aaaaaaaArtist: Kid Cudi (ft. Ratatat)

Album: Man on the Moon: The End of Day

Released: September 15, 2009

Label: Universal Motown Records

I have been following Ratatat for some years now and they are one of the most under appreciated entities in rock, hip hop, and electronic circles.  Kid Cudi is an up and coming rapper who has a knack for melody as well as some really lyrically intriguing material.  A rare combination in the rap industry.  Ratatat’s two mixtapes have created a lot of commotion in the online community and their production skills are unquestionable.  They also produced Kid Cudi’s hit “Pursuit of Happiness,” which will no doubt achieve an “overplayed” status soon enough.

This track does not include MGMT, who are almost more of a distraction than they are a worthy addition to “Pursuit of Happiness.”  “Alive” is less catchy vocally than the aforementioned hit, but it is bass heavy, melodic though dark, and practically hypnotic.  It is everything I would expect from producer/musicians like Ratatat and increases my interest in Kid Cudi.  His will be an exciting career to follow.  Now listen.

Artist: Santigold

Album: Santogold

Released: April 2008

Label: Downtown Records

I think I have found my weakness as of late. Pop music. Granted the “pop” music is not as popular as Billboard top 100 but I do feel that much of it is based on those lyrics and hooks that pop music was born with. Anyway the song that I has been stuck in my head is no exception. Santigold’s Lights Out is catchy and I dare you to listen to it just once.

I’ll be honest, I am not the biggest fan of Santigold, I dismissed her as a record label’s attempt to jump on the M.I.A. bandwagon of woman singers who dress crazy. A few of her other songs I just can’t get into. However this song is very good.

Anyway check out the song, its crazy good, almost as crazy as the video.

Out of the Blue

Artist: Electric Light Orchestra

Album: Out of the Blue

Released: November 1977

Label: Columbia

So my lack of dedication to this blog has been quite substantial however I would like to make up for it by returning with some new songs and albums to show off. I’ll be taking the plunge with a song that I have been enamored with for the past few days. ELO’s (Electronic Light Orchestra) Sweet Talkin’ Woman is one of my favorite more poppy songs by the Group. If you have never heard of Jeff Lynne (singer, guitarist and chief song writer) now is your chance. All of your favorite ELO tunes, you have them even if you don’t know you do, were written by Lynne. Tangent: Lynne was also in an 80’s supergroup called The Traveling Wilburys which included some good company being that Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison were all making sweet music babies together but I digress.

Sweet Talkin’ Woman came on to my FM the other day and it inspired me to buy ELO’s Greatest Hits; I know a greatest hits, how daring. But nevertheless after one listen I needed that song at my fingertips. Coming off of the 1977 Out of the Blue among many other singles off of the album. The song itself uses effects on vocals better than Cher or Kanye ever did and like all ELO songs the string section adds so much. But what really gets me each time I listen to the song is the chord progression. Well, don’t take my word for it here is a live version with all of ELO’s hair glory.

Amplified Review

September 5, 2009

d80162l0j8tArtist: Q-Tip

Album: Amplified

Released: November 23, 1999

Label: Arista

I have talked about A Tribe Called Quest Before, and this is a solo effort by one of the group’s three members.  Q-Tip, Kamaal the Abstract, and sometimes referred to as simply “the abstract rapper” followed A Tribe Called Quest’s 1998 breakup with his debut album Amplified a year later.  I use the album as my primary running music, but friends are skeptical as to that use.  I like to groove with my music while running instead of using it to push me forward forcefully, but to each her own.

Amplified personifies Q-Tip’s laid back abstract style masterfully with its cavernous grooves and staccato beats.  The first track “Wait Up” is aptly named, melding Q-Tip’s smooth flow with a faltering drums and jazz-reminiscent piano.  “Higher” takes the groove deeper and shows the rapper’s skill in both abstract material and classic hip hop swagger.  “Breathe and Stop” offers an even trippier and heavier beat, while “Moving With You” takes that confidence to the romantic level.  “Let’s Ride” offers an extremely intelligent jazz guitar riff that underlies Q-Tip’s chill atmosphere and lives up to its name as a cruising song.

