It wasn’t long ago that Virginia Beach hip-hop sat on the crest of a revolutionary sea change. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, both products of that coastal city, rewrote the genre’s sonic rulebook earlier this millennium. Perhaps their most vibrant creative muse was Pusha T. As one-half of Clipse, Pusha circumnavigated the Neptunes’ mazy sci-fi beats with scandalous accounts of life in the trap. But after 2009’s Till the Casket Drops left Clipse fans salty, Pusha went solo. Fear of God 2: Let Us Pray spotlights Pusha’s cagey, murderously direct flow. A reformed coke dealer, he seldom champions his old profession and there is real grief tearing at songs like the vicious “Trouble on My Mind.” “Amen,” featuring Pusha’s new label boss Kanye West, churns as furiously as Yeezy’s GOOD Friday tracks. But Fear of God steps out of the Kanye wheelhouse for “Raid,” which lubricates a snarling 50 Cent verse with low-ridin’ Neptunes funk so vintage it sounds as though it traveled from 2003. (G.O.O.D. Music/Decon/Re-Up Gang) 4 stars out of 5
Never let it be said that the Roots are sellouts. The jazz-funk-soul-hoppers work graveyard as Jimmy Fallon’s house band, but one can forgive their dalliance with late-night comedy, since they have been resilient in keeping their distance from the Hollywood overclass. While last year’s How I Got Over was more inviting than the 2008 doomsday lament Rising Down, undun is a game changer: as warm as Illadelph Halflife and esoteric as Game Theory. On fetching promo single “Make My,” Questlove and co. disarm their menacing percussion ticks with earthy lava-lamp funk worthy of J Dilla. “Kool On” marinates its vocal sample in bottleneck guitar grease, while Bilal enlivens “The Other Side” with furious gospel. Black Thought’s verse on “Lighthouse” is so good it redeems the sketchy sailing metaphor. After cocktailing with elites for the past several years, Thought sounds awakened to real-life problems brewing nowhere near Rockefeller Plaza. (Def Jam)
1. the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer.
2. astronomy. the apparent angular displacement of a celestial body due to its being observed from the surface instead of from the center of the earth …
3. the difference between the view of an object as seen through the picture-taking lens of a camera and the view as seen through a separate viewfinder.
4. an apparent change in the position of cross hairs as viewed through a telescope, when the focusing is imperfect.
Pick any one of them and there’s meaning hiding in the title of Atlas Sound’s third proper full-length, Parallax (4AD). Some of those meanings are more apparent than others, but they shift as each song unfolds. The true intent is Bradford Cox’s own private mystery, but the title takes on particular intrigue here, considering that Parallax is the first Atlas Sound record to boast Cox’s face. The image, shot by rock ‘n’ roll photo icon Mick Rock, is a deliberately color-skewed re-creation of any number of ’50s teen idol four-color album covers (Ricky Nelson, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, et al). In light of that, what is perhaps chief among the mixed signals here is that Parallax is also Cox’s most adult record to date. His voice is strong in the mix, and just beyond the understated swell of feedback and noise at the top of the album’s opening number, “The Shakes,” each song follows Cox’s evolved instincts by establishing a simple, pleasant guitar melody, and letting the music pinwheel from there.
Soon a formula reveals itself in the album’s subtle pieces — “Te Amo,” “Terra Incognita” and “Flagstaff.” By comparison to the bolder songs — “Amplifiers,” “Mona Lisa,” “Angel is Broken” and “Lightworks” — the prior function as connective tissue; working mechanical parts in a symbiotic whole that are just as vital in conveying the album’s essence. As such, there’s not really a standout single in the bunch. Rather, Parallax’s many cogs and gears contribute to a larger mechanism that demands an element of predictability. But that’s OK, predictability is part of what makes good pop songwriting work. Within minutes of dropping the needle on the record Parallax sounds familiar. It’s easy to consume and it’s effortlessly performed while drawing beauty from the mundane.
This, of course, brings about a dichotomy: Atlas Sound’s most accomplished album isn’t quite as memorable as anything Cox presented with his prior Atlas Sound records, Logos or Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel.
