Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Week 2 Music

This week is a hip hop, electronica, trip-hop, turntabilism mix. I also placed a small sampling from my most recent review, RJD2's The Colossus, at the end of the mix. Hope you all enjoy it.

PS: Looking for new music everyday? Check out a fellow blogger's site here at:

He puts up a new song everyday from artists that you probably haven't heard of, it's definitely worth checking out.

Keep Rocking.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Colossus - RJD2

Overall: 25/40

Sound: 7
Creativity: 6.5
Lyrics: 5.5
Approachability: 6

Alfred Pennyworth: "Why do we fall sir? So we can learn to get back up." Alfred may have been talking to Bruce Wayne but the words ring true for the career of 33 year old RJD2. It has been three years since RJD2 released his controversial album The Third Hand. Reviewers and fans were appalled by the albums deviation from RJD2's roots, and fire reigned down on the artist when he made offhand jokes in which he said he would be "hip hop free in 2006" and that his previous work was "moron music". When I read the reviews and listened to The Third Hand I was shocked by what RJD2 had done. The beatsmith who was such a prominent name in the turntabilism genre, had gone pop. This was the LAST thing that I expected would happen to the artist that produced Deadringer. So when The Colossus was released on January, 19th of 2010 I was wary of listening to it, was this going to be The Third Hand or did the critics get to RJD2 and influence him produce to an album more akin to his 2002 debut album Deadringer? Before writing this review I went back and listened to the three previous album's and have come to the conclusion that RJD2's new album falls in between Deadringer and The Third Hand with a sound similar to his 2004 release of Since We Last Spoke. The Colossus is RJD2's first release under his own label, RJ's Electrical Connections and it sounds like the artist wants to regain the fans that felt alienated from The Third Hand. RJD2 fell from the good graces with The Third Hand but The Colossus is a return to the music that made RJD2, RJD2.

After listening to this album the first time I came up with a much better name than The Colossus, if I had my way this album would be called Who is RJD2? Throughout the album RJD2 struggles with the dissonance that comes with being a beat-smith who wants to be a rockstar. The album begins with Let There Be Horns which is dominated by a (you guessed it) powerful horn section. The horns are aided by a synth that makes an appearance with a psychedelic melody, the bongos provide a popping beat, and a string breakdown in the middle of the song make this song classic RJD2. RJD2 is incredibly talented, rather than just sampling other artists he plays his own music and mixes it, which is a lost talent in the turntabilism genre. Songs like Let There be Horns highlight his talent as a musician and a DJ.

...And just as the applause at the conclusion of Let There be Horns fades into memory and the listener has really geared themselves up for a true sequel to Deadringer a light xylophone sequence leads us into Games You Can Win. The song isn't terrible by any means, but its unmemorable and uninspired. The entire song plays it safe, from the simple (yet catchy) double bass hit to snare combo that makes up the majority of the drum beat for the track, soft xylophone melody, minimalist synth and even the pitch of RJD2 and Kenna's voices on the album keep it safe. It's hard to expect more with award winning lyrics such as:

"Keep your mouth shut 'til you get 'em in,
And only play the games you can win
Play your hand close,
Like you had a glass chin
Now let's begin"

RJD2 is known for his instrumental prowess, not songwriting/singing. By another artists standard the music on this track might have been more impressive, but RJD2 has set a high bar for himself and did not pass it with this track.

I imagine that when he decided the track order for this album release RJD2 was trying to get the listener to picture themselves on a giant pendulum of his career. As Games You can Win finishes RJD2 swings right back to his instrumental roots and gives us Giant Squid. Another all instrumental that has too many instruments to try and list but this song is a sigh of relief to fans that wondered "can he still do it". A powerful distorted bass takes front stage for a while, followed up with some jazz guitar and piano. Giant Squid is a hip hop/electronica song that truly holds its own.

Salud 2 is a direct response to Salud on Deadringer except this time RJD2 says he has someother people working with him and interestingly enough he states that "Some of it just makes me want to bang my head against the wall". In light of the not so recent comments by RJD2 (Addressed Here) this 50 second track can mean a lot to different fans.

A Son's Cycle is the only hip hop song on the album with lyrics on the album. A faint trace of the hip hop beats that RJD2 used to produce with underground hip hop artists. The Stranger is just that, strange. The closing song, Walk With Me is one of the strangest songs on the album. The song is pop rock. The song sounds more like it belongs on Panic at the Disco's album Pretty Odd.

Here is a quick break down of the album by style.

