Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Track Attack- "Suicide Dream 2 (Orchestral Version)"

"Would would it be to live a like that wasn't like this?" asks How to Dress Well mastermind Tom Krell. In these week's "Track Attack," I look at that question, examining one of the most moving songs of the year.

A somber violin wails away from the start, informing us this is going to be an emotional ride. The melancholia intensifies as a simple piano figure buoys the track. Rising out of this gloom, is Krell's voice, no longer submerged in the murk of prior How to Dress Well tracks.

In the initial version of this song, released a year earlier, Krell's soulful singing was buried in the lo-fi charm associated with HTDW. As impressive as that cut was, its dark seas drowned Krell's masterfully terse lyrics. That wrong is righted in the "Orchestral Version," bringing the lyrics- now dedicated to a fallen friend to the forefront.

"Suicide Dream 2"- Can't See My Own Face: The Eternal Love 2

"Look at a picture of my father and I look just like him," Krell wistfully reflects early on. Most men reach this point in their lives, no longer desiring to be their childhood hero, but a man of their own. Krell is here now, looking back at his childhood wondering "what was happening in my life?" A thought that falls on deaf ears.

"It's like there's this weight down on my chest," Krell croons. And in a transcendent moment, all the music comes to a halt, Krell's unadorned voice deciding his fate, "there's no air, no air, no air," he sings. In this one moment, Krell ties together all the pressure that comes with trying to be your own man, a pressure that can drag anyone down.

Krell's performance in this track is on a level all it's own, in fact I would go so far as to say it's the most impressive vocal performance turned this year in popular music. It's a shame too, because this is a one time approach for Krell, which served as the inspiration for the EP name Just Once. He'll now go back to that lo-fi R&B feel he knows so well. It's a disservice to Krell, whose voice alone in the track suggests bottomless wells of pain with its trembling tone. As cleverly cryptic as the lyrics are, they can't help but be overshadowed by that voice. Even if we can't personally identify with Krell or what he's going through, hearing that voice so stark and so alone, transports us to world where we all wait for something we may never see.

"Suicide Dream 2 (Orchestral Version)"- Just Once EP

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mike G: Award Tour EP

The Odd Future crew has a new EP out on their Tumblr from the severely under-appreciated Mike G. The release features production from Syd tha Kyd and in what is most likely a first... rapper Hodgy Beats. The EP sports seven songs including "Moracular World," which originally debuted on G's Ali album.

"In the first of light"

Indie-label Jagjaguwar will be releasing a deluxe-edition of folk-group Bon Iver's self-titled sophomore album. As promotion for the release, which drops tomorrow, a video for album-cut "Hinnom, TX," has been premiered. For that deluxe-edition, each song from the album will now be accompanied by a video. There is no word yet on whether previous tracks that have received video-treatment will get a new visual or not. I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out. (The videos are all up now and it each song has received a new video.)

The glowing video is bathed in the light of the Texas sun, as we move down a desert interstate. In my opinion, the biggest success with this video is the contrast of the visual, which is stunningly warm, while the music and vocals suggest a bitter cold. Such a brilliant juxtaposition only adds to the impressive body of work to emerge from Bon Iver.

"Hinnom, TX"- Bon Iver

Saturday, November 26, 2011

From the Crates: Kanye West- "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"

 One of several covers to West's masterful fifth-album.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was and remains a benchmark of rap.
Though it's nowhere near the crates and will never have to worry about dust selling on the ornate cover, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is as deserving as any record to be reviewed for this feature. The 2010 record represents a benchmark for rap, showing how far the genre can go when helmed by a musical maestro like West. Little more than a year later, the album still resonates with me and stands as a musical touchstone for the still infantile decade.

"Uneasy rests the head that wears the crown." That quote often attributed to Cicero in relation to the story of the Sword of Damocles could just as easily be applied to 2010 Kanye West. Kanye began the year in exile, cast out of the pop culture consciousness after "lashing out" at the 2009 VMAs. Instead of being defiant  after such a polarizing moment, West retreated, disappearing into the shadows.

The now infamous Taylor Swift moment.

West in similar fashion to the phoenix found in his Runaway film rose from the ashes and made everyone in rap start paying attention, dropping the kingly "Power," in late May. He then went on a summer/fall tear the likes of which has rarely been seen before. Giving away stellar track after stellar track like clockwork each Friday on his website, West regained some of that good favor he lost after the Swift debacle. Then on November 22, 2010, he dropped the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and turned everyone on their heads. On the album, "POWER" does the impossible and hits even harder when surrounded by the angelic opener of "Dark Fantasy," the rollicking "Gorgeous," and the beautiful strings of the "All of the Lights (interlude)." With this different version, the song descends into a diabolic succession of laughter, showing that 'Ye himself has gone mad with "power." Though it is difficult to decipher what that electro voice is intonating at the end of "POWER," he may as well be saying "get off get off stage," seeing as how that was what many were demanding of Kanye after his miscue.

This brief clips masterfully fits with the epic nature of the track.

