Wipe Off The Dust: Summer Madness (May Edition)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A 'total recall' of all the awesome (and not so awesome) stuff that occurred in the summer of 2011. 
First up is May...


You So Heavy, Lady GaGa
Born This Way, GaGa's third project is a well oiled and hard thrusting machine of pop. As a whole music experience, it totally makes up for all the cringing lead-ups to the project (the "Born This Way"/"Express Yourself" kerfuffle, the horrid album art, etc.) and all the tomfoolery she has attached the project (the dressing and acting as a dude---ooh, scandalous...not). Personally, she doesn't need all those lame trappings, BTW holds up on it's own due to Ms. Germanotta's ear for a perky pop song. GaGa has indeed gone full-blown Madonna in some spots and it feels a bit hackneyed and showy on her part. Still with it sounding like a revisit to Boy Toy days gone by, the industrial clinks, pulses, and grinds on BTW make for high voltage musical contagion. "Marry The Night" (what a hell of an album opener), "Heavy Metal Lover", "Bad Kids","Bloody Mary", and the excellent Clarence Clemons (RIP) sax assisted, "The Edge Of Glory" are all phenomenal pop anthems that deserve repeated listens. Also once again the bonus tracks, especially the "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"-esque, "Fashion Of His Love", outshines some of more paltry album cuts---so yes, the extended edition is worth it. Dressed up in ample 80's shimmer and sass, Born This Way is for the 21st Century kids who missed out on all the day-glo fun and not for those in the high-brow music crowd.



The Resurrection Of Lauryn Hill...Part Deux
When Lauryn Hill pops up it reminds me of alien sightings in films. First, everybody goes wild---running in the streets wild. Then everybody has an opinion about what they think should be done with Ms. Hill to where everyone interjects with salty opinions about these five topics:

  • Her wardrobe/look
  • Her plethora of kids
  • Which of her two albums are better
  • When in the hell she's coming out with new music
  • How she sounds nothing like she did on Miseducation and how it's such a damn shame

Then when it's all over and Hill has slipped away, we seal the situation up in the Area 51 of Hip-Hop Culture and return to it when someone raises the questions again. It's all quite petty, exhausting, and most of all annoying. With every appearance she makes in the now, I sometimes wish for the Men In Black show up to erase our memories of every Hill performance from the 90's so we can just enjoy her when she does pop up. We should leave Lauryn's 1998 voice IN 1998. With this attitude her popping up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon brought joy to my ears as she sung her way through Bob Marley's catalog for a special birthday tribute. It was all spot on and entertaining. We need to move on, Lauryn sure has.


The Passing of Gil Scott-Heron
There was always a reason why my father continuously grumbles about the state of hip-hop at current. The reason was Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron pioneered the genre, molding it from street corner proclamations  into jazz influenced political music marches. It's sort of a shame that some of that honesty got lost in translation many years later due to divergence in style and taste in the hip-hop industry. Maybe it's just me, but he's often overlooked and I don't know why because with tracks like, "The Bottle", "Winter In America", and his opus, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" he set the foundation and no doubt influenced many a MC who's around today. He said everything so eloquently (most will be informed to know the Scott-Heron earned his Masters in creative writing at John Hopkins University) and to the core that you knew his prose was made with insight and concern. He didn't have the most clamorous "singing" voice, but the way he navigated one of his poetic pieces with his baritone, it was intriguing and you left the song feeling more knowledgeable than you did prior. May he rest in peace and always be remembered.


Into The Mystic Waters Of Pala 
Way back when (okay, like, three years ago) I heard an incredible dance song blasting in Express (of all places) and it was Friendly Fires' "Lovesick". I downloaded, played it, labeled it one of my faves from '08, and moved on. Now the British trio is back with Pala, their sophomore set, and I of course took note and moved on. When playing catch-up, I decided to see what they could do beyond that one great song I liked--man, have they exceeded my expectations. Less moodier than MGMT and in the same funky vein as Sam SparroPala has become one of my favorite releases this year. Really. Named after Adophus Huxley's doomed habitat in his novel Island, Pala doesn't mirror it's literary roots as it's a dizzying-disco-y indie pop utopia. When you hear funk slabs like "Hurting" or stretchy soundscapes like the evolving title track, you'll understand what I'm talking about. From jump you're sucked into a mystic synthesized fog of sound that evokes homage to 80's New Wave acts a la Depeche Mode, Icehouse, and INXS---and it's all good.


The Reworkings Of Kate Bush
Ever heard the saying: "don't mess with a good thing"? If you applied it to Kate Bush's re-imagination project, Director's Cut, and you won't be far off the mark. Director's Cut combines the best of what was 1989's The Sensual World and 1993's The Red Shoes, and fits them into modern standings with all new vocals, instruments, and ideas. I wasn't too wild about the recall of "Deeper Understanding" and it's jarring usage of auto-tune (blech), but "This Woman's Work" and "Moments Of Pleasure" are stretched further into their beauty and that's not a bad thing at all. Plus Bush had permission to finally use lines from James Joyce's classic, Ulysses to beef up "The Sensual World" (now re-titled, "Flower Of The Mountain") and the results are just as stirring as ever. Still this project, as a whole, is a bit pointless. Some of the recordings sound quite hollow and whatever tweaks were done to it doesn't strengthen whatever weaknesses one thought were on the original recordings. In short, it's an album for Kate Bush completists and nothing more. I'll just wait for new material, thank you much.


