Posts Tagged ‘clipse’

On Take Care, Fear of God II, Camp and Talk That Talk

November 16, 2011

The problem with Take Care is that Drake’s honesty is boring. Love or hate his decision to write songs about drunk dialing ex-girlfriends and this self involved “fame is hard” narrative, he fails to be interesting lyrically and musically. Take Care‘s 17 tracks of maudlin pity parties feature the kind of bland pronouncements just about anyone could convey. The act of a great artist is to make the mundane interesting, to present the human condition from an angle not always considered. The Drake on Take Care appears lucky instead of talented. Drake presents his scenarios in a unadorned and straightforward manner with little word play and a confessional style reminiscent of over hearing someone else’s conversation involving people you’ve never met. Unlike Kanye West, who is a mess of doubt and hubris and quite obviously a little crazy, Drake is pretty simple, a rich guy who fucks a lot of women. “Marvin’s Room” might be based on a real ill-advised drunk dial but is Drake any different on this track than any other where he’s telling women “they can do better”. There is a cloying sexism to Drake with his “Take care” and “Make me proud” sentiments that feel jerky and condescending. Drake’s party line would be “Had a lot of sex, made plenty of money, not bragging just saying, feels empty”, delivered in that same plain spoken style, artless and often tone deaf. Drake’s lyrics on his first album  and his mixtapes were kinda corny but that corniness was endearing (Heck, I made sure “Best I Ever Had” got played at my wedding) and to abandon those attempts at lyricism for dull statements is a strange decision. Also, what is this; “Don’t listen to those lies/I swear they’re all lies“. This is Drake 2.0 so he’s not trying to be funny.

The beats on Take Care rarely ascend above a plodding midtempo so you can’t even dance to this shit. Just Blaze shows up at one point and straight up kills it but Drake doesn’t help by literally rapping about going through a girls phone and turns what should be a swagged out jam into another pity party. Oh well, I’m just glad to see Blaze back in the game. That dude has still got it. Finally, I don’t know what to make of the choice of turning “Back That Ass Up” into a ballad, but rest assured it was a bad one.

What must it be like when an artist or creative type realizes that their glory days are behind them?  Pusha T solo stuff remains a mixed bag of decent spitting on top of whatever beats that is solidly OK, which for anyone would be fine but this is one half of The Clipse, the guys who did this and this and THIS. The beats are never out and out bad but like I said, just OK. The best tracks are the Juicy J feature “Body Work” and the Neptunes production “Raid”. “Body Work” is your standard “we kill people” track and those are usually pretty good and hey so is this. “Raid” has a great beat and inspired verses from Pusha and 50 Cent of all people but strikes out with a particularly grating Pharrell hook which, y’know, hey, they can’t all be winners. The most exciting moment on the album is when Pusha promises a new Clipse record during the outro. Don’t forget to call the Neptunes when you’re making that one, Push.

I was about four tracks into Camp when I realized that I didn’t like any of the Childish Gambino mixtapes and that Camp is just more of the same, frantic rapping with pop culture references but no strong hooks. Obviously Donald Glover wants to be taken seriously as a rapper which means no funny business but Childish Gambino just gives me a “Party All The Time” vibe, Glover playing against his strengths to deliver “serious” hip hop that no one would ever put on at a party or dance to yet is the essence of what type of music he is clearly trying to make. There is no arrogant foolishness or wild eyed frenzy because Glover is so intent on being taken seriously that there is no room to breathe. Watch the video for “Freaks and Geeks“, where Glover raps his heart out with rhyme after rhyme of references and word play but it isn’t exhilarating, only exhausting. It’s a shame that the album title refers to this instead of this.