What we get after "POWER" is the "All of the Lights (Interlude), which features unquestionably some of the orchestrated music ever found on a hip-hop album. From here, the real track takes over and is in my opinion the greatest thing West has yet laid to wax. With a guest list longer than entire albums, West is grandiose from the get go as Rihanna ethereally sings of all of the lights. Without question these lights are the same West was suffered under and he can't help but do the same on the song. When 'Ye sings of someone else who often found himself trapped under the same lights (Michael Jackson) he nearly breaks down, recognizing at this stage in the game he's closer to the hall of mirrors Jackson constructed for himself than the rap game. West can't even take solace in heading home, because when he makes it there, he sorrowfully finds he has been "replaced." Rihanna commandingly croons to "turn up the lights in here, extra bright I want yall to see this," suggesting that those watching West are somehow amused at the mess he is making of things. "Cop lights, flash lights, spot lights, strobe lights, street lights," West has been forced under the glare of every last one of them and is dumbfounded as to what to do.

"All of the Lights"

So he shoots them out at the beginning of the banging "Monster," reclaiming a smidgen of certainty with guests Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj who spit what could be career verses. Things continue in high throttle with "So Appalled," and the sultry combination guitars and strings of "Devil in a New Dress," is something both new and old for West as far as beats go.

"Monster" ft. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver

Everything comes to a head with "Runaway," which was clearly intended to be the spiritual center of this album. As the lonely piano plunks back and forth, we hear a track more “baroque rap” than "boom-bap." Having been kept in baited breath with the piano, the drums kick in and the sample comments over and over "look atcha, look atcha," begrudgingly looking the entire time at West. “I just blame everything on you; at least you know that's what I'm good at," declares West, finally comes to terms with himself. In these moments, West is coming to the sobering realization he's never been a perfect person and never can be. Instead of trying to better himself though, he celebrates his faults and painfully tells his love to "run away." The piano and West entrenched in Auto-Tune continue to weep for minutes more, but when it ends we are still left wanting.

"Runaway" ft. Pusha T

The skuzzy guitar of "Hell of a Life" quickly crushes the beauty of "Runaway," and sees West at his hedonistic best. The scintillating story of "falling in love with a porn star," acts as a metaphor for how his own life has been swallowed up by hollow truths and downright fallacies. All this hollowness cannot last and sure enough, after "falling in love, getting married in the bathroom, and having the honeymoon on the dance floor," West sees himself divorced at the end of the night, ironically dubbing it " one hell of a night."
West lashes out once more and plays the "Blame Game," on the following track which is underscored by elegant violin and twinkling piano. When West uses multiple voices in the track's second verse, he again sounds torn apart from the inside-out. His target has done such a number on him, that he resorts to playing the "game." He comes out a loser in this, seeing his faith in love disappear as he equates it to a "lack of visual empathy."
The delicate voice of Bon Iver creeps in on the final song and is "down on his mind." With all of this pain and confusion surrounding him, West is now "Lost in the World," and can do little else but run from those aforementioned "lights." West gives up, letting the poetic words of Gil Scott-Heron take over. Scott-Heron grows more and more intense asking the question "Who Will Survive in America?" This is truly rap as art and should finally lay to rest any lingering claims that rap has nothing intelligent to offer. With this musical polemic, West has made it clear, in his America no one can survive and they are doomed to live in the Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy possibly forever, though there is always a chance of waking up.

"Lost in the World" (Homemade clip)
This particular clip beautifully captures the song's spirit.

Kanye has always been seen as brash, bold, and arrogant, and barring major change always will be. He's never been one to say the right thing at the right time and his ego is the only thing greater than his musical vision. In the eyes of many, he's little more than an idiot savant, who has gotten where he is on sheer luck. One listen to this album dispels any of that heresy almost immediately. No idiot could make such a mature album and even the luckiest man in the world could produce such cohesion. With this record and throughout his career, West has succeeded despite the criticism. He plays the role anti-hero dutifully and in the annals of popular music few have done it better. So while we scoff and shun, West is free to sit in his rap throne reaping the benefits of an ostentatious album.

Runaway (full film)

In Revue: Pusha T- "Fear of God II: Let Us Pray"

 Pusha T spent more than a decade churning on critically adored coke-rap with his brother Malice as part of the Clipse, now he's on his own for the first time.

It's been a long road leading up to this, the first official release of a Pusha T solo album. In the past decade as one half of the Clipse, Pusha has racked up glowering reviews from critics left and right, all the while commercial success dodging him and brother Malice. Then, last year Pusha appeared on Kanye West's "Runaway," and hit critical mass in a way he never could with the Clipse. He'd later go on a tear of tracks West produced for his G.O.O.D. Friday Series, while skating around the coke-rap narratives that had made him so successful. Now on his major label debut, Pusha is back to his old ways, though he's grizzlier and wiser for having spent the last decade in musical purgatory.

One thing Pusha was always good at doing with the Clipse was tempering his coke raps with the knowledge he was engaging in self-destructive behavior. "Mama I'm so sorry, I'm so obnoxious, my only accomplice is my conscience," he rapped on the excellent "Mama I'm So Sorry." Tracks like that succeeded because Pusha and Malice actually made selling cocaine sound cool one moment, and the worst thing in the world the next. Though he still explores that dichotomy in Fear of God II, he's looking at things in a whole different light now that he's a "star," living comfortably on West's G.O.O.D. Music roster.

