Good Music / Bad Music

Tag: Jay-Z

Busdriver – Jhelli Beam

by on Oct.04, 2009, under Good Music

I can’t truly figure out Busdriver’s true propensity for “selling out.” He certainly has more talent then Lil Wayne, Yung Joc, Young Jeezy and 99% of all else on the idiot radio. This talent comes both in vocal ability and beats. He’s also been in the game much longer than most of today’s redundant rap robots. Yet there he sits, unknown to all the wealthy suburban thug assholes that eat up all the gangsta garbage and keep the money flowing. Busdriver deserves to be what everyone likes in a perfect world. It’s barrier breaking, catchy and far ahead of its time. He also rages quite blatantly about all those rappers contributing to the imperfect world they continually pollute.

So what is it, Busdriver? Are you truly so benevolent that pretzels and cheese are more than enough earnings so long as you can keep to the truth you’ve always perpetuated? Or is the rest of the world so simply ignorant that they have never given you the myriad of expensive possibilities you deserve? Busdriver is one of those entertainers that deserves to have millions thrown at him, all the while honoring his list of demands. You know…like Beck.

On the other side of the coin, the perks are these: First of all, Busdriver belongs to himself and his moderate number of fans. The Dave Matthews Band stink of a frat following does not exist here. Also, and most importantly, whenever he raps against the evils of the recording industry and the “entertainers” they support, there is nothing false about it. He does not simply state these criticisms, he practices what he preaches. Could Busdriver be the Jesus Christ of the rap game?

Okay. So Jhelli Beam is the newest offering from our beloved Busdriver. My first impression is that it’s very difficult to imagine that something so truly unique came out of Los Angeles…a land generally only as unique as the corporate destruction they impress on grassroots goodness from other lands. However, this seems to be the deepest digging yet from Busdriver. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if this is hip hop or…something else? As far as genre goes, it’s relatively undefinable in places.

Busdriver has always dealt in obscure samples and rich, multi-layered textures. On Jhelli Beam, though, every single phrase of sound at least feels like something new. It is as if a painting, with a new flourish of color for every three inches or so of canvass. He tackles sound structures that are highly unconventional for rap or hip hop. There are tempo changes (“Scoliosis Jones”), minimalist jazz drumming (“World Agape”), African roots fusions (“Manchuria”) and nonsense that dares to be poetic, rather than hokey (“Unsafe Sextet”). Verbally, Busdriver’s cadences are always sharp, thoroughly versed and on-point. Listening, it becomes painfully obvious that neither an autotuned asshole like Kanye West nor a generally sensible bigwig such as Jay-Z have the base talent to keep up with them, let alone mimic them.

Jhelli Beam is everything that rap and hip hop could have been and should have been. Unfortunately, it was hijacked by cocaine corporate interests and watered down to the sad state it exists in today. Lil Wayne may be content to program a simple, repetitive beat loop, say a bunch of repetitive, unaffecting words over it and cash his checks. Busdriver, however, is dedicated to the craft more than the millions…and it shows.

Please do the world a favor and reallocate your money as necessary.

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Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

by on Sep.09, 2009, under Good Music

darknightofthesoulMaybe you have heard and maybe you have not.  The deal with this album is supposedly as follows…

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse get together with a steady slew of above average vocalists and record an album.  Enter David Lynch providing photography for an accompanying, limited edition, one-hundred page book and DAMN.  This is  going to be  completely bad ass.

All systems ready to go until mega-recording label, EMI, pulls the plug entirely for some undisclosed legal reasons.  How does the ever-innovative Danger Mouse handle this little snafu?  He releases everything but the music – including the CD.  Once released, it will actually be a writable CD-R (and packaging) which will be branded with the label, “For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.”

The idea here is for interested listeners to seek and pirate the music, burning it to the CD-R and circumventing EMI altogether.  This is not a difficult task already, as it’s been leaked through all the standard bit torrent sites.  A minute and a half of looking around, and it should turn up somewhere.  For those not familiar with torrenting, NPR has a stream of the disc, which you can access by clicking here.

All that aside, what of the music?

Well, the touch of Sparklehorse is definitively there.  In the case of Danger Mouse, it’s a bit more ambiguous.  Danger Mouse is a pretty damned expansive artist and producer.  He makes up one half of the cartoony Gnarls Barkley, and has also produced albums for the likes of Gorillaz, Beck
and The Black Keys.  He initially earned his notoriety for The Grey Album, a mash-up of Jay-Z’s The Black Album with The Beatles’ The White Album. All that behind him, his Midas touch on Dark Night of the Soul is there.  It’s just difficult to figure out which specific elements are affected.  This is possibly to his credit, though.  We know a Van Gogh without having to analyze the direction of his brush strokes, right?

The songs all stand alone just fine.  Side by side, however, there seems to be a bigger picture to the thing as sometimes it is difficult to tell that one song has ended and another has begun, but for the change of vocalist.  And how about those vocalists?  The Flaming Lips contribute to the ambient, Phil-Collins-if-Phil-Collins-was-cool(er) opener, “Revenge.”  Frank Black and Iggy Pop lay it down on two of the more rocking tracks (“Angel’s Harp” and “Pain”).  Julian Casablancas of The Strokes chimes in on “Little Girl” and James Mercer of The Shins lends his voice to “Insane Lullaby.”  Suzanne Vega and Vic Chesnutt rise from relative obscurity to sing on “The Man Who Played God” and “Grim Augury.”  Then there is David Lynch, himself, popping up on the eerie title track, as well as “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It).”

Musically, it mostly compliments Lynch’s macabre visual style.  There are, however, moments on Dark Night of the Soul, which are anything but dark.  Sometimes these moments last for two or three song stretches.  Sometimes these songs sound so colorful and touch something so intangibly comfortable (despite their lyrical content), that a person might want to shit himself in gleeful abandon.  And yet again, it all works as a rather well arranged whole.

Though it may seem difficult to top Gorillaz Demon Days or anything by Gnarls Barkley, for that matter, Dark Night of the Soul may resonate as Danger Mouse‘s finest production yet.  Likewise for Sparklehorse.  It is certainly their deepest.

 
 
The whole disc is freely streaming on NPR’s website. Currently, it’s the only legal way a person can listen to it. Click here to check it out.

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