Author: GM

Bishop Allen

Bishop Allen
The Broken String
Dead Oceans Records
4 out of 5
By Bob Hartzer

Bishop Allens’ second full-length release, Bishop Allen & The Broken String, is a pretty indie-pop album. Those familiar with the band may have heard about their ambitious EP project, wherein they released an EP for every month of the year in 2006. This album is a return to the LP format and is very well put together. The bands Myspace page describes, perhaps in jest, their sound as an oatmeal cookie. Well, they are not far off. To be quite honest, there is not a bad song on the record. The album is a somewhat formulaic indie-pop album, with pretty lyrics set to pretty music.

This is most certainly not a bad thing, but if you are looking for a sound with some gristle to chew on, &The Broken String is not your best bet. The album opens with ‘The Monitor’, which achieves a very full, majestic sound. It begins softly with acoustic guitar and the band slowly comes in, one by one, until a beautifully active peak. ‘Click, Click, Click, Click’ brings to the table an irritatingly catchy chorus which you may be muttering to yourself for days. Bishop Allen explore some darker themes in ‘The News From Your Bed,’ which is a light-hearted take on depression and loneliness. The tender song ‘Butterfly Nets,’ with vocals by Darbie Nowatka, has a wonderful tenor saxophone solo by Jon Natchez. My recommended track on the album is ‘Flight 180,’ a heartfelt ballad complete with violins and piano. On & The Broken String, Bishop Allen demonstrate yet again their talent for crafting pretty, catchy indie-pop songs. This is definitely worth a listen.

The Roots

The Roots
Game Theory, 2006

4 1/2 Tables
Arguably the most influential Collective in hip Hop today, The Roots release their seventh album, and their debut for the most storied label in Hip Hop, Def Jam. Game Theory, is a sonically dark album, ethereal in its sounds, and sonically an album that partners well with the previous release Phrenology.

The sounds of GT take the most technically proficient battle MC of our times, Black Thought, down a road towards the more politically themed. Angry and frenzied, Black shows incredible restraint in his rhyme leaving multiple levels of meaning for listeners to dig through, from his discussion of big brother on “Living in a New World,” to his unhappiness with news outlets on the aptly named “False Media,” Black takes us down a more personal road, showing why he might be the best MC ever.

Game Theory also marks the return of Malik B. Thought’s former partner in rhyme brings forwards street framed thoughts, with a charisma matched only by his style and grace on the mic. A welcome appearance, Malik paints a strange dark picture on the title track that depicts a fascist government.

In the end, GT’s accomplishment is in its ability to capture your thoughts both sonically and lyrically. The Roots have once again made an album that will dominate your personal Rotation, and is most likely the Best Album of the Year.

Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer: Who Killed Amanda Palmer
Author: Luke Skoza
Rating: 4 / 5

Imagine a street performer posing as a living statue. Then picture her turning into a lead singer, a pianist, and a lyricist for cabaret punk band called the Dresden Dolls and finally going her separate way. If you follow Amanda Palmer this story might sound familiar. After graduating from a Wesleyan University she formed a traveling street and theater group called the Shadowbox Collective and met Brian Vigiline along the way. They decided to settle down for a while and write some music under the name Dresden Dolls. Maybe Palmer felt stifled by the Dresden Dolls and wanted to explore on her own and it seems she’s found a partner in fellow piano pounder and producer Ben Folds. The album feels like it began as a clean canvas and both artists have filled it with many different colors of paint. On the album’s third and first strong effort “Ampersand”, It’s just Palmer and her piano aided by Paul Buckmaster’s strings telling a story about a struggle against oppression and how there’s always a way to find freedom even in the most restrictive situations. “Leed’s United” is one of her character studies of herself and others, which uses a rousing horn section to tell a story of an eerily personal protagonist who is unable to deal with reality, so she buries herself in booze, shopping, and pop culture. Palmer keeps her character study theme going in the sad and angelic “Blake Says”. Blake is full of loneliness and depression and refuses to confront his demons so he says “we all go to Alaska when we die.” “Strength through Music” is another portrait piece that tells the story of a shooter and was, ironically enough, written the week of the Virginia Tech Shooting. On “Guitar Hero” Palmer feels no sympathy for a character who chooses the fantasy of being a guitar hero rather than accepting reality. Palmer strays away from character studies on “Have to Drive”. The song deals with one of rock’s and life’s most needed emotions; escape. We take a drive and listen to Palmer sing over and with a poetic string band and a men’s choir. “What’s the Use of Wond’rin” is a comforting Rogers and Hammerstein like lullaby that puts you under a supernatural spell. “Point of It All” highlight’s Palmer’s strengths as a songwriter and a composer by creating a symphonic sound with piano and strings. Unfortunately, there’s a few blemishes on “Who Killed Amanda Palmer”. “Astronaut” and “Runs in the Family” feel too overstuffed with guitars, synths, and vocal embellishments. The clutter drowns any good moments in either song out. “Oasis” is easily the album’s low point. It’s an ironic rape and abortion tune that’s too full of trite pop and overly ironic tones making it impossible to take seriously. The closer “Another Year” is a profoundly moving reflection of Palmer’s life up to the moment she made the song. It’s a tale of unrequited love and she namedrops her friends, Bill Hicks, and her art during the course of the song. It’s the perfect ending to a new start.


Blue Collar

4 Tables
Rhymefest’s latest release, Blue Collar is one of the best-produced albums this year. Rhymefest comes from the south side of Chicago, and after listening to this album you definitely get a picture of life south of 35th. Much of the album has an upbeat feel to it. The songs, Dynomite, Fever and Stick wang with the best of them, mixing explosive rhymes with banging beats. But Rhymefest is a diverse MC, and there is no lack of substance on Blue Collar. Blue collar life is the underlying theme of the album, it encapsulates the struggle of the lower middle class. Tell a story, Devils Pie, And More featuring Kanye West, are a mix of social conscious lyrics, and fun. Yet the album is mildly contradictory. In More with Kanye, the man who actually wrote the first two verses for Jesus Walks (Rhymefest) demonstrates the emptiness of a material world, the same material that they brag about having on Brand New(which is still a fun lil diddy). Rhymefest is both fun and smart. Kanye’s Chicago pal, stays true to his roots, while still delivering a fun and meaningful message. Combined with his incredible beats and production, Blue Collar is definitely a must have. And if I still haven’t convinced you, the final track is a collaboration with O.D.B., in which the late Dirt Mcgurt sings the chorus to Build me up(buttercup). There are good songs, there are great songs, but very few songs have O.D.B. singing love songs. 4 out of 5 turntables 1 out of 5 whack sauce