Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mini Consumer Guide #1

It's Christgau jackin' time.

Amerie - Because I Love It

You know how R&B singles divas will make one really awesome hit and give no thought to its context on the album or in their career or anything? The next record they're doing something in a totally different style because they have to use Hot Producer B to reinvent their image? Well, Amerie's deviating from that annoyingly transient formula, which is probably why it's not out in the U.S. (yet). For once, we get an album that sounds like the Good Song, including tons more awesome drum breaks where it came from. Mostly sticks to scratchy 70s funk production with all the cushion-sugar of 80s pop candy. I don't care if "1 Thing" was on the last album, I have it in the bonus cuts of this one, and that's where it belongs. For once, a delivery on a promise, in a genre of broken promises (see also Ciara's mighty fine The Evolution). A-

T-Pain - Epiphany

So much more likable than Akon, and with a better gimmick and less annoying hits, is this sex-clown. The vocoder makes everything a bit samey, and is so upfront you barely notice the backup music. But the backup music is what solidifies the vocoder, from the organ fills on "69" to the Incubus-like stutter guitar on "Church." He deserves to spin another few singles off here. A-

Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass

I've stopped trying to understand the words, which fly by like polysyllabic nets trying to catch your brain and stall it, and spent close-listening time more wisely, listening to the buried, buried hooks beneath the mix of his usual logorrhea and a new old-school fetish (someone's been listening to Nas). I hear springy guitar on one that could've been sampled from Ali Farka Toure, and tacking an operatic John Darnielle onto the finish is a stroke. Logorrheics gotta stick together. A-

1990s - Cookies

Inject the ragged-glory of the Libertines with the pogo-stick partyfuck of Franz Ferdinand and you get the hundredth garage/dancepunk/retro wave band to grace Blender and RS profiles and the fifteenth or sixteenth to impress me. Obnoxious sense of humor helps, like the obnoxious paean to their "cult status." Shallower than thou, catchier than the Libertines. B+

Kanye West - Graduation

It's no secret that I prefer hot third albums to hot debuts. A great artist who makes it to three has usually filed down all his excesses and with nothing left to prove, shoots for the gut, which never goes over as well as when he shot for the heart. Just ask Mike Skinner. This is almost a concept album about how modest our man secretly is, confessing even the greatest has to fight his weaknesses on "Stronger" and "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," bitch about his benefactors on "Big Brother," and preaching his hubris lessons to a minimized Chris Martin and neutralized Lil' Wayne. Even the boasts sound modest and stately rather than indignantly regal like the last one...try the Steely Dan-hooked "Champion." Late Registration tried to touch the sky, and here's a followup with its feet very much on the ground. 50 Cent doesn't have a fraction of his stability, his jokes-within-jokes, his complex humanhood. And that's why he will lose. A

Honorable Mention

Low - Drums and Guns
Singin' the blues ("Dragonfly," "Pretty People")

Galactic - From the Corner to the Block
Rare jam band makes good on the jams ("...And I'm Out," "The Corner")

Knobody - Tha Clean Up
Fresh new smartass ("Supa," "What U Think")

50 Cent - Curtis
Taken all at once, a factory of beats so Dre-dull they're hypnotic and rhymes dependably arrogant as a lovable movie villain ("All of Me," "Come and Go")

UGK - Underground Kingz
Easy listening for pimps ("Int'l Players Anthem," "Two Types of Bitches")

The Go! Team - Proof of Youth
Who let in all the vocalists? ("Flashlight Fight," "Grip Like A Vice")

Dud of the Month:

Rufus Wainwright - Release the Stars

Too intelligent for pop cliche, he insists. "Please look in my direction, I have an orchestra! I'm not disposable like that crass American pop." At least he knows his rhythms are too clumsy for guitar-bass-drums...just try dancing to the galloping new wave stab "Between My Legs." So he sticks to Warren Zevon-perfected clumping 4/4 and oversung symphonics. But beyond fleeting moments like the sitar(theremin?) that announces "Rules & Regulations," we have to put up with the songs, trainwreck casinos every one. His dad supposedly hates making records. Why couldn't he inherit the same? If not, you know, the songs? C+

Choice Cuts:

"Let Me In," "5 Times Out of 100," "Give Up?"
Hot Hot Heat - Happiness Ltd.

"Mutiny, I Promise You," "My Rights Versus Yours"
The New Pornographers - Challengers

"That's What You Get"
Paramore - Riot!

"If You Keep Losing Sleep"
Silverchair - Young Modern

"Fans," "Knocked Up"
Kings of Leon - Because of the Times

"I Hope I Become A Ghost"
The Deadly Syndrome - The Ortolan

Duds:

Band of Horses - Cease to Begin

Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8

Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

This entry was made possible by Facebook's CDs application, officially an improvement over MS Word for cataloguing every CD I've heard this year and sticking on a rating. I've now heard about 120 CDs from 2007 at least once and there's about 20 I own that I haven't gotten to yet. The thing would be perfect, though, if it had the option to organize them alphabetically and/or by rating.

Also, I'm thinking about doing some podcasts? Would anyone listen to these?

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