So here we are, the final installment of (most of) everything I missed this summer...hoped you enjoyed the recap!
O, American Life!
Marina & The Diamonds (or rather Marina Diamandis) has always been obsessed with the 'American dream' and American culture as a whole, thus she has adopted a moniker ("Electra Heart") and a Ga Ga-esque blonde wig to symbolize the 'corrupt' side of American culture for her next project. Or as she puts it: "epitomises and embodies the lies, illusions and death of American ideologies involved in the corruption of self." *Audio Diva inserts critical American thought* For a deeper context into what Marina is trying to convey (if you're completely not sold like me), check out PopJustice's piece about her 'transformation', reasons, and ideas for it. All is not a shambles, as I applaude the electronic crawl of the first installments of this 'Electra Heart' project with song, "Fear & Loathing" (which you guessed touches on the Hunter S. Thompson book and film) and of course "Radioactive". "Radioactive" doesn't need a background-story gimmick---it's a great pop number all by it's little lonesome and is far from all the "sell-out" coda most critics have tacked onto it. So play on Marina!
Bosco, formally known as Brittany Bosco, has shifted gears, really shifted so much that she's going into overdrive with her newest EP, Pacer. Earlier this year, Bosco released The Haveknots EP, a cover song experiment that had some interesting moments, but Pacer is an EP from another planet. It's six tracks are lean slightly towards being instrumentals that feature bare synths, grainy guitars, or vocodor vocal styles. The concept of the EP revolves around a road trip in a 1978 teal Pacer and all the sights and sounds that occur on this particular jaunt---or so Bosco says. I've never been on a road trip that sounded or was that cool and space-agey before. I must be missing out. If you're in the mood for this type of zone out vibe, it works. No word on if Bosco's official full-length album, Black, will be released anytime soon (though "Rag Doll" was about the coolest thing to hear back in '09), but it seems that Bosco has other ideas sprouting out of her head, and all we need to do is sit back and lounge out about it. [Download - Pacer]
I can just feel it. The critical ear is going to be in effect concerning Florence + The Machine's upcoming new sound jaunt---and it's all because of Lungs. Welch and Co.'s 2009 debut was so superb that news of a new set coming in November makes me fear the dreaded 'sophomore slump'. The first impression "What The Water Gave Me" (which takes it's name from a Frida Kahlo painting) is about as atmospheric, brooding, and poetical as anything you've heard on Lungs---but the ante is upped and it's no slump. You must stay tuned for the final two minutes where the climax and Welch's vocals (which are tops in my opinion) blow you're mind all kinds of ways. I know 'epic' is a term I'd like to leave in 2009, but, there is no other way to describe "Water". I have to dive right into this.
Having A Jagger Jet Lag
I wasted my summer in re-runs (The Nanny, Jamie Foxx, and 21 Jump Street FTW!) so naturally I dodged 21st century TV, and that included checking out The Voice, a music competition show that seemed groomed for me. American Idol pretty much wore down my music competition show soul down to where even favorites such as Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo, and Maroon 5's Adam Levine playing judges for the show, didn't sway me into watching. Still I'm thankful that an imminent collaboration between judges Aguilera and Levine happened as what they came up with is the pop epidemic, "Moves Like Jagger". Yes, this song is dedicated to the movements of the legendary Rolling Stones front man and oh, isn't it just campy. The good kind of campy, one that is helpful to shake those sillies off and one that is enough to erase from memory Aguilera's Bionic project. Damn, I think I found the answer to P!nk's "Raise Your Glass" for 2011.
The Passing of Nick Ashford
You may not fully know about Nick Ashford, but you no doubt went down a dance line, sang poorly into a hairbrush, or heard over the loudspeakers at Applebee's a song or two that was penned by him and his wife, Valerie Simpson. Ashford left behind a legacy of hits made popular by other artists. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell brought on the heat together due to Ashford & Simpson classics like "Your Precious Love" and "You're All I Need To Get By". Diana Ross has them to thank for giving her sparkling disco-soul numbers on 1978's The Boss. While Chaka Khan got her solo career off to a magnificent start with "I'm Every Woman"---and that's just scratchin' the surface as A&S wrote a plethora of songs and hits for Soul and R&B's most elite. Like with any passing of an artist, there is room to become re-acquainted with their catalog and A&S's own catalog is nothing to sneer at. Sure most know about "Solid", their chart topping 1984 hit, but there is also, "Found A Cure", "Is It Still Good To Ya?", "Cookies and Cake", "Love It Away" and my personal favorite, "It Seems To Hang On". To look back at their work, you're hard pressed to even call them slackers. Songwriters of today have a lot to admire and respect of the work that Nick and Valerie did. May Nick Ashford rest in peace and always be remembered.
