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.
November 5, 2013 |
Can we blame James Blunt for establishing that super-earnest British folkies can rule the mainstream pop charts? His treacly, inescapable 2004 single "You're Beautiful" earned huge sales and abject loathing from critics. His latest, "Moon Landing," is his sort-of attempt to get back to flintier, personal songwriting. He does manage to out-Mumford and out-Sheeran his countrymen on the rustic single "Bonfire Heart" (ironically, co-written with super-pop penman Ryan Tedder). Whether you want to hear James Blunt plowing that field is a conversation between you and your god. "Heart to Heart" has some upbeat sock-hop fun. But James Blunt titling a song "Always Hate Me?"
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.