Talk That Talk has the most good songs by Rihanna in one place at least until her inevitable Greatest Hits album. The ballads are still dull and the sex talk awkward and unconvincing but there are some bangers which I didn’t really expect. Loud did a bait and switch with “Only Girl In The World” and with Talk That Talk‘s lead single “We Found Love” I figured that would be the album’s peak, much like how “Rude Boy” was the shining moment of glory amongst Rated R‘s crappy rock songs and dubstep. Imagine my joy and surprise upon hearing “Where Have You Been”. A straight up monster, “Where Have You Been” is a future Hall of Famer which is surprising since part of the vocal steals it’s melody from a Johnny Cash classic that I wouldn’t think to nick from when crafting a dancefloor jam. The hook is pure butter and proves that Rihanna is at her best when she abandons the ice queen style that she tends to fall back on and embraces being a human being. Most importantly, the beat is fucking sick as hell. Elsewhere, Talk That Talk is about what one could hope for from a Rihanna album with an obligatory Jay-Z verse on the title track that I enjoy in spite of the fact that I find Hov unconvincing in his pose as a man who is still actively pursued by groupies. Over 40 and about to be a father I can’t believe Jay-Z would spend any time interacting with anyone he talks about on the track. The-Dream and Tricky Stewart contribute of course but for some reason their track “Birthday Cake” fades out before it even becomes anything. The dubstep track is relegated to the deluxe version so small favors there. At this pace, Rihanna will make a half way decent album by the time she’s thirty. Just keep making those club bangers, girl.

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Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 60 – 51

April 28, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

60.  Rhett Miller – The Instigator (2002)

Rachel says that when you read a bad review for a Rhett Miller album it might not mean the songs are bad but that the reviewer finds the idea of Rhett Miller singing songs like “Come Around” insulting. Rhett Miller will certainly not be “…lonely for the rest of (his) life”; he’s a handsome rock star with deep baby blues. That said, I’ve loved The Instigator from the very first moment I heard it. Crisp, spare Jon Brion production of great songs about love lost. I’d be foolish not to mention my favorite song on the album, “The EL“, where a self-absorbed guy and a self-absorbed girl meet and fall in love only to end “breaking up all over the EL”. Miller is never less than charming and open and if it feels like a pose, well, that’s your problem.

59.  Pete Yorn – musicforthemorningafter (2001)

14 songs. Some are upbeat, some are slow. I really liked this in 2001 when I wasn’t getting laid and I still like it now. Subsequent albums have experienced diminished returns. Pete Yorn is a bit like a grittier John Mayer, and by gritty I mean he could use a shave and shower.

58.  Clipse – Lord Willin’ (2002)

Lord Willin’ is simply badass. Neptunes deliver career best beats, Clipse deliver career best rhymes, and then the second track starts. Rinse, repeat. Pusha T and Malice take time to make a song for the ladies and still end up talking about guns. IMPORTANT: “Gangsta Lean” is one of the greatest songs in the history of songs. Front to back, this album is unfuckwithable. The only thing you’ll get tired of is tipping your head back and exclaiming “Haha! Goddamn!” during every song.

57.  N.E.R.D. – In Search Of… (2002)

Hey, it’s the Neptunes again! Man, these guys were great for a while. This first N.E.R.D. album is a fluky bit of genius. The lyrics are bad/funny and smart/dumb, and it rocks. Actually truthfully rocks. Having an actual band play on the record was a very smart move. When it isn’t rocking In Search Of… has stupid swagger, which is pulls off(even now when Pharrell has considerably less cultural cache). Just forget about everything else with the N.E.R.D. name attached to it. Beware, actually.

56.  Garbage – Beautifulgarbage (2001)

When Garbage finally makes a record where they truly jump skillfully from style to style and finally living up to their namesake of mashing up different styles of music all at once, their fanbase moves on. I blame Shirley Manson’s unfortunate hair designs during this album cycle. Beautifulgarbage is Garbage’s masterwork, making good on all the promises of their first two albums. Everything was a tease before Beautifulgarbage. “Can’t Cry These Tears” is a great 60’s throwback while “Breaking Up The Girl” and “Parade” glow and vamp in ways that the band merely hinted at before(IMPORTANT NOTE: “Parade” is the best song Garbage has ever recorded). It would be a shame to overlook the guitar hook in “Androgyny“, because it is fucking awesome.