"Kinda Like a Big Deal"- The Clipse Til' the Casket Drops
First known link-up of 'Ye and Pusha, it was sparse on the well-received coke rap of prior albums. 

"I'm the only one left and the memories fading, so I write this alone in Vegas," goes the hook to album-closer "Alone in Vegas." And with that, Pusha humanizes himself in a way he rarely has before. This is no longer the same scrappy kid "Grindin" he's above that now, looking down at those cold streets from his warm penthouse suite. Listening to masterful takes like this off the album, you can't help but think that Pusha might regret his new-found comfortability more than any of the pain he felt on the ride to the top.

As reflective as Pusha gets at times, whether it be on "Vegas," or the twinkling-piano track "Everything That Glitters" featuring a well-placed guest hook from French Montana, Pusha still isn't above the hedonism that earned him so much cred in the first place. Look no further than first single "Trouble on My Mind," for proof of that. Over a classic wave of Neptunes electronic-scrawl, Pusha trades verses with Odd Future firebrand Tyler, the Creator. The balance is perfect, with the cocksure Tyler hearkening back to Pusha's halycon days when nothing outside of his own world mattered. The song is a sure album highlight and one of the best rap tracks of the entire year.

"Trouble on My Mind" ft. Tyler, The Creator- Fear of God II: Let Us Pray

Nowhere does Pusha better inhabit these two worlds than on "What Dreams Are Made Of," my personal pick for the album's best cut. Beginning with a WTF-inducing Ric Flair sample, the song backed by a spartan beat, explores Pusha's coke-slinging upbringing in the first verse. "I'm what dreams are made of, cocaine Ronald gave us. Then Nancy tried to save us, by then we had Motorola pagers," he recalls with slight trepidation. In the rest of the verse, he moves past that fear, joyously declaring "luxury is my lifestyle." The second verse acts as a balance, where Pusha mentions his need "for a way out, like Nas needed an ether."

Other than the verbal-game of hopscotch Pusha plays with his success, the album's biggest victory lies in it's brevity. Coming in at only 45 minutes, Fear of God II is short on filler with only the meandering "Feeling Myself," feeling out of place. The beats are all top-notch, fitting Pusha like a glove. To his credit, Pusha knew when to go big-budget and when to dial-down. Coupled with that is Pusha's wise guest selection. Everyone plays well, some (50 Cent) coming alive in invigorating ways we haven't seen in years. Of the guest spots, Rick Ross' in "I Still Wanna," works the best, his supreme snarl perfectly complimenting Pusha's calculated screeds. 

"Heavy is the head that wears the crown," notes Diddy adeptly in opener "Changing of the Guard." Though Cicero assuredly didn't have Pusha T in mind when he said that, the sentiment is perfect for Pusha. For years, he saw his talent feebly rewarded, with only a consortium of critical adoration and an ill-fitting crown to show for it. Now he's on the VMAs turning heads, living a dream he could imagine when he was the "neighborhood pusha." That "self-righteous drug dealer dichotomy," is paying off as he wearily reminisces about it all, "alone in Vegas."
"Alone in Vegas"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Track Attack- "Marvin's Room"

The single-cover for "Marvin's Room."
The somber Drake song is the subject of this week's "Track Attack."

As I said in a previous "Track Attack," 2011 has been a banner year for painful self-disclosure, particularly in the Hip-hop/R&B community. While "Wake Me When It's Over," by The-Dream might be the strongest of the batch I mentioned, Drake's "Marvin Room," is appealing because it's self-destruction is all so avoidable, which is why it makes for a perfect "Track Attack," subject.

Being the king of "emo-rappers," for a while now, Drake has gotten very adept at churning-out emotional narratives that force you to feel sorry from him as he mines wells of self-loathing, doubt, and "Fear." That track in particular is a wonderful example of Drake's gift at telling emotional tales and is arguably his strong song to date.

While "Fear," sees Drake standing at the precipice of fame, staring longing into the void wondering what's waiting below, "Marvin's Room" puts Drizzy in the awkward position of balancing between his former life and the life of fame he now leads. Almost immediately in the song, Drake stumbles over the muted drum kicks interlaced with the twinkling piano and lurching synth. He places himself in the unenviable position of a man confronting a former flame while pitifully drunk.

"Marvin's Room"- Take Care (shortened version)

Drake paints a picture of a man who is drowning in a sea of alcohol. "Cups of the Rose, b**ches in my old phone, I should call one and go home, I've been in this club too long." In a simpler time, Drake would have been avoiding this sort of scene, knowing nothing good could come from it, but now he despondently embraces it. That club love doesn't pay off though and he is soon calling a former flame, who he admits is "happy with a good guy."

Drake leapfrogs right in to the insults, disparaging his old friend's new love with stunning ease. For only one moment in the song's hook he tempers the barbs, declaring "I know you still think about the times we had." Even this admission reeks of arrogance on Drake's part, screaming out "you can't move on without me."

The song's bridge offers little hope for Drake, as he tells the woman he's calling "I'm just saying you could do better, tell me have you heard that lately?" Whatever sentiment was underpinning those words is dashed by the idle threat from Drake, "I'll start hatin' only if you make me."

