Category Archives: Stream

Politic, ditto: First-Quarter Rap Music in ’08

ghost-face-1.jpg
Ghostface’s skullcap gets really sweaty

Here is some guidance through these troubled rap times…….

LISTEN to The Big Doe Rehab. It’s still good. Ghostface’s umpteenth critically lauded solo record isn’t a novel thing to write or read about, I know, and just typing the words “Ghostface” into a WordPress blog feels vaguely wrong in some way at this point — I’m joining a chorus that’s already kinda deafening — but this record still sounds fresh and immediate. NO ONE who was making rap music in 93 can say the same about their current output.(Wait, is that true?? Nerds/fruitflies, if you’re out there, come correct me!!) The only rapper who comes frustratingly close is Nas — Nas rapping will always, always sound good, despite being his being a ponderous blowhard and all. (At least Ghostface reserves his old-guy bellyaching to interviews.)

Seriously, though. This is a stupid point — I’m going to make it anyway, but it’s a stupid point — but I’m always just astonished at how many WORDS there are on a Ghostface album. THe man has rapped the great social realist/postmodernist novel of the 20th century — and he’s not even done yet. Like any great storyteller, he repeats himself without repeating himself. “Yolanda’s House” on Rehab is a great example of a song he’s done a million times — the break-in, the panicked chase through the projects, the quick and unceremonious seduction — and yet Ghost comes to it all fresh, as if he’s never, ever rapped about this stuff before.

Plus, every word that escapes his mouth feels torn from a man who just arrived on foot from a murder scene. That helps.

MP3: “Walk Around,” people.

LISTEN to Clipse We Got It For Cheap, Vol. 3 as well, but don’t pay too close attention — you might risk realizing that the Clipse are masters of a cheap art, the punchline hocus-pocus. Still, their needle-sharp voices — Tal Rosenberg provided the most eloquent description when he noted they were “high but weighed down” — are still a pleasure, and you still get “Ill with the composition I’m Mo-ZART/You don’t want the fifth to start spittin’ so don’t start” and a thousand others. Pour it in a punchline-heavy blender with Lil Wayne’s exhausting/awesome Da Drought 3 for a particularly grueling treadmill run.

Oh, and keep listening to Liquid Swords. The answer’s in there somewhere…..

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Filed under blogosphere echo chamber, Posted by Tyco, RAP MUSIC, Stream

Regret is beatific.

And “Someone Great” is great. This might be my record of the year, which is an annoying, critic-y way of saying that I hold it lovingly to my chest and will probably treasure it for years. The song has a gorgeous, sighing rhythm, stemming from the gossamer layer of white noise that pulses quietly in the foreground. Gently insistent, it lulls you with its drowsy rhythm and frustrates your efforts to clearly hear the song all at once — the proceedings, as a result, seem both distorted and somewhat remote. “The Dream of Evan and Chan” played a similar, bewitching trick on your senses, as it seems to emerge from nothingness and dematerialize into the ether. Murphy sketches the acute pain and dazed bemusement immediately following an incomprehensible loss in fine, vivid strokes:

I wake up and the phone is ringing

Surprised, as its early

And that should be a perfect morning

Then, something’s a problem

To tell the truth, I saw it coming

The way you were breathing

But nothing can prepare you for it;

The voice on the other end …

Then he trails off pensively, and you’re left with a burbling keyboard riff while you ponder everything else the narrator might be thinking. The song doesn’t raise goosebumps because it doesn’t contain any epiphanies, just a wistful, clear-eyed sigh of regret.

Rawws

Rick Ross has nothing to do with this post.

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Filed under Beatific sadness, Posted by Tyco, Stream

holy jesus those horns.