55.  Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)

“Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious, Dociousaliexpifragalisticcalisuper, Cancun, catch me in the room, eatin grouper..” – Ghostface Killah

I’m frequently shocked by any so-called listing of the greatest rappers of all time that doesn’t feature Ghostface prominently. The man spits hot fire every time he gets on the mic. EVERY. TIME. Supreme Clientele was Ghost’s entrance as a true solo artist and force to be reckoned with. Front to back great beats, insane(really. Insane.) rhymes, a couple great RZA verses; Supreme Clientele set the stage for all the even greater Ghostface albums to come.(Also Bulletproof Wallets, which is better than you’ve heard.) But on the topic of beats, the beats on Supreme Clientele are great. Of course they are, it’s a Ghostface Killah album. “Mighty Healthy“, “Apollo Kids“; there is a reason Ghost can say he has hits for days. One of those days could be spent just playing Supreme Clientele. We must not forget the classic skit “Who Would You Fuck?“, wherein Ghostface and his colleagues discuss which famous women they would like to engage in sexual intercourse. After much debate and disagreement the group concludes that they would all equally like to fuck Halle Berry. Congrats, Halle!

54.  Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)

Great indie rock songs sung by a guy who can’t sing but either didn’t know or didn’t care. About his singing ability. I’m certain he knew the songs were great. I always feel underserved by the majority of “indie” bands with reedy voices and three guitar players. On Clap Your Hands Say Yeah just about every track has that special moment that hooks into your brain, like the repeated “Gimme some salt” in “Gimme Some Salt” or when the guitar comes in at the beginning of “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth“. Alec Ounsworth’s vocals go from abrasive to welcome in about two seconds flat and by the time you reach the end you can’t imagine a “better” singer improving these songs an iota.

53.  The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)

White Blood Cells is that record. The one everybody had, the one even people who didn’t know shit about shit had in their cars, in their dorm rooms. And why not? It is as straight forward as The White Stripes had ever been and will (probably) ever be. “Fell In Love With A Girl” is so obvious and wonderful only a hateful, terrible person could deny it, and “Little Room” is about as profound a 50 seconds as any on this whole list. This album is so good that Jack White gets people to buy other albums of other bands he is in that aren’t even any good. Because you never know.

52.  Groove Armada – Lovebox (2002)

The key sounds on Lovebox are the piano stabs during “Easy“. So simple, so fantastic. They elevate a pretty good song into greatness. They even repeat this trick on their new album and of course it works. While not as much of a dance record as I remember, Lovebox is still a party that occasionally raves out of control. “Madder” was the track that McCarty and I used to crank in student housing before a night out. Because we were so fucking cool. Interesting tidbit: McCarty bought me this album for my 21st birthday and presented it to me with an accompanying card that inquired whether he could keep the album if I died that night. What a great friend.

51.  Doves – The Last Broadcast (2002)

McCarty and I got our first taste of The Last Broadcast in the spring of 2002 with the arrival of an mp3 of “There Goes The Fear” recorded off British radio. The DJ gushed about the great minds and ideas going on that would make such a great song and man was that guy ever right. For awhile I was strange to listen to the album and not hear that DJ’s voice at the end of the track. The Last Broadcast is stacked solid with “…Fear”, “Pounding“, and “Caught By The River“. Doves traffic in the melancholy of their other island contemporaries but tend to rock harder (“Words“, “N.Y.“) and lend a tone of hopefulness that is welcome and unexpected. I still like Doves quite a bit, but they’ve never been more exciting or vibrant.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 80 – 71

March 6, 2010

Sorry for the long delay in posting this. Life and laziness can slow down a guy.

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

80.  M.I.A. – Kala (2007)

M.I.A. actually has a whole lot in common with most rappers. She talks about how awesome she is (“Nobody on the corner got swagger like us”) whenever she isn’t espousing on the ills of her misbegotten home. In this case home is the World and it’s going to shit, slowly and surely. Obviously, dance party. M.I.A. front loads the bangers (“Boys”, “Bird Flu”) and leaves the spacey brilliance for the second half. “Paper Planes” you know, I know, everybody knows. But the best track is “$20”. The Pixies reference is great but that beat is goddamn goddamn.

