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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall 09: New Music Review

Well the fall season is fully upon us as today is the first day of autumn. Over the past 3-4 weeks a huge number of albums have been coming out, here are a few I've chosen to review:

1) Jay-Z "The Blueprint 3"

Jay-Z has consistently dominated the rap game since his first record. Granted he's had a few clunkers (kingdom come anyone?) but for the most part he's a legend. The Blueprint 3 was much hyped as 2009's "Black Album", but I would have to say it's not on the same level. There are some classic fiery Jigga tracks (Empire State of Mind, DOA, Run this Town, etc etc) but there are also a few throwaway tracks (Venus vs Mars, etc.). Overall an improvement for Jigga, and a good way to end the blueprint trilogy. 7.5/10

2) Kid Cudi "Man on the Moon"

Admittedly, I am not a big fan of Kid Cudi, so you should know this going in. Anyway, I had heard mixed reviews about this album so I decided to give it a spin. Was a little surprised about how "out of the box" this record sounds. Definitely not your typical radio rap album, it's filled with electro-spacey beats and personal lyrics. OK, so Cudi can come creative, but to me this is just sounds second rate tracks that couldn't make it on 808's and Heartbreaks (which is dogshit to begin with). Guest spots by MGMT and and Ratatat will make this a sure hit with weirdo college electro-indie nerds. 5/10

3) Raekwon "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II"

Oh wow, finally, this month, we have the long awaited sequel to Raekwon's 1995 masterpiece "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx". Fourteen years seems like a longtime to wait, but this record is solid all around. Classic minimal Wu beats with Raekwon's trademark complex flow make this a must listen for any self-respecting Wu-Tang fan. My favorite song might actually be the unreleased track that comes with the album, "The Badlands" featuring ill verse from the likes of Ghostface. Modern classic. 8/10

4) Paramore "Brand New Eyes"

Paramore has long been a guilty pleasure of mine, so you know I downloaded their new LP follow up to 2007's "Riot!". Sure enough, this record brings that same pop-punky sound coupled with Hayley Williams' clear-as-a-bell voice to make some real alterna-teen bangers. This record has a few more mid-tempo tracks than I would prefer, but these tracks are definitely well written. When the band does kick it up, it's well worth the wait. 7/10

5) Alice in Chains "Black Gives Way to Blue"

Nineties grunge masters AiC return after a long hiatus, mostly caused by the death of frontman Lane Staley. Luckily, they found a replacement who could fill the large shoes of Lane. BGWtB could easily have been recorded in 1996, as the band mixed heavy wah drenched guitar riffs with haunting vocal melodies. This record is sure to turn the heads of even the AiC purists who doubted the new vocalist. 7.5/10

6) Maximum Penalty "Life & Times"

NYHC OG's Max Pen are dropping their first release in a while with "Life & Times", and, I've got to say, it's pretty impressive. In a world where most old school hardcore bands can't seem to recapture the magic of the 80's and 90's, Maximum Penalty are doing a pretty good job. Not only do they discover their old "Easy Side Story" writing style, but expand upon it into a modern hardcore classic. 8.5/10

Friday, September 4, 2009

Matt's Picks- Best of Summer 2009

So my summer is pretty must over at this point (wah) but I thought I pick a few highlights of my four month vacation. All in all pretty productive few months, visited the South, worked in Europe, chilled on the West Coast, now back in Europe for a while. Here are the highlights:

Best Albums of Summer 2009 (in no order)

1) Trapped Under Ice- Secrets of the World
Baltimore natives and current pit-masters really set it off this summer with their LP follow up to 2008's Stay Cold. The new TUI is one of the hardest records I can remember coming out, and the LP proves that these guys can write new material but still keep it interesting. They toured with Terror, Madball, etc. on the 10 for 10 tour this summer, and I'm sure they will be touring for the rest of the fall too. If you are a fan of heavier music, this album is a must listen.

2) Title Fight- The Last Thing You Forget
This three song EP is a great follow up to 2007's Kingston, showcasing the maturing Title Fight's mastery of blending pop punk with 90's emo and melodic sounds. From slow pensive instrumentals (the B-Side) to innovative vocal melodies and trademark tempo changes, I'm sure this EP swill serve as a warm up for what is sure to be a great LP in 2010.

Best Summer Blockbuster:

Inglorious Basterds
When I heard about Tarantino's new flick, I wrote it off as another rehash of some obscure exploitation film, but once I started to see a few trailers, it definitely sparked my interest. World War II movies are some of my favorites, and the fact that he had assumed the guise of a spaghetti western director for this one definitely added an interesting spin. After the seeing the film, I can definitely say it's Tarantino's finest work to date. Sure, the midnight premier theater was filled with pseudo-film buff nerdsters know-it-alls (average Tarantino fans), but that didn't ruin it for me. Blending elements of spaghetti western and classic film noir, Tarantino managed to produce not only his most entertaining film, but also the most visually pleasing. For my money, my favorite scene, showcasing the director at his best, was the rendezvous at the pub. It was a classic Tarantino roundtable dialogue, but this time there was a surmounting tension, and the feeling that anything could happen at any time. Finally after a 20 minute set up scene of pure dialogue (in subtitles!) Tranatino hits the irony button and shows a less than 5 second shootout. Classic! The giant face in the smoke at the end too was also very ill.

Best Show of 2009:
Cold World-> Floorpunch @ This Is Hardcore Festival (August 15)

Although I saw many great sets this summer, my personal favorite would have to be the back to back Cold World set into the Floorpunch set at This is Hardcore in Philadelphia. Despite the insane heat, Cold World put on probably the best set I have seen them play (at least in the last 3-4 years). The sold out crowd was going nuts, constant dives and sing alongs, overall just a great atmosphere, people just going off for fun, which is tough to find at most shows these days. After Cold World played to an insane reaction, I was going to take it easy and watch Floorpunch from the back, having already seen the first 2 of their 3 reunion shows this summer. Of course though, they had to go and open with Jeff Perlin actually dueting Breakdown songs (All I Ask + Safe in a Crowd), and people just lost it. The rest of their set was awesome, also got a great reaction with plenty of pit action. Best back to back sets of the summer, hands down.

Honorable Mentions for Summer 2009 "Best Of":
1. Arnold Palmer Lite tall cans
2. Title Fight Secret Show
3. Breakfast Burritos @ Beach Liquor in Carpinteria, CA
4. Paul Blart: Mall Cop on Blu-Ray

EDIT: Just listened to the Blueprint 3. Fuck the haters, shit's fire.
Key tracks: Empire State of Mind, Run this Town, Off That, So Ambitious