The Last Drop

Reviews and Clues on Music That Matters (to me)

Archive for January, 2008

Stockpile: Jay Z

leave a comment

Jay Z, Kingdom Come – So, this is my first Jay Z album. No, I’m not an alien from another planet. I just never got around to owning his work he has been a mainstay on Top 40 radio for the last decade. If I didn’t hear it in the car driving I could always find it out at a club for prime booty shaking. Now you see the large gaps in my musical knowledge showing. Just wait until I get into my Beatles rant…

Kingdom Come was critically panned by most everyone. Furthermore, it was one of Jay Z’s lowest selling releases of the recent past. So, of all the Jay Z albums I could own, let alone review, why this one? Because I actually like it. Yes, I am the raging minority that enjoys Jay Z as a grown up. True, his lyrics aren’t as biting as even his radio releases (did I just hear him mention Gwyneth Paltrow and St. Tropez for the third time). True, you won’t be astounded by the amazing production value of his usual roster of hitmakers. No Timbaland in sight – how did that happen? But what you do gain is a a peek into the life of a grown up rapper. There aren’t many of them. Or at least the older ones don’t reference their age ever (Snoop, you still trying to tell me you a thug at 100 lbs soaking wet? Go back to MTV and get your Shownizzle recontractizzled.). Thus, this is my first chance at looking at what a 30 year old CEO has on his mind after being a raw, yet talented hustler. Not surprisingly, he focuses much of his effort on reinforcing his age to flaunt the fact that he isn’t young anymore, but youth may not be what is desirable. When you have a song entitled “30 something” you are really trying to sell this “grown up” vibe. For me, it works. I don’t need another record highlighting how much money you have, how nice your car is, or how hood you can be – admitting that you are older and don’t have the urge to buy rims anymore is actually inspiring. Go ahead and write a(nother) song to your mother on how you are successful and can finally afford to buy her anything she wants. You know what, I actually would like to go to St. Tropez, so tell me a little more about it. He still has some venom to attack younger rappers and refute his self imposed retirement. He’s just not overly concerned with maintaining the tried braggadocio of most contemporary hip hop. For me, it works. I enjoy listening to an album that actually deals with internal conflict vs. reinforcing the external conflict of most rap themes (money, women, drugs, bling, etc.). I wish he did have some more bite in his lyrics and a few of the beats are a bit too laid back. Nevertheless, I’m more inclined to listen to future Jay Z records from this release. I know that puts me in a rather small minority, but I guess I’ve been dealing with that for a long time 🙂

Written by TopDrop

January 20th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Stockpile

Tagged with ,

Stockpile: Basement Jaxx

one comment

Basement Jaxx, Kish Kash – I usually don’t quote other musical authorities in my own review, but I did take a peak at an old Pitchfork review that purely made me laugh and smile:

“At the time, I thought Kish Kash was something close to the perfect pop album. It’s more like the musical equivalent of playing Katamari Darmacy for eight hours straight or eating an entire bag of fun-size Hershey bars: feels great at the time, but oh the headache/toothache/feeling of recrimination the next day. Maybe I’m just getting older and need more roughage in my diet, or maybe the iPod has rendered the whole concept of “an album as the world’s greatest mixtape” irrelevant. Listening to Prince and gypsy music back to back is no longer a big deal, if it ever was.”

Oh Katamari Damacy, how I love thee! True enough, this album is dance music created for after you eat a large Pixie stick – hyperactive, obnoxious, and inducing a multicolored tongue. But I love it! And I’m looking for pixie sticks over here, but can’t find any, so I’m stuck with Kish Kash instead. Brilliant choices for collaborations (Who knew JC Chasez could be used so effectively outside of N’Sync; if only his solo efforts produced these type of gems) and pure entertainment from front to back. The Michelle N’Degeochello tracks are the true standouts, but I honestly can’t complain about much off of the whole album. Having found Basement Jaxx very late in life (well, I did here “Where’s Your Head At?” but didn’t own any of their work), I am rather shocked at how well their back catalog holds up with their recent efforts. Both Kish Kash and Crazy Itch Radio are extremely enjoyable listens to this day, each with distinctive, Jaxxy qualities that mark the success of great dance producers. This is not your typical European house and yet not friendly enough to cross over into mainstream America. Wherever this middle ground is, it’s a better place for embracing Basement Jaxx.

Written by TopDrop

January 20th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Stockpile

Tagged with ,

This Apple Falls Far from the Tree

leave a comment

Not everyone is happy with Itunes. Worse, not everyone is happy with Steve Jobs. And so begins the slow but inevitable backlash against the market leader. Personally, I think competition is good. But tell that to Steve Jobs after years of getting his butt kicked by his old pal Gates. Pepsi is now partnering with Amazon’s new music service in the run up to the Superbowl. Free downloads galore, but none of them on Itunes – a direct reversal from last year. Sony also just announced the addition of their library onto Amazon music DRM free. There goes the neighborhood – all of the major labels are now DRM free on Amazon and only EMI can hold that status at Apple. The price fixing and rights management have long been a grievance for the big 5, but now they have a viable option to let “natural” market forces dictate where music should be bought.

