Major Kong released the 4-song EP for Orogenesis about three months ago, but came to my attention only recently. Fans of sludge/stoner metal will love this Polish band’s deep love of grinding riffs, as if they consumed some mushrooms after having the first section of Black Sabbath‘s “Sweet Leaf” and never hearing anything else. They bathe each song in distortion and feedback, but never allow themselves to get carried away with it. This is not about noise, but rather being organized in reaching those low-end dirges that makes this kind of music sound so great. They also do it without lyrics. Listeners who crave lyrics/words may wonder what these songs would sound like with story lines, and I think it would be cool but I like it as is. I enjoy the limitations of a 4-song EP, but am more curious to know if they’ll record albums (I’m sure they will) or choose to go down the EP route. Whatever the combination, I’m all ears.
A few days ago, I reviewed a new Sizzla album called Welcome To The Good Life. As I stated in my review, I usually ride for most of his music, exploring his strong political side, his tendency to be rough and slack, and also his romantic side, but Welcome To The Good Life seemed to cater too much to the romantic side, at least for my ears. I had said in my review that regardless of how I felt, I knew there would always be more music from him, perhaps in styles I would prefer to hear from here. This is that more.
The Scriptures (John John) is pretty much a roots reggae album, so if you enjoyed albums like Praise Ye Jah and Black Woman & Child, plus the string of songs where he shies away from his more adventurous and mainstream tendencies will love this. On this album, he praises women and he praises Jah, so it’s the good Sizzla that he has always been capable of doing, complete with beautiful echo chambers, horns, guitars, and deep bass that will make you want to visit Jamaica and thank him personally.
For those you tend to love his admiration of auto-tune love songs, you’re not going to hear that here. This is more on the traditional side of reggae, where Sizzla sings with the voice that started his career, using his falsettos sparingly. It’s an album I’ve played a number of times, and I’m glad he has the heart to dip in and out of styles simply to have more music (and product) for people to buy. If you have enjoyed Sizzla’s self-proclaimed Scriptures, this will be the album to buy. It does offer a unique balance to the i>Welcome To The Good Life album, although some may prefer one over the other. I’ll take both, but it is this one I’ll be returning to many times over.
20 years after the release of my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers album, BloodSugarSexMagik, there’s an EP that samples some of the works of the funk/pop band, complete with a cover homage. For the RHCP purists, let me say this first: I’m one who feels that some of the best work the band did was from 1991 and before. I ride for them in One Hot Minute, but if one is to base their music in terms of potential funky samples, I would choose their work on EMI and BloodSugarSexMagik. With that said, none of the band’s EMI work was sampled on this, everything here is based on their more mainstream Warner Bros. work.
What is on Pepper Spray are some damn good songs, and while the loops and samples are the lure to make people listen, there’s enough here in the lyrics that will make you want to hear it in full, plus it’s Hieroglyphics, you can’t go wrong there. Joining A Plus on this one is Compound Seven and Aagee, and as soon as the notebook is opened, it’s a true look into our world and ourselves:
It’s like a jacket in the winter, umbrella in the rain
I need it dealing with fame when hella people cellophane
Like Saran Wrap, people be see through
But this life is more than just a read-through
Too many cats with scripts, they all actin’
When in fact, it’s time to scrap their non-action
Legs shaking like ladies after climaxin’
Or locked in a bathroom with a stack of Maxim
Spirits answer all the questions I’m askin’
And it’s granted on the strength of my passion (from “Can’t Stop”)
Lines like that are ridden throughout, and what I also like about it is that it’s not just rhymes over the Peppers. As you can see by the excerpted lyrics above, they also incorporate Peppers’ lyrics as part of the stories, an excellent touch. You don’t have to be a Peppers fan to like this, but if you are and enjoy quality hip-hop, you’re going to want to tell everyone about it. If you’re a hip-hop fan that enjoys it when an artist goes out of their way to do something different from the now-expected norms, you’ll like what A Plus did here.
Plus, the EP is free (for the time being).
If you’re a Pitbull plan who wants to be validated by reading something that will tell you that his new album is one of the best of 2011, may I ask for you to go somewhere else. Scroll down, click away, shut the tab, whatever you do, do not proceed with this review.
Still here? You have been warned.