Muhsinah Reappearing Act
This summer has been one for the mixtapes/EP's. Can we just call them "albums" and get it over with? 10 songs isn't a mixtape---it's an album. *sighs* Well, however you call it Muhsinah has a quick little one for ya dressed up in Gone. It's free---and free music always sounds sweeter. To be honest, at blog time, I haven't gotten a real whiff of it, but I have had one track, "How Great" locked into my summer playlist, and knowing Muhsinah's output from her previous Oscillations collection, this is one download you don't want to let get past you. [Download - Gone]
Need more butter on this sandwich called life, and Lalah Hathaway is that 'musical' condiment of choice. Her voice is buttah, and really anything she's sings, I'm goinna perk my ears up and listen. Though it sounds like I'm hungry (well, I usually am) but mostly I'm just hungry for Lalah to follow-up her great 2008 record, Self Portrait. Thankfully, Where It All Begins is arriving in October and judging by the cover (nice tribute to her Dad Donnie) it looks to be another personal effort from her. Also the first taste, "If You Want To" is highly enjoyable. It's a bit perkier than I expected from Lalah, but there was instant like on first play. [Download - If You Want To]
The Dark Side Of R&B
The Weeknd (or rather Canadian producer/vocalist Abel Tesfaye) has forged a reputation as being the 'future' of R&B due to their moody, lucid, and erotic approach to the genre--and believe me folks are hypnotized. First realized on House Of Balloons, which set the 'nets afire due to it's drugged-out state of play, The Weeknd has become one of the hottest acts to watch this year. The music is as simple as it comes, and on the flip is more complex than it should be, but you're struck down into it's ambiance nonetheless. The second chapter in their "Balloon" Trilogy, Thursday, follows right in step with Balloons, as it stirs up the same cocktail of brutal desire with methodical synths that unbloom each song. Fellow Canadian, Drake, pops up to flow some on "The Zone", but his presence is neither here nor there, considered he's just the parsley garnish to the cuisine of Thursday. It's nothing like you haven't heard from 'begging' pros like Keith Sweat, R. Kelly, and Jodeci from 'back in da day', but The Weeknd's projects are a lofty resurrection of a time where 'bump n' grind' didn't mean being hassled in a crowded elevator. For the love-lorned (aka, the horny), Thursday is right up your block (no pun intended). [Download - Thursday]
The Marie Antoinette Album
Rap music has always discussed things that regular people don't have. Which is why I'm sort of surprised that people are appalled at the diamond and pearl throwing Jay-Z and Kanye West do on their joint project Watch The Throne. A project that I admit I was looking forward too, but came away sorely disappointed. From the Ginvenchy designed cover, to tracks about romps in Paris and being doused in riches, the album is immersed in privilege. Reality is a bit harsher than what Jigga and 'Ye are spouting due to the recession still in full swing and unemployment on the rise. An album dressed up in luxury doesn't quench the palette right now, it just shows these kind of machismo braggadocios type of albums are losing their foothold. I know, I know, we've been dealing with economic decline for forever, but it just seems like this summer Watch The Throne just came out at a bad time. To me, Jay and 'Ye are best as separate entities of their own ego-driven selves and though there are some catchy beats (okay, "Ni**as In Paris" isn't that bad) that most will applaud for---color me not impressed.
Going There With Feist
I recall when "1234" dropped and everybody I knew from the hip-hop heads to the pop admirers loved it, that some "genius" friend of mine said, "Well that's it, she'll get her 15 minutes of mainstream fame, and then we'll never hear from her again". Smarter than my own britches I ended up loving a lot of The Reminder from "The Limit To Your Love" to "My Moon, My Man" and of course her Nina Simone recall of "Sealion". I got so enraptured, Let It Die, Feist's real official debut, became apart of my collection as well. See that's the power of a hit single, it's a cause of music exploration, ha! "How Come You Never Go There" proves that you don't have to stop at "1234" to enjoy what Feist is doing, because her lounge pop is something to further explore. Here's looking out for Feist's upcoming Metals album, one that seems promising from the first single alone. 15 minutes be damned.
Between The Covers
Before I was to start checking milk cartons for Kevin Michael's mug, he has emerged. Recently the 'fro-ed crooner has emerged as part of the outfit, They (and going by the name "K"---how Prince of him) with some salacious tunes in tow (check out "Fatback"). He's also been keeping busy by putting his thing down on various covers on the album, Covers For You. While I prefer the slicing R&B/Funk he did on his grossly underrated 2007 debut album, he covers some interesting territory from artists such as Lady GaGa, Jessie J, Kelly Rowland, and of course the Purple Waffle Loving One himself. Sporting a lusicious 'fro, he's gotten the most attention covering Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" which is well on it's way to being a karaoke classic this side of "Don't Stop Believin'". It's not as interesting as John Legend's 'wade in the water' rendition, but I'm just appreciative that K/Kevin Michael is still doin' the do and sounding just as good as he did when he first came to my attention. [Download - Covers For You]