Posts Tagged ‘music review’

B.o.B ft Andre 3000, Play The Guitar

B.o.B sent shockwaves through 2011 with both his tracks “Airplanes” and “Nothin’ On You”, and it looks like he may be closing out the year with another chart topper–“Play The Guitar” featuring Andre 3000.

The track itself incorporates a very catchy guitar riff, scratch beat and steady drum track. Upon listening, it seems as if a hook is missing and instead the “hook” is a loop of B.o.B saying, “play the guitar”.

It works, but it seems a bit lacking–especially when B.o.B usually has supplied very “hook-centric” tracks in the past.

The instrumental though is right on–it’s part funk, rock and reggae, and the aforementioned “play the guitar” hook really does vibe well with the overall composition of the track.

B.o.B opens up the song with a pretty strong verse but Andre 3000 certainly steals the show with his elaborate verses and unique rhyming style.

Nonetheless the track will serve as a great tune to hear on the radio on your morning commute–or even a track to plug in while you’re going for a nice jog

However, if anything, this song just makes me anticipate an Outkast reunion because Andre 3000 delivers his section with grace and over all perfection.

Give it a spin and tell us whatcha think!


Black Star, You Already Knew


Black Star is being extremely generous this Thanksgiving weekend as they released two tracks in a 24 hour period. Just yesterday I wrote of their new track “Fix Up” which is set to be released off their 2012 reunion album.

Well a few hours later the duo released “You Already Knew” which is to be released on an Aretha Franklin inspired tribute album–and it’s just as soulful as you would imagine.

The track incorporates Black Star’s unique rapping style with a slowed Aretha Franklin sample–it’s slow, smooth and showcases both the legendary swagger of Aretha, Mos Def and Talib Kweli.

The sample actually mirrors some of the other sampling styles made famous by other Chicago based rappers such as Kanye West, who found fame in using old soul samples sped up and pitched. Granted, Black Star came before Kanye, it’s certainly refreshing to see a slow paced soulful sample to bump to.

Since I recently posted about the duo just a day ago–I’ll cut to the chase!
Check the track out above, and keep your ears open for the new Aretha inspired album which is in the works as we speak.


Kanye West and Jay Z, Otis ft. Otis Redding

The clock ticks down upon the August 1st release date of  Watch The Throne, the hyped up Kanye and Jay Z collaboration that has the potential to be one of the most legendary albums in recent years.

Of course Jay Z and Kanye go way back, Jay Z was the one who gave Kanye his start as a performer– ‘Ye used to only be  known for his production skills–producing albums for not only Hova but numerous other artists, too. Jay Z was the one who signed Kayne as an artist and showed the world that Kanye had a knack not only for production, but rhyming too.

This of course snowballed into where Kanye is now, a “King” of the industry, who is just as well known and respected as the rap mogul Jay-Z.

This collaboration of two rap “kings” has had people anticipating the release–the duo dropped the release H.A.M about a year ago, which created more buzz for the effort, and news of collaborations from Frank Ocean to Beyonce has had music fans all over the globe in anticpation.

Just yesterday another release was dropped, Otis. A song that incorporates a sample from Otis Redding’s 1966 hit Try A Little Tenderness.

If you follow my blog you know my affinity for soul music as well as my love for Kanye West and Jay Z, so I was really digging the news that the two chose an old school sample. Especially when Kanye used to be famous for using old school tracks as samples in his early work. The power of the soul sample is met right off the bat, as soon as you hit play. Jay Z quips, “so soulful ain’t it?” And yes, soulful it is.

The track is fairly simple–a hip hop beat, Otis Redding vocals, and West and Jay rapping about their lives of luxury. This simplistic vibe has had many rap critics call the track a “let down” but I say the exact opposite. The track almost mirrors a “free style” and may not have any “defining” moments such as an intense music break, or an overtly catchy hook, but I think in the grand scheme of things, this track will go phenomenally well in the flow of the album.

As a single, I can understand any disappointment. The track may not be as radio friendly as H.A.M was, but it still shows off the duo’s vocal prowess–and the soul sample gives us that smooth laid back feeling that always meshes well in hip hop.