Old-school RJD2:
Let There Be Horns
Giant Squid
Salud 2 (iffy)
A Spaceship for Now
Tin Flower
Small Plans

In the middle:
A Son's Cycle
The Stranger

New RJD2
Games You Can Win
The Glow
The Shining Path
Crumbs Off
Gypsy Caravan
Walk With Me

Favorite Track: Small Plans

The Quick and Dirty: 25/40 Remind me again "Who is RJD2?" this album has a conflicting goals, but its great to see that RJD2 is returning to music that appeals to his original fan base. He is growing as an artist and exploring different styles of music, a trait I respect and admire. This album has a lot going on (probably why he chose the name The Colossus) at time The Colossus sounds like a sampler package for RJD2's fledgling record label, at other times it sounds like a return to his roots. The differences between The Third Hand and The Colossus show that RJD2 doesn't want to be another beatsmith, he wants to write songs and sing. Fans of Deadringer are just going to have to deal.

Next Review: One Life Stand - Hot Chip

Keep Rocking.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Week 1 Music

Something New

Hello Readers, I have some additions I want to make to the site, so that I post a bit more and so that you all can get even more music. Let me preface this by saying, I got a new toy. This weekend I lost my phone (it sucked I loved that phone) but it gave me the opportunity to buy something new, which was pretty exciting. I had the t-mobile g1 and when I was buying a new phone I wanted something that could do all the things my old phone did but was also new and shiny. So I bought the Motorola Cliq, pictured here:

The phone is alright, it does pretty much everything my g1 did and its made me even more "connected" to social media sites than I ever thought possible (I don't know if that is really a good thing). But the one big improvement it has on my old phone is that the Motorola Cliq sports a 3.5mm headphone input (that is the regular headphone input so I don't have to buy any adapters). This has opened up even more possibilities for me to listen to music on the go which has been fantastic. The phone only sports a 2gb memory card so I am not going to be putting much music on it to review but I have been using the Pandora application to find even more music based on the music I like. Which got me to thinking about this blog, and my handful of readers.

Because of how awesome the internet is finding music has become infinitely easier as long as you're looking for it, so what I am going to do is every week most likely on Tuesday or Wednesday I am going to make a new post. A "weekly tunes" list. The website Grooveshark hosts a ton of music legally and allows me to make and share playlists so each week I will try to put out a playlist that highlights some of the music I have been listening to that week. I am not going to give rankings to these posts, but it is just another way to share what I am listening to with you all more frequently. I am going to post one of these lists shortly so you all can see the format I intend to use. That list will be comprised of all my favorite tracks from the past reviews (with a bonus from the upcoming RJD2 review) and just a couple of songs I found recently on Pandora.

PS: I am seriously considering new headphones. They are the last thing I need but the Koss Porta Pro's, despite how dorky they look, are supposed to have an amazing sound. If you're looking for a new set of headphones I ca'nt personally endorse them yet, but they are only 30 dollars on Amazon and make the lists of best headphones frequently. They are pictured here:

You can see them here on CNET's best 5 headphones:
CNET Best 5 Headphones

If the review really made you want to get a set of these, here is a link to the Amazon site:
Koss Porta Pro Headphones

If you feel the urge to buy me a set, just go with it.

I've listened to RJD2's new album The Colossus a number of times now, done some analysis and the review is just waiting to be written so keep on checking back it should be up by the end of the week.

Keep Rocking.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rebirth - Lil Wayne

Overall: 17/40

Sound: 3
Creativity: 6
Approachability: 4

After the success of Tha Carter III in 2008, Lil Wayne has had a plethora of opportunities thrown his way. In 2009 he released We Are Young Money, No Ceilings, was featured on over 56 different songs, appeared in 13 videos, oh and pleaded guilty on a weapons charge (penalized by a year in prison, ouch). Somewhere amidst the hustle and bustle of a 27 year old rap mogul he found time to record, and in February of 2010, Lil Wayne released his seventh studio album Rebirth. The album is a diversion from the Wayne's six hip-hop albums, and is the artists first attempt at making a "rock" album. 

Every once in a while an artist wants to redefine themselves. Justin Timberlake did it by going solo, Beyonce left Destiny's Child, Prince made his name a symbol, The Beatles put out Rubber Soul. Some artists redefine themselves and their music and wind up stretching the boundaries of their genre. I'd like to believe this was what Lil Wayne attempted to do when the developing the concept behind Rebirth. I respect that he gave it a shot, rock is a really popular genre and would really expand his fanbase. He is one of the most influential and sought after artists in hip-hop, and has been a leading man in the growth of southern hip hop. With a net-worth of around 75 million dollars, lets suffice it to say he's done well in the rap game. When you have that kind of money to fall back on, it's hard to think that you can fail, as Wayne says in Runnin - "if i fall, I fall up and let the clouds hug me/ And if I fall down, I bet I hit the ground runnin'". Well Weezy, you fell down, started running and then fell flat on your face. This album is not good and its not the 75 million dollar Lil Wayne that put out Tha Carter III. 

