Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Tallest Man on Earth Out in June

For those of you that are fans of the winsome, rustic folk of Swedish artist The Tallest Man on Earth you have a cause for celebration. On June 12, Kristian Matsson aka TMOE will be dropping his third LPThere's No Leaving Now. Matsson's tweeted the barebones back cover of the album and now the front-cover and tracklist have been revealed. There's No Leaving Now will be TMOE's fifth official release and is out on the Dead Oceans label.


01 To Just Grow Away
02 Revelation Blues
03 Leading Me Now
04 1904
05 Bright Lanterns
06 There's No Leaving Now
07 Wind and Walls
08 Little Brother
09 Criminals
10 On Every Page

 "My Journey to the Sky" (cover)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Earl Sweat Attack Conquer

In what has basically been a benchmark week for the Odd Future crew we seen the release of The OF Tape Vol. 2, the live debut of Earl Sweatshirt and on the downside, the cancellation of Frank Ocean's long-awaited Nostalgia, Lite album. As major as of all that is, it pales in comparison to the first official interview Earl has given which took place on Hot 97 this past Tuesday. With Tyler on hand, Mr. Early Bird fielded questions about his time spent away from OF, but tended to be cryptic in his responses. The whole thing is wonderful exploration of the mind of Odd Future's most mysterious member.

In other major Odd Future news, a video for their posse-cut "Oldie" is now out. Unlike the vids for "Rella" and "Ned Flander," the "Oldie" clip is a no-frills affair and features the Wolf Gang kids standing around taking turns rapping, cypher-style. It's as chaotic as can be and a wonderful call-back to early videos like "French," and "Earl."

Earl Interview


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Revue- "Wrecking Ball"

“Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea,” Bruce Springsteen asks on the anthemic opener of his seventeenth release in a forty-year career. He bellows the question over and over again, trying to find the answer but to no avail. The “promised land,” Springsteen loved has been lost. It sits broken down on a back-road somewhere in the heartland, choking in the dust. On Wrecking Ball, Springsteen tries to find an answer to that all-important question anyway he can, tracking it down with dogged determination.

“We Take Care of Our Own,” serves as a masterful introduction to Bruce’s rediscovery of America and stands as one of his strongest openers in years. Musically it resembles a large chunk of Magic, a no frills rocker with a captivating chorus. Springsteen’s mantra of “we take care of our own,” is less a statement of the present, more a sobering look back at the past. The nation that welcomed everyone with open arms has long since vanished.

"We Take Care of Our Own

Given how fragile our country has grown since Bruce dropped Working on a Dream in 2009, it’s no surprise he talks at length about our current economic situation. Where Working on a Dream was starry-eyed mythologizing of the new era of politics, Wrecking Ball is a retreat to the work of Nebraska, small-town citizens clinging to their routines just to escape the strains of daily-life. On the feet-stomping, hand-clapping “Easy Money,” Springsteen imagines robbing all the “fat cats,” deeming it the perfect date.  The jaunty “Shackled and Drawn,” name-checks “bankers’s hill,” as “The Boss” rises each day to put his nose to the grindstone.

This us against them fat-cat talk paints the record in a dark hue and in “Jack of All Trades,” Springsteen ups the ante, promising to “shoot the bastards on sight.” On this slow-burner, Springsteen becomes “the jack of all trades, master of none,” knowing that in this economic environment it’s the best shot he’s got at work. “We’ll be alright,” he sings over a delicate piano figure with weary-confidence. Elsewhere, Springsteen recalls The River, avowing that we “stood the drought, now we’ll stand the flood.” Where the river was dry, it’s now run over the banks, drowning many Americans. The searing solo from guitar-wizard Tom Morello seals the deal on the sobering song and is a high point of the album.

