Saturday, July 13, 2013

Magna Carta... Holy Grail Review

In the now infamous commercial during halftime of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Shawn Carter proclaimed he was releasing an album in a couple weeks that would usher in an era of “#newrules”, in which album promotion would be no longer necessary, returning the focus of the music industry to the music. The album’s lack of promotion included no lead single and boasted hip-hop legend Rick Rubin’s sitting on a couch production, a highly original marketing campaign which hadn’t been used since Kanye West’s last outing. It doesn’t stop there though. For his game changing new album, rap/entertainment/clothing/business mogul Jay-Z formed a rap conglomerate with Samsung to give away his album for free to one million non-iPhone users, if there are that many. In addition, Jay-Z sent out a few tweets for the first time since ’88, and put on an art show.

Oh but wait, this album was supposed to focus on the music wasn’t it? Sorry, after all the non-promotion I must have forgotten. Anyway, just like half of the music world did, on the night that Magna Carta/Carter... Holy Grail became available to Samsung users (I heard that a lot of them had trouble downloading it anyway), I torrented the new Hov album excited to see what God, the Father (Yeezus being the son of course) was going to bless us with. It was pretty nice for the first 3 seconds of the album with that awesome sounding beat from the commercial, but shit goes downhill after that with one of the most grating singing performances I’ve heard in recent memory, especially from a singer in which I personally find talented. But as Magna Carta... Holy Grail is an album of “#newrules”, it only makes sense to have one of the most popular figures of the 21st century on the first track of your album. After the 20 minute long JT ballad, Hov comes in and get his Hov on, name dropping his daughter, (“Fuck that shit y’all talking about” – Blue Ivy Carter) MC Hammer, Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, and this guy named “Augh” (sp?) about 300 times. I mean c’mon, at least explain who this “Augh” guy is if you’re gonna say his name after every line.
Okay, okay not EVERYTHING is laughable about this album. The following track, “Picasso Baby”, is probably my favorite lyrical performance from Hov on the album, and the beat is pretty great. Most of the production on Magna Carta is pretty great actually. After all, the man himself said, “Don’t be good, be great”. Unfortunately, Mr. Carter didn’t follow his own advice in regards to the rapping on this album. It’s a sad day when the worst part of a Jay-Z album is Jay-Z. While none of the rapping is downright awful, none of it is great either. Hov coasts along from track to track like he was on a cruise to Cuba with Beyonce. Speaking of Beyonce, the “cliché” love song she’s featured in is actually pretty good, as is the token Frank Ocean song (“I hope my black skin don’t dirt this white tuxedo”), though Jay-Z has practically nothing to do with the quality of either song.
While there are some passable songs on here with some reasonable depth to them (“Heaven”, “Nickels and Dimes”), none of them are enough to overshadow the trainwreck that is “BBC”. No, not a track about the stereotype of black men, although with the fake gaudiness of the beat and materialistic lyrics, it just might be. The track features a random mix of kicking and screaming from the likes of Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, and a Nas verse that comes and goes faster than Trinidad James’ career. The track is rather symptomatic of the album itself in its mesh of talented artists into a melting pot of mediocrity, missed opportunities, and failed expectations.

I could go on and on about the mediocrity of Jay-Z’s rhymes, or I could talk about Rick Ross’ attempt at spitting the worst verse of the year, but I won’t waste your time with all of that just like you shouldn’t waste your time with this album.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Miyuki ~ Kenjutsu / 剣術 EP

Miyuki, albeit being a little known artist from Russia; comes at the scene with a big presence with her newest ep 'Kenjutsu / 剣術'. Borrowing heavily from Japanese elements including traditional Japanese instruments, Buddhist mantras and every day talk/intercom speech. These components layered on top of her ambient/glitch/downtempo roots compliment each other exceedingly well, lending to what could be her greatest album to date. More so than her previous albums, this one is a fair bit more glitch/upbeat orientated. Less long, drawn out ambient sequences; replaced by the hums of old Buddhists and harder more pronounced drum lines, bell tolls, and sharp synths. It brings out what I would consider a very idyllic balance between progressive glitch and relaxing ambiance. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu ~ Nanda Collection

Sadly I am quite busy this week due to work and other miscellaneous things, and so this will not be a full reflection on this album; but merely a slight overview. 

