Posts Tagged 'Atmosphere'

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 12

For the new music recommended in March, click here.

Hard to believe it, but this is the 1 year anniversary of the “What I’m Hearing” posts. Last April, I embarked on a mission to bring quality music, both mainstream and not, to readers looking to expand their musical vocabulary beyond the monosyllabic songs pumped ad nauseum from radio towers across the nation. As has been the trend, this month is no exception to the rule as I found a good number of fantastic new artists. As always, all of these artists can be found on iTunes for purchase. This month’s iPod update consisted of 63 songs spanning hip-hop, DIY and electronic. Enjoy!

Brother Ali, The Truth is Here: Originally introduced to the underground hip-hop scene by Slug of Atmosphere, Brother Ali has worked with producer Ant and had his albums released by hip-hop stalwart Rhymesayers. A converted Muslim and Caucasian albino, Ali frequently faced questions of his race early on due to voice, delivery and moniker. On The Truth is Here, his fourth studio album, Ali uses alternatively jazzy and bumping Ant produced beats to explore issues of race, social and economic divides and his adjustments to life in light of his growing success. While 9 full length tracks, this album is billed as an EP preceeding a full album release to come this fall. One thing is certain, the disc doesn’t listen like an EP. Thoughtful, introspective and lyrically deft lyrics keep the listener entertained while Ant’s production of top-notch songs outshines the cookie-cutter beats saturating mainstream hip-hop. Ali’s style varies from aggressive spitting on tracks like “Philistine David ” to laid back delivery on the album’s opener, “Real As Can Be.” Beyond all of this, Ali’s scope encompasses a variety of questions with universal significance. When he asks, “Can you tell me, what language do you laugh in?/The human reaction of smiles and cries/what language are the tears when they’re falling from your eyes?” it is not a question intended to divide in the style of Babel, but rather to point out the similarities we share as humans. An intelligent, varied and musical foray into hip-hop. Don’t Sleep On: “As Real As Can Be,” “The Believers” (feat. Slug) and “Good Lord.”

Filastine, Dirty Bomb: Formerly a member of ¡Tchkung! out of Seattle, Grey Filastine, upon the break-up of the group, has gone on to explore global sounds in experimental electronica. On his February release, Dirty Bomb, Filastine mashes glitch, hip-hop and industrial with sounds from Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including cameos from overseas musicians. The textures are dense and layered, sheets of sound that have no one city of origin, making this album a true global citizen. Hand drums, zithers and traditional chants find themselves side by side with throbbing bass lines and electric blips, all finding their places here in the hands of a producer adept at finding harmony between cross-cultural sounds. While some of the tracks can become repetitive, the majority are well fleshed out and driving. In “Singularities,” the beat is built up, deconstructed and then slammed back down in grimy fashion, an example of excellent production that runs throughout the album. Don’t Sleep On: “Singularities,” “Strategy of Tension,” and “Bitrate Sneers.”

Harmonic 313, When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence: Under the pseudonym Harmonic 313, producer Mark Pritchard has released an album of spacey and electronic music. Interesting about the tracks here is that they range greatly from straight ahead ambient electronica to tracks that sound like J Dilla beats blended with Kraftwerk’s Trans-Atlantic Express on acid. Using sonic pulses, computer blips and beeps and thick bass, Pritchard crafts an album that sounds almost entirely machine created, as if a hard drive rather than a human is behind the composition. Even vocals go hardwired on “Word Problems,” where a children’s spelling computer game serves as the spoken medium. Don’t Sleep On: “Call to Arms,” “Falling Away” (feat. Steve Spacek) and “Köln”

Peter Björn and John, Living Thing: Following a two year hiatus after 2005’s Writer’s Block, punctuated only by a digital only release limited to 5,000 US copies in 2006 (Seaside Rock), PB&J have returned with the March release of their 5th full length album. It has been a busy 4 years for the group as they climbed the ladder of musical notoriety through the ubiquitous hit “Young Folks.” They’ve gone on to be featured on hip-hop mixtapes and make all sorts of late night talk show rounds. While there are no comparable tracks on this album, it nonetheless provides more of the same feel. Tracks range from optimistic up-tempo to slow and melancholy utilizing various levels of production quality. The positive is that the success of “Young Folks” hasn’t spawned an album of copycats. These are original and show the trio expanding their sound, bringing in slightly more electronic drum programming at points. The album’s clear winner, “Nothing to Worry About,” is an about-face from “Young Folks,” female vocalist replaced with a chorus of distorted children at full volume and a funky bass line complimented by drums echoing off the inside walls of the song. A solid outing without going stale. Don’t Sleep On: “Nothing to Worry About,” “Just the Past,” and “It Don’t Move Me.”

