Wednesday, March 30, 2011


One of the really great things about E-40's massively unprocessable amount of output--releasing two nearly twenty track albums on the same day--is that the sheer volume makes it impossible to shove tracks into the slots that you would expect a rap album to have. There is no one strip club track, no one track for those who didn't make it, no one track about 40's lady etc. While there are a couple of obviously radio intended exceptions, this glut of tracks doesn't necessarily create a lot of diversity. Instead, the album has an overwhelming consistency that allows the tracks to differentiate between each other much more subtly.

That being said, I'm not attempting to say that any of these tracks present anything that you might call expected. Everything about most of the tracks here serves to form a consistent sound that is at the same time subverting some serious emotional and sensory expectations. Much of that I can attribute to 40 himself. You can never pin down the man's attitude. He is at once viscerally and unavoidably serious and undeniably silly. This line is a perfect example: "I had to hand wash my clothes/didn't have a washing machine or a dryer/momma used to have to hang her period panties out on the clothesline wire." This line, from "Born in the Struggle", is an intensely embarrassing statement about of the psychological consequences of poverty. At the same time, to put it simply, it is ridiculous, and furthermore, vile. And yet 40 almost never cracks a smile. He always succeeds in being larger than life but in a world thats a little bit cartoonish, working his way into our expectations and the pushing outwards on both sides, both towards the real and the fantastic. In terms of style, I can compare him in some ways to Scarface, in that he seems to have an incredible disregard for the number of syllables in his lines, being constantly off beat up close but on beat with a wide lens. It was, for example, not necessary for him to say the word "machine" or the word "a" in this line, but it works wonders, like all of his lines, lifting off dramatically yet always sticking the landing.

Most importantly, the sort of head spinning ambiguity that pervades his flow and lyrical content is definitely communicated through the songs as whole pieces of music. Most of the songs have a blow-you-off-your-feet fullness coupled with unexpected and unnerving amounts of well-placed naturalistic emotion that you cannot help but be effected by. But it all has a certain hint of whimsy, with fat-tongued bass lines, voice acted snippets ("BUMBUMBUM") being used as important song elements, and cartoonishly round yet kinetic synths.

The song "Me and My Bitch" is a perfect example of 40's powers. The beat consists of a continuously ominous yet undeniably silly mouth-like synth line. The lyrics, while they initially seem to be based around a boring rap cliche, are actually a complex and relatively disturbing portrait of a horribly turbulent relationship. At the same time, 40 raps in a tone that makes him sound like he's telling a ghost story with a flashlight under his chin, spitting lines about his girl loving his dirty underwear and about how "cum is thicker than blood". Even his ablibs ("Hawhooo!") are at once disturbingly visceral and playfully ridiculous.

Overall, if you're looking for a highly original rap experience this album is definitely worth the money. I'll definitely keep supporting E-40 in the future, despite him being 43.

I'm not going to pretend that I didn't find this through Pitchfork. Regardless, SWAG.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I don't know whether this man of capable of divesting himself of Jay-Z associations (this video isn't all the encouraging in that regard), but this song is definitely entertaining and it makes a decidedly anachronistic style seem as fresh as is possible.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I forgot to mention this song in my coverage of the Strokes album. And I like this performance, although it kind of makes me feel bad for Julian for some reason. Good work otherwise.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


The day that Vigilante Season came out, I read a tweet that, although I don’t remember who wrote it, basically mourned that the world would allow autotune to enter a Max B song. Since I had not listened to the album yet, this really bothered me, thinking that Vigilante Season had succumbed to the pop pied piper like Pink Friday or the album cuts from Rolling Papers. I was, luckily, wrong.

If this is a pop album, I have been using the wrong definition of the word for quite a while. The (actually very minor) use of autotune, however, is a good hint as to how one should read this album. Max B, although he is quite a good rapper, really brings the listener into his songs through his half-sung, half-drunk choruses and the effectiveness of a song’s particular hook and the ability of the production to support it says a lot about the effectiveness of the song as a whole.

