De La Soul
Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
With their first offering since 1996’s Stakes Is High, De La Soul shows why they are one of the most respected hip-hop acts of the past decade. Simply put, they are damn good.
Clocking in at around 73 minutes, AOI is a true long player. The album gets off to a mellow start with “U Can Do.” By the time “Oooh” kicks in, the album is in full swing with De La’s trademark rhymes.
Instantly noticeable are the album’s numerous guest spots, the best being the outrageous Busta Rhymes on “I.C. Y’All.” The track has a unique structure, with a distorted keyboard loop and hard beats. If the different sound doesn’t make it an interesting listen, Busta’s delivery does.
Less impressive is “Squat,” featuring Mike D and Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys. The chorus is catchy, but the Boys are stuck in the same rhyme scheme that they’ve used on practically everything since Hello Nasty.
The album’s tour-de-force is the mellow “With Me,” a smooth, jazzy number reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest.
AOI runs a bit long with a few bad songs, but the good stuff is so good that it doesn’t matter…De La has delivered once again.
_______________________________________________________________ Guru’s Jazzmatazz
Guru, first and foremost a rap artist, again attempts jazz with his Jazzmatazz project. He does not ruin the unique art form but only adds to it.
StreetSoul, his third Jazzmatazz album, displays Guru’s love of jazz music, bringing forth laid-back, sophisticated and mature sounds to individuals who appreciate authentic music.
Guru’s topics range from respecting women and children to being a man who takes care of himself and his responsibilities in such cuts as “Hustlin Daze,” “Supa Love,” and the first single, “Keep Your Worries,” featuring Angie Stone.
Although the numerous guest stars (Donell Jones, Kelis, Isaac Hayes, Amel Larrieux, just to name a few) add their earthy, funky sounds to the disc, Guru clearly shines in mixing hip-hop, R&B, soul, reggae and jazz rhythms into one cohesive unit.
If you are familiar with Bjork’s music videos, or at the very least, with her show- stopping hit “It’s Oh So Quiet” from 1996’s Post, you know she is a diva. Now, with her role in Dancer in the Dark, and with this quasi-soundtrack, Selmasongs, she’s doing the diva thing again, to full effect.
The playful “Cvalda” and the romantic duet with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke “I’ve Seen It All” simply shriek “BROADWAY!” Fortunately for us, the minimal trip-hop of “Scatterheart” returns to good old, conventional Bjork.
The rest of the EP, especially the quirky “107 Steps” and the fantastic closer “New World”, prove to be pretty damn good. If the first few songs are painful, wait it out. Selmasongs is worth it.
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
Simply put, this album is a mess.
The opening song, “Diamond Light Boogie,” sets the tone for the ensuing 13 tracks: an amalgamation of ska, surf, swing and bubble gum power punk. Genre meshing can be great if done correctly, but the Daddies are sloppy and combine genres that should never meet.
Take “Grand Mal,” which fuses the ballad-like strumming of an acoustic guitar with psychedelic sitar. Not only does it totally clash with the ska song that precedes it, but the song sounds bizarre even on it own. Or better yet there is “Bleeding Ceremony” which fuses hard 80’s metal guitar with glam-rock blips and bleeps.
On the other hand, the more traditional swing numbers, like the rollicking “So Long Toots” and the melancholy “Saddest Thing I Know,” are decent, as is the ska tune “End Of the Night.”
But this failed attempt at eclecticism just goes to show that while it’s good to have a broad range of musical influences, blindly throwing them together can wind up sounding like one big mess.
Amy Correia’s biggest downfall is her voice. This singer/songwriter attempts sultry, lounge-y vocals on much of Carnival Love, but sounds far too nasally white-girl for the part; just listen to her wail on the first notes of “Chinatown.”
Fortunately, some genre jumping allows her to play with sounds that are better suited to her vocal register. As a result, folk-pop numbers like “Carnival” and “Life Is Beautiful,” and the countrified “Daydream Car” are actually quite successful.
But Correia’s strained voice, at times reminiscent of nails scraping across a chalkboard, combined with forgettable ditties like “Starfishin'” and “He Drives It” overshadow the album’s decent points, giving us something that is, in a word, unremarkable.