It’s worth mentioning that this record is one of Springsteen’s most successful marriages of music to message. “Death to My Hometown,” counts itself as one of several songs that comes through as an Irish sing-along. The raucous numbers are the embodiment of “misery loves company,” the depressed and defeated brought together by a few beers and a common enemy. However, a larger than life ghost haunts this album, by way of E-Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons. With the “Big Man’s” death in June of 2011, Springsteen lost his close-friend and foil. On previous downbeat tracks Clemons’ solos were cathartic, welcome releases from the shackles Springsteen’s songs put on us. On Wrecking Ball the darkness can become overwhelming at times, tracks like “This Depression” altogether blotting out Springsteen’s “sunny days.”

Nowhere is the balance of message and music better than the title-track, which I readily count as Springsteen’s greatest in a decade plus. Here Springsteen is stunningly defiant, begging all naysayers “take your best shot.” Even with a bloodied lip and bruised face, Springsteen staggers to his feet, resolving to never fall to fear. Max Weinberg’s in-the-pocket drumming astutely accents Springsteen’s pleas and Clemons’ understated sax blasts are a youthful liberation, transporting us back to a simpler-time.

"Wrecking Ball"

Much like the world we live in, not everything about this record is perfect and Springsteen can’t spin gold from everything he’s given here. “Rocky Ground,” though admirably ambitious with shimmering organ and soulful choruses, fires in too many directions and Bruce can’t seem to pull it together. “You’ve Got It,” similarly stalls, reading as a cast-off from 2002’s The Rising. Springsteen rescues the record on the penultimate track “Land of Hope and Dreams.” Out of all the tunes here, it has the strongest feeling of an actual E-Street song. The ghost of Clarence Clemons returns and he unleashes a solo halfway through that hearkens back to “Jungleland.” The epic swells as Springsteen’s train barrels down the tracks, welcoming “saint and sinner” alike on board. The subtle strumming of “We Are Alive,” is an updated take of “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” for a new generation of outcasts. With his final words Springsteen exhorts the starving souls of Americans to sleep easy, when they wake up the nightmare will be over.

“Hard times come and hard times go,” Bruce reminds us on the aforementioned title-track. We’ve seen this type of trouble before and we’ll see it again. What’s changed since Bruce last took on an America he couldn’t seem to understand is that we are no longer one nation. Between two wars, a recession, depression, and general uncertainty about the state of our union, we’ve fragmented into millions of pieces. On the bonus track “American Land,” we no longer welcome the people dying to get here with open arms. We’ve grown disillusioned, cold, and cynical. Springsteen’s latest release may not be perfect, no one would confuse it with Born to Run, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a re-affirming record in a time when the voice of reason is increasingly silent. On Wrecking Ball, his message is loud and clear and we need it now more than ever.  

"Land of Hopes and Dreams"

Monday, March 19, 2012

No Nostalgia

In what stands as the bummer music news for today, Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean announced on his Tumblr that his long-promised Nostalgia, Lite won't be seeing the light of the day. The deluxe edition of 2011's excellent Nostalgia Ultra mixtape, Lite was supposed to contain choice cuts from Ultra, in addition to bonus tracks "Acura Integurl," and "Whip Appeal." However, it's no longer happening. Have no fear though, the Wolf Gang crew is dropping the Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 tomorrow and Ocean is featured on four separate songs. If you can't wait for that, enjoy the still great video for "Swim Good."

"Swim Good"

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Make Our Home in the American Land

There are few calendar days in the U.S. that better represent the spirit of our country than St. Patrick's Day. While many see the day as an excuse to dawn a faux-Irish accent, drink copious amounts of Guinness, and pinch their unsuspecting friends, I see it as a celebration of the endearing work-ethic of the hands that built our country. We celebrate these Americans because they came to this land with little more than a fire in their belly and the clothes on their back.

