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LITERATURE» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
The west coast is still nice. Not there's really been any reason to doubt that as of late, but sometimes listening to (insert your generic hip-hop radio station here) can be depressing. This is not to say that commercial hip-hop can't be creative, innovative, dope! - but the underground is still running circles around it. Case in point - Prozack Turner. Hardly a new face on the scene, this might be the first you've heard of him. Beginning as a founder of Foreign Legion, a solo album for DreamWorks was in the works before the music division was shuttered. Fortunately, Prozack never gave it up and his debut has arrived. Bangathon (Hungerstrike) features his nasal, Souls of Mischief-style flows over ill funk beats from the likes of Oh No and his own deft hands. Recorded in Ireland, according to his Myspace page, this is one of those records that I expected nothing from and was pleasantly surprised by. Prozack currently resides in Los Angeles, and we'll hopefully be hearing some more from him in 2006.
Cornerstone RAS scooped up two of LA's longstanding underground stalwarts, dipping a finger in the rich hip-hop history of the city. AWOL One, a member of the Shapeshifters, has packed his The War of Art with guest MC's and producers to the gills, but his distinctive rasp anchors the record together. Grouch (Living Legends), Jizzm High Definition, J Zone, and Pigeon John all provide beats, while legends like KRS-1 and cohorts Eyedea (Rhymesayers) and Riddlore (Project Blowed) trade verses with AWOL. "Casting Call" finds him pondering the tinsel dreams of his hometown, and "Underground Killz" is a testament to the art of rhyme, but the album lags in areas and doesn't always feel like the most cohesive effort. $martyr's (2Mex and Life Rexall) album, Money Symbol Martyers, is the stronger of the two, helped in part by Life Rexall's consistent production throughout - dark but not depressing, bouncing but never boisterous. 2Mex cut his teeth rapping at the Good Life Café, where Freestyle Fellowship and Jurassic 5, among others, got their start, and his history shows. The record starts off with a De La Soul is Dead reference - "Haters in the BK Lounge" - and coasts from there - check the silky soul sample of "3 Day Eviction Notice."
Ugly Duckling is back with a new record, Bang for the Buck (Fat Beats). It's hard to say anything bad about this Long Beach group, as they're so full of energy, positivity, and old-school vigor and verve. But sometimes the special feelings can be a bit overbearing, and the complete lack of edge that Andy, Dizzy, and DJ Young Einstein bring to their hip-hop just doesn't register with me. There are some exciting moments - the UMC's-style jazz beat of "Left Behind," the DJ showcase/tribute "Einstein's On Stage" - but you can almost hear the smiles behind the rhymes and these are ideas that have been run into the ground. Hip-hop doesn't have to be grimy to be good, but it does have to move the crowd. But what do I know - the kids seem to love Ugly Duckling.
Oakland's Subtle suffered a terrible tragedy last year when member Dax Pierson was seriously injured in a van accident while they were on tour. But the band did not pack it up in the aftermath, even though Doseone's work with Themselves and 13 & God could be reason enough; dude's plate is full. Subtle has a new album in the works, but in the meantime they've offered up Wishingbone, a CD/DVD collection of some new songs, some reinterpreted songs, and some remixes by Beck, Console, Fog, and Ms. John Soda. Fringe-hop is still hip-hop, and while I've never been the biggest fan of the Anticon crew, their creativity, strong sense of independence, and consistent urge to experiment is to be admired. Subtle's work, though, has always been interesting, musical, and never shy of the boom-bap.
The Streets, née Mike Skinner, has returned this April with a spectacular new record. The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (Vice) is led by the infectious single, "When You Wasn't Famous," a completely self-absorbed but strangely engrossing song about the trials and tribulations of fucking pop stars and doing drugs in public when you're famous. Sounds trite? It is, but Skinner's delivery and lyrics render it fascinating as well. The entire record features his circus hip-hop/garage production and his boy-next-door delivery, as well as some awkward but endearingly sung choruses by Skinner himself. Has he jumped the shark and become too caught up in his own persona, or has he made an honest and entertaining mini-concept record about his life and times? I'm leaning towards the latter, but the former's lurking in there as well.
Up Above Records has a new compilation out, Carving a New Standard, featuring previously unavailable songs, b-sides, and album tracks. Highlights include Prince Po's "I Got a Right to Know," produced by Large Professor (super-hot beat from the Extra P, and Po seems to be much more prolific than his former partner, Pharoah Monche, these days), GZA and DJ Muggs' "Destruction of a Guard," from their recent LP, and the mellow, Sunday afternoon "Not That Way," from Supernatural (produced by Marco Polo): more west coast hotness from this LA label.
Let's head back to the east for a bit… anyone remember Sunz of Man? You should, because these Wu-Tang affiliates - Killah Priest, Prodigal Sunn, 60 Second Assassin, and Hell Razah - have been holding it down since the late 90's, keeping the eerie, soul-laden, grimy beats and rhymes that have been absent from much of the Wu catalogue as of late alive. Killah Priest is probably the best known of the crew, and his breathless, almost melodramatically spit rhymes anchor the record, but the others hold their own. Reminiscent of the work of fellow Wu-affiliates, Gravediggaz, The Old Testament (Green Streets Entertainment) is steeped in the quasi-religious and utterly out-there symbolism that they've done so well over their career, compiled from their previous and now out of print previous albums. This is a reminder of what made the Wu family so important and how they stand out from the pack. Check out "Five Arch Angels" and the classic "Shining Star."
The quick-witted and silver-tongued Wordsworth has re-released his 2004 album, Mirror Music, as Mirror Music: The Deluxe Edition (Halftooth), with a bonus disc packed with remixes of tracks from the original. The album is slightly disappointing, mostly because at 20 tracks, it's not easy to maintain quality all the way through. Some of the collaborations on the disc fall short, such as the limp piano-infused beat (provided by Da Beatminerz) of "12 Months," but tracks like the soul-sampling "EVOL," featuring Justin Time and Masta Ace (and produced by Ayatollah), allow this Brooklyn-based MC to shine as he should.
RADIx, MCs Quite Nyce and Seek, have a new one, The Staple (Abstrak/Early Spotter). Joined by Akrobatik, Mista Sinista, Mr. Eon, and Insight, this Boston group delivers easily digestible hip-hop that is boosted by close attention paid to beats and lyrical delivery. Of course, the requisite "history of hip-hop" track is present, "DJ/Emcee" (come on, guys, do we need another one of these?), but this is an independent offering worth checking for.
Finally, the unclassifiable singer, Dudley Perkins, has returned with a new album for Stones Throw, Expressions (2012 A.U.) . Entirely produced by Madlib, Expressions is packed with slinky funk/hip-hop hybrids that recall Parliament, Sly and the Family Stone, the Commodores, and Digital Underground. Perkins' fusion of singing and semi-rapping is a pleasure to listen to regardless, but Madlib's beats are the cement holding this together - to be expected from the producer who just can't seem to do wrong. I'm going to be flooding the summer air with this album (well, this and Fishscale), and I urge you to put your Will Smith "Summertime" single away and do the same.
And that's all for now. This edition of Glaciers was several weeks late, so expect the May offering by the end of the month. Until then… e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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