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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
El-P
I'll Sleep When You're Dead
Definitive Jux

Rating: 9.4/10 ?


December 12, 2007
With the year almost over, is anyone else terrified to still be alive? Like many Americans I would say that I am desperate for change, but that lifeboat came and went with the 2004 elections in which too many fat, comfortable Americans were using the vessel to keep their bodies afloat rather than paddle against the current. By now I, like most, have become accustomed to the corrupted and compromised atmosphere in Washington D.C., and as the temperature gets colder, all I want for Christmas is a way to detach myself.

If the existence of I'll Sleep When You're Dead doesn't give me hope, at the least it certainly brings me deep consolation. Jaime Meline, better known as El-P, has made me realize that my dispair is not an isolated incident. There is a film of anger and blind fear buried in the conscience of a certain percentage of this population, and it breathes in the chorus of "Tasmanian Pain Coaster," the clap of the drums in the first fifteen seconds of "EMG," and the unsettlingly maniacal laughter of "The League of Extraordinary Nobodies'" "live studio audience."

The strength of the album rests in El-P's desire to be resonant and honest, both to himself and in an effort to expose the darkness inherent in the comfort of our time. For every criticism of George Bush's America there is also a confession of self-deprecation, and when Meline tells us in "Smithereens" to "save your precious advice, because in my life everyone's lied to me, and I'm crying," the line is delivered with such sincerity and venom that it's difficult not to believe in and identify with him.

Almost nothing is safe in the clutches of I'll Sleep When You're Dead - the gamut is run from God to sex and disease and back again, and while many rappers litter their albums with industry stars and guest producers to capitalize on the momentum of others, there is no mistaking I'll Sleep When You're Dead as El-P's record and his alone. Guest spots do exist on the album, including high profile names like Trent Reznor, Cat Power, and the only manageable dose of The Mars Volta I've been able to take for years, but the cameos all seem to exist only to the extent that they compliment and emphasize the aim of the album itself, rather than to try and steal the spotlight.

And the production? Oh my, the production. It stands to reason that this album was the product of a man who gave himself all the time in the world to tweak and meditate upon the results, enjoying the kind of creative control that only comes with being your own boss. I'll Sleep When You're Dead was birthed in the mind of El-P alone, and with every listen new ambiences, intricacies, and idiosyncrasies appear in the execution of each of the album's thirteen tracks. The attention to detail consistently rewards the intelligent listener.

If the disc had a spat of laziness to it in any form, it would be in the middle of its second half. "Flyentology" and "No Kings" don't stand up that well next to stronger tracks like "Drive" or "Run the Numbers," and "Flyentology" especially seems to exist only because the mp3 tag of "El-P featuring Trent Reznor" sounds cooler than just about anything one could think of outside of Massive Attack remixing Miles Davis.

The key word here, like so many other classics that exemplify their time, is isolation. In the captivity of a culture as shady and demoralizing as ours turning over to a new year, it's seductive, now more than ever, to become an island - all you need is an apartment and an internet connection. El-P, as a member of an unpopular race in the hip-hop industry, recording for an underground record label and making music that doesn't sound quite like anything else, is a definitive loner. I'll Sleep When You're Dead is too smart, too relevant, and too dangerous. To borrow from the triumphant chorus of the album's opening:

This is the sound of what you don't know killing you,
This is the sound of what you don't believe still true,
This is the sound of what you don't what want still in you,
TPC, motherfucker, cop a feel or two.

Reviewed by Dave Toropov
Introduced to music in the womb with a pair of headphones on his mother's stomach, Dave Toropov has yet to recover the experience. A writer based in Boston and New York, he has also written for Prefix Magazine and What Was It Anyway, and is the maintainer of the "Middleclass Haunt" blog.

See other reviews by Dave Toropov

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