The Last Drop

Reviews and Clues on Music That Matters (to me)

Archive for February, 2009

New Issue: N.A.S.A

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N.A.S.A, The Spirit of Apollo – How the hype can turn on you so quickly… Pitchfork almost made this band a national name before the album release and then slag them with a disastrous review of the full length. How fickle indie rock bloggers have become. Me, I just stuck with it, kept my mind open and gave the album a spin. And (not so) surprisingly, I disagree with the indie music critical royalty. Not only did I find this album enjoyable, I would easily recommend it as a classic. Of sorts. If you are looking for a collaboration heavy record that is somewhat conscious, somewhat mainstream, and very listenable/party ready, get this album. I first listened to Apollo while running and almost ran an extra 3 miles to make it through the entire album. Very engaging, fun, and big. While others found the collaborations to be heavy handed, I just found it compelling. A killer Tom Waits vocal performance on “Spacious Thoughts” is my personal favorite among the juxtaposed hip hop to rock to indie pop pairings. The concept (North America, South America) is a little hokey and the intro and outro could easily have been excluded. But the main content was extremely enjoyable. Just because it is accessibly does not make it awful, people. Name dropping collaborations are somewhat shameless but can also yield quality. I found The Spirit of Apollo a delightful hip hop treat. So Don’t Believe The (Pitchfork) Hype!

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February 28th, 2009 at 5:18 pm

New Issue: Animal Collective

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Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion – Ah ha! I am finally attempting to master animal themed bands. Well, really I was a fan of Panda Bear and he happens to like other mammals, so why not give his crew a try? I was really thinking I couldn’t bear the hippiness and jam bandness of Animal Collective. But how wrong I could be. I LOVE this album! How did this happen? Who am I? Where did all of these musical taste changes come from? I’m slightly terrified that Merriweather makes so much sense to me. But that thought is fleeting as I listen to this album more and more. The perfect blend of experimentation, vocal layering, and pop sensibility to provide an accurate allusion to the ’60s. Yet it speaks so clearly of the future. Maybe this is where Americans can embrace electronic music. You can dive into the lyrics or let the sounds swirl in your head and still get a great sense of pleasure from this album. And each song has a clear ending (how rationale ;). Alas, I will have to give in to these animal cravings more often if this is the outcome.

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February 28th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

New Issue: Atmosphere

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Atmosphere, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold – Last one of the forgotten 2008 picks. I promise. Plus I have a few from ’09 that are already classics. Nevertheless, Atmosphere’s latest release is a pleasant reminder of why I like Minneapolis and how crazy the cold will make you.

Atmosphere has steadily released a litany of emo hip-hop that has found a distinctive following not only from Minneapolis underground fans but also hip hop snobs around the world that are tired of “money, girls and bling” rhymes. Myself included. Instead, we tend to gravitate towards the “my life is falling apart and I can’t pick up the pieces” effect of Slug and Ant’s timeless melancholy. When they hurt, I hurt. Somewhat. Usually they add a hint of aggression or (God help them) happiness to temper the overall negativity which makes a whole album of vice, addiction and loss tolerable when not in a deep depression. However, Lemons has less of this levity and suffers from it. Sonically, it is a beautiful work. The production is thoughtful, cohesive. Lyrically, the skill is still there – maybe a bit redundant after 6 albums but I still get sucked in. What I have a hard time with is the lack of… you know…fun. It doesn’t have to be bubbly (even Portishead put in a ukelele song) and you don’t have to sell out to a collaboration . But there has to be SOME hope involved. There needs to be scale to the heaviness presented to really appreciate its weight. Still, I give them thumbs up for another easy on the ears story rap album full of thought provoking rhymes. Maybe an ice cream cone from Sebastian Joe’s or a banana split from Town Talk will cheer you up, Slug.

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February 26th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Top Drops: January

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This was easy pickins, as I was on a rampage of catching up to the good music of 2008 that I sorely missed. Is there anything wrong with easy pickins? Not at all.

