Monthly Archives: March 2008

Album Reviews Music

The Chicharones – When Pigs Fly (2005)

The Chicharones - When Pigs Fly

The Chicharones – When Pigs Fly (2005)

Mixing astute, introspective rhymes with irony and self-deprecating humour, the Chicharones (aka Vancouver’s Josh Martinez and the Oldominion crew’s Sleep) are a talented, yet underrated duo. On When Pigs Fly, their first full-length album, the Chicharones combine dope beats and dope rhymes (what more do y’all want?) into “a tuneful and catchy piece of mature hip-hop.” Martinez and Sleep’s verbal back-and-forth on tracks like “Surf Rock” will remind you of Golden Age mc duos like Tribe and EPMD, while more serious fare such as “Can’t Find The Time” while have you nodding your head and listening closely to their melodic rhymes.

Album Reviews Music

Gnarls Barkley releases New Album!

In exciting news, Pitchfork Media is reporting that the long-awaited new Gnarls Barkley album is out already!

Obviously this follow-up to St. Elsewhere has some big shoes to fill, because I’m pretty sure “Crazy” was played somewhere in the world at least once a minute for an entire year.

Apparently they rushed to get the album out, partially in an attempt to defeat music pirates. The album was out for download at least a couple of weeks before the release date, so Gnarls did their best to get the album out ASAP. Not a bad idea, really.

Check out the video for their first single, Run (I’m a Natural Disaster), below.

So far the album is available through ITunes and Amazon.com (Not Amazon.ca for some reason). You should also be able to pick it up in stores. For now, click here: The Odd Couple

As far as the album itself goes, you get a little bit of everything. For those ‘Crazy’ fans, you get upbeat party anthems like Run (I’m a Natural Diasaster). Those of you who dig the softer tones, check out ‘Who’s gonna save my soul?’.

The beats are tight as per always, with Dangermouse really shining through. For someone who really was unheard of for many years, he has really blown up. And once more, you see his growth. Dangermouse provides relaxed beats on tracks like ‘Would be killer’. He goes a little more electronic (almost drum and bassy) on ‘Open Book’, and even goes a slight little bit towards an island vibe with ‘Surprise’. It’s a remarkable collection of diverse beats.

Cee-Lo does his regular thing, crooning on a lot of tracks and gruffly rapping on some others. For a nice little sign of his vocal range, check out ‘No Time Soon.’ For the first time, you get a sense of his actual singing ability. All in all, you’ll love this album. While it seems to lack the blockbuster hits of St. Elsewhere, if you take the album as a whole, I think you’ll find that it’s a solid sophomore effort.

Music

Scarlett Johansson releases a Tom Waits cover album

Uncut.co.uk – News

This is not a typo. Scarlett Johannson, the actress and commonly voted one of the world’s most beautiful women, has just released an album.

Her upcoming album, Anywhere I lay my head, is a cover album of Tom Waits songs. That in itself deserves a little bit of respect. All too often we’ve seen celebrities try to release albums and quite often, they’re terrible. But this may be the exception to the rule because, believe it or not, the reviews of her album have actually been pretty good.

Not only has she chosen an unbelievably artist to cover, she’s recruited some big names to help her out. David Bowie is going to provide some backing vocals on at least two of her tracks.

That’s right. You may want to read that sentence again. Or here, let me say it again. David Bowie is going to sing backup for Scarlett Johansson’s Tom Waits cover album.

It almost seems like we’ve entered bizarro world, but I’m actually kind of excited for this album. Uncut Magazine has released a review of the album here. Just to give you a taste, here’s what they had to say about one of the tracks on the album.

2. “Town With No Cheer”

(Swordfishtrombones, 1983)

Scarlett privileges the storytelling aspect of Waits’ original, recalling here Marianne Faithfull as she half-sings, half-speaks the lyrics. Waits’ version is pretty sparse – just his voice recounting the lyrics accompanied by keyboard and accordion. Initially, this version doesn’t stray too much from that: the backing is organ, and keyboards with the occasional burst of guitar, but gradually Sitek layers on sax and drums and pushes the organ further up in the mix.

