July 10, 2012 |
Aesop Rock “Skelethon” Rhymesayers 3 stars Hip-hop has gone feral lately, with MCs transmitting freaky, woozy hip-hop through the Internet's outer orbits. But what to make of the weirdos who have always been with us? Ian Bavitz, the San Francisco MC who performs as Aesop Rock, was a leading light of a late-'90s/early-'00s strain of hip-hop that made a virtue of its flinty independence, sonic experiments and often inscrutable wordplay. “Skelethon” might be the album that takes those core aesthetic traits and spins them into whatever counts for stardom in today's underground rap world.
September 4, 2012 |
Admit it. You thought you had Cat Power's Chan Marshall pegged - and maybe grown a little nervous that her smooth, smoky voice and increasingly carefree demeanor had settled into a blue-eyed soul groove that would soundtrack hipster dinner parties through the next decade. But "Sun" will prove you wrong. A big, confident, and captivating pop album that's so far removed from her Memphis-inspired previous album of originals "The Greatest" (In between, she released an album of covers called "Jukebox")
March 11, 2013 |
A Devendra Banhart album is akin to an art exhibit of miniatures, the rewards contingent on the viewer's/listener's commitment to exploring each tiny detail in his microcosmic mise-en-scènes. Those rewards here more often are moments of smiling "ahhhhs" than of wide-eyed "A-has!" The indie folk darling's brand of Latin- and electronic-tinged pop yields a broad range of musical and sonic textures here. The lyrics range from snippets of ideas, such as the title track's brief rumination on acceptance of a missed opportunity to a slightly more elucidated homage to a musical hero ("Fur Hildegard von Bingen")
August 28, 2012 |
Dan Deacon "America" (Domino Records) Two and a half stars (out of four) It takes nerve to title a record “America,” a loaded word if there ever was one, and acclaimed electronic music performer Dan Deacon is embracing the challenge. Deacon, whose middle-of-the-crowd gigs, in which he sets up his gear in the pit and rocks hard along with fans rocking hard to his music, are some of the most frenzied and inspiring shows I've seen in recent years. He's also a video artist and combines his frantic neon-colored mantra clips with like-minded music to create a modern-day A.V. overload writ large.
January 21, 2014 |
Can a jazz guitarist grow up idolizing Stevie Ray Vaughan? That may be a question for the purists in considering “Golden Age,” the debut album from Nir Felder, who took up guitar at age 13 and still plays the $250 Stratocaster he bought with the blues-rock legend in mind. Potential future covers of Kenny Burrell's “Chitlins Con Carne” aside, Felder is after more subtle, yet no less electric pleasures than his idol with a swift, lyrical flow sharpened in stints backing Greg Osby, Jack DeJohnette and Esperanza Spalding.
February 26, 2013 |
Long a favorite of fellow soul-music seekers such as the Roots and Erykah Badu, Bilal has never quite established a mainstream presence to match his acclaim. Following his 2001 debut, "1st Born Second," the Philadelphia-born singer couldn't even persuade his major label to release the album he'd intended as its follow-up. Yet the recent success of Frank Ocean, Miguel and the Weeknd suggests that R&B's fringes are moving toward the center, and that shift stands to benefit Bilal's latest studio album.