30 March 2007

Timbaland / Shock Value / Interscope [2007]

Timbaland
"Timbaland Presents: Shock Value"
Choice cuts: "Oh Timbaland," "Bounce," "2 Man Show"

Fresh off a mind-blowing 2006 for Timbaland productions (heard of Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado or The Pussycat Dolls?) "Shock Value" is a lesson in striking while the iron is hot. Tim's beats are scorching, as usual, with brazen synth, machine-gun high-hats and syncopated rhythms that pop and lock in traditional Timbaland fashion.

A who's who of now and then, "Shock Value" knows no genre boundaries. Guests include Fall Out Boy and Elton John, as well as muse Missy Elliot, Dr. Dre and JTim. A modern-day conductor with a low, rolling voice, Tim chooses where and when to shine the spotlight and usually succeeds in capturing the brightest moment, whether it be his own unique arrangements - like the handclaps and quick guitar lead on "Oh Timbaland" - or the contributions of his scene-stealing cohorts - as in the searing Missy verse on "Bounce."

What the new generation of "Promiscuous Girls" (most of whom are not yet of legal age) fails to realize is that Timbaland was churning out hits (remember Ginuwine?) when they were still decorating Barbie's Dream House. Presenting stop-and-go club bangers ("Release" is a "SexyBack" remix in disguise) with a pinch of the smooth ("Fantasy" and "Scream" recall Furtado's "Say It Right"), the result is a 17-track tutorial that could be called "How to Take Over the Radio ver. 2007."

- Joe Coscarelli

Go, Go, Go, Go

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27 March 2007

El-P / I'll Sleep When You're Dead / Def Jux [2007]

El-P
"I'll Sleep When You're Dead"
Choice cuts:
"Tasmanian Pain Coaster," "Up All Night," "Drive"

"I'll Sleep When You're Dead" begins with David Lynch's tragic heroine, Laura Palmer, describing a fall in space, culminating with a burst into flames. The epic journey to follow is akin to this Lynchian, high-speed descent. The rhymes are convoluted yet insightful (El-P's flow is both wordy and witty), and they zip by at warp speed surrounded by space-age synthesizers and futuristic sound effects.

Apocalyptic themes promise a worldly downfall as El-P plays frenetic oracle over music more analogous to experimental rock than your little brother's bling-hop. Songs like "Tasmanian Pain Coaster" expand into progressive-electronic outros never fearing ambitious musical hooks. Lower in the mix are El-P's verses. They are crowded with ominous prophecy, frantic with description like a Tolkien novel. The verses favor detail in storytelling, like in "Habeas Corpses," the futuristic tale of robotic love on a prison ship.

El-P spits with the urgency most emcees reserve for diss tracks, as though his reputation is being eternally challenged. Certain the game doesn't get his "whole existence," El-P pronounces himself "a natural B-boy brainiac who'll smack you out your mittens" on "Smithereens." This chip-on-the-shoulder style results in searing verses to match his innovation and atmospheric production, producing a truly progressive rap album on which each song sounds like the soundtrack to a catastrophic, science-fiction car chase. �

- Joseph Coscarelli

Washington Square News

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09 March 2007

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I just realized that none of the links worked. They should all be fixed.

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Albert Hammond Jr. / Yours to Keep / Rough Trade [2007]

3 stars

Albert Hammond Jr., the bouncy-haired Stroke with the three-piece suits and smooth rhythm-guitar lines, crafts his first solo venture, a respectable combination of New York confidence in the form of distorted guitar hooks and SoCal cool.

Not straying from the familiar sound so closely associated with The Strokes, "In Transit" begins like something from "Is This It," intertwining guitar and metronome-like drums that build to a catchy chorus. "Yours to Keep" is at its best when Hammond strays from this nu-NYC sound of 4/4 garage-stomp, incorporating vocal influences from the classics, channeling John Lennon/Oasis and their knack for '60s brit-pop on "Blue Skies." "Bright Young Thing" has a simple melody reminiscent of Lou Reed on a happy day and Guided By Voices and Buddy Holly covers ("Postal Blowfish" and "Well... All Right," respectively) provide influential reference points.