Röyksopp, Junior: Big since their debut album in 2001, the fittingly titled Junior is only the 3rd release from Röyksopp in 8 years. And, given the shift in style between Melody A.M. and The Understanding, what happened next was of a great deal of interest. Turns out, the duo has managed to find a middle ground between the two, with various tracks exemplifying the more mellow and sugary aspects of Melody (“Happy Up Here”) and the more polished and electro-heavy Understanding (“Röyksopp Forever.”) The album retains the precision and vision of the duo’s work, bringing in female vocalists, chill melodies at times and electric tweaks that made “Eple” so popular. Don’t Sleep On: “Happy Up Here,” “Vision One,” and “Silver Cruiser.”

The tUnE-YaRds, Bird Brains: DIY. A term that, in an age of bloggers, home studios, and rising costs in all sectors has come to be a badge of honor and distinction. But there’s DIY music, and then there’s the unreal, experimental and phenomenal Bird Brains from The Tune-Yards (capitalization varies depending on site), aka Merrill Garbus. If what I’ve heard is true, Garbus crafted this entire album using small recorders and computer programs available through shareware. The result is a gritty, honest and surprising album that takes lo-fi to a new level. With a distinct and quirky voice, Garbus backs herself with drums and percussion sounds like something being slammed against a hard surface, ukulele and an entire arsenal of found sounds like kids playing in a park, birds chirping outside a window and conversations with a child. At times, the recording equipment’s range is tested as you can hear it clip, but this only adds to the allure of the tracks. Take Björk, mix her with Seu Jorge’s acoustic live recordings for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and then juice the entire blend with a sense of creativity large enough to view the world around it as an instrument and you have the Tune-Yards. Nothing is out of bounds here. Spoons on glasses, discussions of blueberries, and steps on wooden stairs are just some of the interesting sounds turned music. One can only hope that follow up efforts will be equally beautiful in their range and direction. Don’t Sleep On: “For You,” “News,” and “Little Tiger.”

So that’s it for April. Chubb Rock and Wordsmith, new Del the Funky Homosapien and a ton of other new music is coming in May, so stay tuned, and keep your listening intelligent.

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What I’m Hearing, Vol. 11

For February’s music update, click here.

March has brought me some fantastic new cuts, and several blasts from the past that I hadn’t heard before, making them new to me. I will say that I downloaded The Jackson’s “Blame it On the Boogie” which is simply sublime. But through 56 new songs, including an album that won’t be released until next month, March was good for music. I’m almost sad to see it end, until I remember that once it does, I get to start all over again with April…

Dessa, False Hopes: Released in 2005, False Hopes is a 5 song EP from Dessa (@dessadarling) of Doomtree. Why write about a 2005 release as “new music?” Well, have you given this EP a listen yet? While short in length, this EP is huge on style and poignant, introspective lyrics against musically gripping backdrops. “551” looks at an addictive and damaging relationship over a dark beat laced with piano. Throughout the album, Dessa mixes her vocal talent with her rapping and slam poetry background to great effect. “Mineshaft” utilizes an urgent string backing and heavy drum beat to accentuate the sense of loss in the song. Many of the lyrics focus on a central theme of personal loss (“The list of things I used to be is longer than the list of things I am,” “I lost an octave to the Camel Lights”) and they’re delivered with such intensity that her personal experiences become visceral for the listener. “Kites” delivers an eerie underwater feeling that brings to mind the melancholy feeling I first heard on listening to Atmosphere’s “God’s Bathroom Floor.” Through just 5 solo songs and her contributions to Doomtree, Dessa rivals P.O.S. in her passion and creativity on this album, and one can only hope that her poetry, lyrics and music gain the public recognition that they deserve. Don’t Sleep On: “Mineshaft,” “551,” “Kites.”

