good song.  Grade:  Solid.


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Friday, November 20, 2009

Buy the Cunninglynguists Strange Journey Vol. One for All the Wrong Reasons




Nothing but Strangeness 

From the first track you know you’ve got something special.  The juxtaposition of a rapper with a solid Southern flow with a British rapper whose accented flow rival Eminem’s Midwestern accent in terms of aural intrigue combined with a laidback rowboat flow.  Whiile the singer of the hook could use a little variety in her intonation, it would’ve made this track truly special, the combination of the enjoyment the singers have for the track and the combination of a variety of flows brings a smile to my soul.  Grade: Substantial.  






Lynguinsts [Live in Stockholm] 

I’m angry at the Lynguists here.  Just recording ABC.  The production value of the recording of the vocals leaves a lot to be desired.  Lyrics are what propelled hip-hop into success and the lack of attention to this detail and to put it on an album is absurd.  That being said, the energy of the crowd loving the music helps the cause.  But what actually allows the to go over the top is the production.  This album in back to back examples has represented hard in production value as far as the beats go.  I’ve never even dreamed of hearing of a producer named Nenne Zetterberg, but someone should be writing this guy/girl checks, big ones.  The pied-piper Euro-lighthearted yet sophisticated beat leaves nothing to be desired.  It’s like a gourmet meal for a man used to eating southern food.  But you’re strangely amazed that you’re full.  Despite it’s shortfalls … Grade:  Significant.  






Move 
It begins sounding like an 80’s movie but the intriguing mix of sounds doesn’t fail to keep one’s attention.  It’s like a Rocky theme song that is tweaking and a little depressed.  It’s interesting, which is more than I can say about the lyrics.  They are rehashed and rudimentary subject matter at best.  Interestingly, I found that they could’ve added some female vocals to thicken the track but I must give them credit for not doing so.  Like a good chef, they let the ingredients speak for themselves.   Thanks Gordon Ramsey.  Grade:  Decent (barely, but Decent nonetheless).





Inverse 
This is a track that you want to be better.  After the previous three tracks and the production value of the beats you just want these guys to simply blow up lyrically so you can declare them an unfound jewel and blow them up to everybody you know, flossing on your own musical acumen, receiving credit and props grudgingly from all who know you as you bless them with the Cunninglynguists.  Unfortunately, again the beats simply outshine the lyrics.  Even more unfortunately the beat is in their league.  However, though two of the three verses are well written there is no impact.  It almost makes you angry.  Grade:  Passable (but Passable isn’t good enough).



Never Come Down (The Brownie Song)

A theme is emerging.  Great production, simply okay lyrics.  A track about getting high on pot brownies (Snoozefest anyone?). The production saves the track and the lyrics don’t ruin them.  A problem.  Lyrics must enhance the song and interpret the beat.  To quote a Clue track, “I ain’t crazy.  I just do what the beat say do.”  While their lyrics aren’t contrary to the beat they leave you wanting for more.  Like a girl whose great boyfriend regularly manages to underperform behind closed doors, eventually frustration sets in.  Grade:  Another Passable … aka, not good enough.





Hypnotized 
The producer of this track about a girl hypnotizing a man has let his guard down for a minute.  Not saying that the track itself is weak at all, it’s just not the intermediate level track that it normally is.  It is between a bunny hill and an intermediate level slope. And the Cunninglynguists both represent with solid performances.  These guys lace their verses with clever metaphors and solid delivery along with a in-tune rhymthmic flow.  However, the third verse simply is fragile, flimsy and frankly unnecessary.  Grade:  Okay player. 






Dance for Me 
An attempt at an empathetic song about a woman with a hard life, in this instance a stripper.  Beatwise – okay. Lyrically – uninteresting. Grade:  Okay plus.  



Mr. S.O.S. 

A sad and introspective track with a very interesting Shining-esque looped hook.  As an aside, the liner notes are sadly sparse, depriving the listener of the chance to understand where these tracks come from.  BUT, this track is strong.  The lyricst (who it is not obvious) is speaking from experience.  He talks about his heart being gelded and yet he is still attempting to find love.  The lyrics go astray once notably, throwing a diss in which is out of place, but the lyrics are delivered with real emotion and are well written due to their vast introspection and vulnerability.  Grade:  Stand Out.