The first song on the album American Star highlights this as a rock "themed" album, but Wayne's idea of rock is a grunge 90's guitar chord progession and a few generic distorted guitar solos. Lyrically this isn't the witty, clever, often times crude lyrical content that Wayne is known for, instead we get lines like "Born in raised in the USA where the government's watching, what you do and say" or "My ancestors were slaves in the USA but not today, its alright". Where're you going with this Weezy? It's not that lovable inspired cocky lyrical content that has made him famous. 

Prom Queen, the second track on the album, was Rebirth's first single and peaked at 15 on the Billboard chart. Listening to the song its easy to understand why the album dropped from the Billboard top 100 like a rock. This song is the antithesis to everything that has ever been Lil Wayne. It is a whiny teenage angst song and these lyrics don't coincide with the image that Wayne has built up for himself. Take a look:

"But see, she had other plans I couldn't understand
Her and her stupid friends, varsity's biggest fans
Never'll forget the day she laughed and walked away
And I couldn't stop her, I guess she had it all

She had it all figured out
But she left me with a broken heart
Fucked around and turned me down
'Cause she didn't think I could play the part"

I'll admit it, I went through a pop-emo phase, and from time to time I'll pop in Take This to Your Grave and sing my lungs out to Grand Theft Autumn. When setting out to change genres Lil Wayne sought out the masters of teen pop-rock and preteen angst, Fall Out Boy. The collaboration with the king pins of melodramatic music is exemplified on tracks like Prom Queen and Paradice. Other songs such as Da Da Da and Get a Life sound like Black Eyed Peas rejects. At one point amongst the auto-tuned and distorted lyrics in Da Da Da, Wayne proclaims "I know you want me, that funky monkey". Really Weezy? Really?

Starting with On Fire there is a rebirth within Rebirth. The four songs (this is a 14 track album, 16 tracks on the deluxe version), On Fire, Drop the World, Runnin' and One Way Trip are shadows of what the listener has come to expect from Lil Wayne. Drop The World heavily features Eminem and is more of a hip-hop track as opposed to Lil Wayne's interpretation of rock. This makes the song work more than a lot of the other tracks on the album, but is doomed to be lost amongst the litany of bad tracks on this album. Runnin', which features Shannell, sounds like Evanescence feat Lil Wayne. Take that as you will. One Way Trip is a stark reminder that Lil Wayne messed up this album, after you reach this little nugget of songs and begin to think that maybe this album doesn't deserve all the criticism it has been getting Lil Wayne exclaims out "T. Barker is my mother fucking drummer, Lets go" bringing you back to the reality that he stepped out of his comfort zone, and fell down. The song could work if it weren't for the pre-chorus/chorus of "I'm falling down the landslide/ on a one way trip to you" which features the power chord progressions that are the hallmark of Rebirth. 

It's fitting that Knockout comes right after One Way Trip, Knockout sounds like Blink 182 gone wrong. I have nothing to say about The Price is Wrong. It's terrible. 

This album is approachable if you think Lil Wayne can do no wrong. If the juxtaposition of uninspired hip-hop  and terrible rock music is your cup of tea, rush out to Best Buy and purchase a copy of Rebirth. Rap-rock is a difficult genre to break into, and I applaud Lil Wayne for trying but the album never comes together. In 2004 Mos Def's album The New Danger was released and didn't break into the rap-rock genre, but Mos knew his limits when he tried. Mos exclaimed "I ain't tryin to diss, but I don't try to fuck with Limp Bizket", in an effort to show that his idea of rock wasn't the crap that blares on top 40 stations. Lil Wayne on the other hand didn't care who he emulated on Rebirth and produced an album that sounds like it was inspired by the dregs of rock. Christopher Weingarten said it best in his New York Post review of Rebirth "Wayne's big problem is that he seems to like the idea of rock music more than any actual rock music itself.". 

Favorite Track: Drop the World

The Quick and Dirty: 17/40 An ambitious attempt at a rock album that draws inspiration from some of the most generic bands in the genre. If you're looking for an entirely auto-tuned album with run of the mill music look no further, Rebirth is for you. Weezy is about to serve a year in prison to serve for his gun charge, hopefully during that time he works on ideas for Tha Carter IV, and returns to the rap game triumphant. However if Lil Wayne feels that he needs a rock band, he should invest in a wii. 