Kero One, Early Believers: This man does it all out of his self-run label, Plug, in the Bay Area. DIY in every sense of the word, Kero One plays his own instruments, makes his own beats, writes his own lyrics, produces and mixes his own songs and then created a label to self-distribute. For the full review of his sophomore release, Early Believers, set to drop April 7th, click here. Don’t Sleep On: “This Life Ain’t Mine,” “Welcome to the Bay,” and “On and On.”

N.A.S.A., The Spirit of Apollo: The idea behind this collaboration album is bringing North American hip-hop together with South American beats and influences to create a cultural mash-up album with global appeal. And for the most part, the odd pairings of guest artists along with the sample heavy and culturally defiant music does the trick. As hip-hop laced with world music continues to gain traction on radio airwaves and popularity among listeners, it comes as no surprise that artists with a broad fan base such as Kanye West, Tom Waits and George Clinton were willing to contribute. Other international artists got in on the act too, with Santogold, Lykke Li and Seu Jorge joining the fray.

If there’s one drawback to this album, it’s that some of the songs come off as too packaged, relying more on the featured names than on the music itself. “Spacious Thoughts” featuring Tom Waits and Kool Keith is interesting, but forces too much of a juxtaposition between the rapper and the singer, leaving the transition from verse to chorus feeling fractured. If you’re into heavy, crunchy dance tracks, “Whachadoin?” feat. Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santogold and Nick Zinner is dense with bass and electronic flourishes, but a bit repetitive. Of course, where the songs are on, they’re on. DJ Qbert and Del tha Funkee Homosapien rip “Samba Soul,” the beat perfectly capturing Del’s sense of pace and timing, and “Gifted,” the track with Kanye, Lykke Li and Santogold has almost instant club appeal with grimy effects offset by a starry and airy video game tone sequence in the background. For the most part, N.A.S.A. plays like a who’s who of guest stars where the sum total of the music falls short of the artists involved, but on a handful of songs, the desire for North to meet South in interesting ways comes through. Don’t Sleep On: “Samba Soul” featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and DJ Qbert, “Money” featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge and Z-Trip, and “Gifted” featuring Kanye West, Lykke Li and Santogold.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: After a 2007 EP release, PoBP@H released this debut self-titled effort in February on Slumberland records. The initial offering finds the group exploring the various genres of Indie Rock, Shoegaze and Sugar Punk and the spaces between them. The band utilizes a variety of sounds to evoke different moods, not shying away from using both electric and acoustic guitars depending on the song, and descending into lo-fi static where necessary. The lyrics seem less important to the songs than the contribution the singing melody lends the tunes and the drums remain consistent throughout to lend the backbone to a group that alternates between sulking and exulting. In some places, 80’s influences sneak through, “The Tenure Itch” being a song that could have easily made the Donnie Darko soundtrack. But whether they’re soft or hard, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart remain effusive in their energy, bringing a sense of urgency and drive to every song that keeps the album moving. Don’t Sleep On: “Stay Alive,” “This Love is F*****g Right!” and “A Teenager in Love.”

Indiefeed Hip-Hop: Dirt E. Dutch from Indiefeed (@dutchman) brought out some more stellar cuts this month, but one of my favorite, Dutch’s “Welcome to the World Kayla Vivien!” is a smooth and mellow instrumental affair to celebrate the birth of his daughter that was actually put out in February. Finale’s Black Milk remixed track “One Man Show” moves with low-end bass touches and high-end electronic agility while B Real’s “Don’t You Dare Laugh” uses an interesting interpolation of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” All in all, a positive showing this month.

The next few months are looking solid for new music releases, so keep it tuned.

Doomtree Interview

Doomtree

Doomtree

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Doomtree, they bring a variety of MCs and DJs to the table in what has become a comfortable and exciting collaboration of individuals exploring how to produce and expand new hip-hop while pulling from other musical genres and multiple rapping styles. Doomtree demonstrates the potential that is created when numerous artists, most from seemingly disparate backgrounds, get together to create something new and different. Last week I had the opportunity to chat with P.O.S. and Mike Mictlan of Doomtree about their style, the idea behind the group, and of course politics. Enjoy.