Keep an eye out for this album.

Album Reviews Music

Oldominion – One (2001)

Olddominion - One

Oldominion – One (2001)

Self-proclaimed pioneers of the “Northwest Sound,” Oldominion is a collective of mcs, artists and producers based in Seattle and Portland. One, released in 2001, is their first album and features appearances from 16 of their members. Although such efforts often lack thematic clarity, One‘s beats are similar enough to ensure it remains musically consistent throughout. Indeed, most of the album’s beats are mid-tempo and based on dark, moody orchestral samples (think minor key string and piano loops) backed by competently programmed drums. Fortunately, this allows One to serve as a showcase for the Oldominion crew’s talented mcs, who shift effortlessly between numerous, disparate topics over the course of the album. Articulate and complex, a single song might include references to Star Trek, politics, violence, existentialism, religion and video games. Lyrically, One thus occupies a unique space, adhering neither to the standard conventions of backpacker rap nor succumbing to the nihilistic, gangsta posturing of hardcore hip-hop. Even better, each mc comes correct on the mic, adjusting his or her flow perfectly to complement whatever beat he or she happens to be rapping over. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys compelling lyrics and solid beats.

Music

Hells Angels plotted to kill Mick Jagger – Telegraph

Hells Angels plotted to kill Mick Jagger – Telegraph

That’s right. It’s true. Now of course this isn’t a recent plot or anything, so don’t be scared for the life of your favourite Rolling Stone. In fact, Jagger didn’t even know about this attempt until recently, when the BBC broke the story.
Apparently way back in 1969, the Hells Angels were quite upset with Jagger over what they saw as mistreatment. The story alleges that the Hells Angels were hired to provide security for a Stones concert at a racetrack. During the show, a young woman was discovered approaching the stage with a gun. The Angels saw her, and one of them actually stabbed her. Her death was captured on film, making it even more shocking.

The Angel who stabbed her was acquitted of murder because he acted in self-defence.

Jagger apparently had stated that he would never use the Angels for security again. This is questionable as it is unconfirmed. But apparently the Angels were so incensed by this, a group of them got a small boat and decided to kill Jagger at his holiday home in the Hamptons. They figured by attacking from the sea, they could avoid most of the security. Turns out mother nature was on Mick’s side, and a storm ended up capsizing the boat before they ever got there. The Angels just gave up after that, apparently, and didn’t bother trying again.

Politics

Democrats vs. Democrats

I bet nearly all of you are aware of the death-match that the two Democratic presidential contenders are caught up in.

It’s amazing how bad things have gotten over the last little while. As the race picked up and more and more of the rest of the field began dropping out, things really came to a head in South Carolina. That seems to be the point where the racial baggage caught up to the campaigns and things really started to go sour.

From then on, voters were faced with an increasingly vitrolic campaign. One side accusing the other of the stupidest little transgressions. Both of them…exaggerating their accomplishments at times. Most notably, you all probably remember Clinton going on the offensive several times, accusing Obama of plagarism, or of lying in his mailings, exaggerating his role as the University of Chicago (he didn’t.) and then came the whole Reverend Wright scandal. On the other hand, Obama’s been pushing back, calling Clinton out about her “mispeak” regarding her trip to Bosnia.

All of those are stories in and of themselves, but the latest news seems to be gripping the political community tightly. Recently, increasing amounts of people seem to be calling for Hillary to drop out due to the fact that she stands very little chance of beating Obama in terms of pledged delegates. The Democratic Party’s superdelegates are all that stand between Obama and the nomination. These superdelegates are not encumbered with the results of the primaries, and can actually vote however they want. They consist of very important people from all over the US. Governors, party bigwigs, that sort of thing.