White Guy Mind Tricks – I usually am annoyed by the non-creative interlude and normally fail to mention it, but this one is original and pretty damn funny.  Grade:  Plus. 



Georgia
A sweet-potato and pecan pie track mixed with a Cadillac.  A track about Georgia’s anomalies, Big Boi and Dre would be jealous they didn’t get to bless this track.  Killer Mike and Khujo Goodie don’t devestate this track, they just flow in parallel lanes with it and through the strength of their verses relegate the first class aircraft to coach status.  Their versus are filled with personal details that one would only know if they lived in Georgia.  These are the kinds of songs with artists one has not heard a full body of work from, which pieque your interest.  Just a beautiful piece of artwork.  Yes, art.  Grade:  Substantial … maybe even Superior. 




KKKY 
Ku Klux Klan Kentucky in case you were wondering, a song about life in Kentucky.  The lyrics keep your attention for so long you almost don’t have time to listen to the beat, an eerie, edgy, drum heavy, deep but not depressing track.  Skinny Deville and Fishscales of the Nappy Roots make an appearance and they do well.  But the thunder is stolen by the third verse.  I love it when I’m listening to a track and I have to say ‘Who is this kid?’    The third verse clearly did that when Young Chu (I believe) just rides over the track effortlessly.  It’s like a National time trial, and he clears it easily and then has a sandwich.  The beat is nice.  The lyrics were decent. Young Chu (third verse) was ephemeral.  Grade:  Nice and a bit nasty.



Don’t Leave (When Winter Comes)
With an foggy, twilight, Hotel California-esque track the rappers, Slug from Atmosphere, and the Cunninglynguists simply bless the track.  A song about the hardships of being away from home, but in a genuine way, they all just strip down the bullshit and bring it down to the soul.  Manliness without bravado, soulful without being saccharine or insecure, this track is the foundation of what all respectable lyricists should be looking to accomplish.  Like a chef seeing a properly cooked risotto, it’s a staple that, if done properly is just impressive in itself.  It’s an intermediate step to greatness.  Grade:  Real.





Tonedeff – The Distance 
For the first time on this album the track disappoints, not because of any fundamental weakness but because of comparative strength of the others. It sounds like Castlevania with a Mack trucks rhythm.  Konami would be proud, however Tonedeff makes us proud with his interpretation of the track.  For the first time on this track, and rarely in general, an MC supports a track and not the other way around.  Tonedeff just listened to the beat and interpreted it, using the Jedi Mind Trick on the listener, forcing me to believe the track isn’t shitty, it’s just misunderstood.  Then Tonedeff proceeds to explain it to me.  You’ve gotta respect that thus … Grade: Respect.  





Broken Van (Thinking of You) 
This track intrigues from the jump with a Bob Dylan-esque feel.  The loop tugs at the heart strings.  And while the first two versus lack memorability, the last verse just is on the nose in a good way.  The level of focus of his verse on the topic matter is noteworthy.  Because of the track and the third verse … Grade: Nice.





Billy Joe’s Garage – Auto mechanic skit.  Funny.  Their skits are superior.  Grade:  Double plus.



Overall:

This album has a lot of weak points.  The regular faulty lyricism is one of them, however the special guests pick up a lot of slack and on a few occasions the Cunninglynguists themselves are lyrically, not acclaimed, but on point, on one occasion so much so that it is noteworthy.  However, the production of the tracks is superior.  The consistency of well done production is just correct.  Combine this with the noteworthy appearances (not in name but in lyrical content), it leads to the conclusion that this is a album that is decent.  It is an album that is a guidepost and will lead you not only to other artists to buy their albums, i.e. Atmosphere, Young Chu, Looptroop Rockers, Hilltop Hoods, Substantial, etc., but it also will give a producer an idea of what can be made out of non-super expensive samples and sheer creativity.  For that reason, and not the lyrical acclaim of the namesakes, I’m placing this album at a Buy. 

