From the Corner to the Block
By Benjamin Griebel
4.5 out of 5
For those who know and enjoy Galactic for their solid instrumental-jazz-fusion style, prepare to be amazed. From the Corner to the Block seamlessly melts hip-hop with jazz, with rock and roll. The result is one incredibly enjoyable album. The opening track, What You Need, hits the listener with smooth talking lyrics that evoke images of a quick witted salesman who seals his deals with fast paced guitar licks and hard sounding harmonica parts. The pace immediately shifts to the intensely political rhymes of Mr. Lif on …And I’m Out. But Galactic has more to offer than just a barrage of hip-hop and jazz, the fourth track, Second the Dryades, conjures the feeling of a tribal witch doctor leading the sing along of an old southern soul song, all while being backed by steel drums. The title track, From the Corner to the Block, truly shows off Galactic’s prowess with brass instruments, by building to a tension mid-song that may cause spontaneous dancing. The album in its entirety masterfully captures the feeling of a hot summer’s day in New Orleans. Listeners will almost feel as if they are in the middle of some impromptu Jazz-Hip-Hop jam session. This along with Galactic’s usual crunchy, yet groovy, guitar riffs makes this album a must have among this summer’s releases.
Pierre De Reeder: The Way It Was
Rating: 4 / 5
Pierre De Reeder is best known for his bass guitar contributions to Rilo Kiley, the alternative/country/pop/folk band from Los Angeles. He recently released a solo album titled The Way That It Was. His press release states that, “Listeners will recognize the album’s seemingly familiar blend of classic pop, rock and folk but will quickly find it to be unlike anything they’ve heard before.” The truth is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. From the very opening track, “Shame on Love” I felt like I was being forced through a collection of Harry Nilsson B-sides. As I read the press release babble on about how different and moving each of the songs would be, I became more and more disappointed as I heard the songs being praised.
The album could be classified as “pop-folk”. It uses the folk format of laidback guitars and lyric-oriented song styling. Unfortunately, the album mostly lacks any real musical color, with most of the songs being presented in a smooth, polished, palatable format (so emphasize “pop”). The only song that carried any real weight was the second track, “I’ll be Around”. Folk-styled music is generally laidback, which can be great to listen to, but The Way That It Was is just a little more than boring. Songs like “The Way That it Was” are supposed to be self-reflective and deep, but come off as muzak.
The general song length is about three minutes, so the album goes by pretty quick, and nothing really stands out. The lyrics are interesting, but they aren’t sung in a way that catches your attention. It sounds like watered-down Grand Archives, similar reverbs and feel, but lacking the “umph” that makes folk music interesting.
Normally, I like to think that I either love or hate an album, but then things like this come along. Upon listening to Pierre De Reeder’s The Way That It Was, I was neither repulsed nor thrilled. I won’t say that any of the album is truly bad, but it comes off as so average that I just can’t say I like it. A few tracks were good enough to warrant an extra listen, such as “Never Thought” (The only song I really enjoyed), or “I’ll be Around”, but otherwise, I wasn’t interested.
I want to be generous to you, Pierre, but sorry, you just didn’t win me over on this one.
Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
4.5 out of 5
With lines like, “physics makes us all its bitches,” and music that would make David Bowie and David Byrne proud, Hissing Fauna, Are The Destroyer? is a hit. At first listen the latest from Of Montreal seems a bit chaotic, but this all comes together when you add the lyrics. This album is a great representation of the brain behind the band. In previous albums Kevin Barnes has always used characters to tell his stories, but this album digs deep into what he has gone through in the past few years. He was separated from his wife and then consequently his new born daughter.
In this album Barnes lets his emotions poor out into a powerful mix of sorrow and resentment. The music in itself is an extremely complex combination of electronic and rock and roll. In many cases while producing this type of music it can be easy to go overboard, but Barnes and company do a fantastic job of keeping the listener’s attention while not overloading them with too much going on.
The layers of voices and different instruments give the same great Of Montreal sound as in previous albums, but with the emotion of Barnes lyrics this is one of the best. Hissing Fauna, Are The Destroyer? is out on vinyl and cd now. The LP comes with a free download of the album so you can still put it on your computer. The vinyl comes with an extra four tracks.
Queens of the Stone Age
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
By Ben Griebel
Once again the Queens of the Stone Age have managed to produce a solid rock and roll album. The self described “robot rock” band drive home heavy reverb drenched rock riffs with a machine like precision. The album features the usual repetitive, but catchy, guitar licks that fans have come to expect. Era Vulgaris won’t disappoint long time fans, as the Queen’s sound has changed little since their break out album Songs for the Deaf. However the new album lacks the same cohesive forces present in Songs for the Deaf, which flowed song to song with the sounds of a radio dial tuning in. The album’s singles, “Sick Sick Sick” and “3’s and 7’s,” deliver an enjoyable hard rock sound that listeners will find hard to shake from their heads. “Suture Up Your Future” exemplifies the Queen’s dark and dreamy sound, and fades beautifully into “River in the Road,” making these two songs easily the highlight of the album.
For long time fans Era Vulgaris is well worth the fifteen odd dollars that they will pay for it, but with little evolution to their sound and a slightly less coherent flow to the album then in the past they are unlikely to pick up any new fans. With its in your face guitar work, which hails back to a simpler time in rock and roll, and haunting sound Era Vulgaris earns itself a respectable 4 of five stars.