Nancy Pelosi, the current speaker of the House, decided it was wise to voice her opinion on the whole matter. She came out and stated that superdelegates should respect the popular vote, and cast their votes accordingly. That way, if Clinton has more primary votes, the superdelegates should respect it and vote for her. The thing is, it’s pretty much impossible for Hillary to catch up in terms of the popular vote, especially if the Florida and Michigan delegates are not seated. Since the race is so tight between Obama and Clinton, there’s no way one of them will get enough pledged delegates to actually win. That’s why the superdelegates are just so damn important.

Clinton was obviously mad. Since she probably won’t get enough regular delegates, having someone ask the superdelegates to not vote as they want and instead follow the pledged delegates, is tantamount to endorsing Obama. So her backers, some of the most influential names in the Democratic Party (and especially some of the biggest financial backers) decided it was a good idea to ‘warn’ Pelosi.

20 of them sent Pelosi a letter implicitly threatening to withhold their financial backing from the Party. These 20 people had given $24 million to the party in the last year.

“We have been strong supporters of the DCCC,” the group wrote in its letter to Pelosi. “We therefore urge you to clarify your position on super-delegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the National Convention in August.”

This is just god-awful reasoning and a terrible publicity move. The most damaging thing possible would be for the superdelegates to overturn the popular vote because it suggest to the American voters that their vote does not matter. If my vote was overturned so that unaccountable “superdelegates” chose whoever they wanted, I probably wouldn’t vote for them in the general election.

This implied threat has already caused a pretty big backlash in the Democratic party. Obama supporters are up in arms, and the reputably influential blog MoveOn.org has come straight out out and essentially declared war against the Clinton backers. In their response letter, sent out to MoveOn supporters, CNN says this about what they had to say:

“It’s the worst kind of insider politics — billionaires bullying our elected leaders into ignoring the will of the voters,” wrote organizers in an e-mail to the group’s members. “But when we all pool our resources, together we’re stronger than the fat cats. So let’s tell Nancy Pelosi that if she keeps standing up for regular Americans, thousands of us will have her back. And we can more than match whatever the CEOs and billionaires refuse to contribute.”

Unreal. No one wins in a situation like this, besides John McCain. So hopefully they can sort this out. In truth, superdelegates seem like a pretty bad idea. The whole point of the primary is to let the rank-and-file of a party pick their candidate. To go through this whole process and then completely ignore it is a slap in the face. I’m sure Clinton’s backers approach this with the best of intentions, but they must realize that this can only hurt Clinton’s chances, and/or the chances of the eventual nominee.

Album Reviews Music

Maestro Fresh-Wes – Symphony In Effect (1989)

Symphony In Effect

Maestro Fresh-Wes – Symphony In Effect (1989)

Awww yeah, this joint is a straight up classic! Released in 1989, Maestro Fresh-Wes’ first LP remains the biggest selling Canadian hip-hop album of all time. The album’s first single, “Let Your Backbone Slide,” was the first Top 40 single by a Canadian mc and remains the only Canadian hip-hop single to be certified gold. These figures are amazing, especially considering Symphony In Effect was released nearly 20 years ago!

Produced when it was still kosher to sample from obvious sources (and before other sources had been played out), the album is full of recognizable, yet undeniably dope loops and funky ass breaks. Even better, Maestro’s lyrics are on point and DJ LTD rocks the 1s and 2s, especially on track 4, “LTD’s On The Wheel(s) Of Fortune.”

If you’re a true head, you absolutely need this album.

For further evidence of its dopeness, check out the video for “Let Your Backbone Slide”:

Art

4080Presents: Improv Everywhere

Improv Everywhere is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s sort of like those flash mobs that were all the rage a few years ago, except they occur with a little bit of planning.

Basically, this group is a worldwide association of regional Improv groups that conduct these random missions they dream up. Here’s their own bio:

Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over 70 missions involving thousands of undercover agents. The group is based in New York City.