The rapping, on the contrary, really needs time to grow on you, seeming sloppy at first, but eventually producing some serious earworms. Max actually has a pretty slow, meticulous flow, which is not overly complicated but seriously effective when he does choose some well-placed fancy footwork. That being said, the album on a whole doesn’t seem to be all that put together. It seems as though Max chose various elements for each song via-dartboard, producing some songs that really punch and some that just seem like orange juice and toothpaste. The album excels at the ends, with two single-worthy tracks at the beginning and a consistently effective second half. The best tracks on the album produce a partially deluded yet self-aware happiness that I can only compare to something like the effects of addiction: Max is happy, but he knows he shouldn’t really be. In the end, the best of Max’s style, which Yayo has accurately described as wino-esque, actually ends up being quite sad. Songs like “Money Make Me Feel Better”, “Green Gain”, and “I Need Money” have a sort of propped-up, uneasy quality that makes them really effective. These songs, in addition, have the album’s subtlest, yet somehow most catchy hooks, resulting in consistently complex and moody songs that somehow make me feel both uneasy and empathetic. Larger, more anthemic tracks are only slightly less effective and often include interesting production choices: “South Wave”, for example, has an almost gothic techno-like beat, culminating in a terrifically desolate chorus. The same goes for "Lord Tryna Tell Me Something".

The album just goes off the edge when there is an element that clearly just doesn’t fit. “Model of Entropy” flounders simply because its loungy, laid back chorus doesn’t allow the song to move anywhere when rapping comes along. The same goes for “Where Do I Go”. “Tattoos on Her Ass” has a powerful beat and chorus, but the verses, in which Max B mostly disses Lil Wayne, just fail to be as menacing as Max seems to want them to be. These misses, however, really only highlight the highs of the album in there inability to communicate complex emotional extremes in the way that the best songs are really capable of doing. And it is for that reason that I recommend this release. Free Max B.

The Weeknd has sparked a lot of discussion about "hipsters" and R&B, but I have to say that if you like R&B and you don't like this, there is something wrong. This isn't all that left-field, its just totally solid. I think that the attraction of the indie crowd to this mixtape has less to do with sound and more to do with distribution methods. This is basically in a consistent-sounding album form, which is something that even the biggest R&B artists usually don't provide. If you're not willing to pay a lot of attention to the latest Chris Brown or Drake singles, listen to the radio, or sift through their albums for the "good" stuff, then this mixtape might seem like a revelation.

Edit: Ok so I've been listening to this mixtape so much, and I might regret this, but this is the most consistently good album/mixtape I've heard this year. Every song is ridiculously immersive. I have, of course, heard a lot of great music that didn't necessarily excel in the form of an album, so take this statement with a grain of salt. Here's another great track:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Regardless of what I think about his music, K.R.I.T. has the best attitude.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Comments on the Parts of ANGLES that I Liked

It’s strange that people are always commenting on how events surrounding an album's release can affect its reception and yet they still let it happen when that kind of album inevitably comes back around. Many, for example, see Rihanna’s Rated R as particularly well received because of the domestic abuse scandal that informed it so much. And yet, when it came along, they still let it affect, sometimes even engulf, their criticism.

In many ways, then, I should be a perfect candidate to talk about this new Strokes album. I did not grow up with the Strokes. In seventh grade, when their debut came out, I wasn’t confident enough to even identify with any music at all. I think I just liked Weird Al. So they are not an important part of how I think about music as they are to so many people. They do not represent a specific archetype of good music to which I can compare other bands. To put it simply, Is This It, although I enjoy it very much, does not really mean anything to me.

But still, there really is no point of me out-and-out reviewing this. For one, its not amazing. If it were, it would be worth decontextualizing. But we’re not going to be coming back to this for years to come and more importantly, this isn’t essential listening, something non-Strokes fans should really give a chance to. If you care, you’ve already heard it. If you don’t, I’m sure you don’t care what I think.

So I thought I might just talk about three songs that I did like, so that if you are highly dissatisfied, as so many are, you might still be able to squeeze some pleasure out of it. Ok?

"Machu Picchu"

The first song on the album is incidentally my favorite. The song gives off the impression of tension, but not so much so that they’re letting it effect them all that much. Other than Julian’s trademark liminality, every aspect of the production in the verses is stark and hard-hitting, from the drums to the tortured reggae riff. And the chorus, oh man, the chorus shows the band in ecstatic free fall: if there ever was a more textbook case of tension and release, I haven’t heard it. The same goes for the bridge, which consists of a surprisingly well done system of layered vocals. All-in-all “Macchu Picchu” shows the band simultaneously in and out of sincerity in a way that’s effectively fascinating, making us wonder if the emotion of the song is a little bit too over the top to be real. Whether it is or not, the ambiguity makes it playfully enjoyable.

