Category Archives: Albums

Album Review: Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

Helplessness Blues drops May 3.

Three years ago, Fleet Foxes floored me with their self-titled debut. Their sun-soaked harmonies were impeccable, frontman Robin Pecknold’s lyrical imagery evoked wide-eyed wonder, and the songs got better with each passing listen.

The band sold more than 200,000 copies of their debut album in the U.S. alone in 2008 and topped influential music web site Pitchfork’s top albums list. They also played “Saturday Night Live” and sold out shows across the globe.

So it would have been understandable if their sophomore effort was not as sharp. The expectations were much greater. And, as others have mentioned, the band came so fully formed that it was hard to imagine them improving their sound.

Yet, Fleet Foxes’ second album, Helplessness Blues, does not succumb to any potential pitfalls. It is a remarkable work bolstered, like its predecessor, by its harmonies and clean sound, as well as Pecknold’s more deeply introspective lyrics this time around.

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Album Review: Angles by The Strokes

The Strokes' Angles comes out Tuesday.

When the Strokes released “Under Cover of Darkness”, the lead single off their fourth album, Angles, last month, I praised the NYC garage rock revivalists for embracing the sound that made them so fresh and exciting in the early 2000’s.

In hindsight, that single’s misleading nature reminds me of a girl who posts an odd-angled Facebook profile picture that makes her look more pretty than she really is.

Angles is a mess, a ill-conceived hodgepodge of sounds from different genres and source materials that are more often than not jarring and unpleasant or, worse yet, forgettable.

Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part to think the Strokes would be masters of their own sound on their fourth album, especially after their dud of a third album, First Impressions of Earth. My optimism be damned, the Strokes sound like a band experiencing an identity crisis on Angles.

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Album Review: Lasers by Lupe Fiasco

Lupe's Lasers drops Tuesday, March 8.

I have written ad nauseum on this blog that I considered Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers my most anticipated musical release of 2011, based largely off his previous material and the long wait associated with this album.

The initial tracks released  — “Words I Never Said”, “The Show Goes On”, “All Black Everything” — only heightened my expectations. But listening to the final product, and its puzzling, revolving door of guest singers, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed.

It’s hard to listen to Lasers without being reminded of Lupe’s lengthy fight with his record company, Atlantic Records, to release his third album. It is evident from the first spin through this disc that he had to make serious concessions.

Atlantic apparently wanted Lupe to make a record similar to B.O.B.’s latest — one recognized more for guest’s hooks than B.O.B.’s raps. That is insanity. Lupe’s music should never be watered down like that, even if it means selling a few more albums.

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ON BLAST: Frank Ocean's Nostalgia/Ultra

Check out this mixtape NOW!!!

There was a time not so long ago when musical artists flocked to MySpace to showcase their latest efforts. The site was particularly important for up-and-coming acts.

These days Twitter is a growing hub to find out about new music, if not listen to it. Granted, the site does not offer a music player like MySpace or Facebook. But it does feature links out the wazoo and interesting dialogue between artists (see: Tyler, the Creator and Pusha T of Clipse and Tyler, the Creator and Kanye West).

I first heard about R&B rookie Frank Ocean, he of the polished sound and Odd Future pedigree, through a tweet from hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco saying he had listened to Ocean rather than Radiohead during a flight to Atlanta. (NOTE: Odd Future is known for its left field raps; Ocean does not rap on Nostalgia/Ultra)

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ON BLAST: Twin Shadow

Twin Shadow's George Lewis Jr.

I enjoyed Twin Shadow’s debut album, Forget, in 2010, but I wasn’t obsessed with it. Still, I ranked it my No. 14 favorite record of the year because it featured two of my favorite songs of the year, “Castles In The Snow” and “Slow”, and I enjoyed its gritty vibe, in general.

In hindsight, my ranking of Forget was way, way too low. I should have ranked it in Drake’s spot at No. 3. (YES!!!! Another New Year’s Resolution broken — the one about not admitting I ranked Drake too high.)

That quip about ranking Forget at No. 3 is not hyperbole. I’ve been listening to Forget non-stop the past few weeks. I’m enthralled by frontman George Lewis Jr.’s suave voice, his tales that hang between wishing for love and wishing for anything but, and the record’s darkly penetrating synths.

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My Favorite Albums Of 2010 Pt. 1

Here is the first of a two-part series featuring my favorite albums of 2010. This is not a best of list. It is merely my favorite albums of the year. Come back Tuesday for my Top 10. Check it!

Big Boi at Pitchfork in Chicago. Credit: CajunTomato

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Ray Legend’s Favorite Albums of ’09

I woke up around 8: 30 this morning. I never wake up early on Saturday. The only explanation I can give is it’s a new decade. Maybe that will be my new thing this decade … you know, waking up early, reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee. Then, waving goodbye to the kids as they get on the schoolbus (on weekdays, of course). “Watch for bullies, kids,” I’ll yell. “It’s ok to hit them if they hit you first.” Yeah, that’s called Parenting 101. Teach your kid to be kick-ass and they will kick ass, when the time is right. Speaking of kick-ass — I’m not sure if that’s hyphenated but it’s my blog so I don’t feel like being a grammar Nazi — here are my favorite albums of the year. You know, the albums that would have spent the most time in my car cd player if the bastard wasn’t possessed by a demon and refused to play anything worth hearing.

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The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns

I’ve never been to Canada. Admittedly, I’ve never had a huge interest in the country, either. It always seemed to me that it was a colder, less powerful, less well-off America. It was above us, just sitting there, watching us, cheering our every move. And that suited my worldview just fine.

Enter Hometowns by The Rural Alberta Advantage, an album released in America this July on Saddle Creek Records. The album’s 13 songs are about the faded luster of hometowns and relationships left behind within them. While there is mentions of towns, such as Alberta and Edmonton, in song titles, the album’s themes of love, loss and longing speak a universal language that holds broad appeal for people, like myself, who know little about Canadian “hometowns.”

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