An unassuming character, Hammond never raises his voice or the music's volume. Instead of being dominated by a parade of famous friends (guest appearances include Sean Lennon, Ben Kweller and Julian Casablancas), Hammond retains autonomy with smooth vocals and signature guitar riffs รก la The Strokes. Hammond scratches the solo-album itch, neither forging ahead nor offending listeners with the typical indulgence and solo experimentation they tend to propagate.

- Joseph Coscarelli

Read it on WSN

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06 March 2007

Against Me! Feature Story

AGAINST ME!

I have the full interview transcribed. Good read for any AM! fans. Email me.

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Best Album Ever (WSN's weekly throwback review)

Neutral Milk Hotel / In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

The curtain peals back to reveal Jeff Mangum's voice, double-layered for texture, riding a start-stop acoustic guitar rhythm. The hum of an accordion gently glides parallel to a story of a royal, albeit carnal, romance. So begins the journey of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea."

The stage has been set for the musical three-ring circus to follow. Full of ragtag lyrical characters including a two-headed boy, Anne Frank and Jesus Christ, musical diversity is matched lyrically step for step as organ, flugelhorn, singing saw and zanzithophone diversify the wall of fuzz that exists at the album's chaotic core.

Mangum is ringleader, crooning and warbling his way through tales of ghosts and synthetic flying-machines, each track combining dizzying layers of instrumentation. Mangum and company have not sequenced a collection of songs, but have crafted an album in the truest sense of the word by cementing each song in a distinct context of characters over music that is both haunting and tuneful.

Most notable about "Aeroplane" is the distinction between creativity and pretension. Never eccentric for the sake of being so, every otherworldly sound builds melody and every abstract lyric piques curiosity.

Both seminal and overdetermined, "Aeroplane" is as much acoustic guitar as deafening fuzz and equal doses of impassioned howling.

Before the curtains close for good on the album and ultimately the band's career, Mangum's encore, "Two Headed Boy Part 2", will shatter your heart and make you long for the warmth of a parent or lover.

When Mangum's guitar is dropped and the studio door is heard closing, the only thing left to do is play it again.

Washington Square News Link

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Do Make Say Think / You, You're A History in Rust / Constellation [2007]

4 stars
Choice cuts: Bound to Be That Way/You, You're Awsome

With the cathartic energy of Explosions in the Sky and the grace of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Canada's Do Make Say Think elaborates on the blooming instrumental rock genre. The post-rock tag is confining as DMST expands its improvisational techniques with jazz influences, synthetic tones, loops and samples.

The guitar-bass-drum combination that makes up modern instrumental rock is rearranged on "You, You're a History in Rust," with cascading drums and crashing cymbals defining the album's lush atmosphere. Often guided by driving bass, guitar takes a backseat to a pounding and talented rhythm section.

Memorable guitar is not totally absent, though, leading songs like "The Universe!" with reckless abandon as overdriven riffs start and stop to create a pulsing buildup. Vocals are sparse but melody is not. Flute, strings, saxophone and trumpet create http://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifmelodic leads at the hands of the band's multi-instrumentalists, seen in the subtle violins on "Herstory of Glory."

Like early Broken Social Scene on steroids, "History" benefits from its singular vision of building tension to a breaking point, culminating in a beautiful release. Smooth pacing assures the album never drags and each harmonic deliverance builds tangentially to the next passage. The listener has to have an attention span, but patience is rewarded when the fog clears to reveal hooks in newfound clarity. Do Make Say Think compels one to endure escalation, but at each pinnacle's crescendo the talented musicians create grooves with a cinematic quality of growth through investment.

- Joseph Coscarelli

Washington Square News

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