Archive for November, 2009

k-os – Yes! Review


Toronto-raised rapper k-os is, according to his website, “a genuine neo-crossover rap n’ roller.” He combines multiple genres to create his own funky, unique hip-hop sound. I first caught wind of him when I stumbled upon a single from Yes!, his fourth studio album. I’m an avid follower of new hip-hop, and k-os’s sound struck me as much different from most of the generic rap being released. He doesn’t strive to make auto-tuned club bangers; rather, he crafts songs that tell a story or send a message over an interesting, quirky beat.

The album opens with ‘Zambony’, A rolling rhyme building on a simple tick-tock of drumsticks and building up into a soulful, choir-backed story. Guitars, synths, and drums are all employed to create this funky, new track. At the beginning of the second verse, he claims “I am not indie rock, I am indeed hip-hop.” While this is doubtless true, his unique hip-hope sound channels multiple genres. ‘4 3 2 1’ sounds like something off a Wyclef Jean album. The first time I heard the opening lines to ‘Uptown Girl’, I could have sworn Metric was playing it. ‘I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman’ samples the OC theme song from pop-rockers Phantom Planet. K-os doesn’t limit himself to a single genre; by borrowing from all genres, he creates an ambiguity that keeps us all on our toes.

As the album continues, every song has its own story and its own soul. K-os does an outstanding job keeping the music uniquely intriguing. He raps about many different topics, from love to war to the excessive chauvinism in most hip-hop. He effortlessly switches between singing and rapping, his unmistakable drawl carrying the two together without missing a beat. The dj scratches and minimalist beats give the entire album an old-school rap feel, but there’s enough variation in the beats that such an approach doesn’t get redundant.

If k-os is the future of hip-hop, it might not be dead after all. A few personal favorites of mine:’4 3 2 1′, ‘I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman’, and ‘Burning Bridges’. However, with an album this diverse, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone has different preferences. If you only listen to one hip-hop album this year, make it this one. It isn’t single-driven like most hip-hop. The whole album comes together to create an awesome coalition of stories, using hip-hop as a vehicle to express multiple genres.

To learn more, check out his website or myspace.

k-os – 4 3 2 1
k-os – I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman
k-os – Burning Bridges




The Love Language – Self Titled Review



The Love Language are a band out of North Carolina that I was actually recommended me to some months ago by members of BloodyElbow (an MMA site I happen to frequent). While it take some months for me to pick up their album, it’s been clear that most of the press I’ve seen of the Love Language has been very positive.

Their style is rough and almost lo-fi and filled with emotion. Stuart McLamb himself just has an X-factor, no matter what he brings to the table it just seems to be the right combination. One thing that’s especially important is the emotion and enthusiasm McLamb is able to convey on each and a given song. I’m immediately sucked into their style whether it’s over the top emotional or reserved like in “Stars”.

In a way the lo-finess of this record helps it come off natural. Not that songs would be any worse but it seems like the static and fuzz help out the Love Language. I don’t really care about the quality as much and one can tend to spot out genuine talents and McLamb is definitely a creative muse.

It almost doesn’t feel like just 29 minutes because The Love Language offer us so much on this neat album. They are all over the pop landscape and from top to bottom, I feel satisfied and entertained.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Really like the album and I don’t really have many negatives if any at all. If perhaps the only flaw is the length, as I’m not sure I’m given quite enough to say that seems to be the standard. It’s a short good album, sometimes things need to be nice and sweet.

Lalita by The Love Language
Stars by The Love Language




Review – The Wonderland Avenue – Inizio EP


TWA

Ah Texas! Home of the Dallas Cowboys, The Rangers, The Astros, The Alamo, a climate that at the moment is looking extremely attractive and also the home a of cool indie band called The Wonderland Avenue. Aric Garcia (drums); Isaac Routh (guitars, vocals); Michael Roy Kelley (lead guitars and vocals); and Brian Munoz (bass) are all high school friends and have put together a band that really knows what it’s doing. Firmly ensconced in classic rock The Wonderland Avenue will satisfy both older rockers who are fans of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Santana etc. as well as the younger demographic who are just now getting into these bands.

