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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Full Albums:

  • Coheed and Cambria, The Afterman: Ascension1
  • Electric Six, Absolute Pleasure2
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream3
  • Muse, The 2nd Law4
  • Driver Friendly, Bury a Dream and Chase the White Whale5
  • Freddie Gibbs, Baby Face Killa6
  • Homeboy Sandman, First of a Living Breed7
  • Scarface, Mr. Scarface is Back8
  • Geto Boys, We Can’t Be Stopped9
  • Steel Panther, Balls Out
  • Death Grips, The Money Store10
  • Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 111
  • Electric Guest, Mondo12
  • Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls13
  • Masta Ace, Disposable Arts and MA_DOOM: Son of Yvonne14
  • The xx, Coexist15
  • Brother Ali, Us16
  • Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City17
  • Star Slinger, Volume 118
  • Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma19
  • How to Dress Well, Total Loss20
  • Jessie Ware, Devotion21
  • Purity Ring, Shrines22
  • Tame Impala, Lonerism23
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist24

Random Excellence:

  • Asher Roth, “Charlie Chaplin”
  • Bloc Party, “Banquet”
  • The Clash, “Complete Control”
  • Ghostface Killah, “Wu Banga”
  • Katy Perry, “Hummingbird Heartbeat”
  • Kings of Leon, “Crawl”
  • Left Lane Cruiser, “Crackalacka”
  • M.I.A., “20 Dollar”
  • Mos Def, “Hip Hop”
  • PackFM, “Happy Days”
  • Raphael Saadiq, “Stone Rollin'”
  • The-Dream, “Veteran”
  • Wale, “Let It Loose”25

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Ghost Town DJs, “My Boo (Hitman’s Club Remix)”
  • Queens of the Stone Age, “Misfit Love”
  • Junior Senior, “Move Your Feet”26
  • Mayer Hawthorne, “Can’t Stop (Dam Funk Remix feat. Snoop Dogg)”
  • New Found Glory, “Ballad for the Lost Romantics”27
  • The Police, “Voices Inside My Head”

Reviews:

1. In high school (when they broke into the consciousness of what seems to be most people with “Favor House Atlantic” and its awesome video) it was considered uncool to listen to this band, partly because of the vocalist’s high voice, the science-fiction subject matter, and prog-rock nature of it all that wasn’t supposed to be as cool as Britney Spears or what have you. Yet the older I get, the catchier they get, particularly since holy shit who cares if I like awesome guitar licks besides me? And how dare they write a story arching over multiple albums that I kind  of wish they’d printed as a couple of stories because that’d be easier for my personal consumption? It’s not like I can’t listen to both strong female vocalists over a piano and a strong male vocalist over some tasty metal riffs. Which is to say, this is an enjoyable album sure to get only more enjoyable; my personal favorite riffestival is “The Afterman.”

2. These dudes always strike me as a little odd. They’re right on the edge of balls-out metal while singing about the importance of dancing like they’re broadcasting live from a disco in the seventies. Sure, you could call that the format for rock, but something about it is still a little left of center. But you can tell they sure as hell put on an enjoyable show. The vocalist is hilarious, the riffs are catchy, and they know how to command an audience. This is the sum of their whole that might be better than even their studio-recorded work–a rare feat.

3. This is probably the best R&B album I’ve heard since some guy named Terius Nash put out an album. It’s catchy as all  hell and he’s modernized modern R&B guitar, as far as I can tell.  Pretty much amazing the entire way through, though I sometimes have qualms about “Pussy is Mine.” First of all, yes, that’s the title and the chorus–that’s the major qualm there. They also set it up like the engineer doesn’t realize Miguel’s sitting in the studio singing by himself, even though it’s the engineer’s job to know exactly fucking that. Even Miguel ends the song with a, to paraphrase, “OMGLOL, WE WUR REKORDING? JKJK DON’T ALBUMIZE THAT BAI” despite the synthesizer flares toward the end of the song and perfect transitions between surrounding songs. Sure, Miguel; I go into recording studios to sing songs I want no one to hear, too. But let me be clear: this song’s the only one that makes me hesitant on this album. He’s weaved some pretty amazing references throughout songs like “Candles in the Sun” and the eponymous track while still creating jaw-droppingly good hip shakers like “Use Me” and “The Thrill.” Which is to say that I’ll be able to get over my qualms very easily as I continue to listen the crap outta this mutha.