79.  Girl Talk – Night Ripper (2006)

The first listen is mainly gasps and giggles. Subsequent listens range from “how’d he do it?” to “He fucking did it, son.” It’s almost best not to think about it too clinically. The man was/is able to take all your favorite songs, least favorite songs, and songs you just generally recognize and swirl them together into a mindmelting, smile inducing mix of sound. Everyone has a favorite moment; mine is the “Tiny Dancer”/”Juicy” mash. Or is it the Ying Yang Twins/”Regulate” mash? It’s like Sophie’s Choice only awesome.

78.  Les Savy Fav – Inches (2004)

Do Les Savy Fav even make sense on record? The difference between the recorded work of the Fav and their live performances cannot be further apart. Imagine a group of a practiced gentlemen led by a nude maniac. That is Les Savy Fav live. Inches justifies the existence of Les Savy Fav by running front to back great songs. They might be about something, they might not. Even without Tim Harrington entering your home dressed as Sherlock Holmes in a diaper, these are all great songs.

77.  Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury (2006)

Y’know, the beats on Hell Hath No Fury bang. They’re wicked and awkward and strange yet they still bang and stomp while the Clipse spit gold all over them. Listen to “Momma I’m So Sorry“. It’s like the descent into The Rectum in Irreversible with Miami Vice references. “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)” combines a swaggering monster beat with Clipse’s most braggidocious lines to become one of rap’s greatest songs while “Mr. Me Too” has one of Pharrell’s best bad/great raps- “Just last week I was out in Aspen/Me and Puff hopping off the plane/Both us laughin”. The sheer gall of two multi-millionaires laughing at their private joke while walking off a private plane (in Aspen!) is hip hop audaciousness at its best.

76.  Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release (2007)

Hustler” is “Hustler”. Sexy and sublime, it is one of the best songs ever. This is just a fact and I am merely restating it. Attack Decay Sustain Release has other songs on it that are not “Hustler” and they are just as good. Great, even. But at the end of the day everyone will only remember “Hustler”. Which is fine, but the other songs, really good.

75.  Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)

Your mileage regarding Fountains of Wayne will vary depending on whether you think they’re clever or stupid. It is a fine line. Welcome Interstate Managers sounds sincere and these guys can write some hooks. I think calling out FOW for not actually being middle class salesmen and for writing a concept record about living middle class is like calling out Led Zeppelin for not actually being from Middle Earth. You can’t have it both ways. Well, sure you can. Songs like “Hackensack” and “Valley Winter Song” are achingly sincere and devoid of irony and cynicism. I had to have one record on here like that.

74.  A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder (2004)

A.C. Newman writes most of the music for The New Pornographers, who are great. Is it any surprise that his first solo album would also be great? Of course not, no surprise at all. Perfect indie pop songs, every single one of ’em. I’m sure that whoever Newman is shaming on “The Town Halo” probably agrees with the harsh take-down but is thrilled to have inspired such a great song.

73.  Basement Jaxx – Kish Kash (2003)

Kish Kash is Basement Jaxx’s creative peak. “Good Luck” is hall of fame, best of all time, MVP shit. “Plug It In” makes the idea of a J.C. Chavesz solo career seem plausible and “Lucky Star” is still the craziest track to ever feature Dizzee Rascal. The second half, yes, is more subdued and relaxed than the first half. It’s called having range.

72.  Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

Arcade Fire have been grouped in with the other Canadian collectives like Broken Social Scene and Stars. The notable difference is that Arcade Fire songs all don’t sound the same. Funeral is aching yet wistful, an album about overcoming grief and moving on and up. It is never anything less than transcendent. That they acquired such a devoted following from the result of this album is not surprising but inevitable.

