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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!
Album of the Month: Boot Camp Clik's The Last Stand (Duck Down). This should come as no surprise, as the BCC has had an incredible resurgence over the past year or so, with the release of excellent solo albums from Sean Price, Buckshot, and Smif n Wessun. They're joined by O.G.C., the reunited Heltah Skeltah (Price and his partner Rock), and producers including Large Professor, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, and, of course, the Beatminerz. From the opening ethereal strains of "Here We Come" to the primal boom-bap drums of "Let's Go," this record stands strong. Sean Price steals the show every time he appears, as should be expected after last year's ace in the hole, Monkey Barz - check his opening verse on "Don't you Cross the Line." But the entire Clik sounds rejuvenated and hungry, even the members of O.G.C., who we haven't heard from much in recent years. It's been 14 years since the release of Black Moon's first album, Enta da Stage, and the fact that the players responsible for that classic are still relevant proves that hip-hop does indeed have staying power when the focus is on quality music and wise business decisions instead of flash in the pan hit singles.
Aloe Blacc's new one for Stones Throw, Shine Through, is an mélange of soul, r'n'b, hip-hop, and experimental downtempo, and a variation on the forward-thinking but gritty hip-hop the label usually pushes. This is his debut solo album, after a career beginning as EMANON with partner DJ Exile, working as a background vocalist, and making waves as a remixer for songs like John Legend's "Ordinary People." Beginning with the soaring "Whole World," the record travels through eclectic zones like the lo-fi "Busking," an accapella track recorded at a bus stop in Queens; the acoustic guitar-heavy "Nascimento (Birth) - Scene II"; and the Madlib-produced soul of "One Inna." The only real miss here is "Long Time Coming," a Sam Cooke cover produced by Madlib's brother, Oh No, which feels hollow and lifeless in its execution and instrumentation. Blacc is obviously feeling the Latin influences, as many of the songs on Shine Through have a strong salsa, merengue, and island flavor to them. Don't sleep on this record.
On the mixtape front… two new ones have dropped from the good people at Mixunit.com. First up is Brooklyn's Maino, with King of the City, hosted by DJ Keyz. Maino has, according to his MySpace page, appeared on over 1000 mixtapes. Um, that's a lot of mixtapes. Whether or not that's an exaggeration, he has verifiably appeared on records such as Funk Master Flex's Carshow and Lil' Kim's Naked Truth. This mixtape is a preview to his forthcoming record, Death Before Dishonor, and showcases a hungry MC who focuses street tales and the possibility of an early death. Check out "Pass That," that has what I believe is a Biggie-sampling beat (don't be mad if I'm wrong). The far superior of these two releases, and this is definitely partly due to my recent fascination with Southern hip-hop, is DJ Scream and Squad Up's We Do This. This New Orleans-based crew started out as designers, but recently made the switch to music. Of course, we have the topical track, "Katrina," which is probably better coverage of the disaster than anything CNN ever did: "I lost my home and everything I own," they rap. Take that, Anderson Cooper. While much of the mixtape focuses on gangster shit and gun talk, there's something about the Southern flow and dialed-down tempo of "Drunk and High" that is hard to resist.
Los Angeles-residing underground producer ABCDEFG's new album, Dominoes & Dice, is an exercise in the cerebral over the heart. The instrumental tracks he creates out of guitars, bass, keys, samplers and computers are technically engaging and often subtly brilliant. But the problem here is that many wind up feeling like a loop that was created and left on repeat. I'm not asking for Cut Chemist or Q Bert-style scratching and juggling, but there's got to be something more in hip-hop instrumental tracks to keep them from causing yawns. ABCDEFG is the beatsmith for Gershwin BLX, a crew that includes the talented MC's Omni and Malkovich. I am sure that some of these beats would do spectacularly in that setting, but on an album that clocks in at over an hour, this is only for the diehard or fellow beatmakers.
DJ Screw was a legend of the Houston hip-hop scene, and has influenced countless artists, including Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, and Slim Thug. Screw was the innovator of the "screwed and chopped" mixtapes, where he slowed down the tempo and pitch of records to an extreme level, creating a hallucinatory feeling that represented the sticky, hot, and syrup-ridden streets of his scene - Screw was an advocate of sipping cough syrup with codeine, which produces a hallucinatory, swirling effect on the user. This was the perfect drug for Screw's surreal soundtracks, which made legends of the rappers who would appear on his mixtapes. He died of an overdose of syrup in 2000, which was a great shock and tremendous loss to the Houston rap scene. A new documentary is out now, called DJ Screw: The Untold Story (Oar Fin Distribution). While the subject matter is of interest, and some of the reflections of Screw's friends and family are worth hearing, this film is laden with problems. Technically, the audio is horrible, ranging from levels so low that it's almost impossible to hear to so loud that you have to turn the volume way down, making it a very distracting viewing. In terms of the film itself, Screw's rise and demise would have been well served by including some of his music in a prominent role in the film. Besides some barely audible background music, the music from the Screw Tapes that are the heart of the film is almost never heard. Also, unless I missed it because of the bad audio, the subject of syrup-sippin' is barely touched upon. Near the very end, a few interviewees talk about his "drinking and smoking," but exactly what he was drinking is not really mentioned - a point that would have been worth making. Screw's death is discussed at the very end by his father and friends, a sad final chapter in his remarkable life. Overall, this DVD is a bit of a disappointment.
That's all for this month. See you in early August, and 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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