yeah, I’m a sucker for huge, vaulting grandeur. Maybe I can’t even distinguish the earned kind from the cheaply lyrical kind, the kind you see in Irish soap commercials and SUV ads. Maybe Danny Elfman scores get to me (well, at least the “aaaahing” chorus for “Edward Scissorhands”) and maybe the big Hammer-of-Thor obliterate-all-discernment cliches work too goddamn well on my ears. But HOLY FUCK those horns that swell up near the end of “Ocean of Noise,” like the flowering promise of the bass line’s suggested melody, held at bay for the entire song’s length. The horns’ arrival is spectacularly dramatic, accompanied by echo-laden guitar and held aloft by a banging piano doubling the melody. Slowly, the song transforms from measured and muted to triumphant, an exalted procession. And yes, YES they sound like mariachi horns. That’s the FUCKING BEAUTY OF IT, that’s what stirs the lizard brain and makes the whole moment magical, the surprise — who invited these guys into the session? — and the familiarity, the sound we’ve all heard somewhere, in a shitty Chi-Chi’s-style Mexican restaurant, in a subway, wherever. The Arcade Fire are working a broad streak of populism with both fervor and dedication, and I love them unreservedly for it. As a listener, I have to admit that while cul-de-sacs hide invaluable treasures that I have made my life’s work to snuffle out, I prefer bringing said treasures to the light rather than slavering over them, Gollum-like, alone. There is nothing more depressing to me than a dank basement record shop with rank, stale air and greasy-haired middle-aged males, walking cautionary tales, shuffling discontentedly through used vinyl. They DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR. Seriously, how pathetic is that? They’re just blindly — LOOKING. For lack of anything else to do. If you don’t know what you walked in for, how do you know when you’re supposed to walk out??

Tangent. Sorry. I was talking about how I am often moved by even ham-fisted grandeur. There is plenty of it to be found in the Arcade Fire’s music, particularly in Win Butler’s lyrics, which don’t reward close inspection, and on Neon Bible, their latest album, which piles on the chimes and organs and quavering strings. However, I saw them live twice this year, and I am still with them. They belong to a select group of messianic rock bands often ridiculed for their cornball optimism and plaintive earnestness, a pantheon that includes such big fat targets such as U2, Pearl Jam, and “Soft Bulletin”-era Flaming Lips. IT’s a thin line between “The Soft Bulletin” and “At War With the Mystics,” between the soaring, unifying statement and the crass, vulgar overstatement, but from my vantage point, the Arcade Fire are still operating on the right side of things.

I have no idea if this makes sense. But I’m trying to BLOG HERE. JUST CRACK YER KNUCKLES AND HIT “PUBLISH.”

Peace and love,

TN

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Filed under Posted by Tyco, Stream

Harmony In Ultraviolet: Paranoia and WTF on a Sunday Night

So. Tonight. Started out with too many sports and one too many energy drinks. En route to “classic” Metal Night, it was The Studio’s Yearbook 1 (which, btw, is top five 2007). Night-is-young type of gently wistful 80-y Cure-in-Ibiza. Simple enough and figuring the night will be like any other late start. A drink or two and the trudge home. It’s what I expect at the bar: Kill ‘Em All, Faith No More, Sabbath. Work habit discussions, bar regular introductions, leftover whiskey. A slight tipsy, a longer-than-expected stay. Graceful exit around 2.

Start again with Yearbook, but even before leaving, I have Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet on the mind. Can’t say why. Yearbook comes off after 1/2 a block and the almost aggressive ambience of Harmony replaces. The whiskey tipsy already hits with a general weightlessness, etc, but something is going on now. It’s 2am on a Sunday, so obviously very few cars and even fewer street-walkers. I’m not keeping track of song changes, etc (a. cuz it’s ambient, who cares; b. cuz shit starts to HAPPEN, so, like, don’t jinx it).

There is a DISTORTION to this ambience that is unusual. It’s penetrating; unsettling; the first car I see is a cop car. One block later, another. No one on the streets. Huge, Ft. Greene townhouses each have one light on.

I’m walking and noticing EVERYTHING. It honestly feels like drugs; like an acute awareness offset with a certain loss of faculties. A new track starts and it’s like a movie, but, seriously (this is important), NOT CLICHE like it sounds. A simple three “chord” “melody” repeated. It drudges. It’s MONOTONOUS; pounding. I keep (KEEP) thinking that there is WAY too much artificial light. Abrasive street lights and supermarket signs. Bodega fake Christmas lights.

Two teenagers out of the corner of my eye coming from a Pratt dorm.

55 degrees; 2:12am.

The next track. I don’t want to break the “spell” – it seems important somehow. But I last only 10 or 15 seconds. It is unbearably and undeniably SCARY. I have to skip ahead.

By now I’m floating and I’m DESPERATELY trying to cram the images, sensations, facts, thoughts, circumstances, bullshit, etc. into some sort of permanence in my head-thing. I know I will lose it, but I figure I’ll “stream” it (as cheesy and DUH as that is).

Ok.

Just listen.

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Filed under Posted by Doorknobs, Stream, WTF