REVIEW: Foreign Exchange’s “Love In Flying Colors”

 photo FElifc_cover_zps0fa6e439.jpg The moment word surfaced about Foreign Exchange putting together a new album, people were abuzz about. The fourth full length project has been released, and it’s called Love In Flying Colours (Foreign Exchange Music). A healthy amount of their music has been about love, romance, and relationships, but as with life, there is so much more than that and some of these things are explored here.

The production and arrangements on this album flow back and forth within the jazz, soul, funk, and disco realms, to the point where the interaction becomes blurred and you just start feeling the music for the sake of the music. The music nerds in some of us will pinpoint certain aspects and influences, stating that parts may sound like late 70’s/early 80’s chart toppers, along with the deep guys from these artists and albums that made those older recordings special. “Right After Midnight” has a nice 80’s feel, complete with the spoken/partial rap flows of Phonte and vocalist Sy Smith, while Gwen Bunn’s harmonies in “Can’t Turn Around” nicely accents Phonte’s own lines to where one might find it difficult to say who is doing the actual lead vocal. The time signature of “If I Knew Then” will make you wonder how the song is structured at first and once it’s figured out, then it changes again. Phonte’s performancs are always striking, showing what he has been capable of over the years, and it’s great when the song has him backing himself during a chorus. I enjoy the collabrations he does here with Smith, Bunn, Carmen Rodgers, Shana Tucker, Jeanne Jolly, Carlitta Durand, and Eric Robertson, but having a bigger and bolder sense of Phonte works quite well within this context.

The context? Nicolay’s musicianship and production is sharp, accomplishing to create a broad picture of each song during the verses and choruses, but then broadening the scope like a painter who is confident that his portrait (or shared portraits) is complete, but he will always go out of his way to add something extra. Some tracks directly capture specific feels and personas, but involves a bit more than just someone trying to duplicate what Marvin Gaye or Luther Vandross had done. Nicolay understands the configurations of what he’s putting together, and what he does is not unlike what Jazzanova hav done and become in the last ten years. To know how to create it is one thing, but to understand it is another. You don’t have to know or care about the understanding, but to feel something is there within these tracks, stand back and say “what did I just experience just now?” is one part of that exchange, foreign or otherwise.

What works on Love In Flying Colors is that it is split in two, like a classic album from the 1970’s. Ten tracks in total, with the last track on each side (in this case, tracks 5 and 10) being mellow, one having acoustic flavor and the other serving as the album’s afterglow, referring to the album’s conclusion, “When I Feel Love”. The entire album has peaks and valleys, understanding when to give the listener their all and when to remain reserved until the next song or two, until one last climb to the top, leading to the listener saying “I have to hear that all over again”. It may be a mere collection of ten songs, so one is able to pick personal favorites. There’s a flow here that is a part of the album’s continuity, created as an experience to be listened to as one. Whatever way you listen to this, you are sure to discover new things about it with each play, layer by layer, color by color, and one will be able to appreciate the controlled sensations Foreign Exchange have provided.

REVIEW: Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2)”

 photo JT2020Two_cover_zpse29f502f.jpg Time seemed to go by fairly fast between the moment the first 20/20 Experience dropped and the second one made itself known. The first volume in this new Justin Timberlake musical saga ran a little over an hour, so to have an extra hour of music seemed awesome, gratifying, and insane. With the first volume, I felt Timberlake had created the perfect definition of an album, a risk in 2013 when most pop fans aren’t flocking to albums as people used to. People have continued to bash Timberlake for whatever reason: being white, being a country boy, and being someone he isn’t so he decided to challenge the naysayers. For The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2) (RCA) he decided to embrace what the naysayers are saying about him and to throw it back at everyone.