One of my favourite missions that they’ve done is what they call “Frozen Grand Central”. Here’s their description of the event:

On a cold Saturday in New York City, the world’s largest train station came to a sudden halt. Over 200 Improv Everywhere Agents froze in place at the exact same second for five minutes in the Main Concourse of Grand Central Station. Over 500,000 people rush through Grand Central every day, but today, things slowed down just a bit as commuters and tourists alike stopped to notice what was happening around them.

It’s actually kind of incredible to see these random missions. Most of them get a pretty positive response from the public. The Grand Central one in particular really seemed to absorb a lot of people, who just couldn’t figure out why someone would do something like this, or even what they were doing at all!

Check out the video below.

Music

L.A. Times Apologizes for Rapper Story – washingtonpost.com

L.A. Times Apologizes for Rapper Story – washingtonpost.com

Consider this a follow-up to our post only a couple of days ago. It’s amazing how fast things can change. In our previous post, we had covered the LA Times’ article about Puffy’s denial of his involvement with the first 2Pac shooting.

Turns out his denial was the truth, much as we had suspected.

The LA Times, in reaction to a report on the Smoking Gun, has admitted that its report was wrong. Apparently, the “FBI Documents” they relied on were forged by a federal inmate. James Sabatino is a well known conman and a huge fan of rap music. I guess he loved it so much he really really wanted to involve himself. He managed to forge a bunch of documents that linked him to the Pac/Biggie feud. What a nutter.

The worst part of things for the LA Times is that one of their star reporters, a Pulitzer prize winner, was the author of the article. Unfortunately that doesn’t save them from this faux pas.

The Smoking Gun, which says it consulted several law-enforcement experts, raised a number of troubling points about the authenticity of the Times’s documents. One, Bastone said, is that the agents’ names and the titles of the files themselves were blacked out, making them impossible to verify. Another is that the documents are riddled with misspellings as well as acronyms not typically used in such reports.

Bastone also said that font sizes and instances of one letter typed over another — so-called overstrikes — show the documents were typewritten, and that there are similarities to Sabatino’s own court filings. For instance, the word “making” appears as “makeing” in both sets of documents. The Web site said inmates routinely have access to typewriters.

Pretty insane that someone would make up documents to tie himself to a criminal investigation. But hey, I guess some people will do anything to get famous.

Album Reviews Music

Luniz – Operation Stackola (1995)

Operation Stackola

Luniz – Operation Stackola (1995)

Operation Stackola remains Luniz’ most successful album to date, having sold more than one million records since it was released on July 4, 1995. Propelled by the wildly popular hit single “I Got 5 On It,” Operation Stackola knocked Michael Jackson’s HIStory off the top of the R&B charts and earned Luniz a permanent spot in the West Coast hip-hop pantheon.

Released when g-funk’s dominance over the hip-hop airwaves was waning, Operation Stackola typifies the mid-’90s West Coast sound, with lazy, sub woofer-rattling bass lines layered over laid back drum patterns, ’80s-style synths and funky guitar riffs. Further atmosphere is provided by various eerie sound effects which lurk ominously in the album’s background, evoking visions of San Andreas style drive-bys and block parties a la Ain’t Nuthin’ But A G Thang.

Yukmouth and Numskull, the group’s mcs, rarely stray from the gangsta rap blueprint and manage to rhyme about all the usual suspects – drugs, women, money, violence etc. Fortunately, the duo are talented rappers and their rhymes are delivered with just enough skill to keep the listener interested for a few songs beyond “I Got 5 On It.” However, by that point the album’s beats begin to sound the same and boredom inevitably sets in. Although the album starts off on a high (you’ll be nodding your head to “Put the Lead on Ya”), Luniz’ strict adherence to the West Coast formula (it was on the decline for a reason) means Operation Stackola will be remembered only for its hit single.