"Two Kinds of Happiness"

“Two Kinds of Happiness” is, to its benefit, entirely more sincere than the song above. The song, as basically everyone has said, resembles something from The Cars, a band that had a real knack for being both overly sincere and a little ridiculous at the same time. The Strokes lean to the sincere end, the song’s saving grace being that it is so emotionally effective from the very immediate beginning. But even then, the chorus is unexpectedly fervent, to the point where it removes some of the song’s believability. Insincerity without playfulness is not all that appealing. The song is, however, redeemed by its verses and because they’re so good, I can still really enjoy it.


“Gratisfaction” is one of the more left field additions on the album, taking inspiration from the Strokes’ trademark nineteen seventies, but the wrong side of the culture divide: not from artsy new wave but from stadium rock. This track reminds me specifically of Queen (with a little bit of the Beatles), but with an added sort of jaunty nostalgia. More importantly, the track is short and sweet, which is more than you can say about any song by Queen itself. Simply put, solid work.

Other than that, I had mixed feelings about the rest of the album. If you care about it, listen to it yourself.

To listen to the songs I mention above, you can stream the entire album here.

Comments on "That's Life" and Aesthetic Appreciation

If you haven’t somehow picked it up from my earlier posts, I have a real pet peeve about the mixture of politics and morality with art. Its not that I have a problem with the inclusion of these things in art: it would actually be impossible to remove them from any art that isn’t completely abstract. It is, rather, the judgment of art’s quality based on its moral or political content that really pisses me off. Rap is an especially ripe field for this and the issue is complicated. It is not simply that critics laud so-called conscious rap undeservedly, but that critics use morality as a reason to dislike rap inconsistently enough that it removes the readers ability to understand where the so-called value of the music comes from. Many critics, for example, that might have been seemingly repulsed by explicitly sexual music by people like Lil Jon have recently not been able to shut up about the (admittedly overblown) sexually repulsive content of Odd Future. Why the inconsistency? I have some ideas but I really don’t know. What I do know is that my ability to love music is not related to my evaluation of the morality of its lyrics or the political stance of its creator. Its a simple as that.

So you can understand why, when I recently discovered Killer Mike’s “That’s Life” and subsequently listened to it fifty times in a row, I was perplexed. 2006’s “That’s Life” is basically a political monologue, a track in which Mike expectorates all of the frustrations that he has with the moral inconsistencies of major public figures. It is, in other words, ridiculously dated, with references ranging from Tom Cruise’s couch jumping to FEMA’s disastrously mishandled response to Hurricane Katrina.

I can imagine really being effected by this track at the time. There is something extremely cathartic, even five years later, about someone just calling a spade a spade, in the way that a speech with similar content would be cathartic. But why do I want to listen to if over and over again? If the political content of the song is what makes it worth while, I should be able to just listen to it once or twice to get the message. Ok, so Bush doesn’t like the poor, that’s it. But that’s not it.

The fact is, even though I was around in 2006, I was 17. I was aware of the political issues of the time, but my opinions on them were completely unfinished, and because of that my feelings today about the issues Mike raises are not nearly as passionate as they could be. But this song is effective even in the references that I don’t remember. I don’t, for example, remember when Oprah boycotted Ludacris, but when Mike says, “I saw the smirk on they face when you came at Luda/The same nice ladies that forgave Martha Stewart”, my heart just keeps on racing. While the references of this song are extremely specific, it is simply a fact that the sentiment, that of a confidently defiant frustration with hypocrisy, is not. In this situation, although politics and morality are definitely necessary ingredients, it is politics that serves art, not the other way around. This song is effective because the frustration that Mike communicates is relatively universal to people of any political or moral stance, not because the specific political problems that Mike has are ones that I should have myself. Bush has been out of office for years, but when Mike says, “And his momma said the women oughta feel at home/Gettin’ raped in the bathroom in the Superdome,” I don’t need context to be effected.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that the song is effective musically as well? It is.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

There is always a place for Nardwuar. Although he didn't really get any info out of them, this is really fun to watch.

Comments on FEAR OF GOD

Pusha T seems to be experiencing a sort of Black Album period. I’m not saying that Pusha is planning on retiring, but both projects are made by rappers that, whether or not it is true, cinematically imagine themselves to be at the top of their game. The first song, “My God”, is the spiritual equivalent of “PSA”, a sort of angry, widescreen coronation. What makes this song good, other than the fact that it almost achieves the same level of exaltation that Jay-Z does, is that it maintains an essentially Clipse quality that I didn’t expect at first. While the production is by no means sparse, and Clipse tracks always seemed to be, it maintains, through the main riff and the scattered organ lines, a sort of eeriness that Clipse, especially Pusha T, always did best. This is a lot of Pusha's appeal, a sort of confident, self-recognized sinisterness, the feeling that he has no allusions about what he’s doing, but he’s going to do it anyway.

