The Last Drop

Reviews and Clues on Music That Matters (to me)

Archive for March, 2008

New Issue: Jay Z

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Jay Z, American Gangster – My appetite for hip hop is growing steadily. And look, I’m already on my second Jay Z album. Who knew it would get this far!

Sean Cory Carter was not embellishing when he announced “This is black superhero music” in “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…). Bring out your ’70s samples and get the horns ready to ride out. Blacksploitation is back. Yes, it fits the theme for the movie in which the subject matter is patterned after. But it is thoroughly thick with ’70s references musically and lyrically. If I hear another Marvin Gaye song chopped and cut, I may just be tempted to buy the original 🙂 Sidenote – American Gangster is also a tribute to General Mills with references to the notoriety of the General Mills chairman and the goodness that is Hamburger Helper. See? Don’t you want to listen to the album right now? Aside from the myriad references that Jay Z usually packs in his albums, the gangster theme helps keep the focus. If not a bit of tried territory, he does his best to come up with a balanced perspective on the triumph and the loss of being a drug dealer. In very human terms that are loosely based on his own life. It seems like all of his latest releases ( The Black Album, Kingdom Come) are all flirting with his introspective nature. Which is exciting for me. Anything that starts to stand clear from the money, cars, women mantra of mainstream hip hop (you know who you are, T-Pain!) almost seems decadent at this point. The standout tracks are clearly the radio friendly hits “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…)” and “I Know”. Still, there are some non-radio friendly gems, namely “Hello Brooklyn” featuring Lil’ Wayne and “Success” featuring Nas. “Hello Brooklyn” is a treat of a minimalist piece with Wayne sounding as weary and weathered as ever. His voice has now embodied the post-Katrina New Orleans and he uses the affect effortlessly. “Success” displays grown-folk braggadocio from two veteran rappers that have earned the right. It’s great when the guest artist and the original artist actually play to each other’s strengths and lift the song to a better realm. It also helps that the music’s eerily sparse arrangement of just an organ sets the mood for grim and gaudy lyrics.

As a whole, the album doesn’t play well for radio play. Beyonce is only on one song (speaking! Not even singing), the samples are either too slow or too funky to speak to the masses and there is even a song with no hook (aptly titled). I find it refreshing as with much of hip hop that is based off of melodies and actual musicians than just beat loops. Others may find it too hard to follow. I say, give it a try.

Oh, and the video for “I Know” is down right artistic. Can you spot Lenny Kravitz’s daughter in the bunch?

See “I Know” video

Written by TopDrop

March 18th, 2008 at 4:27 pm

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New Issue: Band of Horses

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Band of Horses, Cease to Begin – Another MMC pick, thanks Rachel!

I had listened to the album for a while and started to move on. But was drawn back by…Books Etc. of all places. Good old fashioned ambient soundtrack while I was fishing for a travel guide to Istanbul ( I leave tomorrow, yeah! Hopefully I will have new flickr pictures to share soon!). Hearing the album over the speakers affected my opinion of the album more than I thought it would. I enjoyed the early listens (on my iPod) but was never fully grasped by it. Except “The General Specific” which is by far the best track and easily repeatable. After overstaying my welcome at the book store (and finally purchasing a guide book) I realized that the album had a lot more drive and energy than I had imagined previously. The depth didn’t hit me until it surrounded me. Thus, Cease to Begin became a comeback album. Band of Horses seem to offer more than your average indie rock/Americana band in that they play each genre thoroughly and separately. The rock is actual rock. Not that I mind Americana tinged rock – Kathleen Edwards and Ryan Adams are still some of my favorite artists. I just enjoy straight forward rock done well. Which I would say would be Band of Horses stronger genre. The twangified tracks were a little forced and lost their authenticity immediately. Still, the feel of this album has a lot of drive and a keen sense of purpose. You can listen to the whole album and feel like there was a foresight put into the entire process. Well done and kudos on the corporate sponsorship!