Check Your People
With the current state of hardcore metal rap, it’s nice to meet a fine group of young men that still believe in jumping in your face and making your little sister piss her pants instead of making her fall in love. Downset has yet to sell their souls to the Old Navy assholes that tend to make good music really suck.
Check Your People is influenced as much by rap as it is by bluesy, metal anthems. Not to be confused with fairies like Limp Bisquik or Poopoo Roach, Downset has a message that inspires fans to do something besides slapping around their bitches and hos.
Songs like “Fallen Off”, “Together”, and “Check Your People” show Downset’s ability to be more than just a hardcore band or another rap/metal band hanging out with teenyboppers at MTV’s Times Square studios. Fred Durst, make sure you and Eminem are ready, because the people are sick of you. Downset is going to help take control.
Will You Find Me
Ida is one of the most achingly beautiful bands around. Following three stunning full lengths on the now-defunct Simple Machines label, the band signed to Capitol Records. They poured their souls and the record advance into a lavish little album that expanded on ideas hinted at on earlier releases. Capitol did the typically stupid thing and decided not to release the record.
New York-based Tiger Style Records released the gem of an album this past summer and in doing so paid a great service to fans of emotional “slow-core.” Will You Find Me features great re-makes of older Ida songs such as “Maybelle” and “The Radiator” as well as great new songs like “Past the Past.” Husband-and-wife duo Dan Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell write songs with exacting precision. Their harmonies are joyous and the album’s vast array of instrumentation breathes even more life into the songs.
With not only respect but also a love for artists as diverse as Prince and Neil Young, Ida creates explosive music while rarely raising the volume to a neighbor-waking level.
The Letter E
No. 5 Long Player
This LP from NYC’s The Letter E gives us seven tracks of instrumental indie rock. Think Pavement or Archers of Loaf without vocals.
For an East Coast band, they sure have got the northwest twang-guitar down pat; “Alushta” could have easily come out of Washington in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Later on, the simplistic “Mary Bahtyarl” spends three-and-a-half peaceful minutes with two strumming guitars, cello, and piano.
“Better Days” features some accordion playing reminiscent of fellow instrumental rockers Dirty Three. A consistent mood and tempo is maintained throughout the album, again recalling Dirty Three. On the downside, this consistency makes the album seem like one big song. On the upside, it’s difficult to pop this disc in without playing the entire thing.
Excuses for Travellers
Mojave 3 arrived in the mid-90s from the ashes of the renowned shoegazers, Slowdive. Neil Hastead and Rachel Goswell traded in their effect pedals and concentrated on hushed acoustic folk-pop. Recalling Mazzy Star with hope, their debut Ask Me Tomorrow was a sublime affair. The follow up, Out of Tune, found the group with a new sound, one immersed in 70’s Americana and the more country aspects of Bob Dylan.
The most impressive songs on Excuses for Travellers merge the distinct styles of Mojave 3’s first two albums. “My Life in Art” and “Any Day Will Be Fine” are powerful enough to assure Neil Hastead as one of the great modern songwriters. They don’t have to, however. Older songs such as “Some Kinda Angel” and “After All” (not to mention countless Slowdive beauties) already did so.
Excuses for Travellers is a road album. Buy it and plan a trip. Your life will be all the better for it.
From their name alone, it is obvious that Pimpadelic is something different. Their first album, Southern Devils, introduces a new sound that takes some getting used to: a mix of rock ‘n’ roll, country and old school hip-hop.
The sound of Pimpadelic is hard on the ears in part because of the odd combination of the three genres of music. In addition, the band from Texas gears most of its songs towards fellow rough and tough Texans. However, most Southerners will likely have difficulty sitting through this album unless heavily intoxicated or sedated.
Themes in one song, “White Trash,” range from whiskey and “wife-beater” undershirts to police and tattoos. “Hated” describes how the band wants to be perceived: as pimps.
Southern Devils is an album worth purchasing if you enjoy wasting your money on bad music. It is easy to understand why the band wants to be the most hated band. After suffering through this album, the only possible feeling for listeners to have towards Pimpadelic is hatred. If the desire to hear Pimpadelic still remains, download it from Napster, because this is an album that Tommy Boy can expect to take a loss on…even in the South.
Grade: C –