Inizio opens with I See The Truth a rather well-crafted bit of song-writing with the essence of The Eagles, Santana, Moody Blues, and King Crimson all mashed together but without sounding exactly like any of them. This is a strength of the band, the ability to take their influences, work the spirit of them into the songs but making it their own. These four songs could easily have been written by any of the classic rock bands you hear on the radio and yet still manage to sound fresh and contemporary. The guitar lines in I See The Truth could well have been from King Crimson, the keyboards could be a Ray Manzarek (The Doors) arrangement, and vocals that could be Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) or Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), instead they meld together to form a unique style that is as much a product of the past as it is from these four musicians imaginations.

Speaking of these guys, a more talented bunch would be hard to come by these days. Kelley has a nice clear delivery with good tonation and range that really did keep me thinking of Gillan but with a deeper texture. He uses it effectively to give these songs just the right amount of retro feel without making them sound anything less than contemporary. Mediot, the second track, has shades of Pink Floyd which probably explains why I liked this a lot. Lyrically the songs are about average for this kind of music which isn’t bad, at least they aren’t pretentious nor mind-numbingly pointless but if these guys were ever to write an instrumental I wouldn’t complain. Kelley is excellent at his craft and understands classic rock/psychedelia very well, his solo on Inizio sends chills and provides tension to an otherwise blues-y, Floyd-ish song that’s full of shadows and as bleak as anything you would find in the Pink Floyd discography.

Inizio, my personal favourite, is a tense exploration of loneliness. It’s almost three minutes of darkness that brings to mind The Doors mixed with Floyd. It’s a dark trip down with the song really kicking into gear three-quarters of the way through. Kelley really showcases his voice here in a forty-six second diatribe about searching for some way to escape the loneliness he feels. This song is immediately followed by Camel which has a cool Santana vibe and the wailing guitars I’ve come to expect from Kelley, his solo at about the minute mark shows how brilliantly he can channel Carlos Santana, adding just a dash of Hendrix, giving it a spin and coming out with something original.

The only other thing that I would like to address is that this is a self-produced EP but it has none of the qualities you often find in a self-produced piece of work. There are no gimmicks or tricks, the production has no trace of muddiness or bad mixing, each member of the band is where they should be on the tracks. The vocals are up front and clear, the guitars and background vocals are just behind Kelley without sounding watered down and the rhythm section is nicely placed as the foundation of the songs, giving the guitars and vocals grounding and solid base to build on. If I had one gripe it would be that it’s too bad that Inizio is just a four song EP and not a full album although I hear there is one in the works, no mention of when it will drop, though. I’m looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

You can find The Wonderland Avenue (don’t mix them up with the electronic band Wonderland Avenue) on MySpace, Facebook, and you can download these songs for free from Last.fm.

The Wonderland Avenue – Inizio
The Wonderland Avenue – I See The Truth




Vampire Weekend – Cousins Music Video + MP3



Vampire Weekend released a music video for the song “Cousins” recently (I’ve been so out of, I can’t tell how recent). Anyway while we were given Horchata, a decent song in my opinion that I actually like, Cousins the 7th track of the band’s January release, Contra is a shorter song but that’s much more fun.

I’m not quite sure how much I like the song, it’s definitely energetic and likely will be a good song to play live. However unlike a lot of Vampire Weekend songs, I’m not sure how memorable this one is. I’m not feeling the verse as I am the guitar work on this one. The length is generally not an issue for a pop band like VW but the truth is the song is over before anything sticks. I don’t think this song impresses non-VW fans or haters.

I’m still a huge fan but honestly, it’s not the greatest song and I’m a little worried that Contra just isn’t going to live up to their great debut album.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Cousins by Vampire Weekend

The video on the other hand is kind of fun, check it out:




The Perfect iTunes Equalizer Setting


This is for every iTunes user out there. I may be a little late, but it’s better than never. Doing what this article says is like, the sun coming out after a month of straight rain. It doesn’t matter how much you like rain, or that you’re used to it. It’s like after swimming, when you get the feeling of water leaving your ear after you beat your head till it comes out. This may not be the PERFECT equalizer setting, but it goes to show how the iTunes default isn’t either.

You Hear Colours by CFCF
(Ed. note figured this song title would be appropriate)

To give it a try, hit the View tab on the menu bar, scrolling down to “Show equalizer.” Move the settings to the picture shown above, and change the “Manual” label to your own preset. Any name will be appropriate; “Clearer,” “Better than iTunes,” etc. The setting may not work for every song, or for your personal taste, but it’s a pretty enlightening concept.




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