The Dodo’s, Visiter – Channeling Mississippi blues and Midwestern folk into a driving, rocking, jangling beat never hurt nobody. In fact, it’s probably good for you. Very good for you if you are listening to The Dodo’s

Boyz Noise, Oi Oi Oi – Biased and subjective, yes I am. Germany is in my heart now and I can’t let go. It doesn’t help that their djs and producers consistently put out some of the best dance music in the world. And this is case in point. If the Euro continues it’s crash course, I’ll be spending more direct time stealing more music from the Rhineland. Until then, Oi Oi Oi will suffice.

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February 26th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

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New Issue: Portishead

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Portishead, Third – Slowly coming to grips with my mismanagement of an entire year’s worth of music. This may be the worst example of dragged feet so far. So, I can pretty much quote anything off of Dummy and have been waiting patiently these 11 years for the return of Beth Gibbons’ haunting croons. And yet I STILL slept on this until early 2009. Please, someone put me out of my misery and shame. I think there is only one more of these “where was Addie been hiding in 2008” albums left…

After reviewing the general critical consensus (positive of course) surrounding this album, I’m shocked that not a touch of this album made a dent in Grammy recognition. True, the Grammy’s very rarely reflect critical praise – much of the ceremony is heading closer to a People’s Choice Award than to the Mercury Prize – but they did concede mentions and awards to smaller projects. Well, smaller than the monstrocity that was The Carter III. Not to say that I don’t value Lil Wayne. But it is a bit tiring to have one artist so overexposed in one year. Digression aside, I thought there was room to add a dark, expressive and utterly complete album to the list of phenomenal recordings in 2008. In almost every aspect, Third delivers compitent, insightful and mind blowing songs that do not seem to lose their luster. Once more, the album sucks you into this dark, anxiety ridden landscape that is almost unbearable but too hard to turn from. I’ve listened to this album at work. Not exactly an uplifting anthemic piece of work. But I love getting lost in the heaviness and drowning out any thoughts of reality with the rhythms. Furthermore, I will never get over Beth’s voice. No one expresses longing and pent up frustration quite like her quiver and crackle. It always sounds like she will break at any moment. And she milks it for all it’s worth. She has perfected pentinance and I, for one, am glad to hear it.

This would have been an easy choice for my Top Drop of 2008 had I paid attention. A true warning shot that overlooked music is a horrible thing to waste.

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February 25th, 2009 at 12:00 am

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New Issue: Erykah Badu

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Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One – Contunuing the rundown from 2008 missed connections. If only all R&B could be influenced by Erykah. I sometimes wonder how she can persist in pushing avant-garde neo soul to the fore front of her work. But then I realized – she’s just crazy. Actually crazy. Nothing more, nothing less. A tad more focused than your normal crazy, but not much. Her last two albums (Worldwide Underground and New Amerykah respectively) are perfect sketches of songs. Not a true cohesive album, just artist renditions of what poetry, an idea, or even a fledgling thought should be if it were put to music. Where Worldwide Underground left you with the half empty stomach of an EP for breakfast, New Amerykah leaves you much more full by way of small plates that add up to a filling sum. There are very few breakout tracks – no radio single to speak of and an occasionally played video for “Honey” – and quite a few interludes. But they do all address Erykah’s concerns with the material nature of the world (a constant theme for many of her albums). And they somehow build towards a decisive conclusion to the album. This gradually build plays well for the last three songs on the album which make the most sense as fully formed songs. In a way, it’s a smart device to force listeners to hear the entire album in sequence. However, it can only be listened to as a sum of its parts. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. I liked the appropriate use of funk, the silliness of the blacksploitation soundtrack, and the courage to make an album so completely far away from where contemporary black music is headed. Maybe this will stand as a fork towards the road less taken. And maybe a few more artists will follow.

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February 17th, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Say Hello to the Bad Guy

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When once we thought there was hope (“Solid as Barack…”), there now is just despair. As a fan of live music, my heart just sank a little lower. A proposed merger of LiveNation and Ticketmaster is in the works. One company to rule venues, ticketing, promotional items, and even record contracts. So…there is officially no where to go that won’t charge me a few limbs to see a concert in a mid to large size venue. And there is no potential for competition to shake things up. As much as I hate our overemphasized legal process, I am absolutely hoping for an antitrust dispute case to rear it’s ugly and labor intensive head.

Did I mention the new name sucks. At least TRY to be creative.

This live nation is now my ticket master.

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February 4th, 2009 at 5:05 pm