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Very Brief Reviews

And I do mean brief.

Alright, here’s the thing – I love music, but I write awful reviews. So here’s my attempt to spare you all by keeping my thoughts on latest releases and/or listens as short as possible. Do note that of the five albums, only two of them could be considered “new” as in released in calendar year 2007.

I highly recommend Pitchfork for more cohesive, highly critical, cynical, and well-written reviews that become completely moot when they give shit like 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” a 9.0 rating.

THE ROOTS – “Game Theory”
In what’s easily their best record since “Things Fall Apart,” The Roots fall back on what brought them to the dance – jazz-inspired beats and delivery served with socially conscious lyrics that don’t beat you over the head with the fact that they’re socially conscious – while simultaneously creating an astonishingly progressive album that’s quite possibly unlike any other in the genre that you’ve heard. “Game Theory” grabs you from the introductory track and doesn’t let go until they’ve finished their eulogy for J Dilla. Signing on with Def Jam, now run by Jay-Z, was apparently the best move the Philadelphia natives have ever made. Simply put, there’s not a bad track on this album. Not bad for a group that everyone pegged to be on the decline after the disappointing “Phrenology” and lame duck “Tipping Point” LPs.
HIGHLIGHTS: The entire fucking album.
SOUNDS LIKE: The Roots the way they should be; hip-hop’s version of Radiohead.
RATING: 9.5/10

NAS – “Hip Hop is Dead”
Nas is a fantastic lyricist and his delivery is solid. Fans and critics want him to record a masterpiece so badly that they’ve deemed this to be a masterpiece and were yelling “album of the year” from the moment it was released. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a good album, but it hardly qualifies as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Maybe I’m just not hearing what they’re hearing, because aside from a couple stand-out tracks (including a fun but not mind-blowing track with Jay-Z) it bored the crap out of me. Part of the problem is that while it’s refreshing to hear an indictment of mainstream hip-hop from someone who has been as embedded in it as Nas, it’s not anything we haven’t heard before from other (perhaps less notable) artists or fans. Nas does get points for finally putting together an album where the production doesn’t drag it down.
HIGHLIGHTS: “Money Over Bitches”, “Carry On Tradition”, “Black Republican”, “Blunt Ashes”
SOUNDS LIKE: A bitter Nas with slightly higher production quality.
RATING: 6.5/10

If there’s a rapper out there that wants to record a “street” album that doesn’t take itself too seriously, he needs to listen to this album and commit it to memory. Much like The Roots, Ghostface Killah has released inconsequential LPs the past few years, but returns to the form promised with his 2000 release “Supreme Clientele.” In “The Champ,” Killa even admits himself that everything done in-between hasn’t showed the fire that came with that release, and hopefully “Fishscale” becomes more of an indicator rather than another brief flash of brilliance. My favorite aspect of the album? It’s actually produced like a hip-hop album, with honest-to-God mixing and scratching rather than some doof who just fucks around on Pro Tools and is labeled a “genius” by Rolling Stone just because he knows how to use a Mac.
HIGHLIGHTS: “Shakey Dog”, “Whip You With a Strap”, “Be Easy”, “Jellyfish”
SOUNDS LIKE: What a throwback to late 90s hip-hop should sound like.
RATING: 9.0/10

OF MONTREAL – “Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?”
I don’t even know what to write about this album. It’s absolutely fantastic, and everything sounds amazing and fresh, even though upon listening to a few tracks you realize they’re not doing anything that hasn’t already been done before to some extent. Easily the best album of 2007! (note – it’s only the second week of February)
HIGHLIGHTS: “Cato as a Pun”, “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse”, “A Sentence of Sorts In Kongsvinger”, “She’s a Rejecter”
SOUNDS LIKE: Pet Shop Boys and The New Pornographers thrown into a blender and seasoned with Mars Volta lyrics.
RATING: 9.5/10

Let’s get this out of the way first – I never liked Blur, and never will. So yeah, on with the review – Yet another Damon Albarn side project, “The Good, The Bad, and the Queen” feels more like an album rather than an experiment. That’s not to completely knock The Gorillaz – I didn’t mind both albums and found both to be an interesting listen, but like most experimental efforts I didn’t really get many spins out of either effort. Albarn creates a unique, fantastic, atmospheric sound that doesn’t get lost in itself or reach too far. I wasn’t too impressed with “Herculean,” the free track put on iTunes before the official release, but the rest of this album is fantastic. I hope Albarn goes further with this, since the Gorillaz thing is cute and all but became tired halfway through the second album.
HIGHLIGHTS: “80s Life”, “Kingdom of Doom”, “The Bunting Song”, “Three Changes”
SOUNDS LIKE: A 21st Century ELP record without the meandering nonsense.
RATING: 9.0/10

Still in queue to be given full spins: The Scissor Sisters – “Ta Dah”, Under the Influence of Giants (self-titled), The Mars Volta – “Amputechture”, Death Cab for Cutie – “Plans”

More later…

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  1. February 8, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Best use of Nickleback ever. In fact, the only good one ever.

    • February 8, 2007 at 3:43 pm

      That reminds me – I need to Photoshop him into the Cowardly Lion.

  2. February 8, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I love Pitchfork in general, but I find that certain genres of music will tend to be given higher ratings than deserved due to the fact that very few members of their staff will generally feel comfortable reviewing them. While a lot of members can theoretically review the new Decemberists album, they have only a couple of folks who do hip-hop, or noise-rock, or freak-folk, or some of the other more esotetic sub-genres. So you end up with the biggest cheerleaders for the genre doing the reviewing, and their enthusiasm leads to the sudden love affair with Clipse and Vashti Bunyan (sadly not working together) that is going on there.

    • February 9, 2007 at 7:23 pm

      I understand that argument, but I really don’t think that just because you want to push a genre means you’re going to give overrated crud like 50 Cent’s first album a 9.0. I would hope that the sort of hip-hop reviewer Pitchfork attracts would be more in tune to actual quality. If they can’t find one, that would be pretty mystifying. Long story short, no excuse for that album getting a 9.0.

      I also have a grudge against Pitchfork for a good number of the reviews I’ve read, though I will admit that I haven’t looked at it much in the last six months. I just always found the reviewers to be more in love with their musical preferences than with music.

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