The second verse is more of the same, as Drake comes to the realization that the object of his affection doesn't "have time to kick it no more," at the parties he's attending. While he wallows in his sorrow, he wonders "what you doin' that's so important," hoping that whatever it is more pathetic than his own barhopping.

"Marvin's Room" (Chopped & Screwed)
This slowed down version isolates the lonelier moments even better than the original.

As the toxic hook and bridge turn-over and speed up, we are treated to a self-diagnosis from Drake. A moment of levity, in the midst of a brutal bender. "I think I'm addicted to naked pictures and sittin' talkin' 'bout b**ches that we almost had," he readily admits. He's realizing this lifestyle can't continue forever and for all the bravado he flashes, he's still the same guy who once rapped about "Fear." 

"I don't think I'm conscious of makin' monsters outta the women I sponsor til' it all goes bad." Though he would love to peg his former flame he is crying out to as one of those "monsters" he can't, as she has the decency to continue talking to him, even in the midst of all the bitterness. From there, Drake discusses a party he throws, and as they leave, things get even more real as he admits to "calling cause they were just leaving." Then, in the song's most open moment, Drake pleads "talk to me please, don't have much to believe in." The pleading continues as he asks "are you down to listen to me?"

"Marvin's Room"- Chris Brown
Brown's version is the one that comes closest thematically to the Drake offering.
However, the song does examine things from another perspective.

The question goes unanswered and we may find out why in the next lines, where Drake cops to women "living off him," and "having sex four times this week." The latter omission only becomes troubling when we realize that Drake let this happen because he's "havin' a hard time adjustin' to fame," that same love he feels for this former flame was nowhere to be found in those "four times," and he's regretting every second of it. In the verse's final moments, Drake admits to being lucky this woman even picked-up, as he now has "someone to put this weight on."

As downright lecherous as Drake is in this song, he still has some charm to him. We feel for him in some odd way because he is so self-disclosing. He confesses in the third verse that this is his own doing. Even as he berates this woman's good love, we root for him because he asks her when's the last time she's heard "you could do better." Despite his condescension, Drake still cares for her knowing she could do better, whether or not that has to be him is beside the point. Drake making all of this sound charming is certainly one great appeal to the song, but there's something else there as well. It's the way he embraces the bad decisions he makes while shunning them at the same time. When he first starts professing his iniquities in the third verse, he tempers them with "it's all good." Therein lies a large piece of "Marvin's Room's" greatness. We all make decisions, often knowing full-well nothing good is going to come from it. Instead of just owning up right away, we try to explain away our failings or couch our missteps in sincerity. When I hear this song, that's what I hear. I hear a man drinking the pain away with crippling thoughts swirling in his head. That "liquid courage," is the only thing that lets him live up to what he's done. And good or bad, he embraces everything shamelessly while regretting it all.

"Marvin's Room"- Take Care (full version)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Roots- "Sleep"

"Sleep" ft. Aaron Livingston- undun

Another week has come and the hardest working group in hip-hop has debuted another new song from the forthcoming undun album. As they have done the past three weeks, The Roots have posted a new video for a song from their soon to be released concept album. This one, like past entries is under three minutes and shot in black and white. With each passing release, we are starting to see more of the life of this stick-up kid who the album is promised to be about. However, we'll have to wait until December 6 to get the full picture.

And in case you missed it, here's the video to last week's undun track. "Stomp" is undoubtedly the hardest-rocking track we've heard from the album yet and shows another frantic get-away from our hero.

"Stomp" ft. P.O.R.N.- undun

Old Ideas, Old Tricks

The Canadian folk-singer has a new album.
The record will be his 12th in a 40-plus year career.

Leonard Cohen has announced a new album entitled Old Ideas, that will be dropping in January. The album is The Prophet of Despair's first since 2004's Dear Heather. Below is the link to the first single, "Show Me the Place," as well as the tracklist. Given how long it's been between albums for Cohen, expectations are certainly for this new record especially in a year that's seen fellow "old-troubadour," Tom Waits drop a great album after waiting 7 years.

Old Ideas:

1. Going Home
2. Amen
4. The Darkness
5. Anyhow
6. Crazy to Love You
7. Come Healing
8. Banjo
9. Lullaby
10. Different Sides

"On Fire and Ice Cold"

As previously mentioned, T.I. was planning on dropping a new "party record," this week. Well consider the party on now, as The King has dropped the slinky-single "Pyro." T.I. describes the track as a "straight party record, it's nostalgic of those crazy nights, early mornings (but) just turned up." The "party record" is slated to appear on T.I.'s forthcoming album Trouble Man, which will drop early next year. 

"Pyro"- Trouble Man

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bruce is Back

Despite the death of Clarence, the E-Street Band will soldier-on in 2012.

"Things are starting to heat up down on E-Street," Bruce Springsteen proudly announced on his site. As of now, The Boss has only a few European dates lined-up, but he's promising a full U.S. tour to come in 2012. Not only do we have that too look forward to, but also an as of yet untitled studio album. The record and tour will be the E-Street Band's first since the passing of legendary sax-player Clarence Clemons passed away in June.

For anyone that is a big-fan of the E-Street Band, I shouldn't have to tell you how big of news this is. After the Big Man died in June, the band's future was in serious doubt given how integral he was to their sound. It'll be interesting to see not only who they find to fill those massive shoes, but just how much sax will be utilized on their new album and tour.

"Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" (live 1978)


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The King Has A Title

 The Rubberband Man has a name for his new album.
It's gotta be better than No Mercy, right?

It's official the "King of Southern-rap," T.I. has decided on a name for his new album. Entitled Trouble Man after a Marvin Gaye song of the same name, the record is T.I.'s eighth and his first since being released from his 10-month prison bid. In addition to making up his mind on the album title, T.I. promised a new "party record," called "Pyro," which will be released in the coming days.

While waiting for "Pyro," enjoy the Big K.R.I.T. feature "I'm Flexin," a song I think is far-better than any on the tepid No Mercy T.I. put out last year. In reality, he has nowhere to go but up with this record.

"I'm Flexin" ft. Big K.R.I.T.- T.I.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

No Rozay for Now

"Hustlin"- Port of Miami

First, we found out his collaborative tape with Drake would be pushed back and now word straight for the Rick Ross camp is his forthcoming album God Forgives, I Don't is getting similar treatment. The album, originally slated for a December 13 release has now been pushed back until "around first quarter, early second quarter of next year." The Telfon Don is taking it in stride, telling MTV the delay gives him time to drop his "biggest collabo," yet with rapper Jay-Z.

Given their success together on "Free Mason," arguably the best cut on Ross' 2010 offering The Teflon Don, I think the album will be well worth the wait.

"Free Mason" ft. Jay-Z - Teflon Don

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hold It Now... Hit It!

Your weekly round of "Track Attack," is going to be a bit late this week, short notice, but your humble narrator has had a tough time deciding on a track to review. I have it narrowed done to "Marvin's Room" by Drake and the 2000s alt-folk masterpiece "Trapeze Swinger" by Iron & Wine. If you have a particular preference, hit me up and I'll be glad to review one of the two. Have a good week, look for "Track Attack" and a review of the new Drake album as well.

"Marvin's Room"- Take Care

Monday, November 14, 2011

"I Got AIDS"

Another week has passed and Lil B has released another mixtape.

Yes you're reading that right, Lil B "The BasedGod," has released a new track entitled "I Got AIDS." The song  appears on Lil B's newest mixtape BasedGod Velli which was released today. On the song's official YouTube page The BasedGod urged his followers to, "love and respect everyone and get tested," among other things.

Rapper ?uestlove was less than supportive of the song, implying that Lil B's decision was a narcissistic move. Lil B has yet to respond, but given past events it is doubtful he'll go negative.

"I Got AIDS"- BasedGod Velli

A Story of Change That Came with Wings

"Blue Sky"- Common

Mr. Blue Sky has officially announced the tracklist for his forthcoming The Dreamer, The Believer LP. From the looks of things, Com' is going to including everything he's put out in the run-up to the album, including the Nas feature "Ghetto Dreams." Also of note is the track titled "Pop's Belief," which could be a return to the "Pops Speaks" series which closed out several of Common's earlier albums. Finally, if it proves to be true, Common might just be the first rapper to have Maya Angelou featured on an album in official capacity. I guess we'll find out December 20th when the album drops.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Playtime's Over

Italian-disco singer Sally Shapiro
Shapiro's behind one of the deep cuts on my show tomorrow.

So every Saturday from 4-6 PM I host a radio show called the TwoThouSounds on 88.7 FM in Kirksville (KTRM or online at My friend and I played two hours every week of anything and everything from the 2000's. To me the 2000's was one of the greatest decades of "popular" music we have had yet, and it's now too young to be played on oldies, but also stuck "too far" in the halcyon days to "matter" anymore.

As part of the show, every Friday night I typically sweat over my hour of the playlist for hours on end. When I work on my playlist, I try to boil it down to not only what I think is great, but what I think people will want to hear.Maybe it's something they haven't heard in a long time or something completely  foreign to them. For example, on this show I'll be playing "Dilemma" ft. Kelly Rowland by Nelly (when's the last time you heard that on the radio?) and "He Keeps Me Alive" by Sally Shapiro (Modern Disco most have probably never heard before). An even greater struggle is putting the pieces together. You can't put the monstrous "Woman" by Wolfmother right after the acoustic acrobats of The Tallest Man on Earth. A good playlist has to wind like a river, if you zig-zag you leave the listeners to be drowned in a wave of confusion. So enjoy the playlist I've put together as you set sail down a tributary of tunes.

The TwoThouSounds (11/12/2011) Playlist

1. "The Middle"- Jimmy Eat World
2. "Woman"- Wolfmother
3. "My Doorbell"- The White Stripes
4. "Timorous Me"- Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
5. "All the Pretty Girls Go to the City"- Spoon
6. "Either Way"- Wilco
7. "The Kids Don't Stand A Chance"- Vampire Weekend
8. "Infinity"- The xx
9. "Dilemma" ft. Kelly Rowland
10. "He Keeps Me Alive"- Sally Shapiro
11. "Tightrope"- Yeasayer
12. "Xavia"- The Submarines
13. "Girl Inform Me"- The Shins
14. "The Gardner"- The Tallest Man on Earth
15. "I Will"- Radiohead
16. "Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)"- Sufjan Stevens

"My Doorbell"- The White Stripes

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Track Attack- "Videotape"

 Thom Yorke of Radiohead
The focus of this week's "Track Attack."