Summer is a perfect time for a new Efren release. Scott Leon-O’Day's rich, tranquil vocal tones are enough to prompt laid-back moments, whether it be with friends or alone with a stiff drink; and what’s summer about if not slacking off and feeling fine. The group’s third release, Rise On Up and Melt finds Efren continuing to forge a hazy, country-folk ride through contemplative and wistful story lines about personal and social circumstances.
The album opens with “Moonshine,” a song that captures of the group’s warm, atmospheric foundation, drenched in mystical Southern imagery. “Like a Coat” emphasizes the poetic nature of Leon-O’Day’s songwriting through an alluring and swelling melody sung in the sort of hushed tones that are used when sharing a deep secret.
The middle of the album offers two of the most stunning songs, including title track, with its tender harmonies and the deep rumble of an upright bass, followed by the ethereal saga of “Mr. Greene.”
There’s a noticeable continuum between Rise On Up and Melt, and Efren’s previous two albums, Always Been a Bleeder and Thunder and Moan, though the new release seems more focused, suggesting that Efren has become comfortable with its smoky, whiskey-soaked Southern traipse. (Slo Pro Records)
Of course Ronson deserves a lion’s share of credit for this one. But the songs themselves show the group stepping up their game, and reaching for a higher standard.
There’s an element of song craft present here that takes hold in “Modern Art,” “Mad Dog” and the Lockett Pundt-produced "Bicentennial Man" and "Go Out and Get It" that transcends the prior sense of primitivism that defined the group in the past.
Daytrotter Barnstormers are something that should be experienced firsthand, but I’ll do my best. My friend Mandy and I pulled into Maquoketa, Iowa, around 10 a.m. on April 30 exhausted, but ready for the night ahead.
Maquoketa is a small town surrounded by gorgeous farmland. It was chilly — definitely not the weather I was getting used to in Atlanta. After some dinner and a nap, we made our journey from the hotel to Codfish Hollow, the barn hosting the final night of the Barnstormers.
Hand-painted wooden signs pointed the way from town to Codfish Hollow. Dirt roads and cows greeted us as we made our way to the campground/parking lot, aka a cow pasture. After parking the car and dodging the manure, we met Marvin, who has worked for the farm for almost 30 years. He was to chauffeur us further down the dirt road to the barn by a tractor-drawn trailer.
We got there a little early so we could explore the barn and really take it all in. Besides the barn, there was a run-down house that had been converted into an art gallery. The barn was decorated with Christmas lights that were strung inside and out from the stage and weaved through the rafters. The whole atmosphere was very welcoming; it felt like home more than 400 miles away from Atlanta.
Lead track “The Other Girls” is pretty to the ear but destructive to the psyche: Ramone sings about perpetually living inside her head. “I Heard You Say” and “Vanishing of Time” are on par in creepiness.
The ladies offer an upswing on “Dance (If You Wanna),” and they dive into teenage love song archetypes on “Take It As It Comes.” There’s a back-and-forth of advice about an oblivious boy for an overly earnest girl and a slow, hand-clap worthy beat guides the tune. “Lake House” and “Vanishing Time” are the closest to the former, more raucous Vivian Girls, but with polished production neither one is so messy or chaotic.
But what weighs heavier than slight shifts in sound, though, is that ever-present hopelessness in the lyrics. They can be downright tragic (“Death”) or of pitiful devotion, but no matter the topic, there’s underlying unhappiness in the hooks—a sentiment over which even the mainstream masses like to ruminate. (Polyvinyl Records)
Follow the jump to check out the video for "I Heard Her Say."
3 stars out of 5
We usually reserve Song of the Day posts for local yokels, but these L.A. ladies seem to bridge time and space with the title track from their three-song EP. Besides, any song that can make a moody Monday feel like the weekend again deserves all the blog hype it can get.
Read L. Michael Gipson's 5-star review on the trio he pretty much calls "the future of soul."
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.
All 80s movies want you...
Their show with Chris, Lord about 3 years at the Unicorn was the best.
I am a connoisseur of this real soul music like the comment above I'm glad…
You've got a few of my faves listed here, plus a bunch I've never heard…