Monday, February 28, 2011

I just picked Young L's mixtape up today because of a suggestion from TumblinErb, and damn, can he make beats. I had listened to his earlier tape L-E-N, but I dismissed it because his crappy rapping was just too much for me, and its still really unfortunate that he's such an uninteresting MC. But his production is highly interesting. This song specifically is sort of a resonant inversion of the "Drop It Like It's Hot" formula.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ok, so Luda's verse is horrid, but otherwise, where was the critical reception for this?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yes, it seems like everyone's reaction to this song is, autotune again? But if I could say, this song makes me yearn for a world where autotune isn't such a cliche: it helps that Wiz doesn't sing all that much. He effectively turns the sad robot cliche into a legit rap song, keeping the melancholy and turning the autotune from an affectation into a real vector of the song's mood. I never thought that such an effect would sound organic but somehow it does. I'm actually existed for Rolling Papers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"Front cover the The Fader for you lame haters"

I’m a fan of Anthony Fantano. His reviews of avant-garde, post-rock, noise, and similar genres show a vast knowledge of music and a deep understanding of how these genres can be enjoyable. I, however, have found that this review of Lil B’s recent album Angel’s Exodus pushes so many of my buttons that I cannot go without ranting about it.

To begin, I can understand not liking Lil B. His production quality is not great, technically speaking he’s an good to horrible
rapper etc. I, also, am not necessarily the biggest fan of this release, although I think that says more about rap music’s relationship to the album format than anything about Lil B. What is wrong with this review is not the rating, but the tone.

Fantano does almost all of his reviews with an LP hanging behind him, usually a highly regarded one from the genre being discussed. When he reviews rap albums, I have seen two albums gracing his wall: Dre’s The Chronic and Madvillian’s Madvilliany. While these are very different albums from very different contexts, the way that they relate to his reviews is very telling. The Chronic sets the 1990’s as the grand point of reference for good rap music. I know that Anthony does not like gangsta rap lyricism, so I’m assuming that this album is often behind him because of its insane production value, in appreciation of Dre’s well known perfectionism. In other words, Fantano has already set the field of play. In some sense the presence of The Chronic says, this album will be evaluated in terms of production, which may or may not be its merit. This is both a refusal to evaluate an album holistically as well as a refusal to evaluate an album based on its own perceived merits. I think that Fantano’s appreciation of lo-fi albums would show this to be an inconsistency.

More importantly, the album hanging behind him here is Madvilliany, a great album, but a very telling choice. Fantano’s title as indie music critic leads us to assume that he approaches all music through a lens that turns from the mainstream. The fact that this album is hanging behind him just shows us what that lens is for this genre, a sort of high-minded and rather unuseful rap intellectualism that really has no bearing on the independent rap at hand. Both albums that he uses in rap reviews are evidence of his criteria of evaluation, and unfortunately, these criteria just don’t apply to what makes Lil B a good musician. While Lil B has, in fact, sometimes been compared to MF Doom, much of this youtube/bedroom/indie/youth/postbased/cloud rap movement that is taking over the blogs these days consists of a willingness to disassociate oneself with the standards of what makes rapping and producing.

This sentiment, then, clashes pretty heavily with Fantano’s conviction that the album’s best track’s are its bonus tracks, where Lil B “rides the beat” like a “real rapper.” To ride the beat implies a consistent flow but what “real rapper” seems to mean is only that Anthony is already not taking the album seriously. While Anthony always includes humorous elements in his reviews, this review shows a certain amount of condescension that is not at all normal.

This attitude is most present when he talks about the album’s lack of “cooking” tracks. Lil B’s music can mostly be divided into serious, technique heavy tracks and so-called “ignorant” party tracks, otherwise known as “cooking songs," referring to their signature dance, which Fantano mimes briefly. Which category of Based music is better is highly argued on the internet, many touting his serious tracks as best seemingly because they show that Lil B is actually a "good rapper" to nay-sayers. Although I enjoy both, I tend to tilt towards the “cooking” side, simply because its Lil B doing what he does best: being ridiculous, fun, subtle, and overly sincere, a physical embodiment of what Jesse Thorn would call “the new sincerity.”