4. I neither had any idea this was out until I started seeing reviews for it nor understood all the disappointing reviews. I think they all want them to just make Absolution again, though that surprises me more because if they’ve been listening for so long, they’d know all Muse ever does is try to make something bigger than their last album. Maybe “Save Me” sounded a little too much like Porcupine Trees for my liking and it’s weird to listen to dubstep from the kings of Radiohead with distortion pedals and face-melting riffs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

5. Gotta review the oeuvre after the hometown heroes get signed to a new record label.

6. Thank goodness he can still rap because the choruses are almost annoying sometimes. But still, “Bout it Bout it,” “Stay Down,” “My N*gga,” and “Breaking Bad” are pretty phenomenal. It’s all pretty great, but those are the highlights for me.

7. My theory is that he performs best when he’s on an LP. Chimera and Subject: Matter were alright, but this and The Good Sun have tasty nuggets everywhere. From Spanish-accented beats like “Cedar and Sedgwick” to singing choruses like his nickname should be Chamillionaire on “For the Kids,” he has a diverse and dense album. However, none of the highlights on it fly any higher than “Whatchu Want from Me?”

8. What a relief. Nothing but classics, complete with shout-outs to AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. What more could I want except more?

9. Please refer to the above, perhaps with the exception of the Ice Cube thing.

10. This was a little intense for me. I kept expecting it to coalesce into something more presentable. I mean, it’s a punk/rap album designed specifically not to do that, and I think that’s why I found myself resisting. “Hustle Bones” and “I’ve Seen Footage” were their most enjoyable tracks. It reminds me of how most current art seems to be a rejection of modern art in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. The ideal was to admire the beautiful, but now most art seems to be a tongue-in-cheek rejection of it that even makes Duchamp’s Fountain look super sexy. Then again, things are super fucked up so let’s fuck things up.

11. I didn’t get the sense that this was the same kind of concept album as The Cool or that he had any of the same characters he’s been rapping about for years, but that’s probably for the best. I seriously can’t understand why he can’t get beats that can parallel his rhymes (Pete Rock know) or why his rhymes always seem to near the whine levels of Drake. Except instead of being sad about how hard it is being popular, he always has the weight of the entire rap game, if not the entire world, on his shoulders. But “Lamborghini Angels” and “Put Em Up” are still the album’s highlights.

12. “The Bait” and “Waves” are passable.

13. It sounds like Kings of Leon and The Allman Brothers had a slower-paced baby. Which is sometimes good and sometimes awesome, particularly on “Hold On,” “Hang Loose,” and “Be Mine.”

14. The latter’s a solid album full of songs that sound like they’d be right at home in the early nineties. The former’s a concept album that seems to resemble life more than anything else. Where Masta Ace’s bleak outlook resulted in a girlfriend’s death and graduation to a somewhat dim future, it seems Kendrick Lamar’s album ended with a little bit more hope–but more on that later. This is a really dark album where it seems like Ace would’ve done better to pretend to be inside his local boxing gym rather than a college upstate. The few people who might not have done him wrong seem to be his girlfriend and his roommate. But he doles out punches as necessary. I particularly love how he has an “Alphabets” song. It seems to be the universal challenge that only excellent rappers appoint themselves.

15. My favorite song was “Tides,” though I’m not sure this album had the same powerhouses as the first album (“Intro,” “Heart Skipped a Beat,” and “Crystalized”).

16. “Bad Mufucker Pt. II” was way past the point when I realized I’d been missing out on this guy for a while, but easily the album’s climax. He built up to it with “Tight Rope” and “Babygirl,” then came down from it on the highs of “Slippin’ Away.” It’s the kind of classic beats with excellent rapping that reminds  me of another awesome white dude name Action Bronson. Well, the latter talks more about sex and food, but they’re both crazy talented and funky.

17. This is a big album packed into eleven songs. Not only has he crafted a big, eleven-song narrative but it also seems he’s created the first Christian rap album that no one wants to pee all over as if he’d started a band and named it Creed. Because that’s what happens, right? He accepts Our (?) Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in his life and stops gangbanging, or is it just me? I mean, it’s best to escape from one gang with a more socially acceptable gang if you ask me. After all the singles, EPs, and guest spots, people definitely expected something big, but I don’t know if anyone was ready for this. Concept albums, skits, guest spots, and so on have been out for years, but there’s a serious chance no one’s used them as cohesively as this before. At this point, I’m starting to feel like I’m just paraphrasing Big Ghost, but I also don’t think anyone’s going to be able to agree about it. I feel like it’s probably the lightning rod between top forty and hip hop heads. The people who want lyrics will keep coming back to this and the people who want non-stop top-40 hits already don’t give a fuck and/or already let hip hop die.

