Fall Music Reviews Pt. II

October 27, 2012

Okay, for perhaps the most eclectic assortment of Album reviews I’ve ever done in one article, I plan to stick to the real concise first-take impressions on the following albums. I’m certain I’ll be going into much more detail on a few of these as the best-of reviews show up here in a few months.

* Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor II

It’s no secret I love Lupe and I even made last year’s Lasers my pick of the year when many others saw it as a label influenced pop-rap misstep. So here’s the more straightforward hip hop album we suppose Lupe meant to release in the first place. The problem for me is, I think I actually prefer Lasers which I still play regularly and never skip a track, finding no filler to speak of. Food and Liquor II has some great moments, some of his finest. “ITAL,” “Around My Way,” and “Audobon Ballroom” are some of his greatest tracks. His dissection and critique of hip hop’s use of the word “bitch,” in “Bitch Bad,” is long overdue and relevant. Yet there are more moments of filler here than I’ve ever heard on a Lupe record–“Heart Donor,” employs his worst chorus to date, “Form Follows Function” displays good rapping skills but is empty as a song, and “Lamborghini Angels” is good but dark even for Lupe and makes for uneasy listening of the wrong kind, unbefitting its killer beat and chorus. Most of the record is solid and enjoyable though, and it’s great to be hearing it all at last. Sadly it’s no The Cool however.

r- 7-10

* Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears

Dwight is the best artist making country music anywhere close to the mainstream and he has never dissapointed. This is his first album in years, and it’s one of his strongest ever. It deftly mixes pure rock and roll, rockabilly, pop, country, and soul. “Take Hold of My Hand,” is a gem, “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” stomps and rocks harder than anything he’s ever done, “3 Pears,” is charming. There’s not a wasted moment on this record and the only bad thing about it is that it makes you wish that Country radio sounded anything like it today.

r- 10/10

* Pig Destroyer – Book Burner

If you want to know what grindcore as a genre is, and what it is surprisingly capable of, Pig Destroyer is the band to check out and their latest album, Book Burner,  is as good a place to start as any. Grindcore takes the most extreme aspects of punk, hardcore, and metal and pushes them to test the boundaries of what music is. It’s loud, angry, harrowing, and unsettling. What’s amazing is that PxDx manages to find beauty out of this noise– dark and scary beauty, but beauty nonetheless. It’s noise that bursts into melody in the murk, melody you have to actively search out. It’s great guitar riffs that burn out even when you know these musicians are allowing their great skill to go understated in the interest of their art.

r – 9/10

Green Day – Uno!

Bllie Joe Armstrong’s recent meltdown at the Radiofest thing further showcased that Green Day have always thought they were far more “punk” than they are. What they are is a good pop-rock band that can craft snarky mall-punk singles as well as pretty and enduring ballads. They became their best as rock-opera crafters, though. American Idiot, and to a lesser degree its successor 21st Century Breakdown were their best works. This “return to form” has some fun moments, but fails to find real pop-rock with punk heart moments that a band like The Replacements could effortlessly do 15 years ago.

r- 6/10

Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. City

First off, Kendrick Lamar immediately stands out as a much better rapper than any of the last few young rising stars whose debuts have been anticipated for years before their first albums (aka Drake, Wale, J. Cole). As a hip hop album, this is one of the best thematic ensembles of a record, with great beats, great flows, a cinematic structure, a real sense of narration, etc. It’s bookended by a salvific concept, i.e. Kendrick’s prayer of salvation and commitment to the Christianity of his mother and grandmother which saves him from the gang life (drawn forcefully in “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”). Yet in-between we hear the chauvinistic boasting of “Backseat Freestyle,” which despite a killer flow and beat represents lyrically all that is shallow in hip hop. Of course, Pitchfork pointed out in their review that framed within the skit that sets it up it’s meant to be a remembrance of a young Lamar practicing his freestyle skills in the car with his friends. Which raises the question, who is the real Kendrick Lamar now? If the gang temptations of “The Art of Peer Pressure,” and “Good Kid,” the sexcapades of “Poetic Justice,” etc., are all trips down memory lane that reflect the dirt and grime of his youth and the reciprocal bad influences of street vis-a-vis hip hop, where is he now? We’ll have to wait and see. As it stands, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, is a fresh, interesting, troubling reflection of the contradictions of hip hop.

r- 9/10

The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

The Avett Brothers might be responsible for the whole more-earnest-than-you Americana movement of present. With their unexpected success through simply using real songwriting and musicianship skills, there has emerged a growing flurry of Americana revivalists who have become perceived as much greater than they are simply by being purists. They’re certainly not a bad band, and they’ve written some amazing songs. Usually they’re just good though. This album doesn’t do a lot for me. I vastly preferred I and Love and You but that might just be because I was more in the mood for this style when it came out.

r- 5/10

 

Mumford & Sons – Babel

A more British, often darker version of the above-band. I’ve never liked Mumford as much as those they imitate, but they are all solid musicians. A few really good songs, a few that overstay their welcome. A sense of self-importance that should be taken in small doses.

r-5/10

Note–I plan to revisit these last 2 records to see if they click better at a later date.

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