Sunday, April 22, 2012

Track Attack- "Carmen"

"Carmen" is one of those songs that leaves an impression on you the first time you hear it. The second those elegiac strings first come in, you know nothing good is going to come from this story. In a previous post, I mentioned that "Carmen" is "Hot Child in the City," for a new generation and that still holds true.

The tale of lost innocence is nothing new to pop music and with "Carmen" Del Rey becomes the story's latest torch-bearer. The video drives that point home with the opening shots of a budding rose standing in for the starry-eyed Carmen's descent into the darkness of NYC. The innocent of the rose is quickly lost, and we're exposed to a series of intimate home videos ala "Video Games." The videos are well-worn and convey the misspent days of youth as a separate lifetime, only to be remembered in some far corner of the mind.

"Baby's all dressed up with nowhere to go," Del Rey somberly coos. In the final moments of the video, we see what may be Carmen in a white dress, wildly spinning in an open field, doing her best to leave the past behind her. As the piano plays out, Carmen walks away for good. She's escaped the streets, the party tricks, and the soul-stealing cameras. She's found those lost days of youth, if only in her mind.

"Carmen"- Born to Die


Thursday, April 19, 2012

R.I.P. Levon Helm

As a drummer for The Band, one of the most important groups in American music history, Levon Helm occupied a unique place in the popular music canon. His drumming on tracks like "Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," has a plodding simplicity to it, but also an understated beauty. This is the tale for countless Helm drum tracks, to say nothing of his vocal abilities. When he stepped to the mic to sing on "The Weight" he hypnotized an entire generation and to this day its hard not to hear the song and stop dead in your tracks. The song is an astute summation of the American experience, four minutes of yearning and traveling down the open roads. Helm's drum fills on the track masterfully deliver "The Weight" of the song's title. Few bands meant more to the evolution of American rock music than The Band and Helm was the steady center that held it all together.

In the late 90s, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer and for a time his wondrous voice became a whisper. He made a remarkable recovery however and was back to singing full-time on the albums Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, both of which won Grammys. Helm passed away at 1:30 pm, but not before being visited by The Band masterming Robbie Robertson a few days prior. Helm was 71 years old and is survived by his wife and daughter.

"I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free"- Electric Dirt

"The Weight"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Never Understand"

In case you haven't been paying attention, New Jersey-based Clams Casino has quickly become one of the biggest producers in the indie-rap scene. Having produced for Lil B, A$AP Rocky, Soulja Boy, and yes even Mac Miller, Clammy Clams as he often calls himself has notched up a dizzying "cloud-rap" catalog. This "new" track from Squadda B, an early Casino partner-in-crime eschews that slowed-down "cloud-rap" sound for hypnotic mid-tempo movement. For his part, Squadda spits faster than usual over the pitter-patter drumbeat and muted horn bleats. Casino manages to tip his hat to Kanye West and the RZA, lacing the track with a chipmunk soul-sample. Casino and B may have notched up the RPMs, but the track still sounds like a slow-mo walk through a sunny day in the dream world. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


It's been a bit since we've heard a new track from Kanye West, but all that changes with this the first release for DJ Khaled's upcoming Kiss the Ring record. The track has a blippy strip-club sound that 'Ye rarely raps over, but he absolutely annihilates the beat. Besides referencing Wiz which is sure to gin up controversy, Kanye is his defiant self, gleefully snarling during the track's chorus. If Watch the Throne placed 'Ye atop the rap world, tracks like these only serve to cement his status.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"The Recipe" ft. Dr. Dre

Recent rap-blog staple Kendrick Lamar is readying his major-label debut for Aftermath Records, the forthcoming Good Kid in a Bad City. In anticipate for the album, Lamar has dropped the Dre-featuring "The Recipe." The track sports the type of soulful sample that warmly embraced Lamar's Section 80 release from 2011. Easing in and out of triple-time lines, Lamar is in autopilot here and bombs the whole track. The real surprise is Dre though, who isn't know for flowing over something this soulful. Dre's voice is as husky as ever and he reaches for rhyme schemes most rappers his age wouldn't dare to do. The two even manage to bounce-off each at one point, sounding like a seasoned duo. It's a moment of master meeting pupil, an open love letter to Los Angeles and 20 years of G-Funk.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Gun Has No Trigger"

The intensely unclassifiable Dirty Projectors are gearing up for their new album Swing Lo Magellan, which drops July 10 in the U.S. The album is the follow-up to 2009's genre-defying Bitte Orca and the recently released "Gun Has No Trigger" is our first taste of what Dave Longstreth and company are cooking up. The track is buoyed by a lock-step drumbeat and cooing that has come to identify the Dirty Projectors. Longstreth as gets all accusatory, with a hint of weakness in his voice. He levitates between these two poles by stretching his voice like putty, going from somber singing to snarl at a moment's notice. The tracks smacks of simplicity, but in the Dirty Projectors' dictionary that page has been yanked out.