I can certainly see this track being placed in between two more “intense” tracks as a way for Kanye and Jay-Z to just let loose and flow.

“Letting loose”  is actually a great way to describe it–it serves as a track for both artists to just simply rap on without being too confined to structure.

Though when speaking of two legendary artists like Kanye and Jay Z there is no just “simply rapping”, everything they touch seems to turn to gold.

Favorite Lines:

“Luxury rap/The Hermes of verses/Sophisticated ignorance/Write my curses in cursive.”

Frank Ocean, There Will Be Tears

Dear Vocal Effects,

It’s been a while.

You were used well by Peter Frampton in Do You Feel Like I Do a good 30 years ago but ever since then you kind of turned into a novelty–and then T-Pain showed up and all this drama happened, just..take my word for’ve seen better days. You’re washed up.

You’re either over used or used incorrectly.

Hey now..

Oh c’mon, don’t be sad, Vocal Effects.  I actually have some good news!  You were fantastic on the Frank Ocean track There Will Be Tears.

I don’t know what it is, but the muffled electronica intertwined with Mr. Hudson’s crooning, swooning, british flavor is perfection to my ear drums.

Hudson lays down an amazing introduction sampled from Straight No Chaser and then Ocean hits us with his narrative singing and emotional lyrics. The song tells the story of Oceans dead beat and absent dad and his “player” grandfather who ending up leaving him as well–but this time due to death rather than lack of parenting.

Ocean then goes on to sing about how both his friends and society tell him that he shouldn’t cry and be sad–especially when their folks have abandoned them too–but Ocean counteracts their comments with a simple, “yeah, yeah I can.”

The track is short, sweet and powerful.

It contains great content and a perfectly placed sample of Mr. Hudson’s Straight No Chaser. The Hudson/Ocean collaboration is reminiscent of the 2000 Eminem/Dido collaboration where Eminem sampled Dido’s Thank You in his track Stan.

The similarities arise in the unique voices of both Dido and Hudson, as well as how the samples were used–sparsely, effectively but also hauntingly.

And while speaking on the production–the effects in the track are used at all the right places and all the right sections. Not just in There Will Be Tears but throughout Oceans entire album.

So Vocal Effects, take note of how you were used in this piece know.. do that more often. You can also forward this letter to Lyrics, Song Structure and Production.

They could probably take some pointers from this track too.



Image Courtesy of Planet Ill.

Review: The Rosebuds, Woods

“Rosebud” were the final words of Charles Kane in the monumental film Citizen Kane–the riveting portrayal of a man who nearly owned the entire world upon his death. So what did those mysterious last words words mean? A former lover? A favorite line of a novel? A poem?

The answer actually turns out to be the name of his beloved sled–a sled he used many times during his youth. Why would  such a thing be uttered in his dying breath?

Because it represents far more than a recreational device–it represents pure innocence, a time in which Kane could carelessly and thoroughly enjoy life without the meandering highs and lows or the treacherous relationships one may endure in the business world.

Now whether the North Carolina duo The Rosebuds used the film as their bands namesake is uncertain, however I can see the relation. Their music has the instrumentation and sound that brings the listener joy–it’s upbeat with catchy intricate melodies in all the right places. Though, in the same breath, their lyrics are dark yet powerful–sad but beautiful.

The same bittersweet conundrum that you may find yourself in as paperwork piles upon your desk, rain pours outside and the only thing that keeps you going is a childhood toy, the missed face of a loved one or a happy fading memory. Sad that it’s in the past, yet glad that it’s pulling you through your downtrodden time.

The song Woods is off of the groups Loud Planes Fly Low album. This album is actually a monumental one since it marks the first album since the divorce of band members Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp. Most people were expecting the groups demise after the divorce, however the group came back with one of their most passionate and emotional albums to date–with eclectic melodies, great production and a few cryptic lines that may serve as a glimpse into the current relationship of the duo.

The track Woods is certainly one to speak of. The song emits a cheerfulness yet tension between the chimes and driving rhythm of the keys. A tension that slowly builds into the chorus where singer Howard sings to perfection over the melodic piano. The story of the song seem to tell the tale of watchful eyes, being trapped and the meeting of a sad yet inevitable fate.