I liked the first Experience a lot so as I started listening to the second installment, I thought a few things. At first, I didn’t think these songs were that good, at first. Obviously, by calling the albums a 20/20 Experience, he wants us to get a full vision of what he’s trying to create but I wondered “is this just too many extras? Are these just songs that should’ve been left to be bonus or non-LP tracks?” The one thing that was immediate: Timbaland. His style is great and you know it is his sound that is being heard, and that made up for what I was feeling with the first two tracks. What changed things was the third track, one that featured Drake called “Cabaret”. I’m not what you’d call a Drake fan but I’ll listen, and his performance here is fairly decent. The pairing here works, and that was the moment the album got better and more interesting. While Jay-Z makes an appearance on the Experience with “Murder”, his references to John Lennon and Yoko Ono seemed half-assed and misinformed, and I felt that in a world where anyone and everyone can do a search on Google, he is someone who came off as clueless as J. Lo in the claim that Ono had what it had taken to break-up The Beatles. Incorrect, Mr. Carter, put on a dunce cap for that.

There are three noticeable things on this album that stood out from the rest of the material. “Drink You Away” has a very strong country feel with gospel roots, but it could also be a blues song. To me, it seems that if Timberlake senses his style of soul/pop could lose a following, he could always move over to the country side. It wouldn’t be a problem, and maybe people remember that photo of him with Britney Spears where they both showed off their denim duds. He most likely grow up with a good share of country too and this could easily become a song he performs next year as part of a collaboration with a country artist at next year’s Grammy award ceremonies. Or do a country remix with Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town. I can see it, and he should do it. The other thing is the rock feel of “Only When I Walk Away”, which for some reminded me of Janet Jackson when she did “Black Cat” and how people felt it was a stretch, a challenge, and a risk. One might argue that that can be said for Timberlake, which will lead others to say “well he’s white, he doesn’t have to worry about risk” but still, rock isn’t familiar to most even though he once played bass with the Flaming Lips for a television performance. Why shouldn’t any artist be able to play around with genres and have fun? By the time the album gets to this point, the mood of the album had gone beyond fun.

The third thing I noticed happens in the last third, where lyrically he starts to get more aggressive and swears a bit, as if he’s trying to show a hip-hop edge or by being a rock’n’roll bad boy, but I wondered if it was truly necessary. Timberlake can be whatever he wants in his music, and yet I have always felt he had been reserved and pushed himself to an established limit and never went past it. I’m old enough to full understand what those vulgarities mean, I do not need a parental advisory but I don’t think the songs really needed them, as the attitude he wants to establish is already there. Fortunately, this feeling isn’t something that happens throughout but maybe for Timberlake, this is very much a part of the Experience that he wants to share, that full vision that allows listeners to understand where he is coming from, even if some of those elements are unnecessary.

In comparison, the second Experience is good but not as good as the first. As a whole, both Experiences are masterful and are this generation’s Use Your Illusion, displaying an artist who is willing to share his heart and soul to everyone, and to see how far he can and is willing to go. At the same time, some of the songs here can be considered seeds for where he could find himself next. He doesn’t have to kowtow to anyone, and I feel Timberlake could make any type of music at this point and be a success, and I’m sure he is confident in knowing this. Anything he does could be considered a risk, and yet he is a risk taker doing the tasks by his own rules, within his own limitations, which are probably non-existent. A lot of music today is marked with designer labels, but it’s nice to hear a major label artist pulling off the kind of things today that were once part of the norm in the music industry years ago, while still understanding the standards that once were. To be limitless while holding to the limits shows incredible restraint, and one wonders what would happen if he really let himself go. Maybe that is his full vision, The 20/20 Experience in its grandest form. If we allow ourselves to fully see, imagine what would happen if we allowed ourselves to fully listen.

AUDIO: Alex Faith’s “Everywhere (Dirty Rice Remix)”

 photo AlexFaith_cover_zps4d5a3940.jpg
When Alex Faith releases ATLast (Collision) on the 5th of November, you will hear a song called “Everywhere”. You’ll probably want to get the album on compact disc in order to get something extra, and that’s a Dirty Rice remix of “Everywhere”. The remix features added verses from Canon, Chad Jones, Tony Tillman, Skrip, Kidd, and A-FLO, so it’s not to be messed with.