I do not have anything against Pitbull, it’s hard to not hear him when he pops up frequently. Because of that frequency, his album is meant to be a way to say “I’m here, I have lots of new music, let’s make this work.” The problem is, I have no idea how this guy is working. Let me take that back. When I listened to Planet Pit I can hear why he’s working: he makes music specifically for women and the dance floor, it’s a party music, and nothing against partying. A few years ago, he used to be a bit more diverse and the odd thing is, throughout this album he calls himself “Mr. Worldwide” which to me means he wants to portray himself as worldly. Either that, or it’s a sexual reference which says he is willing to do anything from such toes to committing analingus. That’s fine. But in the song called “Mr. Worldwide” he says he’s Mr. Worldwide and tries to explain why he’s Mr. Worldwide but never gets to the point. Is the point to hear the album as an explanation because if so, I honestly don’t know why anyone would listen to song one. Give me the reason on top, give me something that will make me want to listen more.
There’s also a song here where he claims that with the power of his penis, he will be able to make women sing operatically. Fantastic, more power to Pitbull’s wang but it just sounds so damn corny. In fact, musically and lyrically, this is one of the more cornball things I’ve heard in a longtime, and I tend to like corn. You can turn corn/maize into a number of products, but why waste it on crap like this when it can be turned into tortillas, make-up, or ethanol? There’s no fuel in this and I’m sorry, if people like NE-YO, Jamie Foxx, and Marc Anthony joined forces with Pitball just to be visible to the public, they should’ve went elsewhere.
Let me be perfectly clear here. The production on this is great, in terms of pop and dance music. Pitbull and his people have good ears and knows what will please his audiences, so one mark for him on that. The sad thing is that Pitbull actually has a decent voice, and could be dropping some serious hip-hop right now, and I’m talking in a Fat Joe or Beatnuts sense, and yet I almost have a feeling that even if he did make hip-hop, the songs that would gain attention are the more pop-friendly remixes, so maybe he needs to be where he is now, in order for attention, fame and money. You can’t knock a hustle that works for him, and for that I congratulate him, but I laugh because it all sounds like a joke to me and Pitbull would be the kind of guy who would say “you know what man? I’m fucking laughing to the bank too.”
It is uncertain if Geoff Geis felt like a Princess on his new EP… or is it short album (it’s actually 11 songs, but runs under 25 minutes so call it what you wish)? Nonetheless, Geis’ music sounds like he recorded this over a weekend or two on his own, playing everything from bass and guitar to drum machines and an Omnichord, but creating songs that are sure to please admirers of the clever eclectic pop of They Might Be Giants and early Beck. There is a slightly humorous side to Geis’ music, but it sounds like he’s in on the joke but wants everyone to know “laugh and smile along with me, and we can get through this life together”, as these songs touch on the banality of life, which can often make us laugh or cry at the same time. These songs are keyboard rich, one might call it techno pop/electro pop, but very much showing the richness of what made these styles of music work in the late 70’s/early 80’s. It may sound quirky and almost odd to hear this in 2011, but beyond that, these songs are well written and are perhaps better than most of what you hear on the radio these days. There are beginnings, middles, and ends in these songs, stories that sound like they came from him and not just “oh, I wish these stories I am writing could happen to be one day”. If he speaks of discovering what love means, you might reflect on your own experiences, and through his music you might be able to have a sense of what he was feeling. It’s not all incense and peppermints here, but it’s nice to hear someone be so honest, or at least make an effort to create candid songs that are believable.
Maybe as an ode to the era he is influenced from in these songs, Princess can be purchased as a cassette.
Headnodic has been the focus of attention for a little over ten years. I first became aware of him through Mission:, and when one of the MC’s in the group, Moe Pope, departed, they turned into Crown City Rockers. In between these albums he’d do the occasional remix, but also came out with two very fine albums, Headnodic Beats Vol. 1 and Tuesday. The former consisted of nothing but his own beat production and bass work, showing his Mission:/Crown City Rockers components, while the latter was a few beats along with tracks featuring a little help from his friends and band mates. The albums seemed fairly low-key, and my interpretation of this was that his group was meant to be the primary focus, while each of them would have the freedom to do whatever they wanted, and they did. Raashan Ahmad has recorded and toured extensively, it always seems like he never stops working, which is good. I’m a Kat Ouano fan for life, and if she’s not busy making her own music, she’s doing shows, sitting in with other artists, and becoming a primary focus in her own right. I’m a producer/beat junkie so I’m thinking like Robin Harris and saying to myself “where the fuck is Headnodic?” Truth is, he has never been far from radar range. He did an album with Moe Pope four years ago, but it had been nine years since he released a full-length album under his own name, and I’m glad to say that with Red Line Radio, he has tuned into the proper frequency and is ready to broadcast the goodness once again.