You can’t burn what’s already on fire.” 

Though, the cheerful melody seems to dwarf the dark lyrics–giving it that aforementioned bittersweet feeling to it. You come in for the happy melody but stay for the emotional lyrics.

The expansive space caused by the haunting vocals and smaller details like the sparse harmony on certain lyrics is also something to take note of, as it adds leaps and bounds to the piece.

And ah the keys! Such a simple chord progression but such an essential aspect to the song–the keys acts as a constant to the vocals, right until the end– the vocals fade but the keys and chimes keep moving the track forward for just a few more bars.

The bitter lyrics and the sweet melody make Woods a very memorable and well done track, one that very much uses two conflicting forces to create an astonishing piece of art.

Album available now at Merge.

Frank Ocean- Novacane

Since they both appeared at the same time, it’s natural to compare The Weeknd and Frank Ocean.

Especially since they are both R&B inspired and both sing about similar content–drugs and sex. However, there are nuances that make them far different.

Weeknd seems to fully embrace their high and their deviant behavior–they are aware that it’s a coping mechanism but they enjoy it, and are okay with being the sleazy drug pushers at the party.

Where as Ocean is the cat that seems to be high but doesn’t want to be. He sings songs about all the things he wants to do once the high finally wears off–he mentally takes note of them–he seems to dislike his drug filled ways. His tracks are very introspective and deeper than face value–I dig that.

Novacane is a love story of sorts. He meets a girl at Coachella who came to see the mash up artist Z Trip, while he was there to see Jay Z. The girl is working her way through dental school by doing porn on the side, atleast she’s working, quips Ocean. Her drug of choice is novacane, which in turn numbs Ocean, but not only physically but emotionally too.

“… love me good, love me numb, but when I’m gone love me none.”

The “numbing” of the drugs is, in fact, clever word play.

Not only is he physically numb from the drugs but the song is about the emotional numbing that drugs and societal ideals can have on people.

He takes a hit of novacane from this random girl at Coachella and all of a sudden he is okay that she is a mash up fan who does porn on the side, because hey “at least she’s working”. Completely non-chalant and apathetic.

Through out the track Ocean talks himself into liking the girl, and he justifies his behavior–he is numb to reality and he is numb to his true feelings about her. Drugs and society have made him callous to feeling and even worse–detached to personal interaction.

The intro of the song discusses how every track is auto-tuned with zero emotions, “they are computing all emotions”— he paints this picture of everyone being desensitized. He blames the “numbness” on the girl who introduced him to novacane– the numbness being physical and emotional–but I think it’s deeper than just that.

The girl represents the appeal of sex and becoming famous and after taking a “hit off of fame” Ocean is numb to everything.

He is robotic and only wants more “worldly” things to keep him going, striving for these things has made normalcy near impossible–girls have become conquests rather than people, and life has become stagnant and emotionless.

Ocean is saying that the things society has labeled important, things such as fame, drugs and sex, are taking away from true relationships.

Ocean is subtly urging us to not become numb, and to be alive to feeling and alert to the people that come into our lives.

Not bad, Mr. Ocean, not bad.

Novacane is a simple melody that’s very vocal based, and vanishes abruptly upon the end. The power of the track comes from the small nuances, the quips here and there and it’s lyrical content–a song about drugs– but also one of the most realistic songs about personal interaction on the radio right now.

Check it out, and keep your eye on Frank Ocean for great stuff in the future.

Image Courtesy: Sweet Lyrics

Album Review: Givers, In Light

Track: Saw You First

Find it At: Amazon|I-Tunes|InSound

The homegrown melodic stylings of Givers sure does bring me back–and what a feeling it is.

When I gave their debut album In Light my first spin I was immediately transported to my freshman year of college. My floor-mates and I were traversing the landscape of downtown Hattiesburg–lit only by street lights and neon bar signs–where muffled sounds of live music became our sidewalk soundtrack.

