Archive for March, 2011

Doggumentary
March 24, 2011

Snoop Dogg

Doggumentary

Priority/Capitol/EMI Records

For the last twenty years Snoop Dogg has risen to become one of (if not the) biggest names in hip-hop.  Known for his unique lyrical stylings, skilled freestyling and ultra-smooth presentation, Snoop is one mainstream rapper whose talents match his renown.  Since he reached stardom there has been more artists emulating his flow than any other of his contemporaries.  As one of the many MCs propelled into the spotlight by the legendary Dr. Dre he is one of the few who stayed strong even after Dre’s inevitable drop.  Doggumentary marks Snoop Dogg’s eleventh studio album.  Despite a few lackluster releases over the last few years, Doggumentary marks a return to form for the genre’s giant.  Promoted as a follow-up to his first big breakout record, the critically acclaimed Doggystyle (Doggumentary was first tentatively titled Doggystyle 2: Tha Doggumentary) it’s no wonder why he recaptured his old-school 90’s style: he shines best channeling the energies of that first generation of gangster hip-hop.  Fans and critics alike have been pushing Snoop Dogg to return to his roots and, as the crowd pleaser who loves to indulge his fans almost as much as indulging himself, he bows to the requests.  He features the best and most popular names in hip-hop, from R. Kelly to T-Pain, Kanye West to Wiz Khalifa and plenty more plus even a selection of names that span genres outside his own (“Sumthing Like this Night,” which features the Gorillaz, is a standout, and the Willie Nelson track is almost just about as good).  Doggumentary is a must-have.

 

Released:  3/29/2011

The Talking Book
March 24, 2011

Bill Gould, Jared Blum

The Talking Book

Koolarrow Records

Bill Gould of Faith No More’s newest release marks a new direction for the renowned bassist.  Teaming up with conceptual musician Jarad Blum whose work is perhaps best known under the moniker Blanketship to sift through a sea of forgotten vinyl for the two’s first sample-based album.  The Talking Book has a dark feel to it, something different than the styles of the more well-known sample artists.  Lo-fi to an almost disruptive quality (but not quite), the warbled guitar and gloomy piano illustrate a distinct feeling of decay.  The duo attempts to capture a feeling of “scenic beauty in a state of decomposition” and hit that sweet spot perfectly.  Radically different from any of Gould or Blum’s previous releases, The Talking Book is excellent for what it is.  Certainly not intended for a wide audience, but if you want your boundaries of music pushed a little further into the dark unknown this record will fill your wants.

 

Released:  5/10/2011

Volume One
March 24, 2011

The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library

Volume One

Self-released

Armed with a PhD and years of cataloging the best of the world’s music (his own library, where his project’s namesake comes from, has a record collection numbering in the tens of thousands) Michael J. Epstein has the musical chops to make his first band work.  The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library is comprised of Epstein and a selection of eight women whose talents range from adequate to skilled over a wide selection of instruments.  Epstein contacted them all over various social networking sites, from craigslist to Facebook, in an attempt to have a wide breadth of backgrounds and flavor to his album.  What results is a pop-sensible, lyrically clever collection of acoustic folk.  Musically there isn’t much here you haven’t heard before, but what stands out are the witty and often comical but always subtle verses.  If lyrics are your thing, Volume One will fit perfectly in your collection.

 

Released:  5/10/11

Marshmellow Playground
March 16, 2011

mc chris

Marshmellow Playground

mc chris LLC

As a long time fan of mc chris, I wasn’t the least bit concerned when he announced that his newest release Marshmellow Playground would be a children’s album.  Rather, I got quite excited.  Knowing if anyone could pull one off, it would be mc chris.  Covering an array of topics including raps about brushing teeth, moms and dads, and my favorite, “Mac and Cheese and Cut up Hot Dogs.”  The mc’s trademark ten-year-old voice lends itself perfectly to this release; his impersonations of children enjoying themselves on the fictional Marshmellow Playground are just priceless.  Any self-declared fan of this “nerdcore” giant will fall in love with his newest record.  A perfect album for anyone with kids (or anyone for that matter), the way he captures child-like wonder with impeccable talent is absolute.  If only it wasn’t incredibly short at only 20 minutes…

 

Released:  3/4/2011

The Good Green Earth
March 16, 2011

Get Help

The Good Green Earth

Midriff Records

From the heart of the indie rock capital, New York, comes Get Help’s sophomore release The Good Green Earth.  What began as a production project for a member (a slightly enigmatic figure who refers to be called “Skalicky”) of one of nearby city Boston’s favorite local acts, The Beatings, Get Help grew into a real music project before any of the members even realized it.  As the band’s future members shared lyrics and song with the intention of starting a real licensing project they began to realize what they had together.  So they pulled together to create some lo-fi, rough music coupled with catchy, pop-sensible hooks.  Then, in the vein of other internet success stories they began to share their music through the blog they engineered for their project.  Now, three years later the trio prepares for their second release The Good Green Earth.  Hitting all the hot-spots of the best indie-rock, here they lay tracks both catchy as hell with raw sentiment poured in through rough production and low key, unassuming lyrics that are both familiar and refreshingly new.  They cover a myriad of styles all filtered through tastefully done lo-fi effects.  Sadly, these guys exist in a time and place where indie-rock music seems to be everywhere; and what they do, though they do it well, isn’t stand-out enough to make too big of a splash.  That said, Get Help is an act that fans of hard-rockin’ indie should check out.

