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Get ready for another batch of Cheese Coney album reviews from John Crowell….
It turns out the best medicine for this slapped-together stoner rock band was to stop for a minute and actually try. Produced by John Hill, whose resume includes the likes of Rhianna and Christina Aguilera, Afraid of Heights took over a year to record and had no label involvement until the final project was completed. Songwriters Nathan Williams and Stephen Pope clearly benefited from this hype isolation and pop precision: Afraid of Heights is the most consistent Wavves album yet. It doesn’t have the same noisy nihilism of the earliest recordings but, c’mon . . . we can’t all stay 22 forever.
Williams and Pope show off their infatuation for Nirvana and mid-90’s Weezer and Green Day here. “Sail to the Sun,” “Demon to Lean On,” and “Dog,” are some of the best tracks they’ve ever made. Not every song here is a killer, but there’s not a single one that’s not worth listening to, which is something that can’t be said for any previous Wavves effort.
Good job, guys. See what happens when you apply yourselves?
The word “odyssey” is probably the worst one to include in a description of any album. If someone puts on a record and says, “Prepare yourself: this is a rock odyssey!” you’d probably assume they’re a burned-out stoner who’s spent too much time trying to get The Wizard of Oz to sync up with Dark Side of the Moon (it totally does). If they say “Get ready for a jazz odyssey!” you’d probably imagine an aging, balding college rock DJ who’ll drug your fondue and, once you’re in a paralytic state lying on his vast array of floor pillows, talk your ear off about the cultural importance of Miles Davis. If someone even utters the words “funk odyssey,” you’d probably just anticipate an oncoming orgy.
I’m at a loss for words, then. Love A Good Mystery is really, truly an odyssey that includes all three of the aforementioned forms, but in an awesome way. There are so many ideas going on here that I often felt lost in a torrential tide of music. I never quite knew which direction a song would take: a soft and lilting torch song interlude, a snappy funk beat, a primordial classic rock stomp . . . I never, ever knew where the band were taking me. But in the end I was exceedingly happy with where I had been.
SHADOWRAPTR take the “more is more” approach to songwriting and they make it work. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard something as idiosyncratic and intriguing as this. I’m really proud they come from Cincinnati.
You made complete fools out of yourselves by giving this Best New Music. There are a couple – a COUPLE – interesting ideas on this record, but they’re recycled ad nauseum and spread so thin that it’s like trying to use a teaspoon of jelly to cover a cubic meter of bread.
Listen, we’re not all 38 and we didn’t all take ecstasy and hang out at minimal techno raves in Brooklyn in 1996. This shit is boring as hell. It’s so incredibly easy to make electronic/turntable music so higher-level than this that it leaves Amygdala has no reason to exist.
You let me down, but more importantly, you let yourselves down.
No One Gives A Shit About Aging German DJs Barely Beat-Syncing And Rummaging Through Ideas That Were Fucked-Out A Decade Ago.
You know how your first impression of a band can color your mental image of them forever? I saw Low perform at my university back in the late fall of 2004. As they played in a large auditorium at my school, trudging through songs from The Great Destroyer, some of my less considerate classmates decided to exit at intermittent times during the performance. The concert was running late on a weekday night and the vast majority of the audience had probably come to see the openers, Pedro the Lion. So rather than endure Low’s dramatic, dirgy yearnings, kids started heading for the doors. Every time someone would exit the hall, they’d rudely allow the heavily weighted doors to swing wide and slam back into their metal frames with a loud clang. As the performance wore on, the clangs got more and more frequent. For such a serious and regal-sounding band, this seemed like a horrible indignity. During a song break, during which large swaths of equally thoughtless undergrads peeled out of their theater seats and shuffled half bent-over towards the doors, some giggling and most texting, singer and guitarist Alan Sparhawk dryly commented, “Oh, I love it when people flee after a really personal song about my mother.”
He later said he was just trying to be funny and wasn’t truly offended, but this kind of honestly put-upon feeling of constant indignity is what I imagine Low must feel all the time. They’re a great band that most “cool” people profess to love, but who never quite got the breakout commercial success that perhaps once seemed possible. Remember how they had a song in a [insert link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGxyKp3f-_c] Gap commercial? This is a band who recorded a whole EP in an attempt to get soundtrack work. They really did try to make an industrious living at this. We should have heard their music in a million films!
The Invisible Way, along with their previous album C’mon, marks Low slowly coming to terms with the band they are. This Jeff Tweedy-produced record is masterful because it’s Low simply doing their best to be as good and Low-iest as possible. When your tally of full-length albums starts reaching the double-digits (this is Low’s tenth), that’s really all you can do. They’re fine just the way they are.
You should feel guilty for not having listened to this yet.
It’s really hard to talk about Tyler, The Creator without going off on a pages-long treatise on the questions of gender politics, racial issues, homophobia, and unpleasant art that he instigates. Let’s acknowledge that he says some completely indefensible shit and I’m not about to defend him, nor do I personally know anyone who would. But just for fun, let’s talk about the actual music for a minute.
If we’re not careful, Tyler will get what I think he may have been banking on all along: the ability to be held up as the future of threatening and challenging young hip-hop simply by what he says, not how he says it. In short: he’s using slurs and confrontation to insulate himself against criticism artistic mediocrity erosion.
Wolf sounds really good for the most part – the instrumentation is well produced and the beats start out exceedingly fresh. But there are no songs here which meet the sonic or lyrical peaks of early tracks like “Yonkers” and “Bastard.” Distressingly, Tyler’s method for composing beats doesn’t much change from track to track. I can close my eyes and imagine the sequence and velocity stems of all his kick, snare, and hi-hat samples laying flat in his music production software. His beat skeleton becomes much too visible because Tyler may not have the perspective to mix things up enough. In his lyrics, Tyler constantly boasts he composes all his own beats. It may be time to start collaborating with someone else who has more experience and expertise, or maybe just a different point of view.
Tyler succeeds on Wolf when he does what all artists should do after a huge impact album: reflect on his success and think about how he got here. “Jamba” digests his constant lyrical assault against his absent father in a new and interesting way. “Colossus” directly addresses his changing relationship with his ever-growing fan base. “Awkward” is the closest Tyler has yet come to a straight love song – maybe he wants us to start seeing his tender side?
Tyler, The Creator’s teenage nihilism has always been his greatest asset and largest blind spot. It results in controversy which can sideline any frank discussion of his clearly immense raw talent, and tends to pull him away from true honesty and his real potential with its machismo requirements. The joy of following young breakout stars is watching them grow up. Let’s hope Tyler doesn’t grow up too slow.
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