Archive for June, 2010

Janelle Monae – Archandroid

June 23rd, 2010 No comments

Yes, for  some of you out there that listen to Post 80’s Indie-Lo-Fi-Pre-Post-Punk bands this album will not be for you, although whatever genre you are listening to Janelle Monae has probably had a chance to listen to it. 

Her debut full-length album ‘ArchAndroid, Suites II and III’ pulls off one of the more ambitious records in memory, finding a way to make a proverbial tour through the history of Rock and Pop music.

When I started paying attention to music, it was artists like Prince and Michael Jackson who were offering crossover appeal, music that was as much Rock as R&B and often the tents of one genre would not always cross over into the other.

However, it is bold moves such as albums like Monae’s which offer to reawaken what is possible in the era of pop music.

This is not just an album but a statement. It is a statement not to the music industry but rather to the listeners out there that are stuck in their boring rut of music and once again ask themselves why in the hell does this pile of fuzz really mean anything? I mean I am asking myself this question all the time. This album does not fit my nice little comfy niche of music that I appreciate and yet it is everything that I appreciate about music.

Consider the subject of the album: This is actually the 2nd and 3rd parts to a 4 part play. What is the play about? A rebellious Android from the future that risks disassembly by falling in love with a human. Er. . .wait a minute. Am I serious? Yes, I am. The first part an EP: ‘Metropolis: The Chase Suite” was released in 2007 and while this opening act did not get the same appeal, it does give a glimpse at what Monae was positioning herself from.

What I have caught myself doing is trying to find as much as possible about this 24 year old artist from Kansas. What are her influences? What are her desert island discs? What is playing on her iPod currently?

The single, ‘Tightrope’, which piqued my interest of her music brings back the old school funk and grove from the 70s with equal parts James Brown. If you think that her performance is a bit smoke and mirrors check out the debut live television performance of her performing the song on David Lettermann.

For some of you that might read my blog on occasion and question my love for an R&B artist I wish to offer this quote from her.

When you’re transitioning to a different stage in your life, there definitely is a fine line you have to walk. At the end of the day, I’m an artist– I love ideas over politics and fame. At the same time, as a black woman in today’s music industry, it’s important that people understand that we’re not all monolithic. It’s time that we just break past this notion that if you’re an African American female you have to stick to one genre. One boring genre, at that.

What a breath of fresh air. 

When I began my journey of studying the music of R.E.M., I found that R.E.M.’s “Teachers”, i.e. the music they appreciated was a wide and eclectic group and part of the treat was not finding old singles and B-Sides but also exploring their influences. Listening to this album we realize that Monae’s influences are far beyond the genre she is part of. She is a black woman that is breaking the invisible barriers of her peers and offering a new and diverse musical offering that should make everyone excited.

But what actually makes this even more exciting is how she is able to link the premise of her character as Cindi Mayweather is that they are both attempting to break through the traps of their existence.

I warn you that there is a bit of theatrics to this album. There are moments of classical music, others when you think you are listening to an old classic soundtrack from a black and white movie with the and on the other side of the spectrum there is Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal, offering up a track.

The album is not an easy sell and there are moments where you will feel that the album drags on a little long, but the treats are worth it if you are willing to listen to it. What I am so impressed with however, is that this 24 year old artist is going to be a star. 

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Best of 2010 – Summer Solstice Edition

June 22nd, 2010 No comments

I figure that about 6 months through the year that it would be a good time to reach out to the few out there that enjoy rolling around in my urine to actually get an idea of what I am listening to.I always remind myself that I need to write more and thus to keep it fairly short I have offered a 1 sentence review for the 15 top albums so far. Of course, maybe all you need is a sentence to know that you will love it.

Top Albums of the Year (So Far)

1.             Janelle Monae – Archandroid

Genre-Bending album that’s studies popular music over the past 50+ years. If you give this album time, it should grow on you.


2.             Caribou – Swim

Dan Snaith reinvents himself once again throwing away the Psychaedelic Pop of Andorra for an underwater electronic experience.


3.            The National – High Violet

Fall into the category of writing smart rock songs, that are catchy, thoughtful and deserve oft-repeated listens.


4.             Beach House – Teen Dream

The production quality on this improves and only enhances their sound. Victoria Legrand’s unique vocals however, steal the show.


5.            LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

James Murphy’s follow-up to Sound of Silver is tighter, raucous, and at times a bit hilarious. This album feels a bit like Talking Heads meets Joy Division meets the 21st century.


6.            Method Actors – This is Still It (Reissue)

This album is a treasure for those enjoying that great post-punk 80s sound.


7.             Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM

Bringing Beck’s talents to this album, Gainsbourg reminds me a bit like St. Vincent’s album Actor as she plays different characters and roles throughout.


8.            Tame Impala – Innerspeaker

This album quickly making it’s way up my charts reminds me of Pink Floyd’s ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. Psychaedelic at it’s best.


9.            Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II

It’s that electronica music that they play at that uber hip club that you never go to, cause well you are just not cool enough.


10.            Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Great Alcohol-Fueled Summer Tour Punk meets Bruce Springsteen. “You’ll Always Be A Loser” will be screamed by every fan at every show that they perform at.


11.            Owen Pallett – Heartland

Mixing Electronica and Strings, it feels a bit like Grizzly Bear’s ‘Veckatimest’.


12.            Radio Dept – Clinging to A Scheme

I always felt that this band was born during the wrong decade. Always feels like that 80’s Goth Rock feel.


13.             Spoon – Transference

Probably would be higher on the list if not for their awful show at the Aragon. I think my ears are still ringing.


14.            Morning Benders – Excuses

Promising record with one of the best songs of the year, ‘Excuses’ reminiscent of the old “Wall of Sound” recordings.


15.            Netherfriends – Barry and Sherry

Chicago-band that after a couple listens has to be one of the more intriguing finds this year. Animal Collective – Psychedelic pop.


Best of the Rest

Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes are Roaring the Night

Sleigh Bells – Treats

Massive Attack – Heligoland

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be

Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here

Fang Island – Fang Island

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