18. It’s almost entirely dancy. Like, right on the edge of wanting to get out of my seat to dance, only to realize the beat just changed. I could probably dance a lot to “Mornin’,” “Bumpkin,” and “Gimme,” though.

19. I know I’m supposed to like this…but I do not.

20. There’s some absolutely lovely R&B on here, particularly considering how white this dude is. I’m talking full-on hipster, which is why Pitchfork seems to love him way more than me. Where Miguel went for the flashy synthesizers and the explicit talk, he went for the metaphors and the light layers. But then again, Pitchfork and I agree that Miguel is pretty friggin’ great, so maybe this is worth another look besides just “Running Back” and “& It Was U.”

21. There’s a six-song streak of nothing but pure excellence between the second and seventh songs where my jaw would drop because every single song was better than the last. I mean, you could give this lady the instruction booklet for a blender and she could probably sing some gorgeous songs about heart (-shaped-vegetable) break and loss (of solid states). It’s a beautiful synthesis of lovely music and even lovelier singing.

22. Bizarrely enough, this was almost too electronic for me. Sort of right on the edge of too mellow and too quiet, though “Amenamy” and “Loftcries” had just the right kind of balance that I liked. I feel like I need to go back to see if I’m listening wrong or something.

23. Though I loved “Elephant” and “Feels like We Only Go Backwards,” I feel like Innerspeaker is the superior album. I’ll probably end up listening to both a bit, though.

24. There are just so many things going on. Not only does he explicitly address what a terrible state the business side of the music industry is in, but he raps about how strange it is to be white while rapping or a difficult love affair with Air Jordans. Each song’s a little vignette with an extremely cool and refreshing perspective; “Same Love” is probably the first rap song I’ve heard complaining about rap without being as sad about it as Lupe can be. Then “Thrift Store” is just the jam of the month (or three). For a first album, this dude came out swinging with all the right punches.

25. I still can’t get how much it sounds like The Neptunes forgot to go back and edit in Wale’s name in the chorus.

26. This was the jam in high school, and nothing was more exciting than remembering it in the last week–well, maybe the only thing more exciting was remembering how great the music video is.

27. Still with the high school thing: I’ve always felt this song’s sing-along at the end outweighs the pop-punk riffs, though it seems no one agrees with me. So here’s to us fools that have no meaning. I tip my glass to you.

Comment:

Two iPods died on me since my last twim, so I’m not really sure if I’ve really got every album and random piece of excellence here. Other exciting, but more certain, things since we last talked include seeing Action Bronson live at an event where Paul Banks chipped away high school me’s love Interpol with terrible, terrible music. Bronson even rhymed while walking through the crowd, so that kind of makes up for it. Well, that and how awesome The Alchemist is both on the ones and twos and while flippin’ luxurious tracks for people’s raps. My hope is that this uptick in excellent beats on many fronts is an indication that both the iPod situation will settle (good lookin’ out, Best Buy warranty program) and that it’s only onward and upward in ye olde 2k12 quest for the illest records.

I’ll be needing them as my weight training program continues. Though that sounds really impressive when I leave it all vague like that, it mostly just means I started doing squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. And to undercut that even further, it mostly just means being sore for most of my life. But my ability, like my beats, have been improving and I think that’s all I can do right now: just keep pushing it along.

Stay real and let’s hope they didn’t forget about Dre.

Despite being spread out across England, Spain, and two states in America, my family and I managed to meet in the Oslo airport on Saturday about a month ago. Once everyone was gathered, though, we were immediately lost. I’m usually the navigator, but I wasn’t really feeling cognizant since Norway is six hours ahead of NYC (I effectively pulled an all nighter by not catching any sleep on the plane).

But it turned out fine. We pulled into the town that we share our surname with around 6 pm or so. Yet, it’s hard to call where we stayed a town so much as a set of three farms on a fjord. As far as we could tell, it’s not even really part of the two towns that bookended the fjord. It seems like all that matters is the name of your county and they’ll figure out how to get there from that. No one ever really explained that.

Our hosts were a man name Lars and his wife, Gurid  (pronounced goo-rid). I actually asked my dad a couple times during the trip how to say her name out loud (when she wasn’t around) and he mostly ended with something kind of like “girding.” They explained how theirs is the only one of the three still in operation, though all three had been in operation (and profitable) up until the mid-nineties or so. They also mentioned that it’d be hard to find any cops unless you’re in the city, but every inch of Norway is covered by helicopter for medical emergencies.