The best parts of this mixtape, “My God” really being its high point, are capable of expanding this sentiment into larger, more powerful mode. That, unfortunately, does not happen all that often. Rick Ross steals “I Still Wanna”, a huge chaotic storm without any real sign of Pusha’s influence. More subdued songs, like “Alone in Vegas”, “Raid", and “Cook it Down”, maintain the essential Clipsy-ness, but just not as well as the duo did in their heyday. Attempts at pop, like “Feeling Myself” and a remix of Soulja Boy's “Speakers Going Hammer”, are even less successful. To put it simply, it just doesn’t seem like he knows what to do with these songs, doing the same old thing in a context that just doesn’t make sense: both Pusha T and Soulja Boy, in other words, have a hard time not sounding like Pusha T and Soulja Boy. Even more left field additions, like the Queen-sampling “Open Your Eyes”, fail just as badly. It’s amazing how universal this is.

It seems that the lesson of all this is simply that Pusha T is just not a very versatile rapper. The best songs on the mixtape are forward developments for sure, but they are not at all outside of his wheelhouse. And its a small wheelhouse. His “Can I Live” remix is probably the most telling on this point. The song begins, “They say this took confidence/I just call it patience/’Cause I had too much pride to take this muthafuckin’ cadence”. This is a pregnant line, full of self-knowledge, self-loathing, and bitterness. But most importantly it shows confidence. Pusha’s sentiment is pretty close to the tortured debonair of Jay-Z’s original, but misses the essential self-questioning that Jay represented so well. This alone is enough to make the song boring and awkward.

To put it simply, Pusha T’s style is self-restrictive. This, however, is not at all a bad thing. First of all, the specificity of his sentiment is part of what makes him so good. Listen to “Momma I’m So Sorry” and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. More importantly, a lot of musicians could be much more consistently good if they realized that development often has to happen in small steps, as “My God” shows us. I really believe that one of the reasons Nas never again reached the heights of his debut is that he, a similarly restricted rapper, doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to accept this concept. So while most of this mixtape isn’t really worth keeping, its saving grace to some extent is the fact that it shows some real development to a pretty complex personal myth. Pusha T, in other words, is not repeating himself and I can appreciate that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Comment on Criticism in General

People are always griping about albums getting perfect scores or being reviewed as "the best album ever" (see basically any criticism of Kanye's most recent album), but I have to say that I am in support of it. Think of the nineteen sixties. Can you think of ten albums that you would give perfect scores to? I certainly can. Albums didn't even really exist in earnest until the middle of that decade. And yet that's an average of one perfect album per year. What can we take from this? We could say a lot of spit about people idolizing artists and albums above their real worth, something that I can sometimes get behind, but seriously, where is the fun in that? As much as I would like to say that people over-idolize the sixties, and despite my ability to find some puny fault in Blonde on Blonde, that album is amazing. Its terrific, transcendent, a beautiful experience. If we allow ourselves to be swept up in Dylan worship, as well we should, why can't we allow ourselves to be swept up in Kanye worship? If one perfect album came out every year in the nineteen sixties, why can't one perfect album come out every year in the twenty teens? We don't have to raise things above everything else. Let's lower the standard. What makes a perfect album? A perfect album is an album that we like to listen to, a lot. We shouldn't second guess our enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is what art does to people. Let it happen.

You know, people talk about Waka Flocka being untalented and anti-intellectual, and yet, despite the fact that everyone is trying really hard to replicate it, none of them have even come close to making a song as good as anything from Flockaveli.

In other words, this song is not that good.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Most would agree Mike G is the most underappreciated member of the OFWGKTA league, a sentiment that his second album will hopefully change. Here's the first single, showing Mike to be surprisingly relaxed for the Wolf Gang, a definite strength. The beat is a lurching swamp as usual, with an interesting descending bass line. Oh, and there's a great "My Love" reference.

Comments on "My Little Grimey N*gga"

If you don't know already, E-40 is experiencing a kind of second (third?) coming these days, getting ready to release another two albums at the end of this month. This song has recently been all over the internet and for good reason.

