Posts Tagged ‘Music Reviews’

Maya Angelou disappointed in Common’s lyrics on his new album.

While the whole world is buzzing over Common’s new release The Dreamer, The Believer, collaborator and poetry legend Maya Angelou isn’t too happy with the result. Angelou, who recites a poem on the track The Dreamer, wags her finger at Common and is disappointed in his word choice on the track.

She tells the NY Post:

“I had no idea that Common was using the piece we had done together on [a track] in which he also used the ‘N’ word numerous times. I’m surprised and disappointed. I don’t know why he chose to do that. I had never heard him use that [word] before. I admired him so because he wasn’t singing the line of least resistance.”

Common was quick to reply with:

“I told her what ‘The Dreamer’ was about and what I wanted to get across to people. I wanted young people to hear this and feel like they could really accomplish their dreams.”

It seems to me that Common used the term, but not in a harmful way. He intended the track to be a meaningful piece for young people, and may have tried to connect to young folks by using some of the lingo that comes with the territory.

Nonetheless, they both remain two poetic masters and both contributed to a fantastic album.

You be the judge and check out the album that dropped December 20th!


Childish Gambino, The Resurgence of The Triple Threat.

Back in the good ole’ days (I speak as if I was alive then) we saw artists who were referred to as a “triple threat”, singer, dancer and actor. When contemplating this title one may conjure up thoughts of Ole’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra, Dancing Legend Fred Astaire, The Candy Man Sammy Davis Jr. and plenty more.

As culture has evolved, there seems to be barriers between the three. The norm now seems to be if you’re an actor–stick to acting, and if you’re a singer–stick to singing.

This could very well be due to the attempts of the triple threat gone wrong.

A short list:

Steven Seagal plays the blues.

Mariah Carey trying to act.

Bruce Willis trying to sing.

Eddie Murphy singin’ with MJ.


It’s a bit disheartening that these folks kinda screwed it up for the rest of ’em. Now when an actor puts out an album it’s usually dismissed fairly quickly, or when a singer puts out a movie–people can’t wait to bash it. This common mindset generally means that when a great actor is also a great musician–people are a bit hesitant about it.

Though, if they’re good enough, that hesitation will surely take a backseat, and it instantly does with Donald Glover’s musical project Childish Gambino.

I’ve written about Childish Gambino before and praised his recent EP. Not only is he rather hilarious, his hip-hop albums are definetly a testament to his multi-talented stature. Glover brings the passionate story telling flavor that’s often missed with the over produced and under written rap we hear on the radio today.

Glovers new track Bonfire, off his soon to be released album, Camp, gives us a small glimpse of whats to come.

The sample alone is terribly catchy. It combines sirens, a vocal chorus and an electric guitar that gives the track a sense of urgency. This urgency is only amplified with Glovers unique and rhythmic rapping style. His voice itself is a mix of singing/rapping/singing. His delivery seems flawless and is delivered smooth.

The song itself, Bonfire, speaks of burning up the competition, however, the song also speaks of the fire that’s burning inside of Glover.

Glover generally uses a theme of overcoming in his music as well as destroying barriers. This song is no different as Glover raps about breaking down barriers of black and white music, and being respected for his rapping skills despite being a well known actor, too. Though this theme is important to him, I can see this become an over used topic. For instance, the only time I hear anyone hating on him for being a rapper/actor is when he raps about it. Hopefully he starts to weed this topic out.

However, everything from the mixing to the tempo on this track is dead on. Bonfire gives his fans a taste of whats to come as we wait for the November 15th drop date.

Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino is our generations take on the infamous triple threat. Comedian, Actor, Rapper.

Album Review: 1,2,3 New Heaven

Find the album at: |French Kiss|Amazon|I Tunes|

Upon interning in the field of music marketing, it’s refreshing to work with a band that you thoroughly enjoy. You don’t have to think of what “markets” and “demographics” the group will appeal to, you can just plug in your headphones and enjoy.

Likewise, when you’re writing about their tracks  you aren’t “promoting” them–you are simply sharing them–you are simply excited about their music and you want your friends to take part in the same toe tapping, head nodding, frenzy that you are caught up in.

That’s exactly how I feel about the group 1,2,3 and their debut album New Heaven. I’m truly just diggin’ the whole thing and I’m hoping you’ll dig it too.

They have a sound that crosses numerous genres. Indie fans will enjoy it for it’s unorthodox composition and raw vocals, alternative folks will love it for it’s rock-centric nature and electronica listeners can even appreciate it for it’s subtle electronic nuances that are found in each track.

So, after that lengthy introduction I guess you can assume that the Pittsburgh duo has been turning many heads with their debut album–and that assumption would be correct.

The album fittingly starts off with the blue collared anthem Work, which displays Nick Snyders falsetto vocals that are amplified with subtle electronics and spot on percussion.

The surging arrangement of Work is reminiscent of groups such as Arcade Fire who have made similar “anthem” style tracks their stock and trade.

10 minutes into the album listeners are met with the song Heat Lighting where Snyder, again, hits us with a whispering falsetto that flickers in and out of the track–a style that can be compared to a hi-fi Animal Collective–the track is also met with impressive vocalizations and a catchy whistling back beat that gives it a unique flavor.

Just as the singing seemed to flicker, the song ultimately diminishes out and fades into the sound of ocean waves.

Despite the comparison to Animal Collective and Arcade Fire–1,2,3 certainly didn’t create an album intended to be a nod to their favorite indie trends. The group is far too creative and enthusiastic for that. Each track off of New Heaven is produced masterfully and incorporates effects such as whistling, ocean waves, and synths that carry the song and spotlight instruments rather than becoming distracting or a novelty.

The lyrical content is also certainly something to take note of.

Sure, it has a central theme: drinking, girls, and being “broke as ever”, but it’s raw rather than repetitive.

