October 26, 2004
Gear Live Playlist: Talib Kewli, Cake, Black Keys, Medvillain, Bright Eyes
In this installment of Playlist, we look at some young bands that will factor heavily in the near future of the music industry, as well as a band that just can’t let the past go. A couple of rap groups, a couple of rock bands, and a Collection Essential that is only two years old. Buckle up for Playlist.
Cake- Pressure Chief
Some bands like to put out albums that progress musically and show their maturation as artists. Then there is Cake. Scoring radio hits during the 90’s with “The Distance”, “I Will Survive” and “Sheep Go To Heaven”, Cake seems almost cryogenically frozen since their 90’s glory. But redundancy has its strong points, such as accessibility. Fans of Cake’s previous four albums will not be turned off by “Pressure Chief”, which is a spirited romp through horns and the voice of lead singer John McCrea, the distinguishing piece to all things that are Cake. Highpoints on “Pressure Chief” are the Bread cover “The Guitar Man”, the solid “Waiting” and “Tougher Than It Is”. So if you are a fan of Cake’s past, you will be a fan of Cake’s present, and “Pressure Chief” gets a 6/10.
Talib Kweli – Beautiful Struggle
Talib Kweli’s solo debut in 2002 garnered a lot of critical attention and underground rap’s golden boy made good. “Beautiful Struggle” is definitely the sound of Kweli moving towards commercial rap from the conscious underground rapper, but it is a very good sound. “Beautiful Struggle” is less socio-political, but the message songs are washed down better with a few party anthems. “Around My Way” is based around The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, which makes Kweli sound a bit too much like Puff Daddy robbing the 80’s of all their great songs. But Kweli’s raspy delivery and solid rhymes definitely save the day, and solid production give the rapper a foundation to work with. Track’s like “Broken Glass” with its hard driving beat, the smooth “I Try”, and the rapid “We Got The Best” make “Beautiful Struggle” a great rap album. All in all, a 7/10.
The Black Keys – Rubber Factory
Blues infused garage rock made by a guitar and drums duo from the Midwest. Sound like any other bands you know? White Stripes comparisons aside, The Black Keys are an incredible band and “Rubber Factory” is a balls out rock record that will restore your faith in rock music. “Rubber Factor” resurrects the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, with incredible guitar riffs, and raw bluesy passion. Recorded in a former tire factory, “Rubber Factory” has a spacious feel, especially on tracks like “Just Couldn’t Tie Me Down”, where the bad-ass guitar of Dan Auerbach is allowed to run free. The Kink’s cover “Act Nice and Be Gentle” is incredible. There are some really high points, and without any weak tracks, “Rubber Factory” is amazing.
Madvillain – Madvillainy
Madvillain is the collaboration of rapper MF Doom and producer Madlib, which is underground rap’s version of the dream team. The soundscape of this record, the beats and music, are sliced up jazz records, put back together in an amazingly smooth, laid-back sound. But the highlight of this disc is definitely the rhymes of MF Doom, an underground rapper that has been around for a decade, under assorted aliases, such as Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Daniel Dumile and Zev Love. MF Doom’s forte is incredibly intelligent and poetic lyrics that just blow your mind with their cadence and quickness. Highlights on the album are definitely “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “America’s Most Blunted”, both laid-back tracks that showcase MF Doom’s rhyme skills. The only downside to “Madvillainy” is the filler. With 22 tracks on the album, 6-8 are just plain filler, but those can definitely be looked past. “Madvillainy” definitely finds itself on the short list for best rap album of the year.
Bright Eyes – Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, So Keep Your Ear To The Ground
The fourth album from prodigy Conor Oberst and friends, Bright Eyes is the second coming of Bob Dylan, the great hope for pop music, nothing more, nothing less, and “Lifted” is one of the best albums of the last ten years. Songs written without any pretense, lyrics that are so naked and open that you almost feel bad for hearing them, like you are reading Oberst’s diary. Musicianship that quickly makes you forget the fact that Oberst was only 22 when recording “Lifted”, instruments that make it sound like an entire orchestra was used in production. “Lifted” was released in 2002, and immediately garnered loads of critical attention, landing on Rolling Stone’s top albums of 2002. Songs range from the angry rock of “Method Acting” to the country tenderness of “Laura Laurent”, from the ballroom feel of “False Advertising” to the almost punk rock of “Lets Not Shit Ourselves”. Record stores and magazines tried to lump “Lifted” into the emo world, but that doesn’t do this album justice. “Lifted” is music, it is incredible music, that doesn’t allow itself to be pigeonholed. This album will make you hopeful of what pop music can be, and pop music has a bright future with more releases from Bright Eyes.
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