In my own opinion, Radiohead is indisputably one of the greatest bands of all-time. Akin to the Beatles, the band has been able to constantly morph; uniting mainstream and underground music with every "bewildering" turn of their career.

Though the band can rest its laurels on the cacophonous sounds of “The National Anthem," or the rhythmic-writhing of "Paranoid Android," they are at their most sublime when they keep it "simple."

Granted for Radiohead "keeping it simple" is still a complicated matter. One moment Thom Yorke is innocently-oohing backed by brooding piano and the next he's talking about "jumping in the river," and "swimming with black-eyed angels."

"Pyramid Song"- Amensiac

In another instance, a lush acoustic-guitar line buoys Yorke's melancholic lyrics; underpinned by organ. As the track grows it swells into a massive bridge with Yorke straining to sing; wearing his heart on his sleeve. The song then dissipates into more of Yorke's yearning as it rides the guitar and organ out, until there is nothing left.

"Fake Plastic Trees"- The Bends

In both of these cases, the band masterfully maneuvers between sublime and simple without breaking a sweat. However, in Radiohead's hall of fame, one track does the balancing act better than all the others.

 At first glance, "Videotape," doesn't appear to amount to much. As the final track on 2007's In Rainbows, it seems to serve its purpose as a meditative album closer with little else to offer. The band originally premiered the track during their '06 tour, alongside other eventual album cuts: "15 Step," "Bodysnatchers," "All I Need," "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," and "Jigsaw Falling into Place." Then, the song was just one among many new tunes being tested, slotted somewhere in the middle of the main setlist.

"Videotape"- (Live from Bonaroo 2006)
Early live version

I'll admit, when I first heard the song in the context of the whole album I was underwhelmed. The album already had the muted "All I Need," to play the role of deceptively simple song, so what could "Videotape," really offer? "All I Need," had wickedly-timed drum hits, alien-sounding synth, and some of the best piano playing on a Radiohead track to date. In reality, the song was all I needed to quench my thirst for that highest order of Radiohead songs.

So there "Videotape," sat in my library, an under-appreciated and underplayed piece of a much larger musical puzzle. When I dusted it off again, I saw what I'd been missing. Now that open piano figure immediately demands my attention. The opening pierces my soul in a way I didn't think was possible anymore. Even now, as I listen to Yorke singing "When I'm at the pearly gates, this'll be on my videotape," I find myself gasping for air, struggling to comprehend such cryptic lines.

The song's devastating beauty increases as those haunting piano chords set-in and Yorke grows even more desperate. "This is one for the good days, and I'll have it all here in red, blue, green. Red, blue, green," croons Yorke. He's clearly reflecting on his life, but the lyrical brilliance of the song is that we don't know how deep his reflection is. Is Yorke on his deathbed? "This is my way of saying good, because I can't do it face to face. I'm talking to you after it's too late." At this point it's safe to say "yes." As Yorke's singing comes to end though, we hear that "today has been the most perfect day." So now we're back to square one. Did Yorke just have one phenomenal day that's forced him to take stock of everything that's come before or is the really how he says goodbye?

 "Videotape" (Live from the Basement)
Intimate 2007 take

One great certainty that does permeate throughout out is Yorke's unyielding love for an unnamed subject. "You are my center when I spin away," declares Yorke. As loathed as it is, Radiohead has had a great knack for writing wounded-love songs since "Creep" first hit the airwaves in '93. However, that song's genius was in its display of unrequited love. There's none of that here, as Yorke is able to not only "say goodbye," but acknowledge that his love is "his center."
"Creep"- Pablo Honey

That pain of saying "goodbye" is something the band amplifies to great effect during the song's final segment. As Yorke finishes telling his love she "shouldn't be afraid," the two-stepping drum beat fully morphs into what resembles the click-clacking of a train car. In this moment, doubt creeps in again and we begin to think this love of Yorke's isn't so strong. Perhaps it's as unsteady as that train so readily invoked.

With little time left in the song, everything but that piano flees the scene and one lonesome chord wafts up before Yorke is gone again, maybe forever; leaving only his videotape behind.

All of us fear saying goodbye, so the power in this song lies in Yorke's great defiance of a possible death. As wistful as Yorke is, he still accepts the possibility of Mephistopheles dragging him down. All the while, Yorke doesn't play the blame game and though he mentions the "good days," he spends little time in the past because of his dim future. It may be Yorke's way of "saying goodbye," but in reality it should be all of ours. We should take the good with the bad, we shouldn't be afraid, we should regret nothing we've done, and like the band we should find the sublime in the simple.

"Videotape" (album version)- In Rainbows

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Roots, The Roots, The Roots are on Fire

"Tip the Scale"- undun

Another Tuesday has come and The Roots have another new offering from their concept album undun. The video for "Tip the Scale," is a spiritual companion to the "Make My," right down to the gorgeous black & white cinematography. This particular clip isn't riddled with bullets like the previous offering, but it's heartbreaking nonetheless. No doubt these videos are meant to give us a closer look at the main character of the rap group's album, Redford Stephens. Expect the group to drop two more videos before the album is released on December 6.