71.  The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

Chutes Too Narrow is the high benchmark for sensitive indie albums. Every other album in this category will forever be dismissed as “Not Chutes“. Sorry. The Shins drop ten perfect songs here and make that shit sound effortless. When this album came out I bought it at F.Y.E. for $18 dollars and thought I had overpaid. Hardly. It is priceless. On the album after this one you can hear The Shins practically give up as they realize they cannot equal Chutes. After listening to this album you also realize that Conor Oberst is trying Waaaay too hard.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 100 – 91

February 5, 2010

When Pitchfork first announced their intention to rank the best singles and albums of the last decade I expressed admiration towards their efforts to attempt to complete such a herculean task. When they actually posted the lists, I realized that I just had to do one of my own because I couldn’t believe how low they ranked The Black Album. It took me awhile and I almost gave up a few times, but nobody likes a quitter. Embarking on my own journey through the last ten years of songs and full lengths, memories and stories flooded back. I’m not saying every album has a story attached to it that I’m going to tell you about, but more than a few gave me the ol’ warm fuzzies. I started with a list of around 150 albums and just snipped and prodded it down to a still massive 100. 100 albums that shaped me or just made me happy. Albums I sought to share with others and others shared with me.

100.Phoenix – United (2000)

“Too Young” was my going out Jam with a capital J in the winter and spring of 2004. First discovering it via the Lost In Translation soundtrack, I was thrown by the unbridled joy and that chorus where “…everybody’s dancing'”. The rest of United is just as joyful, where even the sad songs are actually fun, Thomas Mars barely able to keep a smile off his face. For a debut United isn’t tied down to a singular sound as Phoenix take dips in faster guitar rock(“Party Time”) and whatever the heck “Funky Squaredance” is. While I agree that they’ve expanded their sound on later records, United is so much more than a rough draft. It is a declaration of fun to come.

99.  Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown (2002)

When I worked in at my college radio station, we were deluged with literal mountains of promo CDs. This is not surprising or unique. What was surprising and unique were the rare times a randomly grabbed CD (literally) pulled from the bottom of a teetering stack of jewel cases would not only catch your ear but have you grabbing people aside to play it for them. Make Up The Breakdown was discovered just like that, a random choice from a random pile of categorized albums that would later either be tossed or lazily marked “Alternative”. Catchy is the first word that comes to mind when talking about MUTB, jam-packed with hooks, sharp riffs and angular guitars back when people liked that sort of thing. Moving at a quick clip (31.9 minutes according to iTunes) Hot Hot Heat don’t waste any time, moving breathlessly from dance anthem to dance rocker and back again. The lead singer has one of those “Is this annoying? I’m not sure yet” voices that actually could be annoying but the music is so good you never really care if it is or not. I think the later albums affirm that it is annoying, but those albums suck so there you go.

98.  Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero (2007)

I can fully attest that for about two years I would swear up and down that this album wasn’t very good. I liked a couple songs but “something feels off”. I used to blame the drum sound, but I’d always head back and realize that that wasn’t the case. The drum sound is actually pretty awesome. But I always came back, threw it on again trying to figure out why it wasn’t clicking with me. When I began making this list I didn’t initially consider it because, well, I had already officially told people I didn’t like it. But why was I listening to it so much, even more than records I actually attested to like, such as those last couple Morrissey albums? I mean, Morrissey is arguably as big if not a bigger downer than Trent Reznor. Well, when I was giving this a listen a few weeks ago, not even considering it for this list the fucker cracked me in half. Right then I understood it all and Year Zero understood me. We were one and the universe moved in sync with our movements. Then I went to bed without writing anything down and here it is at #98.

97.  John Mayer – Room For Squares (2001)

John Mayer isn’t very likable now. On Room For Squares however, Mayer is empathetic and self-deprecating; witty and wistful.  The subject matter of awkward dates, childhood nostalgia, and the pressure of going out into the world as an adult and proving yourself are all topics that in the right hands can’t be anything less than appealing. I’ve been struggling to think of how to describe the music. Spare for the right moments and never overproduced, Room For Squares tends toward a sound I’ll call attractive and familiar. Plenty of tracks have an old familiarity to them, sounding less like original works and more like old standards passed down. The most important feature of the album is that John Mayer comes across as a guy still figuring it all out, making mistakes and trying to just be a better person. Jeez, how did that turn out?

96.  Cody ChestnuTT – The Headphone Masterpiece (2002)

Cody ChestnuTT is a guy who can do anything. That appears to be the main subject of The Headphone Masterpiece. ChestnuTT jumping from style to style, genre to genre proving not only that he can do r&b/rock/soul, he can do it well. At two discs, The Headphone Masterpiece is bloated; bloated with ideas, jokes, riffs, garbage, misogyny, apologies, family, and more than few mentions to ChestnuTT’s sexual prowess. It’s also very funny, catchy and frankly a goddamn masterpiece. All of ChestnuTT’s contradictions just make him more appealing and his decision to record the whole thing on a 4-track sounds like a dare that he won.

