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Straight from the real word, our friend Knuckles has kindly graced us with his thoughts on some new music this week:
JOHN LEGEND AND THE ROOTS - Wake Up!
After years of dancing around in the same ballroom, John Legend and The Roots have FINALLY partnered up to put out an album of covers, Wake Up. Here at Albums on the Hill, this was easily one of the most anticipated albums of the month, and has done quite well since it’s release. Other review sites have given it high praise for the slickness of John Legend’s singing on these older jazz and funk tunes, and The Roots perennial class and skill.
So how much does the praise represent the album versus the anticipation? I personally am underwhelmed. The song choice is outstanding, as they have picked just the right songs for the project and the desired tone. The Roots play in fine form, bring the most of their experience to the older tunes and creating new sounds in them.
John Legend is the weak link, surprisingly, because he is such a smooth and capable singer. He glides through the tunes with an ease and grace that the songs really don’t deserve or need - if I’m listening to “Hard Times” or “Little Ghetto Boy”, I want the singer to have a little gravel and gut in his voice. Legend does a magnificent job singing the songs, but I don’t think he captured the emotion I expect from some of these songs.
The album is good, well thought out and immaculately produced. It’s just a little TOO good for the material. If you like The Roots or John Legend, this is a great album. If you like the original material you’ll find something new here, but you’ll have to decide on your own if that something is desirable.
Thissss weeeek in music:
Ben Folds/Nick Hornby- Lonely Avenue- Nick Hornby, a British author, put down some words and Ben Folds made them into music. True to Ben Folds’ style, it’s satirical, quirky, and very clever. Lots of indecencies but definitely worth giving a listen. I like “Levi Johnston’s Blues” and “Saskia Hamilton”
Klaxons- Surfing the Void - A nice example of indie/alt pop, the tracks have that echoing melodic background that makes the album memorable. My favorite is “Valley of the Calm Trees”
Agent Ribbons- Chateau Crone- Highly reminiscent of 60’s low-key pop ballads, the female vocals project a retro feel that’s soft and sweet.I like “I Was Born to Sing Sad Songs”
Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs- God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise-A fun blues album from the soft, sweet-as-sugar vocals of Ray LaMontagne. Definitely worth giving a listen. I thoroughly dig “Repo Man” … and the rest of the album
Diamond Rings- Special Affections- I’m fairly positive this guy is a time traveler from 1986… or just a sad, sad, misunderstood hipster. That isn’t to say the album isn’t good. The vocals have that metrosexual british male sound and the beats are reflective of ’80s pop. I like the beats on “You & Me” and “You Oughta Know”
Mark Ronson and the Business Intl- Record Collection- Mark Ronson teams up with various hip-hop artists and ’80s music icons to make this awesomely eclectic album which features a good mix of electro and hip-hop beats. Check out “Bang Bang Bang” and “Bicycle Song”
Serj Tankian- Imperfect Harmonies- I’m no System of a Down expert, so I can’t really compare this to their stuff, but from what little I know, I’m pretty sure this is a whole different category of music for Mr. Serj here, and I’ve just been informed that he changes stuff a lot. His vocals are as always recognizable but the songs are more alternative rock/pop/weirdshit and filled with political statements. The man is crazy, let’s be honest. Still, try it out. I played “Borders Are…” on my show and I didn’t regret it.
Skylarkin- Kaleide- Catchy indie-rock with a good section of instrumental music. “Still Windmills” and “Smarts” are play-worthy.
That’s all I got fo’ now!
Short, Sweet Reviews by Ethan
The Upsidedown – The Town with Bad Wiring
Alternative Rock – With the exception of a few tracks, most of this album can be described as spacey and ambient. There really is no define, outstanding instrumental parts and most of the lyrics are indiscernible (or just plain silly), which really is the character of the album. Really good to listen to if you just want to mellow out and bob your head.
Tracks #1, 3, 5 are recommended and are the most straight forward rock songs on the album. Personally I recommend #2 “Your Sister’s Cool”, a 7 minute long ambient, space rock epic.
Cancer Killing Gemini- It only Hurts to Breathe
Industrial rock – For those looking to listen to some new industrial rock should check this out. Track one, “Christcontrol”, is definitely NIN inspired, while track two (and most of the album), “Should I Tell You That You’re Pretty”, is more pop.
Recommended tracks #1, 3, 6.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Hawk
Mellow Rock – This album is mostly mellow, acoustic rock (tracks 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, and 12). With more upbeat, classic rock tracks thrown in (tracks 6 and 8). A very eccentric album but worth looking into.
Personally recommended tracks # 3,4 and 7.