As an avid non-downloader of music, I’m still not moved by any of these moves. Still shifting the ever shrinking dollar from one shell to the next. For me, the live show and word of mouth will always be a larger motivator than any marketing push from the omniscient label. But someone has to push Ashley Simpson on to stardom. Oooh, I almost forgot. JT is performing at the Superbowl. But no Janet Jackson this time. Where will the scandal be?

Pepsi’s Picks Amazon For the Superbowl

Written by TopDrop

January 15th, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Drop Kick

Tagged with ,

Once In a Lifetime… Times Two

leave a comment

By far, the best music article I’ve read this year 🙂 I handily thank Samir for forwarding on this lovely gem from Wired. David Byrne not only conducts a monumental interview with Thom Yorke, but dispenses his knowledge on the 6 ways an artist can strike a deal to release music. Dumby proof and pretty objective. For all his craziness, he gives a really good step by step guide on how different artists can make a run for it in the varied and diverse music climate we live in. I’m personally glad that Mr. Byrne is feeling optimistic in 2008. So am I after reading these wonderful articles.

David and Thom talking trash

David lays down the 6 laws of labor

Written by TopDrop

January 15th, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Drop Kick

Tagged with ,

Top Drops: 2007

2 comments

Well, well if it isn’t 2008 rearing it’s ugly head already?! Well, it’s not that ugly and it doesn’t need any rearing. Still, it snuck up upon me in my haze of work parties, holiday lunches, and general vacation malaise. Nevertheless, I must persist. And what better time to reflect on 2007 than two weeks into the new year. No need for resolutions when you can create a better moment looking back at all that was accomplished. And with that, I begin my countdown of my top 8 albums in 2007 (who needs 10 and why play to the cliche of 7. 8 – nice, round, and symmetric if you flip it upside down).

Notable Mention
Radiohead, In Rainbows a work of stunning beauty. And surprising levity. I’m hoping this will be a trend they continue well on into the next decade.

Beastie Boys, To the 5 Buroughs – So this wasn’t actually made in 2007. Yep, already breaking the rules and I haven’t even gotten started. Still, if ever there was a reason to break rules, the Beastie Boys would be the champions of that cause. It took me a while to finally listen to this album, but it has been in constant rotation ever since it’s purchase in August. Old school rhyming at it’s finest with a hint of political discontent. Remember what hip-hop used to be? Yeah, so do the Beastie Boys. Oh, nice web page too.

8. The Blow, Paper Television – Umm…0 for 2 on albums actually made in 2007. I like being last to the table. It gives me room to breathe and prepare for the album – get enough consensus from friends, blogs, and the masses to form a well educated opinion. Not bad BS for “I’m slow and lazy”. As stated from a prior post, I was introduced to the Portland band by a Scottish friend. How much sadder is that? Not only do I get the album late but I also get told from a non-America. The least I could do is add it to my list of top albums.

7. Justice, Cross – Finally, an album made in 2007. Even though Pitchfork heaped tons and tons of hype on this album, it does deliver. It might even make me want to go to France. Or just catch Justice when they come to London again. Everyone needs to dance. Why not do it to an album that has D.A.N.C.E?

6. White Rabbits, Fort Nightly – A pick from one of the first four albums that started The Last Drop. I’m still amazed by the staying power of this group. Such a robust, driving sound that is sincere and playful. Hopefully we will here more from them in 2008. Maybe a mainstream breakthrough or two? Anything is possible.

5. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? – An early 2007 purchase means it didn’t quite make it onto the blog. Nevertheless, Kevin Barnes and crew make the list with their darkest album to date. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adore their sugary nonesensical lyrics that always end in the catchiest of melodies. But I really appreciate the touch of sadness and relationship woes that permeate Fauna. Who else can write a 10 MINUTE SONG and still have it turn out worthwhile. They automatically make the list for this achievement alone.

4. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible – What more can I say? It really is that good. Funeral has nothing on it’s younger, brooding cousin ( that happens to be more popular and attracts all the girls). Defining moment – the church organ in “Intervention”. Makes me a believer.

3. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver – I really did get a good stack of tracks in August. “All My Friends” is arguably the best, epic song of the year. And the rest of the album isn’t too shabby. It doesn’t hurt that they put on an amazing live show as well. James Murphy, I love you but your bringing me down. In a good way.

2. M.I.A, Kala – I debated a lot about not having this as my Top Drop. As the first album purchased in London, it set the mood for my stay in the UK. I was instantly impressed with the music and my new home. I wanted to experience everything and Kala is the ultimate potluck of music. There have been few days when I haven’t thought about how amazing and moving this album is. More, I need more.

Top Drop. St. Vincent, Marry Me – Picked twice for Top Drop months, St. Vincent earned the top spot handily. My love affair grew slowly but constantly and is now a full on pledge of faith for anything she touches. Apart from an album that touches all elements I would ever want – rock, soul, jazz, wit, gravity, and sincerity – she is also one of the best live acts of 2007. I simply couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. She literally transforms into a conduit for her music and expresses her emotions thoroughly and without hesitation. I heart Annie Clark.

Written by TopDrop

January 14th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Top Drops

Tagged with ,