Let’s get direct and to the point: Raashan Ahmad and Moe Pope reunite Mission: style with the incredible title track, complete with an uptempo groove that shows how well the three of these guys worked together. Things are turned down just a notch (if only a notch) and gets extra funky as Lateef and Lyrics Born do what they do best and become the double-headed beast in “Movin’ On Up”. Add Kat O1O to the mix, and it sounds like you just went into a smoke-filled basement of good sounds and aromas and never want to leave. The highlight of the song (for me at least) is when the beat drops around the 2:18 mark and it sounds like Headnodic caught Lyrics Born eating a meal of some sort. The record light is on, he realizes this, goes “uh”, and he doesn’t get anxious, he just sits in the bean bag and rides with that style and finesse LB is known for. Classy, 100%.
True to his name, Headnodic creates one head nodder after anotther head nodder, and when you hear People Under The Stairs in “Surgeon General”, you realize why this album is called Red Line Radio: you’re tuned into the radio station you have been looking for all your life, the one that has been dominated by podcasts and online frequencies. This one goes back to the emotional vault of good times, and while it feels like the grooves of your favorite hip-hop radio station on the left of the dial, you realize that it’s music that has never faded out from the consciousness of anyone who feels this in the heart.
As the album goes on, the funk never stops. There was a time when you had to go out of your way to find an album that is damn good and you experienced it in real time. You’d pop the album on your turntable, cassette deck, or CD player, and waited anxiously for each song to blow your mind. When they say “Turn Your Radio Up” and you realize “oh shit, Gift Of Gab, The Grouch, and fricken Mr. Lif are in this?”, you can’t believe it. It’s also nice to hear Destani Wolf in the jazzy “Truth”, which features The Jazzy Mafia Horns and true to the title, this is indeed the truth. Wolf has such a rich, soulful voice, and it’s great to hear her bless a Headnodic track once again.
Even with all of these special guests helping him out, the core of his music remains his productions and his bass work, he is someone who has always been confident in how he wants his music to be heard and goes out of his way to make it sound… okay, maybe “sound right” would be too arrogant, but maybe the words I’m trying to say is he goes out of his way to hopefully make his music feel good. He wants that music to make an impact on the listener and that comes from wanting to feel the music himself. As a producer, I can hear the layers and textures in his work, where he’s trying to recreate a vibe from the late 70’s or an 80’s party groove. Hip-hop at its best has always been about borrowing elements and reproducing it in any and all ways, to where you don’t know or care where it actually came from.
My point is this. If Headnodic has been someone you’ve heard about in passing, on blogs, or may have seen his name referenced in reviews, may I suggest getting to know him even more with this album. Red Line Radio is an accumulation of what he has built for himself in the last 12 years, and this is merely a crossroads which came from where he has been, and where he’s about to go next. Ethan Parsonage is probably that guy that, like you, listens to his music deeply and puts that passion he hears in others into his own music, and helps to define his own style. He doesn’t play around, or maybe a better way of saying it is: this is his playground, he knows how to assemble the toys, and if you’re nice, you’re more than welcome to play along with him. Playing, be it on a school ground or music, is about having fun, and Red Line Radio is a fun album from start to finish, feeling youthful like the classics but grown up with the class and dignity that comes from maturity. I look forward to the next frequencies.
(TIP: If you buy the CD version, you can actually put the disc on your turntable and play the label side as it doubles as a record. It features a previously unreleased track by The Mighty Underdogs. Only 1000 copies of the CD version with the vinyl pressed on it were made, and you can order your copy from Amazon.com or your favorite online music merchants.)