AC: Hey, this is POS and Mike on the line?
POS: Yea.
MM: This is Mike.
AC: How you guys doing? Where you at today?
POS: Minneapolis, 32nd right off of Hennepin
MM: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Park and Franklin.

AC: What’s the general hip-hop scene like in Minnesota? People are starting to hear the name Doomtree and before that Atmosphere was real big. What are some other artists?
POS: For the most part, as far as hip-hop, it’s very diverse and large scene aside from Atmosphere and Doomtree, we’ve got Brother Ali, Self Divine, Kill the Vultures on some avant hip-hop, it can go on and on. It’s one of those cities that no matter where you’re at, any night of the week you can find a hip-hop show, and chances are three out of four will be decent. What do you think Mike?
MM: I could go on and on with that list. I’ve got a lot of favorite rappers out here, the scene is very thick in terms of hip-hop and music in general. Not only can you find hip-hop three nights a week, but you can find a lot of genres.
POS: Any number of punk rock, metal, hardcore, indie rock, pop, anything you’re looking for.

AC: You guys are obviously MCs, but there’s a lot of other musical genres and tastes that you bring into it. Talk a bit about your influences and what kind of musical backgrounds you both have.
MM: I’ve chosen rap my designated favorite style of music since I was 4 years old. Aside from rapping on an independent rap label, I’m a connoisseur of gangsta rap and various other hip-hop genres. In terms of doing actual music, right now I just rap my ass off.
POS: As far as me, I came up more interested in punk and hardcore from a very young age, as soon as I heard it, that’s what grabbed my attention because of the energy of it. And then as I grew up I got more into the experimental areas of that stuff, like the Fugazis, as well as underground hip-hop, all the old Rhymesayers stuff. I currently make hip-hop and play guitar and sing in a hardcore band, not really hardcore anymore, but it’s something off the wall called Building Better Bombs, it’s like a dancey, hardcore screamy mess.
AC: What kind of things do you do in order to get ready for these very different shows? Between your more punk and hardcore shows, and then coming in to do a hip-hop show with Doomtree, do you use different methods of preparation?
POS: Not at all. It’s all the same to me. It’s different songs and setting, and hip-hop shows tend to have more people at them, but I’ve been making music since I was real young, and it’s always been about getting a chance to go out and perform it and have a good time, it’s one of my favorite things to do. Preparation is about the same for both, it’s just wait until you get to go do it, and then go do it.

AC: In terms of the group Doomtree, where did the name come from and how did you guys form up?
MM: I don’t think any of us really know where it came from.
POS: It was some non-sensical banter. Sometimes you get something stuck in your head and say it, and then when we were tossing around names for an early stage of it, it was just a production crew called Doomtree. Then that blossomed as we started playing more rap shows. How it came together was me, MK Larada, Bobby Gorgeous and Cecil Otter started doing some shows that I had booked, solo shows. Cecil would come out and do my back ups. He had songs, but he was nervous, but then as he got less nervous we started splitting the sets in half. Sam was somebody we went to high school with, Mike we met in high school, and from there it snowballed into a nice solid crew that we all felt good around.
MM: I met Stef (P.O.S.) when I was in high school, we’ve been wanting to rap together ever since…Doomtree’s a monster.

AC: Obviously we have you two on the line, but you’ve just dropped a lot of names for a lot of people in Doomtree, so for the people who don’t know the crew out there, why don’t you talk a little bit about what the other members bring to the table in terms of their styles and musical input, and how do they form the rest of the group?
MM: Well we’re talking about 9 people altogether.
POS: I don’t want to step on you Mike, but I just thought of a solid answer. It’s essentially 5 solo MCs, myself, Mike, Sims, Dessa, Cecil Otter and Turbo Nemesis is a DJ, Paper Tiger is a DJ and producer, MK Larada is a producer, Lazerbeak is a mega super producer. We essentially make solo songs, each bring our own style, I don’t want to go into everyone’s style, but everyone brings their own favorite elements of music into it and then we pile it on. Mike’s from LA, we all have our own sound, our own individual styles, and when we write songs together we try to balance everything out to make sure everyone gets the proper shine, everyone gets the proper words in to round out the song as well as flex their own personal style, from solid pattern rapping to as poetic as people want to write.

