Thursday, June 3, 2010
Janelle Monae – The Archandroid
By Jared Ziedman***
It is very easy to call Monae’s major label debut ambitious, but the truth is that the word ambitious has transformed itself by musical definition to meaning “well it sounds original, but the album still sucks.” The Archandroid is ambitious, but the ambition is a profound success. In the 70 minute, 18 track concept record, Monae sings about what every major R&B singer sings about…A futuristic society of robots that struggles to transcend their robot class system. Despite the nature of many of the songs, the aim of her lyrics sticks on the first listen. Her single is “Tightrope,” which is about keeping a strong balance in life and never getting “too high or too low.” Ironically enough, this album hits every extreme possible. There are slow songs, there are fast songs, and there are even two instrumental overtures that Monae herself composed. In fact, at first listen, it may almost seem like it is too much. But Monae herself seemed prepared for that. In ever y sit down interview she has done, Monae has urged listeners to take in the entire album in one sitting, articulating that this was designed to be a cinematic experience. If you take her advice, you will be completely hooked by the third listen. In a genre where acts wear their influences on their sleeves, Monae does the same, except she does it better. When it’s all said and done, this album may stand as a testament to the 24 year old Monae, who has a great shot at going down as Bad Boy’s most important discovery since the Notorious BIG.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Far – At Night We Live
The last time this band recorded was in 1998. So much has happened in the world in the past 12 years that it would take forever to write about, since the fall of Far, the members of the band have gone on to perform various tasks within the music industry. Most notable, singer Jonah Matranga became one of the most inspirational voices of the post punk movement with his solo act onelinedrawing to his band Gratitude to writing and recording with acts like Thursday, Deftones, Lupe Fiasco, Fort Minor and many others. Guitarist Shaun Lopez became a producer and owner of a recording studio in California. Yet, for years since the disappearance of Far, a cult like fan base emerged and wanted more. In 2008, 10 years after their break up, Far regrouped and after gigging around, they are back and better than ever. Testing things out on the road to see if a record would be worth it, At Night we Live has been delivered. What as record it is! Worth the 12 year wait, Far fires back and better than ever. A record that is part rebuttal to critics and nay-sayers, part hopeful and like most of Jonah’s work vulnerable and inspirational. In many ways, At Night We Live is a tribute to their long time friend, Deftones bassist Chi Chang who has been in coma after suffering a massive car accident in fall of 2008. At Night We Live is Far’s finest hour and as a fan and critic, I hope the clock continues to tick, because records like this are gift.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Deftones – Diamond Eyes
Some say that you must go through something very traumatic as an artist to create your best work. For Deftones, the absence of Chi Chang on bass and having their brother laid up in a hospital has been all the influence they need to create their best album in a decade. Original recordings for a new Deftones record with Chi were put on hold after his accident. The album, which was to be called Eros, was put on hold and the band decided to reemerge and record a new record, Diamond Eyes, now with former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega. The last time Deftones were this good, rap-metal as massive and the music world was upside down, then they delivered White Pony. White Pony was completely fresh, new and something very different. Diamond Eyes does exactly the same and is the White Pony for a new era and decade of these SoCal legends. Rewriting their own book and breathing new life into the band, Deftones have come back a very strong band in the face of adversary and fear and are looking at it dead in the eye and are unwilling to leave.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Stone Temple Pilots
It has always been a long hard road out of hell for Stone Temple Pilots. Since their conception they were written off as a grunge rip-off; singer Scott Weiland has battle addiction since being in the limelight, famous feuds and fights within the band tore them apart and left them and fans hanging with one of the worst albums ever – 2002’s Shangri La-Di-Da. Eight years after all has been said and done, and much like Far, they regrouped in 2008, road tested themselves to see if a reunion and new record would be fesable. Indeed it has, granted Weiland is still not 100% with his addictions, the singer has kicked hard drugs and has now moved to booze and prescription pills, yet it will not stop STP from flying high. The mark they may have missed at the height of their career is ready to be hit. The band’s latest self-titled release is a throwback to classic rock in sound and style, think David Bowie fronting Bad Company. It is a very solid return and a fresh chapter in this band’s rocky career.
FINAL GRADE: B
Foals – Total Life Forever
This five piece English band has been gaining much attention across the pond and is more than ready to make a big splash here in the US. Foals bring a fun funky dance vibe to indie rock and will not stop at making your ass shake across the floor. Total Life Forever is just pure fun and enjoyment and a record that is a must to listen to.
FINAL GRADE: B
The Twees – Lessons to Connect EP
This New York band is ready for you to listen. Heavly influenced by The Strokes and creating sounds in the legendary New York bands backyard, The Twees are pure fun. Their EP Lessions to Connect was released last summer and is now being re-released as a free download with two new songs “Unfair Lession,” and “Hepburn Shades.” This EP and band are ready to make the sounds of your summer.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Peggy Sue- Fossils and Other Phantoms
Cheeky folk rock in the vein of acts like Dresden Dolls and The Pierces, the English duo Peggy Sue brings their charisma on their debut. Fossils and Other Phantoms is a pleasant record that fits in after a long day and someone that needs to unwind. As the band begins to steam roll across the US on a massive tour, Peggy Sue are hoping to grab your attention, Fossils and Other Phantoms is their ticket.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Call it Horehound part two. Jack White and Co. return after a blitzkrieg recording session this past December. Bringing back the same antics and noise that was on their debut. Nothing too new, other than that Jack White sings a bit more on lead vocals and front woman Alison Mosshart takes a bit of a step back. Sea of Cowards is dirty rock, but nothing groundbreaking.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Sage Francis – Li(f)e
The socially conscious rapper from Providence returns, but not as triumphant as fans would hope. Li(f)e which boats cover art from Shepard Fairly, the street artist who famously made Obama’s “Hope” posters during the Presidents historic campaign, does not resonate as colorful as it should. Sage, who still has much to talk about, falls a bit flat on this one.
FINAL GRADE: C
Keane – Night Train
Here is my advice to Keane – PICK A DAMN SOUND! The English band which emerged in 2004 as a trio with the breathtaking debut, Hopes and Fears, have mananged to change styles on every record and still cannot find anything that sticks. On their sophomore record, Under the Iron Sea, the Coldplay inspired band went on to sound like Achtung Baby era U2. Their third album Perfect Symitry had them sounding like Duran Duran and now Night Train. The band now tries to blend hip-hop and electronica and fails. Keane, I know you are talented lads, I loved your first record, I am not saying to keep making that over and over, but please, find something that fits. None of this is working for you.
FINAL GRADE: D
***Review was written by contributing writer Jared Ziedman. Jared is the Owner and Editor in Chief of sports website, www.takeoverthegame. A site that Officially A Yuppie owner/Editor in Chief Sal Bono contributes to.