If you read this blog you know I have a little hang-up with musical masturbation, which often makes it hard for me to like rappers that are famous for their technique, like Eminem, Twista, Busta Rhymes etc. E-40 is in the fast, technique-heavy category in a serious way, shoving extra syllables and seemingly awkward flows into practically every bar, but I do not find it hard to enjoy his music. It seems that 40 really understands that he's using his voice as an instrument. While it might seem like he's showing off sometimes, I would say that ninety percent of the time his expressions of pure technique are done in the service of a particular style. This track in particular is a perfect place for him to go off, with a minimal, slow-tempo beat and a terrifically laconic, mind-cleansing chorus from Stressmatic. 40's voice can really act as a counterpoint, can really create the song in the verses, with lines like "syrup and cha-cha sniffin'" and the deliciously pitched up "everybody knew his name". As much as I like chaotic, off-kilter production, I like chaotic, off-kilter rapping like this just as much, as long as its in the place where it has the space to work its magic.

And if that isn't enough, this is one of the best works of rap storytelling I've heard in a while. Solid work.

Everybody is blogging about the Chris Brown's staccato-rap track "Look at Me Now" but I'm finding "Deuces" much more compelling. The track shows all contributors showing a lot of restraint, which in R & B is harder to come by than in other genres. Brown allows the slight turns of his verse to drive it forward as opposed to show-offy acrobatics. Tyga, who probably has the best verse, portions his verse into single equally sized statements, using the most defined portions of the verse for emphasis. Also, I hate to be this person, but it sounds like Tyga been listening to a lot of Lil B. Lastly, Kevin McCall caps it off with the most aggressive verse, and he even makes a good DJ Drama joke. All in all, pretty good. Too bad that I came to this like 8 months late.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pusha T - Cook It Down from Illusive Media on Vimeo.

Swag chefin' at about 1:30. And oh yeah, I'm kinda looking forward to this mixtape, although Pusha's flow gets a little bit preachy at points.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This is the first I've ever heard of Max B, but I really really really like the attitude, as well as just about everything else about this song.

Comments on THE MC

"There is a certain level of guilt to being a rapper like me" - Too Short

So I watched this old documentary last night and I was pleasantly surprised. If you spend a lot of time looking into media about hip-hop you'll find that, first, there isn't much of it, especially on the internet, and second, that most of it touts the same old story.

The classic narrative goes something like this: In the late seventies people in the south Bronx were tired of being poor and hungry so they started DJing and dancing, some guys started leading the crowd and rapping was born. After the song, "The Message", came out, hip-hop became inherently political, forever. Run-DMC and LL Cool J made it popular, Chuck D and the Bomb Squad made it worthy of critical acclaim, and Rakim made it complex. Fast forward to the turn of the century, and somehow hip-hop is dead and people are just rapping about money and hoes. Hip-hop is not longer about the "real" street life.

This movie basically follows this narrative, asking questions like, "what's the deal with profanity?" and "do you have to be black to rap?" If the movie was just the narrator, I would have turned it off in ten minutes. You basically have to ignore everything he says, and the first twenty minutes of the film, where the "history" of hip-hop is recited, are probably the least interesting. The movie, however, is saved, and in a big way, by the staggering volume of interviews done with rappers. These aren't just the classic NPR-worthy rappers like Jay-Z or Black Thought but basically everyone important from East Coast Rap before The College Dropout (with a few big exceptions).

What is so striking about all the raw material here is that although the makers of the documentary attempt to build the traditional view of hip-hop by asking these questions, the content given by rappers is both very various and not necessarily in line with the boring old story. KRS-One probably gets the most screen time, which is both because he's the most charismatic and because he agrees most with the "hip-hop is political and rap is entertainment" view, but even he says interesting stuff: he talks about the power of art to create an artist and even a weird Kierkegaard-like understanding of his relationship with God. But even more interesting are the statements by 50 Cent and Clipse, people hailed by critics but not necessarily seen as conscious by any means. A very relatable Malice even talks about his necklace and what it means to him.

In this vein, the most notable counterpoint to the narration is when the question of "real", comes up. While some rappers criticize people getting away from the "struggle", most of those interviewed (even Talib) eventually give a very strong defense of poetic license, the most notable segment of which is a clip of Beanie Sigel basically defining the word "real" as meaningless.