They seemed absolutely delighted by this, and when we had a late-evening tea with them the night before I had to depart, the shared the same pride in their healthcare system. Lars mentioned how his son had been sick as a child and Norwegian doctors couldn’t figure out what the problem was. They were told to see specialists in either Sweden or England. They chose England, where their son was cured, and didn’t pay a cent. Their taxes are extremely high, but they’re more than willing to pay knowing full well that it’s saved their son and will save someone else. Pretty great.

As long as we’re talking politics, they were a little shocked by the Tea Party. We all expressed our mutual confusion since you can’t elect people into the government who don’t want government. Why would you want to get rid of “Obamacare” but want more Medicaid? But I mentioned that sometimes generations are remembered for the loudest groups, even though they’re the smallest. The stereotype is that everyone in the sixties was a hippie. Everyone in the seventies loved disco. But talk to people who lived through it, and it’s just another one of many, many things that happened, but not everyone signed on.

So maybe we assuaged their fears that America is gorging itself on hot dogs, praying in schools all day, and playing baseball in meth labs or something. Which brings up another shocking point: Norwegian food has been shockingly Americanized. We had an incredibly difficult time finding a restaurant with a menu replete with Norwegian specialties. Sure, some places had salmon plates or elk burgers, but everything else was pizza and hamburgers. I mean, right across the street from Oslo City Hall had tourist places, pubs (pub food), fancy restaurants (Italian, Indian, and Chinese), and a 7-Eleven with bacon-wrapped hot dogs for 20 Kronor.

Which is pretty much the cheapest thing I saw the entire time. There might’ve been a candy bar that topped out at 15 Kronor, but I probably didn’t see anything under 30 Kronor until my fourth day there–that’s $5. For something like gum or soda. Apparently, minimum wage is $20/hour there, so that kind of makes a little more sense, but it still felt like gut punches every time a bill came.

In fact, we bought two Oslo City Passes thinking we’d save money and have guaranteed parking. It turned out that parking was only in certain areas and we couldn’t find any of the areas, despite asking twice and being given a map. Also, there don’t seem to be any parking spaces available in downtown Oslo unless they’re inside parking garages. Which are also roughly $90 per day; more expensive than New York City parking and O-Town’s probably half the size. But the passes proved a wise investment in the long run. On the first day we rode the museum ferry for free and visited three museums. The next day was a marathon with four museum visits on their Culture Night, when some museums are open as late as midnight. The passes even covered our ride to and from Lars’ driveway outside Oslo (where he let us park our car) that day.

Kind of an amazing feat, considering how most cultural highlights seem to shut down by six. Malls and eateries seem to stay open until about ten, but forget Sunday. When we mentioned that even the beggars weren’t on the streets on Sunday, Lars joked, “Even beggars need rest!”

Don’t get me wrong, Lars has clearly done well for himself, what with his house in Oslo and farm out in the countryside, but this reminds me of a story of Norwegian work ethic my dad told me. The entire Oslo office in his company seems to lose its staff about every three years because they all quit. Now, they have an American manager who will sometimes ask for extra effort or for people to stay late. Something like, maybe an extra hour the night before a huge pitch to ensure nothing goes wrong the day of. People say no to him all the time. Everyone’s in at 9:30, takes an hour-long lunch break, and is out at 4:30 on the dot. They have supposedly incredibly powerful laws that say that’s exactly what they’re entitled to for a full-time salary. I think it’s probably because I worked in retail where staying late meant more pay and that projects weren’t always finished unless I stayed late, but I still stay late pretty regularly in spite of my salary. I just have work to do, so I stay until it’s done. My dad said the same thing about his job and it’s obviously the same case with the American manager. My only conclusion is that even if minimum wage takes care of everyone, Americans have to work their asses off to earn their salary. Or that’s just what I tell myself to keep pretending we can be the greatest country in the world forever. If that’s still our thing.

But speaking of country, I should detail this place a little for you. Oslo’s the biggest city in Norway. Something like 5 million people or so live and work there six days a week and then don’t leave their house on Sunday. Maybe for church. Drive for an hour and you’ve been in the countryside for 45 minutes. Depending upon your direction, you’ll also be at the place where we stayed. On the other hand, drive for an hour from downtown Houston and you’ll be in the suburbs. Take a train from Grand Central for an hour (not including the time it takes to get to Grand Central) and maybe you’ll be somewhere just outside of Brooklyn or in the Suburbs. Jesus, drive from the Financial District to Central Park, and depending upon your route, you might not make it in an hour. At any rate, it’s three farms, two of which have only a barn and a house. The main one had a barn, a main house, and two guest houses. We stayed in one of the guest houses and met the family who rents the other guest house. Everyone said people had been living in the area since the 1100s (Viking time), but the barn’s foundation was the oldest at somewhere around early 1800. All of the houses have windows facing the fjord, and walking down to it is maybe a five-minute walk. We took a rowboat out to fish in it, but didn’t catch anything. People we talked to also sadly mentioned that Utoya Island, of the 2011 slaughter by some deranged asshole, is almost directly across the fjord. We spent most breakfast time not facing that window.

