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Posts tagged “Review

Chocolatey Socrates & Other Hip-Hop Oddities

Random things:
Don’t give stupid, drunk people you don’t know psychedelics. Please. Lars and Trev are lucky bastards for not having to deal with that mess on ice. Still, party was pretty fun.

I went to the Hard Rock Cafe last night (pre-gaming for the party, I guess) and met with an old friend of my older brother, Duce Blunt. He’s Public Enemies bus driver.

Tequila and Tonics are only good when I make them.

There’s no reason to smoke a pack and a half of Newports in a night.

Blogworthy things:

Some of my favorite artists (Weezy, Cud & Kanye) all decided to drop new singles this week. Here’s the rundown:


What’s “Mines” is Yours (And You Can Keep it)

It’s been quite a while since I’ve thought about Menomena, and even longer (almost 2 years now) since I’ve actually listened to the experimental indie band. Friend and Foe was at the top of my playlist for pretty much all of the summer between my dramatic escape from high school, and the beginnings of my campaign to conquer the wilds of college life. To say the least ,I had some good times with that album. It was the Portland, Oregon band’s third official release (the two preceding full-lengths the band recorded and produced on their own, to relatively warm reviews)  and it continued strongly in the DIY vein. It was their most solid and entertaining effort so far and I remember enjoying it tremendously when I first heard it and for a while after.

Most things fade with time though, my interest in Menomena being one. Here it is the ass-end of July, 2010 and I’m just now getting to listen to Menomena’s fourth full-length, Mines, released on Barsuk records. Chances are you don’t remember when the last Menomena album came out. I couldn’t remember it for the life of me, so I had to look it up. January 23, 2007. Two thousand and fucking seven. That’s right; it’s been about three and a half years since Friend and Foe was officially released. I know you’re a busy guy, Danny Seim, but come on, three and a half years between releases is just a tad ridiculous, especially in this, the fast paced digital-age of music. I nearly forgot about you. The world did see two releases from Seim’s solo-project Lackthereof, (2008’s full-length Your Anchor, followed by the best of album, A Lackthereof Retrospective 1998-2008, or I was a Christian Emo Twentysomething, a year later) that is if anyone listened to either of these in the absence of any new Menomena material ( were you really that desperate?); I hadn’t even heard of Lackthereof until I sat down to write this review a few days ago… Staggering lapses in album releases aside though, let’s talk about Mines.

The album starts off rather promisingly as we’re greeted by the unique voice of a seemingly long lost “friend”, the voice that was a big part of the reason I started listening to Menomena in the first place. “Queen Black Acid” carries along for the first verse on a sparse drum beat and simple guitar riff, until the chorus breaks in and we see the drums picking up and are introduced to a pretty sweet piano line. The song takes on a kind of twisted alt-country feel here and I’m sold. I’m down with this song and eager to see what the rest of the album has in store. That’s a shame though.

After this quick (though none of the songs on this album can really be considered “quick”, the shortest one by far clocks in at 3:30) re-introduction to our “friend” that we haven’t seen for a while, we begin to realize that he’s not the crazy fun guy that we went to college with anymore (you’ve changed, man. What happened to you, you used to be cool?) but instead he’s settled down and probably has a family or something now. He’s boring and dull and I can’t really get myself to listen to what he’s saying about his 401k. This is a close approximation of my feelings toward this Menomena album. What was once rather original and disorienting (in the good, funhouse way) has given way to predictability and repetition. Songs like “TAOS” and “Tithe” meander along and tend to linger around about 2 minutes too long. Kind of like if that “friend” of ours started to tell us a story, got to the point of the story within the first few minutes of its telling and then continued on, detailing unnecessary and boring specifics. That’s what most of these songs do, I get where they’re going (it’s an ok place, doesn’t look much too different from Friend and Foe though) but I don’t really want to listen to a watered down version of an album that came out 3 and a half years ago. Where the odd arrangements were fun and kept me guessing on the last album, they don’t serve as much of a purpose on Mines, instead they just remind us that oddly placed horn/ guitar squeals and creepy lyrics are Menomena’s “thing”. I enjoyed them on tracks like “Wet and Rusting” and “Muscle’n Flo” but this time around, it’s just not enough. Really, what this album is lacking is some muscle; songs like “Dirty Cartoons” and “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Big Boy” are just straight up anemic.

One stand out track, and probably my favorite off of the album, is the second to last “Sleeping Beauty” which is probably the only song on the album that is improved by the drony build up, which yields a pretty cool electro-psych pop song that recalls elements of MGMT via Congratulations. Other than that though, the album falls pretty short for me. I don’t hate this album; it’s not terrible, it’s just that it is boring and maybe even a little uninspired. It is summer though, and this certainly is not a summer record. It had that going against it from the very beginning, so I do apologize for my biases, Menomena, but I really need something bouncier and sweat-inducing (Major Lazer ep, anyone?) for this last stretch of heat-stroke inducing days. Maybe I’ll come back to you when I start unpacking the sweaters and the leaves are falling.


