Sunday, September 19, 2010

Better Late Than Never

I'm going to theorize that one of the traits of really good music is its ability to transcend the time at which it's originally released. This may seem fairly obvious, but what I'm referring to is specifically an album that you may be apathetic to or even dislike after a first listen, but then revisit a few years later and love it. Maybe the mood or the message doesn't speak to you at that point in your life. I've noticed several albums getting consistent play by me in 2010 and have been contemplating why I didn't take to them earlier

For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
Bon Iver

I specifically remember being annoyed by this album when it first came out because I couldn't figure out why people liked it so much. What a depressingly slow and whining set! I've probably listened to this album more in 2010 than any other.

Boxer (2007)
The National
I imagine I was put off at first by the lazy, mumbling tone in the vocals. It's taken me three years to really appreciate the craft and musicality present here.

Moondance (1970)
Van Morrison

Not sure how this one slipped by, but the vocal performance on this album is astounding.

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II (2009)
I returned to this album because I was curious about all of the critical acclaim, a rarity in recent years for a non-mainstream hip hop effort. The stories and subject matter of these songs couldn't be further away from my life and experience, yet it's hard not to get sucked in. It's a relentless and grungy return to the storytelling that has separated the great hip hop albums of the last three decades stand above all.

Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Animal Collective
The complexity of what seems like dozens of instruments and vocals present on so many tracks gives this album an epic cinematic quality that just took time for me to warm up to.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's Your Price?

Amoeba Music

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's music buying habits have not been affected by the "napster revolution". Personally, I've slowly migrated from the CD to Napster to torrent to digital stores with no shortage of frustration and mixed emotions. At this stage of the game, I am finding myself more and more willing to pay for music just to have some control over the reliability of the tracks and their bitrate. Here are just a few of the issues effectively muddying up the industry:

1. The corporate music industry is easy to villainize. High album prices, minimal percentages to the artist, pushing mainstream trends, the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, the Payola scandal.

2. Itunes is an Apple product. In a lot of areas, Apple just doesn't feel the need to compete. Consequently, you get painfully subpar products catered to a general audience. Not only is Itunes highly limited in its customization, selection and pricing, but has been one of the last providers to release DRM-free, high bitrate songs. For ages, Itunes felt it was fine to offer 128 bit, copy-protected music. This meant that if you weren't using a product starting with "i" you were going to be frustrated.

3. Pirated music is illegal. Although readily available, it's kind of like buying a watch from a crackhead on the street. There's about an equal chance of it being fake as it is a Rolex. Plus, he'll most likely try and slip in some porn with the deal. Such is the case with downloading music online. It's a seedy world. Try and download an album and you'll being tossing the dice as to what bitrate you'll end up with, how complete the album art is and how reliable the tracklist is. Plus, most likely the embedded mp3 data is full of some eastern European websites and promos.

With all that said, there are interesting trends developing. The onset of legitimate streaming services (i.e. Pandora, Hype Machine, Grooveshark, Mog) coupled with an explosion of online MP3 sales have slowly paved the way for a purely digital music industry. The consumer will see benefits as the industry evolves. One sign of life is Amazon's recent introduction of $5 Albums, which change on a monthly basis. A few standouts in August include:

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Rick Ross - Teflon Don
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
The Roots - How I Got Over
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Ray Lamontagne - Trouble
Radiohead - OK Computer
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1
Outkast - Stankonia
Grizzly Bear - Beckatimest
Boston - Boston
Coconut Records - Nighttiming
Miles Davis - Birth Of The Cool
Blu & Exile - Below The Heavens
Basement Jaxx - Rooty
The Bug - London Zoo

How much would you pay for legality?


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Drake Vs. Art Of Noise

Well, we're about a week out from Drake's "Thank Me Later". It'll be interesting come June 15th to see how the album is received. Although a lot of singles have been released over the past few months and the full album being leaked about a week ago, I'm gonna hold out till that Tuesday to give it a proper listen.

I was sorting through a number of tracks in preparation for a new mix and keep coming back to this Caspa remix of an old Art Of Noise song, Moments In Love. I only recently found out that this track was originally released in the early 80's and that blew my mind. The synthpop group from London has elements of hip-hop and industrial electronic that had me assuming that this was a current group when I first heard it. Unbelievable.