AC: It sounds like you have a great collaboration and you just released your first album. Talk about the tracks on this album and what the listeners can expect to hear.
MM: This album is a long time coming. There isn’t really any filler. We just had a lot of straightforward rap. When I listen to it, I may be biased, it doesn’t sound like everything else, but it fits right in. It doesn’t sound like the new, it doesn’t sound like the old, but it fits somewhere in there, at least to me when I step outside it as a listenter. We all have a solo track on there, and the other 18 songs are all of us together with different styles. I think a lot of it is straightforward.
POS: I think straightforward to us is a little different. I definitely agree with Mike that we don’t sound like new, we don’t sound like old, but we mix right in. We all bring elements of what you expect to hear from hip-hop, but we all also bring out own little flair. I think that’s an accident, being in the Midwest, and kinda being outsiders in the Minneapolis hip-hop scene for a really long time, we ended up playing a lot of shows with a lot of bands, a lot of rock bands, catering to different crowds than rap crowds until we could actually get outselves put on, so I think over the years our style just kinda developed in that way. It’s not like excessively rock music by any means, but the rules are cast aside in terms of how it’s supposed to go, the roots are in raw pattern hip-hop, and trying to be the best possible rappers we can be without having to talk about rap all the time. If people haven’t heard any of us before and they pick up the Doomtree record, they could and they should expect to hear quality hip-hop production, quality raps varied over 5 entirely different sounding MCs with 5 entirely different styles, but it’s all stuff that you’re used to if you’re a fan of rap. If you’re not a fan of rap, the beats can get aggressive or melodic enough to where you’re in, just one of those things where we don’t put on any kind of face for anybody, we just go do it.
MM: And that’s exactly what I meant by straight up.

AC: How would you view the traditional music industry with major labels and CD distribution, and where it’s intersecting now and clashing in some cases with the mp3 and download industry.
POS: That’s something we kept in mind when we went into this record coming out. A lot of these songs were done and started being written 2 years ago, and then the others are brand new, mega fresh. But a lot of that came from trying to find the right people to help us with the right deal and right situation. We ended up talking to some smaller majors, some moderately bigger majors and some indies and we ultimately wanted it by ourselves and looked into who we could talk to to help us do that. We ended up going alone because we didn’t want to give up our digital rights, and people are offering these ancient deals that just don’t make sense anymore. It’s the kind of thing where the artist has more control over the product than ever in the history of music. That’s a double-edged sword because there’s tried and true ways of getting it done out there and getting paid for it, and then there’s this whole experimental new world that we’re kinda just launching ourselves into. So I don’t really know how the music business is supposed to go, but when people say that they can’t do it the way that we want to, we just say sorry we’re going to go do it this way now.

AC: In terms of not giving up your digital rights, you look at Radiohead and NIN who recently had very well publicized free releases and downloads of albums. Do you think it’s beneficial to give parts of your songs to fans in remix contest format? Do you agree with putting your music out there to let the fans interact with your music?
MM: I’m totally into that. Two people I know, their next project is acapellas and instrumentals for free downloads on their Myspace. What it’s really all about is getting your music out there. Especially with CD sales, all that we have left is touring, playing shows and selling merchandise if we’re ever going to make money. So in my eyes, I see using your CDs and music as a tool to get people to your shows and stay current to what you’re making. With the digital insurgence, if you will, we’re definitely at a point where we need to put as much music out as possible, so if that makes people remix it and get it out even more, that’s where it’s at.
AC: That’s demonstrated by the fact that before I heard about you through your PR company, I checked the “Dots and Dashes” track off Indiefeed Hip-Hop. What kind of touring are you doing and where can people look out for you coming up?
MM: After we put the crew record out on July 29th, one of the big reasons we didn’t go with any of the labels is that we wanted a very rigorous release schedule. With the finishing of our crew record, we had almost everybody finishing solo projects. On the 26th of August we had Cecil Otter drop his solo record. Me and Lazerbeak are putting out a collaboration out at the end of this month, September 23rd, and then we hope to have something coming from our camp at least every month until the summer. We just got off a tour with the Flobots, and I believe we’ll probably be going out with POS for his solo record coming out.