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

CHUNKYmusic: Bluegrass Badass: Michael Daves




When you look at Michael Daves (pronounced Dave's) he is a lanky, tall, (6' 2'') rawboned cowboy looking type of guy.  His general sensitivity to that which is around him is evident.  He notices everything. He notices the people walking by outside of Rockwood's Music Hall.   He notices the room filling up (Nora Jones makes a surprise appearance).  He is comfortable with the one-on-one and has solid relationships with fellow musicians (i.e., Dred Scott of the Dred Scott Trio) but he is uncomfortable with large crowds, for crowds sake.  He quickly, but cordially, excuses himself rather than be a star-fucker and stick around to rub shoulders with the famous.  He is a quiet, sensative, but solid Southern man with an artist's shyness and Midwestern sensibilities.  He cares deeply and understands his music.






His style is a singular literally and musically.  He is a man on a stage with a drum kit, a cymbal which was found in the garbage can, and a guitar which serves as an extension of himself.  The sound, bluegrass, as he describes it, easily fills the room.  Personally I think his music is much more country as there is a gravity about it often not found in bluegrass music.  Either way, it's just good.  Musically his sound is a spit-on-your-shoes insult to sythesizers, autotune, Pro Tools, and the countless techno-nonsense which pervades "musicians" today.  He laconically sets up his minimalist kit and goes about his business.  His music, his style, his entire lack of fan fare, would make our grandfather's proud.





Michael Daves music stands for a brand of masculinity that has been lost.  It is a brand that is unvarnished, uncompromised, non-pretending, untouched by anything unsacred.  It is a message that while, may be a given in certain rural societies, it certainly has great value in an urban setting, an land of greys in dire need of the black and white, painfully looking for clarity.  Tonight the faithful have come to hear reminders of a code of manhood that is more and more often forgotten.  Not the ubiquitous message of commercialized gangster hip-hop music which proclaims that women are bitches and whores and should not be respected, but offers nothing for it's male audience in it's part of the coital dance.




But rather in Daves' music he sings about a man who loves his woman but refuses to be treated badly i.e., Rain and Snow.  He emotes openly in a song "Sophronie" (available below) about a player who is untouchable until he falls in love and his player psyche falls apart and the ensuing sadness and doubt encroach.  He talks about the sadness of a man when he loses a woman he really wants but can't get back, how he never really appreciated her and now it's too late in "You Never Miss Your Water."  He talks about a man who refuses to let go of the memories of a woman that has long left him but he still loves in "I Live in the Past."  The most impressive part of his entire set is a song which is beautiful on which he does something every man respects, he just plays, and communicates,  but doesn't talk at all.  The list goes on and on.





I was not going to write about Michael Daves.  After I received his CD and realized that these songs were not written by him but rather are anywhere from fifty to hundreds of years old I was going to simply write about another singer/songwriter.  But Daves' message isn't optional.  It's a message that offers a guiding light and is affirmational to all men.  It serves to affirm what men have known for a long time and women have suspected, that men have deep emotions but Daves' music respects them in that a man's emotions are like tectonic plates, shifting the whole landscape of character when they move.  He has a message that by, simply singing his music, acknowledges and sends the message to men that these emotions are shared experiences.  But there is a comfort in his delivery and the way he plays  that removes any softness.  He doesn't go Dr. Phil on the men.  He doesn't want others to express how they feel.   He doesn't want you, God forbid to shed a tear.  Michael Daves does what man's best friend does on a much higher level.  He doesn't need you to speak for you to know that he understands.  Women listen to Daves but men learn, attention rapt, wordlessly but solemnly agreeing with what he has to say.





Buy Michael Daves' CD.  Buy it not because you want it.  Buy it because you need it.  Buy it because it's great.  Buy it because your grandfather would.  But most of all, buy it because it may very well save your soul.   

Listen to Sophronie here:





Hear an Interview with Michael Daves below:

Interview Part 1:



Interview Part 2:



Interveiw Part 3:




Interview Part 4:



Interview Part 5:



Interview Part 6:



Interview Part 7:



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