PREVIEW: VISIT B.o.B.’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts
Bobby Ray, better known by his moniker B.o.B., finally released his first studio album after almost three years of anticipation. The Adventures of Bobby Ray is an introduction to the life and diverse musical style of B.o.B. With this debut, Bobby Ray ushers in the new wave of hip-hop by pulling from various musical genres. Since 2007, B.o.B. has been working with a variety of big names including Hayley Williams, T.I. and Lupe Fiasco. Such an impressive guest list demonstrates Bobby Ray’s ambitious strive towards being more than just another Atlanta rapper.
After six mix-tapes worth of dabbling, Adventures shows B.o.B.’s take on synthesizing rock and pop styles with traditional hip-hop. The album’s first single, “Nothin’ on You,” features Bruno Mars and yields perhaps the most Top 40 appeal of any track on the album. Adventures’ rock influence comes from collaborations with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and Paramore’s Hayley Williams. Williams makes two appearances on Adventures on “Airplanes” and the track’s sequel. Eminem joins in on “Airplanes Pt. 2,” creating a peculiarly effective synergy between rock and rap.
“Magic” best exemplifies B.O.B.’s sense of innovation in terms of giving rap-rock a new wrinkle that retains accessibility. While such collaborations do not always satisfy past the point of their novelty, (Lil’ Wayne and Weezer’s “Can’t Stop Partying”), B.o.B.’s willingness to take chances on his debut album shows that Bobby Ray is looking for longevity. Other collaborations with T.I. (“Bet I”), Lupe Fiasco (“Pass My Shades”) and Janelle Monae (“The Kids”) prove that B.o.B. has already established clout in the music industry.
Adventures tackles topics from pollution (“The Kids”) to superficiality in Hollywood (“Fame”) all while intimately getting to know Bobby Ray. B.o.B. confirms that, though he might be reppin’ the ATL, he is not looking to be classified among the likes of Big Boi and Andre 3000. His debut certainly surpasses its long-standing hype with an early release that’s well worth it’s merit.
-Dana Rose Falcone
Filed under: Uncategorized
So what do you get when you combine sick jams about ninjas, sung by self identified Zef trio (South african slang for white trash) and the miracle of internet? How about a sick viral phenomenon that caused Hetzner, a South African hosting provider, to disable their hosting account following massive bandwidth overage. Name of the phenom: Die Antwoord.
This South African trio has emerged on the scene in 2009. While slightly rough around the edges to say the least, once you get past the mildly morbid exterior, there is a raw talents that challenges most contemporary standards of the music industry.
If you think Gaga extravaganza is the pinnacle of modern artistic expression, hang up your coca-cola hair curlers and give these guys a gander. You will be gladly surprised to what frontiers Internet is taking the music industry.
–Irina Dvalidze, Co-Multimedia Editor
Filed under: Releases of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: Horse Feathers, Thistled Spring
PREVIEW: VISIT Horse Feathers’ MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 11/20 Watts
One would hope that an album entitled “Thistled Spring” would have at least have a few sharp edges to set it apart from the majority of today’s indie-folk. Unfortunately, Portland’s Horse Feathers – unfittingly named after the satirical 1932 Marx Brothers film – end up homogenized within the soft auditory mush of their contemporaries with little to set them apart in any notable way.
It’s not to say that Horse Feathers are incompetent or even mediocre when it comes to song-writing. In fact, a major merit of the band is that they avoid the trap of lazily marginalizing the use of “traditional” folk instruments. Unlike groups whose uses of the mandolin and banjo are limited to peripheral texturing, Horse Feathers get technically impressive and smoothly arranged melodies out of these demanding string instruments. The banjo and string parts on “Starving Robins” and “Cascades” pose a challenge to any hipster who’s ever attempted to pluck a few half-assed chords on his dad’s Gibson.
Additionally, the interchanges between which instruments carry the bulk of the melody are sufficiently varied song by song in such a way that benefits both the album’s control of dynamics and mood. Where “Belly of June” contains the album’s most directly ecstatic moments and “The Widower” slumps into minor-key ambiguity, the strings and guitar adjust accordingly. The problem is that variation of any kind on the album stops after this. The swells are competent but forumulaic. The interludes follow a similarly predictable formula. Justin Ringle’s sub-Sufjan whinging completes this lukewarm assembly of elements, leaving the album feeling like a collection of amateur watercolor paintings – individually competent, but collectively bland and unspectacular.
Horse Feathers are above-average in their instrumental proficiency. However, they do not break any ground within the realm of contemporary folk – a genre whose dependency on formula is just as bad as any Top 40 electro-thumping. In conclusion, “Thistled Spring” is a passable but predictable burp on the organic woodgrain screen of the indie-folk radar.
Filed under: Releases of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: Clinging To A Scheme, The Radio Dept.