AC: You’re up in Minnesota right now and the Republican National Convention is taking place. What’s the atmosphere up there like, and where does Doomtree stand, if anywhere, politically?
MM: We’re all pretty incredibly liberal people.
POS: We’re on the left, like in the corner, talking to ourselves. The atmosphere out here is crazy. We’re in Minneapolis the conventions in St. Paul, but you can still see like 6 police helicopters flying over Minneapolis two days before.
MM
: I’ve seen unmarked vans with the doors open with guys in SWAT gear just waiting to pull up, I thought it was a drive by.
POS: Today was the first day of the convention and there was a cop car that got destroyed and a bunch of people got maced. There’s 72 hour holding cells for people if you don’t have a permit to demonstrate. Seems like a total headache nightmare…I’ll probably head down there tomorrow.
MM: There was a raid the night before last. Like 150 people got arrested.
POS: They weren’t arrested…they just busted into peoples’ houses got information and left. It’s bad news bears, but it’s to be expected, it’s the Republican National Convention. They definitely took down anything that isn’t bolted down. They were knocking down stuff 6 miles out from where the convention is, taking down lightposts just in case.

AC: That’s all the questions I’ve got for you guys today. Do you two want to plug anything, talk about any albums coming out, go for it.
POS: I just want to pump Doomtree.net and myspace.com/doomtree. People can go there and figure out whatever’s going on without having to think, they can just go there and look.
AC: I certainly appreciate you taking the time to talking to us at Evolving Music today.
MM: I appreciate you having us.
POS: Thanks man.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 2

Alright, it’s time for the May update and the second installment of What I’m Hearing. For those that missed last month, this will be a monthly post centered around the new music I’ve put on my iPod. The May update, for those interested in numbers and stats, contains 135 new songs, and they are excellent! Here’s what I’m hearing now…

Atmosphere, When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold: After two releases viewed largely as disappointing in musical content, Atmosphere has returned with an excellent set of hip-hop that finds the duo of Ant and Slug returning to the stylistic methods that created their success originally. The beats on this album are tight, with many melancholy tracks for Slug’s introspective and multi-tiered delivery to lilt over. Ant produces an album that ranges from sad slow hip-hop to upbeat party movers, with songs based in undulating bass rhythms as well as melodic piano rifts. Slug, rapping about various people’s personal perspective on life, finds new inspiration for his rhymes by rapping from both a first person and omniscient angle and creating rhymes that could be interpreted multiple ways. Don’t Sleep On: “Yesterday,” “Me,” and “Your Glass House.”

Blue Scholars, The Long March EP: While I have been talking consistently about their self-titled debut and sophomore release Bayani, I just discovered this EP full of previously unreleased tracks. They continue the smooth music and laid back lyricism of the two studio albums and deliver a number of excellent tracks. This may be an EP, but it listens like a full effort album. Don’t Sleep On: “Sagaba (Remix),” “La Botella,” and “27” (technically off the Butter and Gun$ release)

Chicha Libre, Sonido Amazonico: When you pick up this album for the first time, your initial thought is that you’re listening to some 70s music out of South America. The style hails from Peru and in its heyday was an amalgamation of pop, reggae and Latin music. Here, this North American band has picked up the style, dusted it off and infused it with a natural and unforced feeling that also includes some surf music vibes among others. The instrumentation is exquisite, with hand drums and an organ being used to great effect throughout the album. This music is perfect for summer weather and boat trips. Dig it. Don’t Sleep On: “La Cumbia del Zapatero,” “Sonido Amazonico,” and “Popcorn Andino.” Here’s a quote from the group’s website…”CHICHA is the name of a corn-based liquor favored by the Incas in pre-colombian days. Chicha is also the name of a South American music craze which started out in the late 70’s in the Peruvian Amazon. Cumbias amazonicas, as they were first called, were loosely inspired by Colombian accordion-driven cumbias but soon incorporated the distinctive sounds of Andean melodies, some Cuban son, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers. The group draws its personnel from barbes regulars Bebe Eiffel, One Ring Zero and Las Rubias del norte.”

Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs: The indie scene has been good to Death Cab, and the release of their new album, written in California, exemplifies the standard sounds we’ve come to expect from the group while also integrating a few new ones. Light piano and guitar, easy melodies and Gibbard’s heartfelt and sometimes falsetto voice form the basis of the album, but the band branches out here with a few more intense segments, heavy drums and wall of sound concepts. Death Cab remains their strongest on the shorter melancholy songs and the ones where the music is just enough to keep Gibbard from sounding miserable, but their radio single of this one, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” is a bit self-indulgent in its 8 minute running time and the long intro seems to go almost nowhere for minutes. “Your New Twin Sized Bed” demonstrates the group’s ability to turn a very sad song into an enjoyable tune. All in all though, another solid installment from the group. Don’t Sleep On: “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” “Your New Twin Sized Bed,” and “Grapevine Fires.”

Immortal Technique, The 3rd World: I can’t say much more about the 3 full tracks and 4 clips I’ve heard in from this album other than what I said late last week in this post. What I will say is that these three tracks (“Reverse Pimpology,” “The 3rd World,” and “The Payback) are all stellar, showcasing familiar Tech topics over a very different set of beats that forces him to find diversity in his delivery. He succeeds and makes June 24th’s release date seem just too far off.

Nine Inch Nails, The Slip: Reznor’s come a long way since Pretty Hate Machine, and the journey has allowed us to watch an angst-ridden young artist develop a genre, spawn numerous imitators, become an incredible global success and then use that success to work independently against the record industry that gave him his start. While Reznor’s success has changed the way the music is approached and distributed, it hasn’t changed what is an obvious hunger within to continue to create. The Slip is the album follow up to the esoteric and instrumental Ghosts I-IV released a few weeks ago, and finds Reznor returning to songs with lyrics and savage musical intensity that were missing on the largely landscape tracks of Ghosts. While I personally feel that the honesty, intensity and pure force of will in albums like Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral will no longer be matched, Reznor doesn’t try to duplicate the formula or make apologies here. The songs are a logical progression of his growth as a musician, and still deliver some satisfying NIN. Distortion, a combination of live and machine drums and heavy guitar saturate this album. Don’t Sleep On: “Lights in the Sky,” “Echoplex,” and “Demon Seed”

Portishead, Third: Following over a decade without a new studio album, Portishead’s Third was widely anticipated, and it was largely feared that they may have remained in limbo for those 11 years, coming back with a 90’s-esque trip-hop sound that would be dated and sedated. So it came as a surprise when the new album came out and, while retaining the haunting vocals of Beth Gibbons, sounded almost nothing like its predecessors. And that’s a very good thing. Here, the trio explores new ground, venturing into the electronic and glitch landscapes that were just starting to exist at the beginning of their hibernation. Don’t Sleep On: “Silence,” “Machine Gun,” and “The Rip”

Seu Jorge, Carolina and The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions: Singer? Sure. Soundtrack writer? Absolutely. Movie star? You bet. Brazilian Seu Jorge does it all, and he does it with flair. You can’t get more MixMatch than that! He appeared as crew member Pelé in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, as well as playing Knockout Ned in the amazing slum epic City of God. Not only acting in Life Aquatic, Jorge also provided a bulk of the soundtrack when he tackled David Bowie covers in Portugese on his guitar. Here we have two very different albums from the man. The first is a rollicking expression of Brazilian samba pop music that occasionally infuses hints of reggae and soul, and the second is a studio version of songs that were originally packaged directly from the film (and most often in outdoor spaces). While the tracks from the movie are spectacular because they really make you feel like Jorge is on a boat next to you playing them, the sound quality could be better. Here, they get the full studio treatment and come out sounding polished. Jorge’s music is fun, light-hearted and extremely listenable. Don’t Sleep On: “Starman,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Hagua”

Various Singles: These songs didn’t get their full albums downloaded, but they’re sweet singles. Check out “Mathematics,” and “Letters From the Ambulance” by The Fashion, “In a Cave” and “Your English Is Good” by Tokyo Police Club, and the studio version of “Business Time” off of Flight of the Conchords‘ freshman release.


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