Next Review: The Colossus - RJD2

Keep Rocking.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Contra - Vampire Weekend

Overall: 33/40

Sound: 8
Creativity: 9
Lyrics: 8
Approachability: 8
"Indie rock" bands are a dime a dozen, some good, some bad and some.... just awful. It is rare for an Indie Rock band to escape the ipods (or record players) of hipsters and cross into the mainstream, but Vampire Weekend accomplished this feat with their 2010 album Contra. Released in the US on January 12th of 2010, Vampire Weekend has seen enormous success with their new album. Contra debuted on Billboard at #1, making it the 12th independently released album to do so (also knocking off Ke$ha's Animal from the top spot, which needed to be done). The album has topped itunes best album list, been recognized as one of the "best new music" albums by Pitchfork, and sold over 124,000 copies. Something special has been going on in this sophomore, ten track album by Vampire Weekend.
The lead song Horchata had me rushing to the dictionary (read as wikipedia) four words in. "In December drinking horcahata, I'd look psychotic in a balaclava" . (Horchata is a milky beverage that doesn't look particularly appealing, and a balaclava is like a ski mask. A ski mask used to rob banks) The song starts off with a synth and marimba (a marimba is like a mellowed out xylophone). The marimba is a testament to the drummer Chris Tomson's percussion prowess. Contra is really driven along by Tomson's dominant drumming and percussion sections. On Horchata he lends his talents to both the lead melody on the marimba and the steady bass drum that really chugs the song along. Ezra Koeing comes in shortly after the marimba intro and throughout the song is supported by a truly remarkable chorus. The song embraces Vampire Weekend's infatuation with afro-beats (a mixture of different styles of music, percussion and natural vocal harmonies). Vampire Weekend uses these natural harmonies and drum beats in conjunction with a string section and synth to crescendo throughout the song creating a powerful and captivating sound.
White Sky the next song on the album is a merry romp, that is a very different but fitting song to follow Horchata. Koeing's chorus is a series of high pitched melodic "whoops" that I love (my roommate has probably gone mad because I just start randomly whooping when this song comes on through my headphones). Not until the third song Holiday does the guitarist, Rostam Batmanglij, get much front time. Placing the guitar on the backburner is a pleasant deviation from the norm, but is not the central concept behind Contra.
California English is a quick crash course in Allegro and staccato music. There are parts of this song in which Koeing is completely incoherent, you can try to sing along but I implore you to catch your breath when he says "California English". The lyrics in this song are rapid-fire but manage to convey a message, open up your mind and stop being a douche.
Cousins, the first single from the album, is another machine gun paced song. If you couldn't tell from last week's video, Koeing, Rostam Batmanglij (guitarist/synthesizer/Batman?) and Chris Baio (bassist) pick up this song and run off with it. Contra takes advantage of Tomson's percussion ability in many places, but this song is dominated by the Koeing, Batman, and Baio trio. Batman makes this song a personal vendetta against distortion, screaming to the world "i can play clean and fast without a fucking pedal". The trills and breakneck riffs are the bread and butter of this track. Baio uses a variety of bass lines throughout the song, going from rapid plucking, to polka, to a quick hammer on riff and then everything in between. Koeing slows down the vocals in comparison to California English but hard as I try I really cant discern a message from the lyrics. Take a Look:

Dad was a risk taker.
His was a shoe maker.
You greatest hits 2006,
Little listmaker.
Caught in the melody,
You wait in the car.
You were born with ten fingers and you're gonna use them all.
Interest in colors
I discover myself
If your art life is gritty you'll be toasting my health
If an interest in culture should be lining the walls
When your birth right is interest you could just accrue it all

No Idea. If you have an idea, the comment box is there for you Sacajawea.

This album is....different. It borrows from ska, indie rock, afro beat, and then finds some other things to throw into that hodgepodge of musical style. Just reading off the eclectic list of stylistic influences this album looks like something to be wary of, but despite the odds Vampire Weekend, the little indie band that could, have transcended niche hipster ipods at Columbia University and have become a nationwide phenomena. If you're looking for a different sound but don't want to get into some of the weirder indie stuff (I'm looking at you Animal Collective) this is a great album to pick up.

Favorite Track: California English

The Quick and Dirty: 33/40 Eccentric sounds, eclectic musical styles and energetic beats have placed Vampire Weekend at the forefront of indie rock. Here's hoping they don't sell out as a result of their recent success.

Next Review: Rebirth - Lil Wayne

Keep Rocking.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I've been doing some thinking about the format of this blog. There are a couple of changes that I want to make in the review process. I am still going to do the breakdown numerically, but I am going to write in an essay format from now on instead of giving separate paragraphs for each of the four categories. Furthermore, the "musical ingenuity" category is going to be changed to "creativity". If you are vehemently opposed to the changes, leave a comment and let me know. Otherwise, I am going to apply the changes on my next review.

Next Review: Contra - Vampire Weekend

Enjoy the video.

Keep Rocking.