When Fantano calls B out for not including party songs, he could be seen as playing to this sentiment if only he wasn't saying it with such sarcasm. By questioning where the “woo”s and “swag”s are, he’s basically just taking a jab at anyone who may take this music seriously. Essentially, Anthony makes Lil B sound stupid by intentionally taking the piss out of his own highly impassionate attempts to find something good about the album. When he compliment’s B for being “real”, his tone doesn’t suggest that he actually finds merit in this, but rather that he'll give him a break because Lil B clearly just doesn’t know better, that its not his fault because he just lacks the self-awareness to make good music. This intentional dismissal of the aspects of music that usually lead people to appreciate it just shows an unwillingness to investigate thoroughly what is a rapidly mounting popular movement. In other words, Fantano’s attempt to treat this music with critical eyes just makes him look ignorant instead.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I know I'm a little late to this, but I still haven't been able to swallow this twenty five track mixtape in one piece, and because its something I really think I should spend some time with, I'm going to wait to talk about it. But here's a good taste.

Despite his very essential "normalness", Wiz Khalifa also seems to figure out a subtle way to make his songs very appealing. I'm still trying to figure out how.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I did not have high hopes for OF on Fallon. I've heard that their concerts were spectacles but not necessarily good performances. I stand corrected. They knew what they had to do and they did it. Big shock risk somehow equals huge entertainment payoff. They totally succeeded in showing everything about their music that makes it compelling. Highest amounts of swagger. And they're not yelling. And the Roots totally work. I can't get over this. Shit.

Why Mos Def is there at the end I have no idea. I guess he's a fan.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Effective in a sort of plodding, yet dynamic sort of way. I haven't heard much like this before.

Monday, February 14, 2011

There's more to this than just a "road song" and that's what's intriguing me.

As is par for the course with OFWGKTA, their videos are shorter and differently mixed than their audio tracks. Here's the full version of "Yonkers".

Speaking of Cash Money: sometimes there is something to be said for pure expressions of technical prowess. It is, however, usually the case that technique serves persona. I'm impressed with Birdman's balls, not his rhyme structure.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

As one of the commenters says, this is Cash Money at its best. Oh and an awesome Bun B is here. Remember Mannie Fresh? No neither do I, I was in fourth grade. I know he's important though.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cher at her best.

As much as I wish the music industry would get over new wave revivalism, I must admit this song is quite good.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Comments on "Yonkers"

Tyler the Creator has always been unhinged. The first time I saw the the “French” video, I sat in silence for five minutes worrying about what the modern world was doing to these kids, not realizing that Tyler is only two years younger than me. And despite the macro-vision that many take this new unsettling youtube/tumblr-rap movement to give us about what is happening to urban youth, Tyler is at least that vision distilled and packaged neatly in a syringe. He is often, as many critics have stated, evil, meant to scare the living bejesus out of listeners. We’re supposed to be afraid he’ll do something to either himself or those around him.

And that’s what makes “Yonkers” so significant. This is the first time we see him helpless. While so much of his earlier work used comedy as a weapon, here he doesn’t really use it at all, leaving him practically defenseless. When he lashes out, instead of being unsettled by his sick thoughts, we finally feel pity. Now the camera is turned back at us. So much of OFWGKTA’s aesthetic is based on body horror: stigmata, vomit, prescription meds, loose teeth etc. This song finally puts in full view what has been hinted at all along, a sort of “what have you done to me” sentiment that doesn’t necessarily point a finger at us, but certainly makes us think about how we treat others. But most of all, the track seems inevitable in its sense of doom as if Tyler’s inability to deal with himself and his body is something that unfortunately just happened.

At the very same time, he is so careful to emphasize the theatrical in his performance. Although he insists in interviews that he’s just doing what comes to his head, he focuses on how character will come through his music even more than the average emcee. The sort of “one-man show” quality of this video only serves to bring that fact to the fore and, in a way, it is a perfect way to summarize his character. It is him, but he’s putting it all up front for us to see, making it entertaining, making feelings into actions, and thoughts into words. And because hip-hop is a genre so reliant on personality, this song shows a crucial new side of Tyler’s character.