Other highlights include any appearance of Kanye, who just can't keep himself from giving a much too enthusiastic a cappella rendition of "Spaceship", Jin, who really dates this film, Ghostface, who shows his nerdy side, and DJ Premier, who talks about what he sees as the differences between Nas and Jay-Z. My personal favorite appearances, however, are those of Too Short, who is probably the most down to earth of anyone in the movie, giving us that gem of a quote above. The only real qualms I have with the interviews are the very notable exclusion of any regional rapper other than Too Short. In fact, it seems like the creators demonize Southern Rap to the extent that they show pictures of Birdman every time anything sinister (like conformity) is being talked about.

What's ultimately encouraging and illuminating about the documentary is that those who do espouse the "Hip-Hop used to have MCs and people today are rappers" view are the least relevant to the discussion of post-turn-of-the-century rap. Those who have more of an influence today have their own more realistic ideas about what it means to rap and those ideas umbrella basically into the idea that rapping, like all music, exists to entertain a listener. So if you're interested in what some rappers think about what they do, I would recommend this movie.

The MC: Why We Do It is easily available to watch instantly through Netflix.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reks is trying much too hard to make a really trite point and not hard enough to establish either a consistent tone or an enjoyable song. Revisit this or this or, most importantly, this other DJ Premier produced gem and you'll understand what I mean.

This is basically a better version of "H.A.M.". The rave-y techno is an interesting addition to a pretty standard anthemic Maybach Music structure and melody. Also, this may not be his most charismatic verse, but I suggest you check out Meek Mill.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Comments on "The Wolf"

Karen has come a long way since "Heartbeats", but not so quickly that we can't go back and see it happening. Silent Shout saw the Knife turning their music towards the frigid and stark in a major way. Fever Ray saw her drawing herself out and removing some of the pop. Tomorrow in a Year saw the further extension and relaxation of their craft, possibly a little too much, the tightest thing on the album being eleven minutes long. And now we're here, with "The Wolf".

I really see this song as a refinement of the Tomorrow in a Year sound, in the vein of the fabulous "Colouring of Pigeons". That song saw the Knife immersing the audience in a rich world via repetition, intensity, and drone-like strings. "The Wolf" does something very similar in less than half that time. There is no pop here, but rather than building up to intensity, Karen hits us with full-on drone immediately, with sound so deep and physical we can't help but shaken by it. In the same sense, similarly unconventional tympani-like drums grace this track but appear infinitely more urgent: the entire song is in full swing about ten seconds in. And although this track is inherently repetitive, it never seems that way.

What's even more interesting is the almost complete lack of "electronic" sounds here. I even hear what seems to sound like a little guitar distortion. While the Knife's crazy attention to detail allowed them to meticulously fill out their skittering electro sound and still be stark, it seems like the use of rich instrumentation has allowed Karen to sound, not stark, but alive in an incredibly detailed, and more importantly, incredibly arresting way, in a way that even the best moments of Silent Shout aren't capable of doing. While SS was a cold statement of nihilistic anticlimax, "The Wolf" seems to be Karen getting at a vision that may be equally pessimistic, but decidedly more human.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another highly effective track from RFDM.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I was originally a little disappointed with Red Flame Devil Music Edition, but as with everything Lil B, it has definitely grown on me. This particular song is ridiculous as usual: a Slick Rick style throwback with on-the-edge-of-sincere lyrics about a chest cold.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I have some reservations about this Lil B review, but it is, all-in-all, a very satisfying treatment from a major publication.

A “loud-quiet-loud” aesthetic has become almost a cliche at this point, a way of describing dynamic interludes that are both obvious and over-dramatic. While I didn’t necessarily prescribe to this dismissal of the technique, it had always seemed so easy to me that I was surprised that its use was so praised among canonical musicians. I have recently been quickly falling in love with Big Black’s Song’s about Fucking, and it has definitely changed my mind.

Steve Albini, the lead guitarist of Big Black, has basically produced for every band known for this aesthetic, from Surfer Rosa to the controversial first mix of In Utero to PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. We can effectively trace the sound all the way back to him. Big Black, however, is, in essence, a hardcore punk band: it is very hard to find a Big Black song that changes in volume or speed. What you can find, and what I think is more important than this oversimplification of musical effectiveness, is a highly attuned sense of dynamics and contrast. While this song may be loud all the way through, it contains an extreme mix of both sludge and clarity. While the Pixies might create intensity by paralleling a riff at different ends of the volume spectrum, Albini crams a number of crisp, yet flat lines into one space, making it hard to listen to more than a single instrument attentively. Out of the muck you might pull that bass that sounds like a lead pipe, the flat tire snares, or slightly out of tune guitar jangle. Whatever you pick will be intense.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I like this quite a bit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This is a good cover. End of story.