I feel as if the group combined indie rock’s unconventional composition, folk rock’s gritty lyrical content–added a dash of spot on production–and out came New Heaven. 

A few good examples of the groups “gritty” and “raw” lyrical content are found in Lonesome Boring Summer where Snyder references “the carcass of his mid-twenties.” Or in Wave Pool where Snyder cites Brian Wilson’s infamous fear of the ocean and delivers the whole piece in the form of a suicidal love letter–played flawlessly over a Beach Boys inspired melody.

It’s 1,2,3’s innovative and enthusiastic song writing combined with catchy melodies that make New Heaven a great album to pick up.

It has all the markings of a great listen. It’s produced wonderfully, and has that continuity that makes it listenable from start to finish–each track building upon the other.

So, check it out! It’s certainly an amazing debut piece that leaves us wanting more from the Pittsburgh natives.

Wu-Lyf, Heavy Pop

When I need inspiration–whether it’s writing, studying, or you name it–I always enjoyed ambient guitar driven music. Rock instrumental tracks that some would deem “post rock”. A genre typically lyric-less that utilizes your generic rock band set up yet harnesses the composition of an orchestra–crescendos, build ups, break downs–always wonderfully done and very unique.

There were times where I wondered what a modern rock group would sound like if they incorporated vocals into this orchestral rock vibe. If the group kept the spaced out instruments–the slow ambient rhythms, but just incorporated vocals in way that didn’t take away from the beautifully arranged instruments.

Still wondering?

Try Wu-Lyf’s new track Heavy Pop. 

Wu-Lyf is an enigmatic band from Manchester, England that formed in 2008. It’s hard to classify a genre for the group but whatever you want to call it–it’s good. The group’s tracks can be anything from more vocal driven, to more instrumental driven, to the perfect combination of both.

The above track, Heavy Pop, is their final track from their debut album, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain. 

A demo of the song surfaced in 2009, but in early Summer of 2011 the full version was released that incorporates a riveting piano introduction that builds into an explosion of raspy throat filled vocals. (Not metal throaty, but like a sensitive Tom Waits throaty. Yes strange analogy!)

The constant guitar riff also creates a beautiful “space” with in the track. This “space” compliments and brings out the passionate vocals and subtleties found within.

Check out the track above!

Cover: Wonder Bear-Runaway


I hold an affinity for “good” cover songs, and it goes far deeper than just the new “spin” aspect of it.

I think cover songs say something about the art  that is held within songwriting and production. It shows us that the smallest nuances and slightest changes in the way a piece is sung or produced can transform the entire setting and mood of a song.

For instance, take Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’ Connor. The song was originally written by Prince and was intended as a happy upbeat song, a duet in which a man and a woman are happily saying to one another, “Baby, nothing compares to you.”

However, slow down the tempo, make slight rhythmic adjustments and give the song to Irish crooner Sinead O’Connor and the song becomes a heartbreaking tale of a woman crying out for her lost lover. Which is the complete antithesis of Prince’s joy filled, soulful,toe tapping love song.

Compare them here and here.

(Prince is notorious for not allowing his music on youtube, so no telling how long that link will be up.)

Point being though, I find immense art in various aspects of music. There is an art in writing the lyrics–yet another art involved in performing it, and another art withheld in mixing and producing. Covers just show how much subtly matters in music and how an artist can take a piece and transform it into something entirely their own.

Wonder Bear is a (young) “bedroom pop” duo that hit the scene a year or so ago and have released three EP’s via their Band Camp page.

One of the EP’s that is currently getting rave reviews is Avalanche which is actually a concept piece detailing the tales of four Alaskan teenagers. Apart from the EP’s, Wonder Bear also put out a few cover songs that I stumbled across that I came to enjoy. One in particular was a rendition of Runaway by Kanye West.

In this version of Runaway some of Kanye’s more controversial moments are looped–clips such as his infamous post-katrina tirade and his Taylor Swift VMA ambush. Using these soundbites in the intro as well as the outro–seem to put more emphasis on the “runaway” lines of the song. The clips seem to act like voices in the head of the singer, echoing out to him.

The track becomes more of a story in which the protagonist is tormented by his own actions and plans to runaway. The guilt over comes the singer so much that he is also telling his loved ones to..“just run away, run away from me, baby.” 

Now, in no way am I trying to claim that it’s better than the original–it’s simply a fun take on a popular tune–but it shows how small changes to a song can make a huge impact on its content.

For more free tunes from Wonder Bear check out their Band Camp page here. 

Cults-Go Outside

This single has been out since last spring however, it has just recently caught my ear.

The artists are rather unheard of and up until recently have had little to no internet presence –besides their Band Camp page which states that they are a boy/girl duo from New York and their Official Page which states they have an album set to release in just a few days, June 7th 2011!

And of course, their internet presence is slowly building with articles on their tracks and videos from live performances–check ’em out.

However, despite the sparse details and developing information, what we do know about them is that they have a great track from their upcoming album called Go Outside.

The band seems to play on their “Cults” name by featuring a quote from one of the ultimate cult leaders, Jim Jones, in the opening of the track.

“To me, death is not a fearful thing. It’s living that’s trecherous”.

However, what would seem to be the introduction to a rather sinister song–the track turns completely playful and fun. The tune combines a melodic xylophone cutting through the track, a lazy-groovin’ bass line and catchy sing-a-long vocals.

The lyrics are also uplifting as they tell the listener ,“I know you want to hole up and sleep the light away” but hey, go outside I’ve been there before and it’s a rather good time –sleeping in is just killing opportunities.

So for a song that is great for the start to summer check out Cults-Go Outside, and be sure to grab their album which hits stores June 7th–great duo to discover!

Image Courtesy of Quit Mumbling