We stumbled into a small bar called The Thirsty Hippo, lit only by multi-colored christmas lights, the feeling of the place was surreal.

A band was playing and the crowd was shoulder to shoulder–caught onto every word being sung–everyone sang along and everyone seemed to know one another. There was such a feeling of not only camaraderie, but of creation–as if this was all “theirs”. It was their local venue, their local band, their friends, their songs–to them it was more than a place–it was a home.

This same feeling of homeliness is packed into each track of Givers In Light. From start to finish this album succeeds in something that most albums fail in–growth and maturity. A lot of recent albums seemed to be mixed in a format that is meant for singles–in doing so the “art” of the album is lost.

“Mixing for singles” seems to give us a bunch of good tracks but  you might have to skip around to find ’em. When an album is mixed like a storybook, you can feel it–each track plays off of the former and by the end of the album– you ultimately feel closer with the group. You watch the product grow and mature with each song.

Quick bio before we begin!

The group Givers comes from Lafayette, Louisiana and has recently been signed to Glassnote Records, the label that has brought us acts such as Mumford and Sons, Royal Bangs and Phoenix.

They are a five piece group with vocals being shared by Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Gaurisco (also on guitar), on bass Josh Leblanc, on drums Kirby Campbell, and on horns and keyboards is Nick Stephan.

Upon reading the instrumentation, it may seem like their songs could be a bit too busy–I mean.. horns and keyboards, not to mention on the album notes ALL of them are listed as vocalists. It could easily be an overload.

However, the songs are produced greatly and the group utilizes instruments such as keyboards, xylophones, and horns to add flair and to further their songs–allowing them to go new and unexpected places.

The album starts off with the bands first single in which they are perhaps the most known for–Up, Up, Up.

The track is your quintessential summer song, starting with a vocal led intro that slowly builds into an uproarious guitar and bell medley. The track deserves the attention it’s recieving not only for its catchy melody, but also for the structure. The song  seems to constantly add and take away instruments creating build ups and break downs that gives the song wings allowing it to take off and soar.

The vocals in this track are also something to take note of. Gaurisco and Lamson both sing, at places taking verses on their own–but at other points sharing lines–this helps to create the awesome build ups and the easy flow that the song has. Not to mention that the song is just really incredibly catchy.

From Up, Up, Up the album transitions into another great track–Mean Time. A song with an uplifting message where the singer is urging a far away lover to not be caught in the mean time because there is no such thing as the “mean” time, leaving us to enjoy the (intentional?) word play.

The caribean groove, minimal bassline and spot on percussion keeps the album growing and building until the next track, Saw You First.

Saw You First, showcases Givers knack for vocalization and their confidence for experimental arrangements. The song features bursts of voices that leap into falsettos, jump into crescendos and harmonies that are sure to keep you listening. The song also shows their instrumental abilities–breaking off into toe-tapping grooves played over simple time signatures.

Each song on In Light displays the bands immense talents. The group can harmonize like no other, and they certainly understand how to keep, not only a song, but an entire album interesting and catchy.

Though, as a whole, what impresses me the most is that Givers has the ability to play diverse songs that still fit into the continuity of their album.

For instance, Go Out At Night is a slower tune that shows the groups more gentle side. A man and woman singing to one another while using stellar lyrics. It’s very different, yet similar, to the rest of In Light. Even though the track has a different feel to it, it still contains the Givers touch and spirit. Like the rest of the album Go Out At Night incorporates beautiful harmonies, entrancing lyrics and well-executed build ups– it’s one of the best on the album.

It’s this ability that makes the band shine–the knack of having a diverse and interesting album while still keeping a familiarity to it–a home feeling to it.

Also, don’t be fooled by the production of the album! If you think that the layering and harmonies are only the work of a great producer–I hear that they are even better live! They are currently on tour– for all you locals they will be at Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge on July 30th–check their website for even more national tour dates.

I’ll actually leave you with a video of them performing Up, Up, Up on Jimmy Fallon in their television debut. Don’t just stop at Up, Up, Up though! Explore these guys, they have a lot to offer and you’ll surely be impressed!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Image Courtesy of The 227

Video Courtesy of NBC Universal