95.  Deftones – Deftones (2003)

The culmination of their career at that point, Deftones’ self-titled album is the band at the peak of their abilities, finally achieving what previous efforts had only hinted at. The ambient tracks that Chino always forces the band to put on their albums tend to be the weak moments(see Saturday Night Wrist) but on Deftones those tracks shine. Of course, no one who listens to Deftones is there for those slow moments, they want the throat scorching fury. “When Girls Telephone Boys” might be Deftones most blazing moment on record, while “Bloody Cape” possesses their most indelible riff and shrillest finale. A compliment. Considering their tendency to be heaped into the nu-metal category, Deftones is a defiant embrace of hard rock, metal and punk influences. Definitely a good look.

94.  Spank Rock – Yoyoyoyoyo (2006)

The beats make the difference between a wack track and a banger. You could be the dopest, freshest, wittiest, most energetic MC in the game, but if your beats suck, you suck. You could also be a pretty mediocre rapper and ride out to fame on some hot tracks. Those are just facts. The rhymes on Yoyoyoyoyo are largely focused on the familiar hiphop tropes of women and fame, but they hang over such innovative musical beds. Producer XXXChange isn’t exactly a genius but he’s certainly a master of making the best of a small budget(so I’ve read of this album’s creation). XXXChange doesn’t take any shortcuts to repeat himself so every track is a new idea. Be it the funk guitar and 60’s girl group vocals evoked on “Sweet Talk” or the video game sfx on “Rick Rubin”, XXXChange is seemingly a master of all styles. The mind reels of what he could do with a Kanye budget.

93.  Love Is All – Nine Times That Same Song (2005)

I just love these bands full of energy and enthusiasm, writing songs about songs, and also songs about keeping people’s bodies in freezers. Is it bad that I’ve listened to this album a ton of times, know it’s songs extremely well but only can tell you it’s peppy, fun, and catchy?

92.  Clipse – We Got It 4 Cheap, Volume 2 (2005)

Pretty much the greatest mixtape ever. If you’ve heard better, don’t shame me, educate me. In the meantime, goddamn. The Clipse have a swagger and attitude that is the epitome of cockiness. While their sales might not echo it, Clipse are kinda the best, so this attitude makes sense. On this mixtape they rap over plenty of top shelf beats including “Daytona 500” and “Hate It Or Love It” and murder it all over the goddamn place. It’s seriously disgusting how good they are, and criminal how ignored they’ve become commercially.

91.  The Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle (2003)

Greg Dulli is a indie rock god. He wrote Gentleman, he wrote “Uptown Again”; his legacy is written. Yet Blackberry Belle is arguably one of his finest works. A tribute to deceased friend Ted Demme, Blackberry Belle is as dark as any mid career Afghan Whigs album, but often quieter and more somber than the Whigs ever were. When Dulli suggests we “black out the windows/it’s party time” we know we’re in for some melancholy vibes. Yet tracks like “Teenage Wristband” evoke a sense of rebellion and nostalgia that is one could almost confuse with “fun”. Easily the least obvious eulogy for the creator of Yo! MTV Raps.

Six years, son.

October 30, 2008

Six years later, this track, hell this whole album kills. Ok, maybe skip some of the slow songs and that Brian McKnight crap at the end. In a way, was this the Neptunes last gasp? While I'm a fan of Hell Hath No Fury, it wasn't a masterpiece(aside from Wamp Wamp, which is fucking genius) and I'm at loss to think of anything that reaches the pure wonder of "Like I Love You". Maybe that's why Timberlake only worked with Timbaland on FutureSex/LoveSounds, because he knew the Neptunes were kinda over. Holy crap, I just remembered that the Clipse aren't letting the Neptunes do their next album. Just a couple songs, maybe. Damn. Y'know what? Forget it. 

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