 

Released: 5/10/2011

Moody, Standard and Poor
March 16, 2011

The Obits

Moody, Standard and Poor

Sub Pop Records

The Obits, yet another indie rock band coming out of New York City, seem to hit all the same areas that their contemporaries exist in.  But there is something instantly off about these indie rockers.  Whether it’s their abrasive singer’s obvious, lame imitation-punk vocals, the piercing, distasteful guitar or the less-than-acceptable production quality, Moody Standard and Poor just does not come well together.  Awfully similar to another album I reviewed this week (see Get Help’s The Good Green Earth), but where Get Help got it on point The Obits seem to foul it all up.  Signed to favorite indie label Sub Pop, The Obits are a disappointment from the same record company that brought us the best in the form of Fleet Foxes, The Postal Service, No Age, Wolf Parade, The Shins and more.  I hope Sub Pop steps up their game in future record deals.

 

Released: 3/29/2011

No Color
March 10, 2011

The Dodos

No Color

Frenchkiss/Wichita Records

Five years ago marked the meeting of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber and the formation of The Dodo’s.  They were an instant favorite, and within months were opening for some of the biggest acts in indie-pop.  As one of the newest and better garage rock duos, The Dodo’s instant critical appreciation and a solid fan base helped them stand out in an oversaturated genre.  Now, a half-decade later, The Dodo’s have began to reinvent there sound, pulling for a more classic, clearer, more pop-sensible style reminiscent of more mainstream bands (Neutral Milk Hotel come to mind).  Despite the refreshing new direction, it lacks a certain element of soul that was so present in their earlier releases, making No Color an ironically accurate title.  Maybe after a couple more tries they can earn it back, but for now it almost seems stale.  Not to say No Color is bad in the least, it certainly hits all the elements their contemporaries have mastered, and often to a higher degree of perfection.  The high-speed guitar riffs of Meric Long prove quality and the more than unique drumming of Logan Kroeber is always insatiable (playing off the rims rather than membranes while avoiding the bass drum all-together).  And there is another nice positive plus here, as The Dodo’s try a new method of distribution after their last release Time to Die’s got leaked early.  Allowing all their fans free listens before their purchase (courtesy of their website) shows confidence as well as a nice preview for anyone on the fence.

 

Released: 3/15/2011

Lifeology 101
March 10, 2011

Winston Warrior

Lifeology 101

Vintage Records

Classy, vintage R&B.  It’s not something we get a lot off, as top 40 stations get filled with the overproduced, suffocating garbage from the mainstream.  But then every once in a while we get an artist like Winston Warrior that blows expectations out of the water.  Channeling energies and style from the classics that defined his genre, including queues and inspirations from favorites including that Marvin Gaye lovin’,  Stevie Wonder soul and Micheal Jackson pop-sensibility, Winston Warrior’s Lifeology 101 will be an instant staple for any fan of the rhythm and blues.  This Atlanta-born, Southern native certainly has the credentials to make it work, having opened for a healthy handful of major acts (including Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Dru Hill, Soul 4 Real and Bone Thugs N Harmony).  Keep your ears open up in “da clubs” for some of that classy Winston Warrior this year.

 

Released:  3/8/2011

The Quickening
March 3, 2011

The Morning Birds

The Quickening

Working Brilliantly

One of the newest acts in the indie, singer-songwriter vein, The Morning Birds only just formed two years ago when the two members Jennifer Thorington and Samuel Markus met in musical hotspot Los Angeles and began dating.  While there has always been an ill-defined animosity towards “cute couples”, don’t let that discourage you.  The two are a perfect complement to each other, weaving in and out of the others vocals and instrumentation, sharing verses and harmonizing on any chorus.  The Quickening will be Thorington and Markus’ second release together as The Morning Birds.  Present in the release is a degree of musical maturity and individuality that beats out their first full-length Inspiration Point.  Each member now brings something unique to the table and with the way Thorington and Markus work together through meshing their individual styles The Quickening marks new depth for the act.  Inspiration comes easy to Thorington and Markus, as they live near a rather isolated Buddhist temple.  There they have chosen to forego modern entertainment amenities (including television and radio) in favor of a simple lifestyle, where they entertain themselves through creative expression and a mutual appreciation of nature.  In that isolated state they write, forming pure, fantastic songs reminiscent of the best male-female duos in modern music’s history.  They have the pure joy of life present in Matt and Kim, the polish of She and Him and the intensity of the White Stripes.

 

Released:  4/26/2011

Lifesounds
March 3, 2011

Drifting in Silence

Lifesounds

Labile Records

Sonic ambience.  Industrial clashes.  Instrumental grooves.  Dreamy shoegazing.  Droning beats.  Lifesounds, the fifth album from experimental composer Derrick Stembridge, is a unification of genres all orchestrated into dark, heavy electronica.  The project, named Drifting in Silence, is perhaps most accurately labeled with Stembridge’s own description – post-ambience.  And for the first time, Stembridge has included vocals on several songs, vocorded to a healthy degree that only compliments those ambient, industrial grooves.  With all these elements present listeners will experience a distinct feeling of movement, a kind of soaring through dreamscapes, hence the name Drifting in Silence.  It’s not often we see a classically trained artist exploring territories claimed by the most avant-garde, but when we do the degree of polish is outstanding.  Lifesounds is interesting, and it marks new territory for the genres.  Fans of ambience and industrial electronica will appreciate.

 

Released:  12/28/2010