The Long & Winding Road
I can't decide sometimes if I like Mayer Hawthorne or not. A Strange Arrangement, his debut set, was rather good, save for a few meandering tracks. Then along came the freeEP cover album, Impressions, which had about as much soul as a toothbrush. Now Hawthorne is re-introducing himself with his upcoming major label debut, How Do You Do, coming later this fall. For the most part, I like the first single  "A Long Time". It's catchy, but harmless. Personally, the music video for it is much more entertaining, considering it's a nice throwback to a VHS recording of a Detroit based dance show with all the poppin' n' lockin' and door knocker earrings you could ever see. Good to know that Hawthorne is staying true to reminding us that there ain't nothin' like old school soul to getcha pumped.


CocknbullKid Reaches Adulthood
2011 has been one for the roaring 20-somethings, as albums by Adele and Lykke Li have navigated the choppy and unpredictable waters of what it means to be a Gen-Y-ers in these oblong and recession riddled times to great results. CocknbullKid has added in her aptly titled debut, Adulthood, into the conversation, and wins me totally over. While a few debuts from 2011 have been total disasters, CocknbullKid (birth certificate name: Anita Blay) has managed to live up to the small hype received from her singles, "Hold On To Your Misery" and "Asthma Attack". Physically, every single song off of Adulthood fizzes with Blay's spunky and eclectic style (see "Yellow" and "I Deserve It" for evidence) making it not the typical entry in Pop music these days due to it's underbelly of biting wit and sarcasm---but it's the most fun you'll have with a record this year. For those who are kicking and screaming their way into 'adulthood', CocknbullKid's debut reads like the journal that you believed was hidden from all to see.




3-Way With Justin Timberlake, Andy Samburg and Lady GaGa
Saturday Night Live hasn't been my cup of comedy java in---well, years---but it seems that I'm never disappointed when Justin Timberlake makes an appearance. Yes, I continue to hold onto that pathetic dream that he'll release another album to follow up 2006's  FutureSex/LoveSounds, but it's comedy gold when he outshines some of SNL's cast members. Parodying 90's boy groups a la Colour Me Badd with "Dick In A Box" and "Muther Luver" brings on the gaffaws, but "3-Way" takes the cake. Lady GaGa also comes into the ploy and well, it's all around side-clutching hilarity. Isn't it about time that they made an SNL movie about Timberlake and Samburg's characters? A screenplay is just itching to be greenlighted.


The Session Room
I like a diligent artist. Erm, actually I like a diligent artist who progressively gets better with each new output---not worse. Erik Hassle is in the club of those who are getting better as his Mariefred Sessions EP is proof of that. It's super quick, clocking in with only six tracks, but what a great little bundle of pop it is. Yes, Hassle has sort of ditched that summer-y acoustic pop for more of a snazzier electronic sound, but his single, "Are You Leaving" (which I've adored since I first heard back in the spring) is just too good to even say he's "selling out". He had something quite interesting happening on his last two albums, Hassle and Pieces, but that was just the court to Sessions spark. With tracks like "Arrows" and "I Am Not An Island" this is the start of bigger things to come.

4 comments:

  1. Some records I listened to, some I didn't, I'll check them out (btw I'm puzzled by Mayer Hawthorne too)

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  2. Kit,
    What records have you listened to? I def. recommend hearing Cocknbullkid and Friendly Fires--could listen to those straight through no skips and that is rare for me!

    Glad I'm not the only one a bit puzzled by Mayer. I don't know he can be good and then kind of boring sometimes. I'll give him another shot cause "A Long Time" isn't bad, it's just not all that "wow" to me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks to your post, I'm listening to Cocknbullkid since yesterday! So good.

    Of the records you mentioned, I tried to listen to Kate Bush (boring project, don't mess with your classics, woman), to Lady Gaga (this record is too derivative, if I want to listen to 80's Madonna, I listen to 80's Madonna, lol), I liked some of Mayer's covers (esp. Work To Do) and I laughed as always at JT & Samberg Color Me Badd impression.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, Kate Bush was a big ol' disappointment!The project screamed: "I need a paycheck!!!" to me. And people say, 'The Red Shoes' was bad? Please! lol I'm a KB die-hard, but that was just embarrassing.

    I do agree about GaGa. She bites Madge's style so hard, and it annoys me, but I oddly loved a lot of the cuts on this one. To be honest, I was ready to hate the album when it came out (I HATED the title track, the cover art, GaGa's smugness)and ended up loving a lot of stuff. I'm easy to please I guess, lol

    Couldn't get into Mayer's fake funk...sigh, the boy is going to have to bring it with this new album for me!

    ReplyDelete

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