Shot Of Rhythm

[ Saturday, July 29, 2006 ]


New release round-up, part 2

The second half of our spotlight on the week's plethora of good new stuff spotlights the hip-hop/R&B world...

-First is the new Pharrell, on which the Neptune and N.E.R.D. steps out with a solo debut that tries, not always successfully, to survey Pharrell's broad artistic scope. Divided near-equally between R&B and hip-hop cuts, IN MY MIND is, as I said, not a consistently fine piece of work, but its best tracks stand alongside the best Neptune productions and N.E.R.D.'s spaced-out funk-rock. I was this close to posting both "Angel" and "Young Girl," but I couldn't deny this track, mostly because it benefits from having the record's best beat by far.

Pharrell - "Raspy Shit," from IN MY MIND

-Pastor Troy's been spending the last decade making some of the most intense Southern hip-hop currently escaping the Dirty South. Gospel-crunk at its hell-fire best, Troy's best cuts capture Southern hip-hop's power and energy at their very highest. This is easily the best cut on his new record.

Pastor Troy - "I Represent This (Can I Get A Witness?)," from BY CHOICE OR BY FORCE

-I've never been entirely sold on Jurassic 5, especially since they seem to be far more interested in talking about how they're here to "save" hip-hop than they are in actually making genre-defining records. (Besides, in an era of Kanye, 'Kast, Eminem and Missy, I don't know exactly what needs to be "saved.") Everything sounds the same, their records are some of the most easily mock-able in all the hip-hop nation, and - not irrelevantly - their audience is almost entirely white. Still, they do have their moments, and this track is one of them. (Leave it to J5 to make Dave Matthews the most valuable guest artist on their record.) FEEDBACK is seemingly an attempt to gain a wider audience, and - though I can't see that working - I admire their attempt to take their good intentions into the realm of actual artistic change.

Jurassic 5 (feat. Dave Matthews) - "Work It Out," from FEEDBACK

-LeToya Luckett was an original Destiny's Child, only to be unceremoniously dumped from the group at the dawn of the Beyonce empire. While nobody's dissing Ms. Knowles, LeToya has just re-emerged with a fine solo album that marks the best attempt so far to bridge the worlds of DC-esque pop/R&B with the flowering Renaissance of Houston hip-hop. In fact, although the album LETOYA starts a little slow, it hits a major stride in the middle, when Luckett utilizes a bunch of H-town's best (UGK, Paul Wall, Slim Thug among them) on a series of absolute club-bangers. After that mid-album salvo, everything else sounds better, including the below track, a should-be hit that is already on my list of favorite 2006 R&B tracks.

LeToya - "This Song"

At long last, there they are. I'm off tonight to see what should be the hip-hop show of the year: The Roots, Talib Kweli and The Pharcyde in Milwaukee. I'll be back in a couple days with something...

On the box right now: Obie Trice, SECOND ROUND'S ON ME.


Dove With Claws [8:48 AM]

[ Thursday, July 27, 2006 ]


New release round-up, part 1

Last Tuesday was a lollapalooza day for new stuff, so much so that I've gotta divide our regular recap into two parts. Today, I'm gonna spotlight some stuff from the rock 'n' roll world, and tomorrow I'll hit with some hip-hop/R&B.

-First is Raul Malo, who just released an album that, while certainly less adventurous than his previous work (either solo or with The Mavericks), possesses some of the best pure singing of any release this year. Unsurprising from Malo, who's gotta be in the Top 10 contemporary vocalists in any genre, but the vocals on YOU'RE ONLY LONELY are still notably powerful. On this track, a supple Randy Newman cover, Malo demonstrates the range and texture that makes his voice so unique, and - if there's any justice left in this world - he oughta get a hit record out of it.

Raul Malo - "Feels Like Home," from YOU'RE ONLY LONELY

-Tom Petty's HIGHWAY COMPANION is growing on me, although I'm still not ready to call it the return to form that some excitable reviews have suggested it might be. The songs are pretty good, and the singing and playing are suitable, but the whole thing lacks a playful or vibrant energy that marks so much of his best work in the past. "Big Weekend" is one of the few songs on HIGHWAY COMPANION to display that energy, and - for my taste - that makes it one of the album's highlights.

Tom Petty - "Big Weekend," from HIGHWAY COMPANION

-The New York Dolls just released their first album in 30 years, and it had absolutely no right to be as good as it is. Not that I don't love the Dolls, and the collected solo projects of David Johansen, but this record vastly exceeds my expectations. This is a mature, open-hearted collection of songs that serves as a tribute to NYC rock and roll from Dion to the Ramones, with everything in between. (The Spector-ian touches on a couple tracks are anything but anachronistic.) The track I chose is the kind of song that (though I love them) the 1970s Dolls would probably never have produced. The Stones-y crunch, R&B rhythms and fine Johansen vocal provide perfect musical counterpoint to the sagely humanistic lyrics, a theme of grabbing hold of life that emerges throughout the record. This is a fine, fun collection, and it's a prime candidate for the comeback of the year.

New York Dolls - "Take A Good Look at My Good Looks," from ONE DAY IT WILL PLEASE US TO REMEMBER EVEN THIS

-Finally, Flogging Molly released a splendid documentary, accompanied by a 10-song collection of acoustic and live takes on some of their best material. Even more than the Dropkick Murphys (whom I adore), Flogging Molly sounds and feels like the truest heir to the Pogues' signature brand of big-country Irish folk-punk, and (just like the Pogues) their raucous musical tapestry is accompanied by deeply emotional songwriting that makes them far more than just a good party band...though a damn good party band they are. This is my favorite from their new set.

Flogging Molly - "Tomorrow Comes A Day Too Soon" (acoustic), from WHISKEY ON A SUNDAY

See you tomorrow with some more new, coming soon, a tribute to Jessie Mae Hemphill.

On the box right now: New York Dolls, ONE DAY IT WILL PLEASE US TO REMEMBER EVEN THIS.


Dove With Claws [8:58 PM]

[ Tuesday, July 25, 2006 ]


Son of a gun

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I'm preparing an industrial-sized new release round-up to be posted over the next couple days (most likely in multiple parts), but - until then - tide yourselves over with some Hank Williams, Jr. I've been listening to a lot of Bocephus lately, mainly through the auspices of the 3-disc BOCEPHUS BOX released in 2001. It took me a while to really appreciate Hank, Jr., mainly because of all the cultural background noise, from Confederate flags to Monday Night Football, now so easily attached to his name, both self-inflicted and otherwise.

Once all the extra-musical bric-a-brac is stripped away, though, I found - and I think you'll find - that, at his best, Junior made quite a few great records over the years, with solid songwriting, an eclectic musical spirit, and a surprisingly versatile vocal instrument. He backs up the rowdy-friends hype with some great party songs, and is also perfectly capable of calming down for reflective, emotional balladry. (I've found myself playing the BOCEPHUS BOX back-to-back with a similar compilation of Jerry Lee Lewis, which makes a great deal of musical and thematic sense to me.) I'm not a fan of everything he does, particularly the pseudo-reactionary tripe that's tainted his legacy along with those of Charlie Daniels and others, but I can honestly call myself a fan. Which, thanks to my own bullshit and refusal to listen closely, I don't know that I could even six months ago. But, we're all in process, aren't we?

Here's three of my faves from the BOCEPHUS BOX. Coming soon: a big stack-of-tracks from the best release week of the year so far.

"O.D.'ed In Denver"

"All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down" (alternate)

"The Blues Man"

On the box right now: Pastor Troy, BY CHOICE OR BY FORCE. More on him later...


Dove With Claws [7:23 AM]