Menomena- Queen Black Acid

Menomena- Sleeping Beauty

Rap’s changed, they wanna know how I feel about it…

…They say rap’s changed, they wanna know how I feel about it…

Dr. Dre’s line off “Still D.R.E” has impacted me more recently as I look at rap nowadays. It may be selective memory, but it seems that true “gangsta rap” has been lost in the modern rapper. In the 80’s and 90’s we had had true rhymes about the ‘hood and the terrors that come along with poverty, drug culture and general mistrust of authority (many times with very good reason), but lately with the mainstream explosion of hip-hop and, by association, rap, the really “gangsta” feel to rap has been lost. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, all genres of music evolve with the times. Rock music needed the power ballad era so that everyone could realize how awful power ballads are. Evolution shows that the genre isn’t stagnating, and as much as I love to bump Illmatic and Ready to Die, I’m glad there are rappers out there like Kid Cudi, Drake, and the much more unknown Childish Gambino.

Kid Cudi’s first non-mixtape album Man on the Moon was incredible. When I first heard it, I was amazed with what he was doing with his beats, rapping style and heartfelt lyrics. If you haven’t heard at least 3 songs from this album, you must not have listened to the radio or anything popular in the past year. His next full release will be (hopefully) September this year and I will without a doubt be picking that up.

Drake’s been a surprisingly positive artist for me ever since So Far Gone, which is sort of odd since I usually tend to stay away from mainstream artists like him. He recently released Thank Me Later to generally positive reviews. This album is an interesting mix of slow, bass driven jams like “Up All Night” and hype, quick-beat driven songs like “Over”. Despite this contrast, most of the beats are fairly sparse, bringing Drake’s lyrical prowess to the front of the album. Drake retains his recognizable voice and soft-spoken delivery for which I’m grateful. His rhymes can be a bit stale if you’ve listened to enough self-praising rappers like Wayne or many of the other rappers you can hear on the radio, but if you listen to enough variety, his style is entertaining. On Thank Me Later it’s abundantly clear that Drake’s fame has been noticed by others in the industry as the collaborations are heavy hitting. Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj (who I thought killed it on “Up All Night”), T.I, Swizz Beatz, and, of course Wayne (seriously, what wont this guy put his name on?). Overall I think Drake takes his successes from So Far Gone and continues the trend in an even more public fashion with his debut album. I admit some of the songs are in typical Drake fashion (in that they’re very slow sound like he’s kinda just talking at you), but that’s his style and he does it well with his sexy-ass voice. I would like to see a little more variety from his normal topics for songs (women, love and his own greatness) but if he keeps them true I won’t mind these semi-played out themes. Overall, I liked the album for what it was: a good Drake album. I sincerely hope he doesn’t completely sellout as I see him as the true crossover between hip-hop and rap.

Now for my up-and-coming favorite. Have you seen the youtube viral video “Bro Rape”? I’m assuming you have. Have you seen NBC’s “Community”? I reckon you’ve at least heard of it. I’m also pretty sure you’ve seen NBC’s “30 Rock”. But have you heard of Childish Gambino? Likely not. What do these all have in common? Donald Glover. The guy’s a genius. He wrote for “30 Rock”, starred in “Community”, starred in all of Derrick Comedy’s sketches and even in their feature-length film “Mystery Team” and through it all, just wanted to rap. Donald aka Childish Gambino (thanks to a Wu-tang Clan name generator) kills it with his debut album Culdesac. Of the 2010 releases, it’s my favorite. Donald is a far cry from rappers such as Biggie, Pac and Snoop, but his rhymes are intelligent, smooth, funny and, overall, heartfelt. From the first track on the album, “Difference”, you can tell that his heart’s in this project the whole way and it shows. The whole album is a perfect blend of quick-paced songs and slow raps with baller beats and samples throughout. Most of the tracks have tongue-in-cheek humor amplified by Glover’s amazing lyrical ability. He raps about his issues being an outcast through his life, his desire to be successful, and his inherent hipster attitude. It’s really hard to pick out specific tracks, but if I had to choose my favorites, I would have to say “Difference”, “I Got This Money”, “I’m Alright” and “The Last”. These are just the best of the best though. I can’t stress how much I like this album. Best thing: all his stuff is free, and all his mixtapes are pretty dope. I recommend downloading all his stuff and listening to it ASAP.


Over (Childish Gambino cover) from Donald Glover on Vimeo.

Up All Night – Drake

Fancy – Drake