 For those who are new to Kyary, if you have enjoyed groups like Perfume and Capsule (all produced by Nakata, that guy sure gets around) this will be a joyous occasion indeed. Her inane lyrics and ridiculous fashion sense lend to a light and cheerful mood that is powered by electronic production.

Kyary's new album "Nanda Collection" is not quite "new". Sure, it has been released fairly recently, but a majority of the tracks have been taken from her previous single; with only two new songs being put in. However, should you skip this album? If you enjoy J-Pop and Kyary, no, no you should not. It is a collection of her previous works, and includes what I would say are her best songs. This is the album to have if you do not posses any of her previous works (with exception to 'tsukematsukeru', seriously grab that one it is great).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kanye West ~ Yeezus

Oh boy. Where to start with this one... Even before Kanye's head was plastered on a building, scaring children, and sparking debates all over the internet, Yeezus was spurring gigantic controversy. If you are still one of the hopefuls expecting a pre-808s style album, you will be sorely disappointed. The Kanye West you once knew is long gone, he is no longer a rapper, and you should not expect that he is going to rap. He has been replaced by Kanye Kardashian, and it is up to you to decide whether this is a good or bad thing.

Right from the start of the album your ears will be engulfed by some of the strongest production that has ever been featured in a Kanye album. Invoking a powerful feeling, the album immerses listeners in superb sampling, progressions, and aggressive, dark inspirations from the Trap music scene. The last minute of ‘New Slaves’ is the pinnacle in this regard, showing how far Kanye has come as a producer. The whole album has been polished to a gleaming shine, with major standouts being ‘Black Skinheads’, ‘New Slaves’, and ‘Blood on the Leaves’.

However, Yeezus does come with a price. Most of it drawing from Kanye's bloated ego and tendencies to complain about things he has done to himself; like becoming famous and a hip hop icon. The lyrical content is not what you would call....well....good. The vast majority of the album is Kanye bitching about how tired he is of being famous, and how hard it is, how the fashion industry did not take him in with open arms, and how he never wanted all the pressure of being famous This is not an album to listen to if you are looking at it for the lyrical content, you will be greatly disappointed.

If you do not mind the direction Kanye has been taking for the past few years, this album may be what you need for a nice summer soundtrack. However, if you are still waiting for the Kanye of ‘College Dropout’ days to poke his head out of the crowd, pass this album up. He has been covered with a sheet, brutally beaten with a bat, and is posing as Jay-Zs new bean bag chair.

Side note: Stop tweeting "I'd rather be a dick than a swallower" please. That shit has been played out since Kanye wrote it down. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jon Hopkins ~ Immunity

Well, here we are. After almost two years of inactivity I have decided that this blog needs a new injection of life. Most of the members have moved on by this point, or have not really cared from the start (guilty). But, with that said; I will do my part in trying to start the spark once more.

So, without further adieu.

I have no previous history with Jon Hopkins, but after being linked to this whole album one night I have been fully captivated. It draws you in with a blend of electronic glitch, sharp tones, and upbeat percussion that you cannot shy away from, slowly winding down into an ambiance to cushion your stay. What Jon Hopkins does so well is not from anything that I would say shakes the industry with fresh new ideas; but refines a genre so well that you cannot help but look at it in awe. Calling up cues from fellow artists like Nosaj Thing, Nathan Fake and Boards of Canada. Yet keeping it all his own with piano rolls, electronic stabs and powerful natural sounds. With all the landmark albums releasing early this year, this is not one you should toss to the side for later.

 You can listen to the full album here