PREVIEW: VISIT The Radio Dept.’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 13/20 Watts
Since their beginnings in 1995, The Radio Dept. have been known for being slow to produce new albums. With their fifteen-year-old discography consisting of a mere three full length releases, the Swedish shoegazers could be described as patient, if nothing else
Clinging to a Scheme is a model example of over-perfection and its consequences. The album exists largely as an effort both over-thought and over-ambitious. This impacts the record negatively, giving it a sound that is neither inventive nor genre-challenging.
That’s not to say all listeners will be alienated by the album’s aspect. The tracks on aren’t necessarily bad, but there aren’t any truly outstanding moments on the record that come to mind when thinking of the work as a collective whole. Tracks such as the opener, “Domestic Scene”, come and go quietly, following a dynamic-shy formula that seems to be all too tried-and-tested in today’s indie scene.
Shorter efforts such as “Four Months in the Shade” are passable as musical interludes, but The Radio Dept. comes up noticeably short even in that sense. Its lack of consistency and musical maturation causes it to feel more like a half-hearted pit-stop than a thoughtfully-placed interlude.
Tracks like “David” allude to a faint possibility of original sonic direction. The issue is that The Radio Dept. approaches these detours through the unexpected only to shy away on them, preferring the main road of conventionality – densely textured but blandly orchestrated in form.
As the album draws to a close on “You Stopped Making Sense”, the record feels to have gone almost nowhere in its 35-minute duration. While the album may be enough for glazy-eyed, shoegazing audiences, it’s hardly enough to satiate the appetite of even a casually demanding listener – especially one conscious of the extensive wait it took to produce the album. Sadly, “Clinging to a Scheme,” fulfills its title in the most disappointingly literal way possible, fixated on the same sonic tropes without considering that some newer scheme might be better worth clinging to.
Filed under: Releases of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: Born Ruffians, Caribou, Swim
PREVIEW: VISIT Caribou’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts
Daniel Victor Snaith’s ninth release as Caribou is an unpredictable synthesis of electronic and tribal sounds. Although Swim is a short album of just nine songs, the long tracks contain stories of Caribou’s struggle with divorce, old age and loneliness. While the lyrics are vague, they offer an in-depth look at Snaith’s creative process. The use of unexpected instruments complements the mix.
Swim shows that Snaith completely defies any musical self-restraint he may have had in the past. The album starts off with “Odessa,” a funky yet mystical calamity of soft lyrics that describe a strong, independent “alpha woman.” The track combines a jungle sound with an electronic breakdown, setting a precedent for the unusual style combinations that last for Swim’s entire duration. The album shows off more curious rhythmic tendencies on “Bowls,” with a tune reminiscent of African tribal music. Tibetan singing bowls and a prominent bass line fortify the track’s sound.
“Hannibal” is perhaps the strongest example of the metamorphosis Caribou has chosen to undergo on Swim. Where the track starts off with a sense of joy unbecoming to the titular serial killer, its ending bears a moodily sonic resemblance to the Peter and the Wolf recessional. “Hannibal” is an erratic battle between a cheery melody and an abrasive symphony that is Odyssean in its nature. The contrast suggests that Snaith may still be torn between his musical identities.
Swim ends with Caribou questioning his purpose on earth with “Jamelia,” a track that features Luke Lalonde of Born Ruffians. While the latter end of the Snaith’s latest album seems like musical chaos, Swim has a greater sense of coherence than Caribou’s last two albums—Andorra and Up in Flames. This album shows Snaith’s skill in transcending his formerly boisterous style, exploring moods and tones for other seasons besides Spring.
-Dana Rose Falcone
Filed under: Releases of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: A Woman's Face, All Days Are Nights, Martha, Rufus Wainwright, Shame, Solo Piano
PREVIEW: Visit Rufus Wainwright’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts
Rufus Wainwright’s many personal tragedies continue to haunt the listener on “All Days Are Nights.” With the death of the artist’s mother grounding the album in the sobering depth of eerie reverence, Wainwright explores found-sounds, lyrical metaphors and even Shakespearean sonnets. The song “Martha” is a collection of answering machine messages to Wainwright’s sister in which the artist expresses concern about his parents getting older. In an album full of personal loss, Wainwright’s piano remains his most consistent companion,.
In a turn for the literary, Wainwright puts three different Shakespearean sonnets to music in “When Most I Wink,” “A Woman’s Face,” and “Shame.” The tracks seamlessly blend into one another and create beautiful homogeny of fitting repetition. Sombreness is the main theme of the album. No grandeur or flashiness is present in the face the tragic circumstances that drive Wainwright’s lyricism.
Like grief itself, this album is unpredictable in how it may impact the wayward listener. Wainwright’s voice and hands complement each other through the tracks, creating a challenging emotional odyssey that is perpetually unaware of where it might end.