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March 18th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

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Somewhere Over In Rainbows…

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Radiohead wants YOU to make their latest video. Pick a song. Any song. From In Rainbows. And go at it. Co-sponsored with AniBoom, Radiohead will award one winner $10,000 (only £5,000 😉 to direct their latest video from my notable mention for Top Drop of 2007. If I had an abundance of time, a dollar, and a dream, I would be all for it.

Enter the In Rainbows Music Video Contest

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March 17th, 2008 at 1:28 pm

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New Issue: Bon Iver

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Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago – Recently donated to my music library from my MMC friend Gretchen, who also has wonderful taste in music. Long live the MMC!

The temperature dropped dramatically today and I was suddenly reminded that it is still winter in London. Spring never actually happens – just moderate cold followed my windy rain and then temperate sunshine with hints of cloud pressing at all times. Given the climate is driving me towards a melancholic mood, why not listen to an artist who created an album derived from a messy break up followed by a life of solitude living in Northern Wisconsin to “sort it out”. Perfect timing. And a great mood piece. Vernon’s loneliness cuts through every song and is as beautiful as it is painful. Remarkably, the album feels very expansive, having been produced in a log cabin with primitive equipment. A solitary symphony. His voice gets frequent associations to Tunde Adebimpe from TV On The Radio which is fair when he relies on his falsetto. What inspires me is his ability to tap into his raw emotion both lyrically and sonically. He obviously has much to pull from. His ability to refine the hurt into distinctive statements that are honest and non-indulgent is impressive. Moreover, the combination of the raw technique (you can hear the guitar squeal when he switches chords) and mastery of layering (multi-tracked versions of a Bon Iver chorus that bite over each other) moves For Emma from a great break up album into a fantastic work of art. I want more. But I don’t wish this type of heartache on anyone!

Written by TopDrop

March 16th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

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New Issue: Panda Bear

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Panda Bear, Person PitchHurray for the 60’s! I’m slowly but surely getting adjusted to the fact that I may actually like much of the music from this time period. I know, how do you put a hard and fast line out on a decade of music? And of all decades??? Well, to be honest, I think I am a post-modern type of gal. I make a few exceptions (mid century R&B/soul is ALWAYS good), but there is something to the way that contemporary artists interpret music from this era that is much more intriguing to me. If the artist is really good, they can usually take the blueprint of the legend they are imitating and create something even more inventive. Or at least this what I gather from artists like Jim Noir, Jamie Lidell, and the Magic Numbers. Pay homage but let the space ship take off from there.

In Person Pitch we get the salute to the Pet Sounds era Beach Boys – rhythmic collages, ambient noise and reverb til the cows come home. I usually get lost in all of this noise, but Person Pitch finds a way to make it all sound coherent. Well, if not coherent, joyous and celebratory. It also hits at many different genres which makes it all the more repeatable. Not only can I let the sound wash over me, I can also delve deep into each song and pick away at the many layers. In an odd way, it reminds me of Beck – constantly shifting focus but always remaining focused. The devil is in the details and Panda Bear succeeds at marrying the playfulness of sloppiness and fulfillment of layering. Don’t know if I will be able to move over toward the experimentation of Animal Collective, but it does give me confidence that they are talented.

Written by TopDrop

March 6th, 2008 at 8:33 pm

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Top Drops: February

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Since I skipped January, I thought I may resume my top selections for 2008 with the grand choices from February. Funny enough, my black history month selections top the bill:

Aretha Franklin, Aretha Arrives – There is just no way to overestimate her power and her talent. I can’t believe it took me so long to own one of her albums. If you don’t, hurry up and get this one (even if you have it shipped from another country since America is too lame to sell her full catalog).

Beyonce Knowles, B’Day – I must have been lazy in 2006 to let this one slip past my “pop music that doesn’t suck” radar. Truly worth every penny. As an added bonus, it takes me to that “higher level” when working out. Watch out Billy Blanks. This is the new double time workout mix. Did I mention that I still don’t know what “Getting Bodied” means 😉

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March 6th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

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