The Caspa remix only very subtly changes from the original and shortens the 10 minute opus a bit; however it's still repetitive and over 5 minutes long. I love the duality of the quiet droning reflective half interrupted throughout by the epic industrial thumping sections. This was really a perfect backdrop for Drake's single, Over, where his loud rhythmic braggadocio verses are tempered with a reflective, sloppy chorus inside of his head. Hope you enjoy!

Drake - Art Of Over (Thriller Phil Remix)
Warning: Explicit Lyrics


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Distant Relatives

Queens rap legend Nas teams up with the youngest son of Bob Marley, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley for the cultural mashup album, Distant Relatives. Envisioned as tribute of sorts to Africa and its threads in music, arts and education, the tracks are rooted in Caribbean, jazz and hip-hop with samples from traditional African beats. Marley's dubstep/dancehall/roots production and raspy melodies lay the framework for Nas' introspective rhymes.

My two favorite songs bookend the album, tracks 1 and 13. High energy to start, reflective ballad to end. Go check out the full album as part of the proceeds go to charity programs in Africa.

Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - As We Enter

Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - Africa Must Wake Up (ft. K'naan)


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Next Episode Remix

Wow, what a stressful/busy past few days (see above).

Spent some time on planes and in a quiet beach house and subsequently got the chance to play with a few new beats. Pull out your boombox or headphones with the most bass and enjoy this mellow re-imagining of a Dre classic. Peace from VA & NC

Dr. Dre - The Next Episode (DJBN Remix)


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Find Your Love

Drake's second single is out from his upcoming June 15th debut, "Thank Me Later". Produced by Kanye West, the track showcases the R&B half of Drake roaming around the industrial thumping we've come to know from West ala "808's & Heartbreaks". The two were reportedly working together in Hawaii recently and Drake then went on to Jamaica to shoot the video. Reactions?

Drake - Find Your Love

As a bonus, I've included an obscure Drake track from a few years ago that features Dwele and Little Brother... can't really lose with a lineup like that.

Drake - Don't You Have a Man ft. Dwele & Little Brother


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


As previously written, I've been looking forward to
B.o.B's major-label debut for most of the last year. At only 21, this rapper/producer/singer/instrumentalist out of ATL has been releasing mixtapes and building buzz since 2006. For the past two years he has been consistently labeled as one of hip-hop's promising young talents, but what has been fascinating for me is the clinic he and Grand Hustle / Atlantic Records have been putting on in patience and timing with his exposure.

After six mixtapes, there is little doubt that Bobby Ray has talent. Working up to major-label, his 4th and 5th mixtapes established his credential in the underground community while his 6th served to promote his upcoming LP (similar to J. Cole). What we start to see is a few singles helping to break the ice into the hip-hop charts and a calculated new single to expand exposure. Apparently, the single "Nothin' on You" was originally written for Lupe Fiasco but turned down. B.o.B. and his label jumped on it and built a track that has exploded. Not only is it a purposeful cross-over track, most likely building off of the huge recent success of genre-blending acts like Drake, but it was released at the perfect time a number of months before the LP release. This blend of pop, rap, rock, etc. is a picture of the array of genres found on the LP and peaked a few days before the release at #1 on billboard.

B.o.B - The Kids (feat. Janelle MonĂ¡e)

After a few listens, the album "B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray" is a lot of fun. The prime complaints are that the eclectic mix of styles may be a bit off-putting for some, and none of the styles are done in a particularly innovative or ground-breaking way. That said, there are some really great tracks including the opening "Don't Let Me Fall" where Bobby spaces out about the dangers of a rise to fame. "Bet I" is no-nonsense braggadocio about the ability to flow on a beat with an overall great homage to the ATL and cameos from T.I. and Playboy Tre. "Kids" is probably the most interesting track on the album where he teams up with Janelle Monae to reinvent the Vampire Weekend track and "Airplanes" tracks bookend the album with an Eminem feature where, in typical fashion on his features, he goes hard on the verse.

It's a bit of fresh air for the hip-hop community and a mainstream release that is something that I put my money behind. Look for him in San Francisco May 4th and 5th touring with Lupe Fiasco.