As always, we can see in this track what makes Tyler compelling. He’s not afraid to be experimental and yet that experimentation is not alienating enough to keep us from understanding it as emotionally complex. In other words, it may be new, it may be different, but its still rap music.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Been growing on me. Its stark in post-based sort of way.

Clams Casino is seriously someone to watch.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I like this song well enough, but I think music needs less vision and more real personality these days. I'm tired of hearing about a band's "sound". For real.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Comments on JAMES BLAKE

For those of you who don’t know, James Blake has been tearing up the blogs for about the past year, releasing three very well received EPs as well as a few singles from a new album, slated to come out on the seventh. Since the album leaked more than a month ago, I’ve been dwelling over it for quite some time, and to my despair, I have to say I just don’t get it. James Blake’s EPs, while each is quite different, all thrive on a sort of stifled sorrow. By collecting so-called “deconstructed” sounds into minimalist soundscapes, he has had the ability to make songs that are at once disorienting, heartfelt, and simplistic. Songs like “CMYK” and “I Only Know (What I Know Now)” show his ability to do this with variously different media.

His new self-titled album is as different from his EPs as they were from each other, but despite his propensity for new creative pursuits, I can’t help but think that this album shows the relative loss of his essence, whether through hubris, lazyness, or anything else. The problem seems to be that there is both too much and too little going on. Songs like “The Wilhelm Scream”, for example, rely on the slow build of a few elements, and while starkness can often lead to a larger payoff, the song is so stark that its just plain anticlimactic. At the same time, it relies heavily on Blake’s voice for the conveyance of emotion, and while he isn’t necessarily a bad singer, I can’t help but think that he’s hamming it up a little too much. Instead of relying, as he once did, on an inability to express sadness fully as a means of conveying his sentiment, he relies on the overabundant sadness of his own voice, to his detriment I might add. The Imogen-Heap-esque “Lindesfarne” diptych goes so far as to distort his already timid voice into one that sounds as if its crying, while at the same time, the music backing him up seems at once overdramatic and illfitting, making the whole song into something like a sappy indie movie soundtrack. “To Care (Like You)”, the song that, in structure, probably compares most easily to his earlier work, does so only in the sense that all of the Blakian qualities that we are familiar with, the simplistic percussion, the disembodied yelps, the sighing voices, the generally discordant quality, have all been increased to a relatively unsavory level.

Other songs make me uncomfortable simply because he goes much too far out of his creative wheelhouse, relying on cliches when he really doesn’t seem to know it. “I Never Learnt to Share” similarly uses his voice for most of its emotional execution, while accompanying sounds make parts of the song sound like both an action film trailer and an overenthusiastic Aphex Twin knock off. His love of discord used to subtly color his songs with disorientation, but here it just comes up in all the wrong places, sometimes completely stopping a song in its already slow-moving tracks.

That said, some of his creative exploration really does work, even when it is derivative. “Give Me My Month” is a simple piano tune I might compare to one of Randy Newman’s sadder songs minus the eccentricities. Here you can definitely hear Blake’s off kilter sound being interpreted into a common medium, to great effect. “Measurements” similarly Blake-ifies a subtle and pleasant Gospel sound, reaching a satisfying and complex emotional climax. Lastly, “Unluck” and “Limit to Your Love” do successfully expand his sound without ruining the delicate balance that the other songs on the album can’t seem to get quite right. “Limit” shows Blake in full voice, but rightly subdued in emotion, letting the rumbling percussion and the slow build run the track. These songs are, however, abnormalities. In short, Blake doesn’t seem to know how to expand his sound without ruining it in some way, producing songs that are recognizably James Blake, but just in the wrong proportions. His best songs on this album are, in spirit, most akin to his earlier work: subtle, understated, and complex.

It is, however, important to say that despite my complaints, this album is enjoyable. All of the songs do deliver in one way or another, even if some or most of the components don’t succeed. It is unfortunate that, because of the buildup that this album has had, it is par for the course that its critical response can really only be in the mode of two conclusions: magnificent success or overconfident failure. Because it is neither of these things, I’m pretty confident that this album, which is good, but not great, will most likely get the success treatment. Oh well.

Listen to samples of the album below:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Remember this? Neither do I. I wasn't aware of these things back then.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I'm much too young to experience any of the music this band defined first hand but man I wish I wasn't. Kinda.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011