Stuart Newman is someone who popped up in my Twitter timeline and he had asked to check out his music, saying he was on the mellow/soft rock side of things. I’m a fan of that so I went to listen. I liked his work, and some of the videos were abstract but enjoyable to watch. I tend to try to post the latest projects from artists, which lead me to this one, posted by Newman in late April of this year. The song is called “Darken Mood” and unlike some of the other tracks on his YouTube page, this one is instrumental. Very somber but I’ve often found that when an artist reveals that dark side, it allows the listener to feel a bit more. It’s an audio movie, and I like that, plus the video is abstract too.
Balance this out with his other songs, and it shows some of the range of this singer/songwriter/musician. It will be interesting to see what place he’ll end up in with future material.
There are some incredible female MC’s out there, and always have been but there has always been a mentality that “it should be left to the boys”. I’ve always wanted variety, and often times it was the ladies who would end up dishing out some of the deepest lyrics out there. You can go back and name some of the best, but look at… well, it’s hard to find any female MC’s out today who is gaining any mainstream attention in a big fashion, and usually those that are gaining attention are doing so because of fashion. Yes, I’m speaking of Nicki Minak, whom I do like as a rapper but everyone sees a woman and immediately it’s like “ooh, be my fantasy baby”. There’s more to it than that, and on one end you can have someone like Nicki who is doing it in her own unique way. You also have someone like Eternia, who I feel is the MC Serch of her generation.
Then there’s Snow Tha Product.
This is “Licky Boom Boom Down” Snow, and that should be obvious for this Snow is a woman. So what exactly is this “product”? Is she suggesting that she is as hard and intense as a hit of cocaine, the “product” in some circles? Is she suggesting that once you flirt with her lyrical aromas and you get too close, you’ll get hit in more ways than one to the point where you don’t know if you’re in a coma or overdosed? No, I’m not reading any bio which is telling me to cut and paste these words, I’m coming up with this out of my own head, just as Snow Tha Product does with her lyrics.
CON: Some of the videos have been short in length, and I’m thinking “c’mon, I want to see and hear more.” Then again, she probably is doing this like the role of your neighborhood drug dealer. Take a free hit. Go ahead, take it. Aaah, that one reaching your blood stream just right, right? Good. You’ll need it again, I know it will. I’ll be around, and if you want more, you’ll know exactly where to go and no, the next hit will not be for free. See? Snow is Tha Product, but I think if she has good people backing her, she will not treat herself as mere product. She will produce, she will be productive, and with luck she’ll be playing the game of supply and demand. In other words, say hello to your lil’ friend.
The Unknown Mortal Orchestra are currently wrapping up dates on the first half of their summer tour, and will return later in the season click here for where they are and/or where they’ll be next, but it’s not bad being a band who have taken Bandcamp as a positive means of promotion and are now touring the U.S. and making people happy with their brand of rock. The band released their self-titled debut album last month on Fat Possum and are looking for a means to become global. Or at least to become a known Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
What you see below is a live performance of “Ffunny Ffriends” (a/k/a “the one with the Pointer Sisters-like “Yes We Can Can” break at the beginning) made for Bowlegs, so watch and listen.
Sometimes all I need to enjoy a band is to be able to play, and do it in a way that blows me away. Doing it with styles that I enjoy hearing, or even styles I don’t like but organized in an original fashion, will make me praise it. I can say that about a band calling themselves The Brown Book
Pyramid Scheme is a 4-song EP with the kind of high volume intensity that makes me want to salute with demonic horns. These guys can be heavy in a Helmet, Melvins, or Queens Of The Stone Age, but one is not hearing plodding and grinding. While this is not exactly what I’d call “math rock”, they do bring in a number of tempos and different ways of organizing their 4/4. They do not want to get too comfortable, so as soon as they’ve reached a certain emotion in a song, they turn a new direction and you’re on a new trip all over again.
So far their songs are just under 5 minutes, so it’s into the building and out running soon after. I could easily find them becoming anthemic as they’re already there, and maybe that is what’s to come on a full length but I love the quick bursts, spurts, and squirts here. The dual guitar work will thrill six-string enthusiasts and the bass work will move you to have bad back posture. This is pretty brilliant for what it is, as short as it is (13 1/2 minutes), and I’m ready for another 13 1/2.