So, in celebration of St. Patty's Day I give a rawkus embrace of all-things Irish by a man who is no stranger to the working-class. "The hands that keep this country we're always trying to keep out," Bruce Springsteen snarls in the jaunty Irish-tune. Sadly the love we once had for our immigrants has dissipated, muddied by debates about "aliens." Now more than ever we need days like St. Patrick's Day, to remind us that we should lovingly embrace our differences as Americans and not let them divide us. Idealistic? Yes. Possible? Absolutely.

"American Land"- Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"NY (Ned Flander)"

Just when you thought Odd Future couldn't get any darker in their videos, they go and drop "NY (Ned Flander)." The whole thing is a carry-over from the "Rella"video with Hodgy again playing a lecherous old man popping pills and glued to the TV. His verse is preemo Hodgy, sputtering lines with stupefying effortlessness. A minor-key piano underscores the track and is a step away from unleashing Michael Myers. Tyler gets infantile and is completely repulsive. Sitting in a high-chair, eyes bulging and teeth a sickly green, Tyler name-checks Jerry Sandusky and is left-stranded in a putrid bath-tube. The whole video is less than three minutes, but when you're trapped in a nightmare time always seems to stand still.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Revue- WZRD

Let’s be honest for a second, more often than not rap-rock is a match made in musical hell. From the agro-assault that is Limp Bizkit to Lil Wayne’ abysmal Rebirth record, the marriage of the two genres has yielded more strikes than successes. For every “Epic” or “Bring the Noise,” there’s always Linkin Park lurking just around the corner. So what are we to do when a rapper makes a full-on rock record? One that features no rapping or anything remotely resembling a “beat.” That nagging question is at the heart of Kid Cudi’s WZRD project.

For starters, Cudders made a wise choice to work exclusively with close-friend Dot Da Genius on WZRD. The psychedelic-sheen that enveloped previous collaborations “Marijuana” and “Trapped in My Mind,” is spread-out across the album’s 47 minutes and recalls a hazy-dream bordering on the nightmarish. The opening synth-swelter “Arrival” recalls 80s horror-movie schlock and sets the stage for the fuming “High Off Life,” which reads as a Black Sabbath demo, a band that is an admitted touchstone for the project.

WZRD proudly recalls more famous acts such as Sabbath, or Nine Inch Nails on the bad-acid trip track “Dr. Pill,” where Cudi’s upbeat singing is off-set by furiously-fuzzy guitar. Not being known as a singer, Cudi’s vocals serve the album well, particularly on stand-out “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” where his touching-warble pines for a ghost of a girlfriend past. “I need your body right here,” he bemoans. Even with his new-found sobriety and daughter, this is still the same kid from Cleveland suffering from night terrors.

"Where Did You Sleep Last Night"

The nightmarishness of this album is palpable on “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” the cover of the classic Leadbelly track made famous by Nirvana. Cudi and Dot cut-close to the Nirvana rendering, but liven the song up with drum claps that descend into static. The alluring “Brake” also goes bump in the night, riding a slithering-guitar line and sporting beats pulled from an NES-game. Here Cudi is blindly-wandering through the darkness, no one to save him.

This darkness becomes reality on “Efflictim,” where Cudi contemplates suicide over a shuffling-guitar and wonders how people would feel if they found out he was dead. Coming to the realization that life is too short, Cudi bids a despondent adieu, his wordless vocals wafting into the night sky as the curtains close.

This shouldn’t have been a record that works and many will undoubtedly pigeonhole WZRD as Cudi’s vanity project. “The Dream Time Machine,” recalls lack-luster Cudi rap-offerings with the caveat of being “rock.” Propulsive “Love Hard,” sports a trifling “blah-blah-blah” opening and comes across as a “moodier” take on pop-punk. Nevertheless, the positives outweigh the negatives here. “I have matured so much, the boy has become a man,” he declares on closer “Upper Room.” For many of us maturing means settling-down and living in our comfort-zone, but not for Cudi. Cudi’s maturation is constantly-shifting in a strange musical land, knocking down barriers with effortless ease.       

"Teleport 2 Me, Jamie"