The well-travelled hit of the album is “Vivrant Thing,” and is a true and tested hip hop ode to one amazing woman.  As a long time friend of A Tribe Called Quest and Native Tongues, Busta Rymes makes his appearance for “N.T.” a decidedly more intense song than the rest of the album.  “End of Time (ft. Horn) uses a strange fusion beat that makes it very difficult to describe and closes out Amplified on a note of new things to come from Q-Tip.  There’s also a hidden track, but I won’t spoil that surprise completely.

The combination of disjointed beats and the suave flow of Q-Tip are a perfect mix that was never captured on his two later albums, and although both are solid albums, neither one reached the level of Amplified.  Whether he was still coming off his high with A Tribe Called Quest or just on his game, this is one album any Tribe fan should own.

FolgateArtist: Madness

Album: The Liberty of Norton Folgate

Released: August 18, 2009

Label: Yep Roc

Madness was responsible for filling much of Britain’s billboard charts during the early 1970s to mid 80s.  In fact, they hold the record – along with UB40 – for most weeks spent by a group in the 1980s UK singles charts: 214 weeks.  Arguably one of the greatest ska bands ever, this goofy ensemble was also the author of the international hit “Our House,” which was so popular it inspired a musical by the same name.  The group broke up while recording a new album in 1988 citing artistic differences, but continued to reunite for their Madstock festivals and several other events.  In 1999 they released Johnny the Horse to moderate success.  Then in 2007 Madness announced a new tour and the result of their last two years together is a masterpiece.

The Liberty of Norton Folgate is an intimidating 2-disc testament to the evolution of Madness.  Although still arguably within their 2 Tone style, the album is breaks largely from their old sound and defies easy genre identification.  The Liberty of Norton Folgate begins with an overture almost reminiscent of Mussorgsky, but transitions smoothly into “We Are London.”  That second track pulses with heavy bass and keyboards, punctuated by the horns’ flashing melody.  “We Are London” makes it clear that the band found a new sound, but retained their skill and arguably improved on it.  “Forever young” provides a whisper of the old Madness and moves into “Dust Devil,” which sounds the most like their older work.  Guess what?  It’s their single for the album.  But since being radio friendly is no crime and the group’s former niche, it is carried out with a grace befitting their experience from bludgeoning the radio industry with hits during the 70s and 80s.  However, “Dust Devil” still fits snugly into The Liberty of Norton Folgate along with stranger songs like the title track.

“The Liberty of Norton Folgate” finishes the first disc with an astonishing 10 plus minutes of ska.  Topping the glorious vocals of “On the town” with its sweeping piano, and “Clerkenwell Polka” with it’s insane beat and shouting, the title track of the album is probably the most epic piece of ska ever written.  This is not a word that is generally applied to ska music either, but this track earns it.  Pictures of London streets are painting in Madness’ dark and haunting music.  This is not the madness of youth, but the madness of a wild age and a city of split personality.  Breaking into whistling and a piano having a romp through the song, Madness sings of the freeing effect of the “Technicolor world” most people live in.  The track picks up momentum and carries on its opus into a confrontation of immigration in Britain and the fears of its inhabitants.  Strings and a chorus back up the singer’s description of the conditions immigrants fight through and their need to belong and seek freedom.

As bands grow and mature, especially the more popular ones, the pattern seems to be to write increasingly more contemporary music.  Once that plateau is reached, the group continues to write skillfully, but they succumb to the influence of experience and the almost homogenous synthesis of the vast amounts of music they have come to know and play.  After years of residing within nostalgia and even cover concerts under the band name The Dangermen, Madness have reinvented themselves and produced an album of true craft.