September: Six (6) Album Reviews


1 oct. 2007, 16h34m

This was a bad month for me - I've been overworked, underslept, highly stressed, and they're adjusting my meds so I've been pretty out of it a lot of the time. I haven't had a chance to listen to much music, but I did get to check out a few albums at the beginning of the month. I've got a stack - a STACK - of awesome hip-hop, indie pop, and ska albums sitting on my desk, so hopefully October will be better to me.

Grip GrandWelcome to Broakland
Kept: 79%* Rating: 2.68/5*
Upfront, I should disclose that I know Grip Grand; we went to college together. Dude is smart as the day is long, his wife is fucking awesome, and even though we were the go-to-the-same-parties sort of acquaintances rather than the keep-in-touch-after-graduation sort, I bought this the moment I knew of its existence on the strength of two tracks (from his upcoming new album) I got off of and my general affection for the man himself. Which didn’t guarantee I’d like it; I have several CDs that have been done by friends and acquaintances that weren’t worth a second listen, so I’m not heavily biased, I’m just going to review it a little more thoroughly than I might otherwise.

Given that he recorded this, as he says, in his bedroom with a pantyhose pop filter, not bad. This is underground hip hop about being broke and un/underemployed; there’s a self-deprecating sense of humor in the lyrics that is unique and appealing as hell. The beats and melodies backing his rhymes are repetitive, frequently annoyingly so (possibly a relative volume issue? I know nothing about production), and while I liked the samples used for the choruses (I’m sure I’m getting some terminology wrong here, bear with me) on Nice & Long and Bewitched, they get repeated too many times; I’m looking forward to hearing his stuff coming out on Look Records soon, as I’m thinking maybe more outside input will help the production better showcase the lyrics. Because the lyrics? Are great. Smart, funny, well-delivered, with good pacing and flow. B-Day Document '99 is seriously an amazing … love song? Can it be a love song if it’s not sung? Anyway, great. Broakland II and IV and Hard & Good also stood out for me, and Superrapper and Stupidrapper are nice mocking commentary on hip hop trends. Anyone who likes hip hop and has ever lived on ramen for more than a week can probably find something to appreciate here. You can pick up a copy of Welcome to Broakland through the label (Bomb Hip Hop) or through the iTunes US store.

* The low percentage of tracks kept (and hence general lower rating) is due to four or five little spoken interludes that show up as full tracks; they’re not objectionable, but neither did I want to keep them, given the way I use my iTunes library. I kept all the full-length tracks.

HoleLive Through This
Kept: 85% Rating: 3.25/5
I was never into Hole when they were together, I don’t know why. I liked the songs I heard, just never enough to really get into them. I was out of the country the year grunge really broke through and it kind of missed me altogether, though I’m finding I like a lot of it in retrospect. Anyway, I heard Violet again the other day and was like, wow, I need this. And while the whole album doesn’t ping for me in the same way – I’d say a third went on high rotation and the rest on low – it’s still excellent stuff. The sick despair in a lot of the lyrics is too harsh and visceral for me, but the anger and frustration, that I totally click with. Oddly enough, this came in the mail on the same day as the Yoko Ono album, so I had a full day’s worth of listening to surprisingly interesting music made by the reviled wives of rock icons who met early deaths. If there’s anything I hate about celebrity fandom, it’s the amount of misogynistic loathing and bile fans heap on the heads of the partners of male stars, so it’s nice to remember that these women are artists in their own right, who have continued to pursue their art on their own terms.

Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor
Kept: 94% Rating: 3.5/5
Okay, I bought this for Hurt Me Soul, but I ended up loving a lot of it. The Instrumental is awesome, just, completely engaging and oblique and yet relevant, and there is a whole track about riding around in a giant robot, which, how the hell is that not the best thing ever? Some of his wordplay is stunning, and I got really caught up in it, following along and everything; sometimes I tune hip-hop out and just hear the choruses, but this was worth listening to every word (except the outro, which was the only track I didn’t keep). Sadly, I was unable to listen to every word, as I somehow ended up with the “clean” lyrics version by mistake. Ick! I will have to download the explicit version, as I am sure I will like it better. Anyway, another stellar hip-hop album that has immediately entered my mental list of favorites.

Yoko OnoOpen Your Box
Kept: % Rating: /5 (left ratings at home)
Dance remixes of Yoko Ono’s work. Done by some big names – Felix Da Housecat, Basement Jaxx, the Pet Shop Boys, others I didn’t recognize – but ultimately dance remixes, which meant they weren’t vocal-heavy enough and they went on too long for me (if you like club music, they’d probably please). The highlight was probably Kiss Kiss Kiss (Superchumbo Remix), but that’s the only track that will go into regular rotation for me at all. Still, between this and what I’ve heard of Ono’s more recent solo stuff, I think I am definitely going to check out more of her albums, to see what she sounds like when she’s not being cut up and mixed with repetitive club beats. Love this album name, though.

TrickyNearly God
Kept: % Rating: /5 (left ratings at home)
Amazon reviews said this was great. Once again, Amazon reviews and I part ways. This was all the trip and none of the hop in “trip hop.” And while I love Martina (to the point of not really caring about Tricky’s post-Martina work), I love her with Tricky, so the fact that almost all the vocals here are hers, not Tricky’s, is a frustration. Nice version of Black Coffee, but on the whole this album was a huge disappointment; tells me it was released between Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennium Tension, both of which I love, so I’m not sure what happened there. I kept it all for work, because it will be fine as background, but I only kept two or three tracks for home, and on low rotation at that.

Kept: 100% Rating: 3.7/5
Awesome poppy cheerful Japanese girl ska! There was nothing on this album not to like. It’s all upbeat, bouncy, sweet ska-pop, and I loved every minute of it. If I were down and wanted to be cheered up, this is totally the album I’d choose. A lot of it was in Japanese, though not Sunny Sunday, the track that originally caught my ear, but there were English songs too, and a cheerful ska cover of Bobby McFerrin’s DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY that totally entertained me. (Don’t roll your eyes – there’s a lot more to McFerrin than just that song, and I have a lot of respect for what he does, musically.) This is out of print in Japan and can’t be purchased in the U.S.; I bought it through a friend of a friend who had a copy she was willing to sell, but it would be totally worth whatever contortions you had to go through to get your hands on it, seriously.


  • nicebutnubbly

    @pirateprude - thanks. It's something that has always bothered me; it's vicious and ugly and deeply sexist and (possibly the worst part) so often perpetrated by women; as if we didn't have enough problems without turning against each other.

    3 oct. 2007, 16h26m
  • kyuuketsukirui

    Are you interested in more Yum!Yum!Orange? I happened to see one of their other albums recently for like $10 (brand new) and thought of you. I have no idea if it will still be there next time I go down to Gardena, but if it is, I can pick it up for you if you want.

    9 oct. 2007, 20h57m
  • nicebutnubbly

    Yes, sure! I will pay you back, natch. And remind me of the name of your very nice friend who sent me the first one - I need to thank her, because AWESOME.

    10 oct. 2007, 15h03m
  • kyuuketsukirui

    Cool. We're going down there Saturday so I'll look and see if they've still got it. Oh, and it's Julie (kakeochi_umai on LJ). :)

    11 oct. 2007, 2h53m
  • nicebutnubbly

    Thanks for reminding me - that's a hard name to remember! Only if you're not a Japanese speaker, I imagine, though.

    13 oct. 2007, 22h11m
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