Now Wait a Minute

As a programming note, "Track Attack" is going to be a day late and a dollar short this week. While you wait for the new installment, enjoy this still great rap cut from earlier in the year, courtesy of Big K.R.I.T. The song is in my opinion one of the best rap tracks of the year and is a phenomenal showcase of the Mississippi star's wealth of talent behind the boards and on the mic.

"Dreamin"- Return of 4Eva

Monday, November 7, 2011

"It's a bonfire, turn the lights out"

"Bonfire"- Camp

One week from now, Childish Gambino will be dropping his debut album Camp. In the past week, Gambino has released the above video for lead single "Bonfire," and "Heartbeat," which features a massive electro-tinged beat. The album is currently streaming on NPR's site.  
For my money, this is going to prove to be one of the better rap releases of the year, as Gambino has been slowly building towards this moment. His breakout may have been last year's "B**ch Look at Me Now," which did the "impossible" and made a Grizzly Bear song sound like a legit rap beat. After the success of the two I Am Just a Rapper mixtapes, Gambino released the well-received Internet-album Culdesac. Not only has awareness of Donald Glover's Gambino project grown, but his style has changed as well. Gone is the higher-pitched squeak of earlier offerings, replaced with a slightly lower delivery. One thing that has not changed over time is Glover's ability to weave in hysterical punchlines, that may have you consulting Wikipedia. Ultimately it's that effortless humor of his, coupled with his deft beat selection that will make Camp a release worth checking out.

"Til' You Know It's Real"

Rick Ross & Drake
The pair have announced a forthcoming mixtape.

Having previously linked up for "Free Spirit," and "Lord Knows,"  Ricky Ross and Drake are getting together again, this time around for a full mixtape. No official release date has been made known, but the mixtape will be called Y.O.L.O (You Only Live Once). The project has stalled a little as of late, due to Ross's recent health problems. In other news, Drake made it known in the XXL interview that the long-promised Lil Wayne mixtape is on hold for now.

"Free Spirit"

Radiohead U.S. Tour

Radiohead is scheduled to tour the U.S. Spring of next year.
It's the band's first U.S. tour in four years.

Radiohead have announced ten shows so far for an upcoming 2012 tour. At this point in time, no other live dates have been scheduled, but the band promises "more to follow." It's the band's first time touring stateside in four years. Considering the group's infrequent touring, if you are a fan of the group at all, I'd be looking for those ticket sales on a daily basis.

U.S. 2012 Tour Schedule
02-27 Miami, FL - American Airlines Arena
02-29 Tampa, FL - St. Pete Times Forum
03-01 Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena
03-03 Houston, TX - Toyota Center
03-05 Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center
03-07 Austin, TX - Frank Erwin Center
03-09 St. Louis, MO - Scottrade Center
03-11 Kansas City, MO - Sprint Center
03-13 Broomfield, CO - 1st Bank Center
03-15 Glendale, AZ - Arena

"Videotape" (live)- In Rainbows

"Do You Not Think So Far Ahead?"

 Odd Future singer Frank Ocean.
Ocean had a truly-solo debut on Saturday.

Odd Future R&B crooner Frank Ocean made his live-debut at the House of Blues in New Orleans Saturday night. The show was Ocean's first ever solo performance and he performed to a sold-out crowd. Though Ocean stumbled a few times, he put on a well-received show, which saw him playing air-guitar at one point during "American Wedding." The set featured songs he has sung like: "Novacane" and "Wedding;" as well as tracks he has penned such as "I Miss You" by Beyonce.

Ocean missed his show the following night in NYC which he attributes to having no voice left. No word yet on if Ocean will miss other shows from the scheduled tour or when he will be making up the missed concert.

"Thinking About You"

 "American Wedding"

 "I Miss You" (final song from show)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Hold It Now"

The video for T.I.'s insanely-catchy cut "I'm Flexin" is out now. The video is a typical southern-rap display with plenty of shots of T.I. and featured underground rapper Big K.R.I.T. riding around Atlanta. As of now, T.I. hasn't announced anything concrete about future albums, so in the meantime just do a little "flexin" of your own.

"I'm Flexin" ft. Big K.R.I.T.

Common Release Date

"Blue Sky"- The Dreamer, The Believer

Common's upcoming album The Dreamer, The Believer which features "Blue Sky" is now scheduled for a December 20 release. The songs "Sweet," and "Ghetto Dreams" ft. Nas have been put out in promotion of the album. In addition to confirming the new release date, Common also addressed his presence on the G.O.O.D. Music Compilation and discussed his possible collaborative effort with Nas.
In my own opinion, this forthcoming Common release is his most important since 2005's Be. From everything that the Chicago-native has dropped so far, he seems to be going back to basics; no doubt caused at least partially by his re-partnering with producer No I.D. I.D. was responsible for Common's groundbreaking early work including Resurrection. A lot of Common's lyrics on these new tracks hearken back to that record, which should have any fan of thoughtful rap excited. 

