Tuesday, January 13, 2009

post 531. another best record of 2008 i didn't hear until 2009.

from allmusic.com:

The eighth Common album was originally titled "Invincible Summer," but delays slid its release back to December. Though Mortal Winter might've been more apt, Universal Mind Control does correctly point toward a lighter, less cerebral set relative to the MC's discography from The Resurrection onward. The glinting "Change" is a track filled with hope and optimism about younger generations and the rise of Obama, and "Inhale," another standout, carries a surplus of uplift and urgency. Otherwise, Common's here to have a good time, no strings attached, with uneven results. Occasionally adopting a casual old-school flow, best heard on the neo-Bambaataa electro throwback title track, he spends most of his time boasting about his prowess, whether he's referring to being on the mike or in the bedroom. At the album's lowest, he sounds uncomfortably out of character, as on "Announcement"; its stern beat, one of the seven provided by the Neptunes, resembles a Clipse cast-off, pushing Common into ill-suited thuggishness. The sluggish, mindless "Punch Drunk Love" ("My ungh is in your body/My ungh is in your mind") and "Sex 4 Suga" ("Girl, ooh, you look ungh") are nearly as dire, likewise sacrificing cleverness for bluntness. The album's last two tracks, production-wise, depart from hip-hop and will hopefully send some listeners back to the flawed greatness of Electric Circus. "What a World" features some of Common's most enjoyable, if simplistic, old-school rhymes, but the song is impaired by its dance-rock/Rapture-knockoff backdrop; and even with some of Common's most energized lines appearing as late as midway through the much more effective "Everywhere," the Dungeon Family's Mr. DJ (who produced two other tracks) drops some low-slung sci-fi synth-funk for Martina Topley-Bird's spaced vocal feature.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

post 527. my favorite record of 2008 that i didn't listen to until 2009.

from allmusic.com:

Eef Barzelay's first album away from his bandmates in Clem Snide, 2006's Bitter Honey, was a purposefully Spartan affair, featuring just Barzelay and his guitar. Two years later, Clem Snide have quietly called it a day, leaving Barzelay free to explore a more expansive musical vision on his own, and while Lose Big isn't a radical departure from what he was doing with the band, it does lean toward a harder-edged brand of pop than what Clem Snide usually offered, and the country accents that used to bob up and down through their music is absent from these ten songs. As a songwriter, Barzelay picks up right where he left off on Clem Snide's swan song, 2005's End of Love, weighing downbeat meditations on love and bad luck against darkly witty meditations on contemporary culture, though the tale of two Christian teens in "True Freedom" is a brilliant and disturbing short story with an acoustic guitar that posts a new high watermark for him, and the title tune sums up Barzelay's governing philosophy remarkably well. Several tunes on Lose Big are nearly as spare as Bitter Honey, but "Could Be Worse" and "Apocalyptic Friend" are chunky rockers that hit a good bit harder than the average Clem Snide cut, and producers Jared Reynolds and Joe Costa (who also serve as Barzelay's rhythm section) give the material an impressive force even at its quietest. The difference between Clem Snide and solo Eef Barzelay isn't especially dramatic, but it's just telling enough that if you liked The Ghost of Fashion, Lose Big should be right up your alley, and if they weren't quite your style, this more straightforward approach may be more to your liking; either way, this is a superb set of songs worthy of your attention.