We got some good stuff this week, here’s my thoughts:
Pick of the Week: Robyn Dell’Unto I’m Here Every Night
- I’m a sucker for good female vocals, and Robyn Dell’Unto’s soft croon caught my attention. She’s got the sound of your classic indie chick and the quirk to compliment it. I really dug the adorable “Just a Bird” and “Be My”
Dot Dot Dot- II- I like this album because it seems to bridge the gap between modern rock and indie rock. The songs are catchy and upbeat. I recommend “Walking in a Straight Line” and “Stay”
The Hush Now- Shiver Me Starships- Indie pop isn’t really an original concept, but The Hush Now manages to put out a few good tracks such as “Daedalus Bound” and my personal favorite, “Vietnam Giraffe”.
Chromeo- Business Casual- If you liked Fancy Footwork, you will definitely enjoy the funky fresh tracks on this album. If you’re not familiar with their previous stuff, note that it’s high-quality “electrofunk” and make sure to check out the single “Night by Night” , “I’m Not Contagious” and “When the Night Falls”
Amusement Parks on Fire- Road Eyes- I put in this album and immediately wondered if Siversun Pickups had started a side project. The vocals on this album are nearly identical to the Pickups but certain tracks are much more ambient and ethereal. Worth giving a listen, especially “Road Eyes.”
Underworld- Barking- This group’s been around for around 30 years and still manage to put out a modern electro sound. “Always Loved a Film” makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a club scene.
Aaron Thompson- Aaron Thompson- To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised with this album. Thompson puts an emphasis on the music by using subtle vocals and maintains a good balance between acoustics and electronic components. It made me feel relaxed and although it has a folksy sound on certain tracks (which everyone seems to be doing these days), it doesn’t seem forced. Check out “Bethany Lane” and “Solitude”
So guys, what do you think? Send me a review of some new music and as I’ve mentioned before, I’ll reward you at the next station meeting.
Quick Reviews By Ethan
Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
Pop-punk. Indie Rock. Very upbeat, high tempo rock. I’m not a fan of this genre, but anyone looking to put some new pop-punk into their personal library should look into this album. Check out the first track called “Digging for Something”.
Lazerbeak – Legend Recognize Legend
Electro-rock/electropop. The first two tracks of this album speaks volumes (ha… get it?) about this album. While both are on the abstract side the first track “Dream Team” is upbeat but the second track “Land’s End” is darker and slower (reminds me of some of Skinny Puppy’s work) and the album continues to be very diverse in this way until the end. Recommended tracks #1, 3, 4, 6, 8.
Riyl: Doomtree, Passion Pit, Plastic Constellation.
Alrighty guys, here’s my thoughts for this week’s new music:
My album of the week is Electric Sunset. If you’re a fan of Neon Indian or vocals from the Bravery, check this guy out. He’s got a good mix of synth and guitar riffs. Track recommendation: “Soda”
Black Mountain- Wilderness Heart- In an age where everyone tries to be edgy, Black Mountain focuses more on improving the concept of rock. You’ll catch inspiration from 80’s punk, 70’s classic, and modern-day rock that blends together nicely. Recommended track: “Radiant Hearts”
Breakbot-Baby I’m Yours Single- Never mind the hipster-looking man behind it. The disco sound of this track (or tracks, I guess, there are five versions of it) is extremely danceable and brings back the concept of funk. An amateur funk enthusiast myself, I found this track to be refreshing.
Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s- Buzzard- A melodic yet slow set of songs, Buzzard shows wit and a talent for choruses. I like “Tiny Vampire Robot” but watch for indecencies. The lyrics are hard to find, so you might want to preview tracks before playing them on air.
Other albums to note:
Dan Mangan: Good indie-folk rock that’s easy to listen to. Track Recommendation: “The Indie Queens Are Waiting”
Buxter Hoot’n- If you like folk or country music, give it a listen. These guys know how to use actual stringed instruments (awesome, I know) for a melodic country feel.
The Either/Orchestra- Mood Music for Time Travellers- They’ve been together a while, but they still know how to put out a good jazzy jam. I liked “The (one of a kind) Shimmy.” Good album to play during studying/homework.
The Graduate-Only Every Time- Warped Tour attendees and fans of Circa Survive will probably enjoy this rock album. It’s not for the indie kids, but I wasn’t against the rock sound of this group that’s touring with my guilty pleasure band (make fun of me all you want), Ludo.
HEY GUYS! I COULD USE YOUR INPUT! SEND ME AN EMAIL AT firstname.lastname@example.org OF YOUR THOUGHTS ON SOME NEW MUSIC AND RECEIVE COMPENSATION (not monetary, sorry, I ain’t Daddy Warbucks) AT THE NEXT STATION MEETING.