"Ghetto Dreams" ft. Nas

The Roots- "Make My"

"Make My"- undun

Up above, is the first official video from The Roots' new album undun, which is slated to drop December 6. "Make My" is the first single to be released off the album, and the entire track features underground-rap star Big K.R.I.T. The black and white affair from above runs less than half the length of the actual song, but is compelling none the less; giving us a violent and emotional shootout.
For the next three weeks, the group has promised to released a new video every Tuesday at 12:06 pm (most likely Eastern-Time) to promote the album.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Track Attack- "Wake Me When It's Over"

 The-Dream aka Terius Nash
Nash's song "Wake Me When It's Over," is featured in this week's Track Attack.

2011 may well be a banner year for rappers and R&B singers when it is comes to painful self-disclosures. Between Drake's drunk dialing on "Marvin's Room," J. Cole's wearisome abortion narrative "Lost Ones," and Frank Ocean's tale of love and drugs gone awry "Novacane," agonizing soul-bearing is "all the rage" this year. But for my money, one song in particular is more detached and downhearted than all the rest; it's the subject of this week's Track Attack.

The song in question this time out is The-Dream's song "Wake Me When It's Over." The track appears on The-Dream's most-recent release, a free album entitled 1977. Curiously, the album is credited to The-Dream's birth name of Terius Nash and not The-Dream, to mitigate blow-back from his label who didn't approve the release. The album itself is influenced by a time of turmoil for Nash who went through an intense public-divorce with Christina Milan. References to Milan and the divorce abound on the album, with "Wake Me When It's Over," being the pinnacle of that.

The-Dream with now ex-wife Christina Milan.
The couple went through a heated-divorce that was only recently finalized.

Beginning with cavernous drums and a two-stepping synthesizer, Nash immediately cuts in "Wake me when it's over." Within a matter of seconds, we as listeners who may not be familiar with the Milan drama still know that something is wrong. After repeating the sentiment several times, Nash further elaborates on what  he longs to sleep through. "I hate it when you go, I love to watch you leave. I hate the way you talk to me, I love you in them jeans." With this couplet we know more about Nash's mindset, he's clearly conflicted, but we're still in the dark. Nash moves to a litany of questions being asked of him: "What have you been drinking? What have I been doin'? Where I was last night?" With that final inquiry, Nash retorts, "Do you mean who I been screwin?" In one turn-of-phrase, we now know he is being indicted for infidelity.
Most men in Nash' situation would attempt to evade the question or mince words, but he admits to "looking like a devil." That self-criticism doesn't last long and he is soon on the offensive, "you're wearing the red dress, holding the shovel." He dials it down again and confesses to "trying to keep it hush." Nash knows he can't run from the situation, because he's guilty of everything he's being accused of. With the coming of the chorus, Nash confirms the end of the relationship dejectedly singing, "you knew that it was over. I knew it was over. Everyone knew it was over."
"Long Gone"- !977
A spiritual companion to "Wake Me When It's Over;" mining similar themes.

At this point, we would assume that Nash would call it quits and leave, but he can't. He continues to dwell on the relationship, crafting arguably one of the finest verses of any singer this year.
"I love the way you smell, but you're always on some bulls**t. I love how your body feels, why must we do this? Stop with the excuses, I hate procrastination. You never had no one like me, well why you so complacent? Now I'm feeling crazy and foolish, I hate that I'm impatient, why must we do this?" 

The complacency line is particularly poignant and is Nash's greatest strike back at his former love. If her sentiment holds, and he's the best she's ever had, then why is she so quick to let him go? In Nash's own mind, that should be enough, but he admits he's "feeling crazy and foolish." So in essence, Nash defeats his own argument, his own "impatience" dooming him as much as any physical sin he committed.
After the magnificent second verse, an auto-tuned bridge appears and the music dies down, taking the song's despondency to new depths. In this moment, Nash is starting to see things more clearly, though still not entirely owning up. "It was all downhill when we let them in our business." Even now, Nash is only seeing part of the problem, while his public-nature had a lot to do with his downfall; it was betrayal that "did him in."

Nash with assistant Melissa Santiago.
Photos like this represent the, "life on the Internet," Nash is referencing in the song.

After another chorus, Nash goes in attack-mode one final time, but dials it down near the verse's end as he hearkens back to a prior line, "I'll take the bullets, you can pull it," referencing "biting the bullet," from earlier in the song. In that encapsulating moment, Nash takes responsibility for his transgressions and reflects a final time on everyone who "knew it was over." The song then speeds up to highlight this moment clarity, before fading away.
As I said before, 2011 has been a near banner year for self-disclosure with the difference between "Wake Me When It's Over," and the other songs being in the details. J. Cole comes the closest to Nash on narrative, as abortion is never an easy subject to tackle, but unless the song is from J. Cole's perspective and not an unnamed narrator, the personal touch is lost. In the case of "Novacane," feeling for Frank Ocean dissipates within seconds, as he admits to "getting what he wanted." Finally, Drake is bringing on his own destruction, calling up an ex trying to ruin her current happiness for his own temporary pleasure. While these are all dire straits to be in, "Wake Me When It's Over," stands out not just because it happened, but because all that Nash could do was "sleep" through the worst. When confronted with situations like this, we all long to go to sleep and wake up when the storm has past. The harsh truth though is like Nash we can't, we have to be held accountable and "bite the bullet."

"Wake Me When It's Over"