We spent most of our time in the area looking for family members’ graves. We were a little shocked to discover that the government removes tombstones after 60 years. Sure, maybe everyone’s stopped mourning, and the families and churches have maintained records…but no one told us what happens to the bodies. We told Lars and Gurid that some cemeteries in America are as old as America. They also didn’t tell us why the government didn’t just clear more land and bury bodies there. Seriously, the only thing bordering the two churches we visited were lots and lots of trees. One was kind of close to a ski jump, so maybe they’re trying to prevent zombie-related jumping deaths. Nope, that can’t be it.

Speaking of which, Norway really seems to love the great outdoors. I can only imagine that’s one of the reasons the labor laws are so protective. You can legally walk through any forest you like, but are banned from passing through fields (probably to keep people from stealing crops, ruining crops, being mistaken for deer and shot). Skiing is huge and, from what I could gather, ski jumping seems to have been perfected there. But that confuses me quite a bit. My mom asked me if I thought people were more overweight there than in New York and I wasn’t sure. I honestly feel like the ratio of obese people to skinny people was pretty much the same, and probably because everyone there seems to eat nothing but the aforementioned burgers and pizza.

Mom also asked me another question that really stood out for me. After visiting my sister while she studied in Copenhagen, I’d come to assume that Norwegians were just as Amazonian and ridiculously attractive. Yet when my mom asked me if Norwegian women were attractive, I told her they were probably about average, though when those stereotypically Scandinavian women with blonde hair did show their face, it was stunning. A rare occasion, though.

All told, as many expectations were met as broken, though. Everyone we talked to was nice, helpful, and probably as excited by Vikings as we are. Our hosts even went out of their way to look up some of our family history for us, which might not have helped too much considering how there’s a very good chance that some of the people living on the farms ended up just taking the name of the farm. But even if we didn’t get all the things we were looking for, we still had too much fun. Dad said on the first day, “We can do whatever you want; it’s vacation.” So for my sister that mostly meant having at least one ice cream per day, despite temperatures of roughly 60 and below. All told, it was an eye-opening trip full of incredible highlights, and it’s always a joy to be around my family when we do amazing things like that.

Itinerary Summary, in brief:

  • Saturday: Landings, waiting, long drive out to the countryside because of untranslatable Google Maps directions to actual signs, long talk while settling in (when I should have napped), expensive dinner (mom got an elk burger!)
  • Sunday: Slept in pretty late, guided tour of one of the other houses on the farm before the renters went back to Oslo, drive down to the largest ski jump in the world, drive in to Oslo, walk on the top of opera, walk to and around fort, heartbreaking realization that nearly everything is closed on Sunday, settling for dinner at a (delicious) pizza place called Mamma Rosa’s
  • Monday: Country drive searching for family gravestones including a Viking ruin, drive up the hill behind the farms to fossil town
  • Tuesday: Cobalt processing plant, Hedeland Glass Factory vist (which was mostly closing for the day, but still neat), picked up and read about 90% of The Hunger Games
  • Wednesday: Finished The Hunger Games and sister started it, train into Oslo after parking in Lars’ driveway, City Hall tour (absolutely incredible; home of the Nobel Prize ceremony), Resistance Museum, coffee and brownie at Akers Brygge (the mall), walk into town, rain, bookstore, terrible search for a dinner place until we found an American-style pub called Gatsby’s
  • Thursday: Terrible parking attempt and surrender to the same parking garage we used on Sunday; museum boat to Viking house, Folk Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, and back; dinner at Deli de Luca where I decided to try their iskaffe only to find out it’s pretty much the most delicious coffee milkshake (is=ice cream kaffe=coffee) ever invented; Operahusset (the national opera house) mistake where we found out the lady sold us tickets for the show a week from that Thursday; sister finishes The Hunger Games
  • Friday: Park at Lars’, train in, bonus iskaffe while browsing for Norwegian gifts my girlfriend would like, Internet connection again at Operahusset (the only place I could find free Wi-Fi) while my sister took a tour of the dye shop with people who seemed to kind of wanted to hire her if she lived there, Catching Fire purchase, four museums
  • Saturday: Fishing attempt, waffles–oh my god, the waffles in this country–with Lars and Gurid, Catching Fire completion
  • Sunday: House prep and drive out to the airport for me, driving off to Western Norway for the family