Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best of 2008 Countdown, Part 6

This mornin' I'm gonna be droppin' some knowledge. The following two artists/albums fall into the underground/indie Hip-Hop genre. Meaning, you'll probably never here them on a mainstream radio station. You'll probably never hear them unless you go searching for this type of music or read into small music rags. But you know what? I can feel the underground scene rising. The ease of production and dissemination nowadays is making the creme rise to the top. Anyone with a little technology can make beats if they're willing to learn or teach themselves. No longer do you have to be in someones crew or be discovered in random fashion. Peep a couple of the best from 2008

Common Market - Tobacco Road (Mass Line)

Consisting of RA Scion and Sabzi the duo came together in the burgeoning Hip-Hop scene in the Pacific Northwest. If Sabzi sounds familiar that's because he's also half of the group Blue Scholars. RA Scion's flow sounds similar to Talib Kweli and thus may make you listen closer, or confuse the two. This album was supposed to come out last year and ran into various complications. The flow, lyrical content, and production are really superb. If there is a knock against the duo it would be that RA Scion's lyrics are dense. So dense that you'd probably have to read the liner notes to catch all their meaning. I enjoy the quality because you can listen to the album over and over and catch something new each time. Hopefully this is the album that gains them respect nationwide outside their niche of the Pacific Northwest.

"Trouble Is"

Black Milk - Tronic (Fat Beats)

Known to the IRS as Curtis Cross but the rest of the music community as Black Milk, he's back with his newest solo release. He comes from Detroit, MI and is most often compared to the late, great J Dilla. Quite young (at age 25), and tapped by many magazines to being the next great producer/MC, Black Milk has been gaining quite a following. This album is all on him. Produced and MC'd with help from some great guests including: Sean Price, Dwele, Royce Da 5’9", and Pharoahe Monch. He's most respected for some seriously hard beats that "make you need a neck brace". Again, the whole album is pretty damn great and should easily get him the major label placement he's looking for.

"Losing Out" (feat. Royce da 5'9'')

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Best of 2008 Countdown, Part 4

It's time to shake things up in this ongoing countdown I've got going. Today's grouping falls into what I've deemed the "Eclectic" category. It wouldn't be tough to pigeon-hole the following artists/albums but I think it's more interesting to have them next to each other in my own little version of Morning Becomes Eclectic (KCRW reference for those not in L.A.). Again, these are some of the best albums front to back of 2008.

Sigur R
ós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL)

I wouldn't have known about Sigur Rós if not for a friend from high school that first insisted I listen to their album ( ) when it came out in 2002. At the time I kinda shook it off as nothing special and kinda weird. It has since become probably my favorite album in their catalog. What I consider Sigur Rós' best attribute is their stunning ability to build and shape songs to musical and emotional climaxes. They build crescendos and heighten emotion throughout the course of songs like a classical composer (building tension upon tension to have a huge resolution and release through dissonance or unresolved chords). Sigur Rós employs lead singer's (Jónsi Birgisson) falsetto voice and large arrangements to achieve the same effect. This newest album translates to mean "With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly" and is a departure for the band in terms of songwriting and overall feel. This album has a more "traditional" feel, whatever that means. It's still Sigur Rós which means it's pretty beautiful.

"Heima" (Japan, iTunes Bonus Track)

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours (Modular)

This album hasn't yet peaked onto any Best of 2008 lists that I've seen which is surprising and quite an oversight. It'll most likely make Pitchfork's year-end recap considering it was given an 8.8/10 which is one of the highest scores they've given out all year. It took me a while to warm up to this dancepunk/electropop/new wave/post-punk effort from Melbourne, Australia's Cut Copy but once I did I realized it's a great album that is fresh and danceable and fun to listen to. One of my favorite tracks is below which is more of the "pop" variety than the "dance" ones on most of the record.

"Unforgettable Season"

Girl Talk - Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)

Mash-ups found their niche a few years ago and probably "jumped the shark" (I know the term has probably jumped the shark as well, which is just strange to consider) when Jay-Z teamed up with Linkin Park. Pretty soon everyone thought it would be cool to see what crazy shit they could put on top of each other. Unscathed (relatively) has been Gregg Gillis a.k.a Girl Talk. His breakthrough album (an exercise in the fair usage law) was Night Ripper (2006) which sampled and spliced and mixed 150-200+ songs over the course of ~45 minutes. He created the album as one long track and then cut it into separate tracks, all the while never received permission to use any of the music. He came back this year with a brand new album in the same fashion as Night Ripper that is equal to and better than what came up with two years ago. The track below features samples from: Jay-Z, Radiohead, Mary J. Blige, The Guess Who, Aerosmith, Young Gunz, DJ Kool, Fine Young Cannibals, and even Dexys Midnight Runners ("Come On Eileen") to name a few.

"Set It Off"

Monday, December 08, 2008

Best of 2008 Countdown, Part 3

Monday. Everyone dislikes Monday, which is why I'm here to make it a little less crappy. I've finally figured out how I'll continue breaking down some of 2008's best albums which is terribly exciting (basically by genre) for me. Today's couple artists/albums I'm going to lump into a Folk/Blues category. One is becoming a standby while the other I just discovered in the last number of months.

Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain (RCA)

This album has grown on me since my first few listens. It shows a natural progression for an artist in their third album. He's an established artist that is beloved by fans and has excellent commercial and licensing appeal. Yet, he still maintains an allure because he isn't a very public figure and doesn't really do a lot of press or interviews. It's a classic case of playing hard-to-get and having it pay off. If you haven't heard this album yet it's mostly unlike his previous two. This album has a little bit of everything from blues tunes, folk, hushed ballads, and country. Listen to the bluesy number below and feel the glorious pain.

"Let It Be Me"

The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

Finally an album/group I haven't already written about in this space. There really is no good reason for this fact. And frankly it's better late than never with The Low Anthem. A trio of multi-instrumentalists from Providence, RI the band formed only a couple years ago. Their album has quite a diverse range of tunes, but each one is infectious. I would have to post half the album to really give a sense of the diversity of the album. Below is one of the harder rockers on the album.

"The Horizon Is A Beltway"

Paper Planes Everywhere

I was treated to another new movie over the weekend (aren't all the days considered "weekend" when you're unemployed?) called "Slumdog Millionaire." If it's playing in a theater near you I would definitely suggest seeing it. While it's not imperative to see in the theater, the Indian scenery will look better (and you'll be one of the few that has seen it come Oscar time). The movie utilizes a couple songs by M.I.A. and most notably "Paper Planes" which has become the anthem off her most recent album. The scene with the song is below. Along with it is the song used in back of a totally different sort of movie: "Pineapple Express" which was released this past summer. I found it interesting how a song could be utilized effectively in both a screwball comedy and a (romantic) drama while eliciting totally different responses.

Slumdog Millionaire:

Pineapple Express (trailer):