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Weekly Recommendations (04/22/2009)

By ; April 22, 2009 at 8:05 PM 


Sorry for the delay. We’ll be back on schedule next week.

Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump

Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
[V2; 2000]

Grandaddy released the album The Sophtware Slump just after the turn of the century and with it they managed to sum up some of the darker feelings and emotions of the time. It could be considered a concept album, but for me it is just eleven brilliantly crafted alternative rock songs.

The album opens with “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot”, an engrossing eight and a half minute sweeping ballad filled with spacey pianos and sweeping strings, it is a truly haunting song and one that sets the emotional tone of the album perfectly.

The songs rarely diversify from the simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure but it barely matters when the melodies are so undeniably great. The electronic effects, the vocals and the lyrics only enhance their brilliance.

The band effortlessly changes the pace up and down throughout the course of the album; perfectly exemplifying this is the juxtaposition of the melancholic “Jed The Humanoid” and the galloping “Crystal Lake” which segue together. Grandaddy place fuzzed out guitars with beautiful piano ballads and make it work, sometimes even in the same song!

This record works both as something to stick on in the background or to get your mind stuck into. It is a must hear for any alternative music fan.

– Rob Hakimian

Official Site | Stream on Lala


Madvillain – Madvillainy

Madvillain – Madvillainy
[Stones Throw; 2004]

Another Stones Throw pick from me this week, and while it is more of a conventional Stones Throw release as opposed to something like Old Money, it’s far from any contemporary hip-hop album. Madvillain is a collaboration between producer Madlib and rapper MF DOOM. Madlib’s abstract beats, which sample everything from Frank Zappa’s “Sleeping In A Jar” to Steve Reich’s “Come Out”, played underneath MF DOOM’s eccentric rhymes, riddled with bizarre metaphors and guided by his complex flow result in something that commercial radio wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole; short songs with practically no choruses, a gritty, almost dirty, underlying sound, and lyrical content that may seem incomprehensible to listeners on first listen.

While Madvillainy may be the most innovative and against the grain hip-hop record of the decade, last year’s Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remix was not quite the sequel we expected. A true follow-up to Madvillainy is reportedly in the works, but who knows if it will even come before the long awaited “DoomStarks” collaboration.

-Evan Kaloudis

Official Website | Stream on Lala


Bill Frisell; Marc Ribot; Tim Sparks - Masada Guitars

John Zorn (performed by Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Tim Sparks) – Masada Guitars
[Tzadik; 2003]

Masada Guitars is an album with dubious title. One might suspect it to be loud electric guitar driven John Zorn interpretations, which would be interesting, but instead it is a rather enjoyable collection of unique acoustic interpretations. The 21 tracks are split between interpretations by Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Tim Sparks. Very rarely, if at all do they all play at the same time. It’s quite an interesting listen, as most of Zorn’s music tends to be, and the interpretations range from elegant to plain out crazy. This is required listening for any of you Masada fans out there. Furthermore, it should be listened to by anybody who loves classical or jazz guitar. Most of my albums of the week are things that I have just discovered, this is no exception, but even after only being in my music library for two weeks it has inspired me more, as a composer, than most albums do after years.

– Christopher J. Woodall

Stream on Lala


Lupe Fiasco - The Cool

Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
[1st & 15th/Atlantic; 2007]

After seeing Lupe’s killer set at this weekend’s Coachella festival, I decided to revisit his second album, 2007’s The Cool, which I had never given as much time as I wanted to. The Chicago rapper’s 2006 debut, Food & Liquor, is one of the strongest hip-hop debt albums of the decade, but the follow-up was not what people expected. Supposedly it’s a concept album featuring characters like “The Game” and “The Streets,” but it makes just as little sense as any concept album ever. And it features a song written from the vantage point of a hamburger. But despite the presence of some filler, when Lupe is on, he is truly firing on all cylinders. “Superstar” is just as potent a single as the previous album’s career-defining “Kick, Push,” and other songs, such as the astonishing double-time “Go-Go Gadget Flow,” the Tribe Called Quest-inspired “Paris, Tokyo,” and “Hip-Hop Saved My Life,” one of the better modern-day rap power ballads, prove that Lupe still has his nerd/skater charm. Biggest surprise: One of the album’s highlights, the menacing “Little Weapon,” was produced by – get this – Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump.

-Sean Highkin

Official Website | Stream on Lala


Peter Bjorn & John - Living Thing

Peter Bjorn & John – Living Thing
[Almost Gold/Startime International; 2009]

Peter Bjorn & John took off in 2006 with their insanely catchy song “Young Folks”. This tune would either have you whistling along for weeks to come, or drive you insane. Most of the other songs off Writer’s Block had a similar laid-back “folk rock” feel to them. The Swedish Trio then decided to release an all-instrumental album, which had fans wondering if the band was going to take a completely new direction when they finally released a proper follow up to Writer’s Block. In 2009, we finally got that answer, it’s a resounding yes.Living Thing is pretty far opposite from anything they had ever done before. Instead of the usual folksy guitar and whistling, they replaced them with tribal drums and electro beats. The album also has a much darker tone (both lyrically and musically). Also gone are the insanely catchy choruses that made Writer’s Block so successful. That’s not to say PB&J still don’t know how to write a catchy tune. On the appropriately titled “Lay It Down”, Peter yells, “Hey shut the fuck up the boy, you are starting to piss me off, take your hands off that girl, you’ve already had enough” – while not the best written lyrics, after a couple listens you will be happily singing along. It’s as hypnotic as it is catchy – and this can also sum up the entire album. This is one of those records that will leave you scratching your head on first listens, but will later make sense. Now it’s no wonder Depeche Mode picked this band to open for them this tour.

– Brent Koepp

Official Website | Stream on Lala


Good Old War - Only Way To Be Alone

Good Old War – Only Way To Be Alone
[Sargent House; 2008]

I’ll be the first to admit…I was never impressed by harmonies, and never really paid any sort of attention to a song’s melody. As long as it sounded complex, I was usually happy. But then, on one beaming April day, the Beach Boys played from my computer for the first time ever… and I was a new man. I was taken aback by the beauty of the simple song structures, with their gorgeous harmonies.

And that’s where Good Old War comes in. About a week later, I went to a small club and saw Good Old War headline a pretty intimate gig (For their final few songs, the band came out into the middle of the crowd). While some of the song structures only contain minor shifts in music development (“Just Another Day”), they contain some of the sweetest harmonies I’ve ever heard (“Tell Me”, “Weak Man” and “Just Another Day” being personal standouts). Even when they’re talking about pretty dreary stuff, “I’m going to Coney Island to have myself a dog / and reminisce why I still hate it here / it’s all these people with their cotton candy eyes / it’s so sweet, now put the train in gear” it still manages to sound both sincere and uplifting.

The underlying theme between my last few picks seems to be that the weather dictates a large part of what is on repeat. Good Old War is no exception, as they’re a band that’s fit for blaring from car speakers, driving with the sun glaring through the windshield.

-Larry Weaver

Official Website | Stream on Lala

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