SOME STUFFS: Trocomordedor releases new works on Floppy Kick

 photo Trocomordedor_cover2_zps71e46432.jpg
The sound of Chilean harsh noise is the subject of the new release on the floppy disk label Floppy Kick. Mundo Payaso 悪質な by Trocomordedor is a project that will be hand-numbered in a limited edition of only 18 diskettes. For more information, head to the Floppy Kick website. You may explore some of Trocomordedor’s other works by moving over to their official Bandcamp page.

 photo Trocomordedor_cover_zps21122d0d.jpg

VIDEO: JSWISS’ “Universal Just Called

AltAir produced the track for him, Ryan Cocca set-up the visual content. The “him” in this situation is JSWISS and the track that has been visualized is “Universal Just Called”, taken from his Awthenticity project (my review of which can be read by clicking here.

BOOK’S FOODIE: Thirsty for aloe vera (from Tastemade)

Aloe vera is a multi-purpose plant that can be used for everything from burns to being stung by a Portuguese man-of-war (trust me, I know about this one) but cultures have been using it to create a healthy drink for centuries. Maybe you have a plant at home but weren’t aware that you could consume it, or knew but wasn’t sure how. Here is that how.


 photo Cuntz_cover_zps68e3d966.jpg Want some nice and raunchy garage punk? Look no further than Cuntz from Australia. You might think the words “nice” and “raunchy” shouldn’t be together, but you’d be a bit wrong in that department. Cuntz play the kind of rock that isn’t meant to be heard on TV or radio, although those that do show support should be saluted. 11 mighty songs are on this album from the Melbourne band, and if you love your rock with a side of fuck you, add a few more scoops to the plate and make room for Cuntz and Solid Mates (Homeless).

The album will also be released on vinyl before the end of year, and this one sounds like it’s vinyl-worthy.

REVIEW: Giacomo Papetti/Emanuele Maniscalco/Gabriele Rubino’s “Small Choices”

 photo PapettiSC_cover_zpsc58d4e47.jpg Small Choices (Aut) is a jazz album that is built from the bottom up, or the inside out, or there are portions where the playing of Giacomo Papetti, Emanuele Maniscalco, and Gabriele Rubino sound as of they’re outside trying to play their way in. While the outside exterior may sound like free form jazz, hearing the way the piccolo and soprano and bass clarinets are used may make some listen to this as a classical piece, which would make sense. “Escape From Ainola” sounds like a song you may expect to hear in a dramatic film shot in the fall or winter while “Béla Bartok in memoriam” is deliberately mournful. A nice and welcome energy boost can be felt in “Hu Rock”, where the three musicians create a close-to-jam that never quite gets there but it’s the attempt in getting “there” that makes it special.

One hears music like this and while distinctively European, you can hear how their influences transferred over to not only American jazz, but our own folk musics as well, the passing of cultures and how that steady stream still exists. What the actual small choices may be is unknown but by looking at the cover artowkr, it may be about making tough decisions that aren’t so touch, but the choice made could cause a ripple effect in your live and others around you. Hearing an adventurous album like this is a mere choice, but a wise one that will lead to positive effects.

(Small Choices may be purchased directly from Aut Records.)

RECORD CRACK: Entropy to release “Out Of Spite” 7″ EP

 photo EntropyOOS_PS_zps0d8e47d2.jpg
For a bit of nice hardcore/punk, you’ll want to check out the forthcoming 10-song 7″ EP by Entropy. Out Of Spite (Say-10) features tracks with such luscious titles as “Lone Survivor”, “Inheriting The Lie”, and “Welcome To Costco, I Love You”. The record will come in two different color variations:

white vinyl (300 copies)
randomly colored vinyl (100 copies)

I’m not sure if “randomly” truly means random, or “whatever the pressing plant chose, we are alright with it”. You may pre-order your copy from Say-10 Records & Skateboards. It is scheduled to be released on October 15th.