Thursday, March 21, 2013

Big Boi's Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors

I used to view Andre 3000 as the stronger half of Outkast.  I no longer feel that way.  Big Boi's 2012 offering Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is a work of art.  There are several tracks that I can't stop listening to this week.   While his work with Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland on "Mama Told Me" is solid, and the video is absolutely mesmerizing, the track called "Descending" about losing loved ones has hit me pretty hard.  Towards the end of the song, voice breaking, the crushingly sad lines "From the bottom of my chest, to my stomach/goddammit, my daddy is gone/my daddy's gone" come through an ethereal soundscape, waking up my sentiments and last night, at about midnight, it made me sob.  Have a listen:

Another track I really enjoy is "Shoes for Running."  It has a very very catchy chorus, but the rapid-fire verses contain some stinging criticisms of politics in America right now, including what I might see as President Obama's use of drone attacks to kill innocent kids.  "Shoes for running/and I'll race ya/the sun is coming/it'll chase ya/through this deadbeat town (x2)/The End is coming/I would race ya/but, there's no running/it'll chase ya/Death will hunt you down (x2)."

He goes on to attack the 1%, big drug companies, and rich people, while the weak people go to prison.  Overall though, the song is about death, which awaits all of us.  I can't help but appreciate the juxtaposition of children singing the chorus at the end about how we're all going die.  While the second verse seems weaker than the 1st & 3rd due to bragging, the other verses are very strong.  

You can fight and try to get away
But there's no way to run and hide to
You better know that there will come a day
Eventually it's gonna find you

The control that Big Boi has over his articulation is absolutely amazing.  Have a listen:

The art direction of the "Mama Told Me" video is amazing.  Here's a link to the production company's explanation of the creative process:

And, here's the video:

While Ms. Rowland dances around in skimpy outfits, my eyes are instead drawn to the art deco color designs flashing around the screen.  

The final song I'll link is "Apple of My Eye."  To quote a friend of mine, it sounds like a "mix of the Cure, Depeche Mode, and Outkast."  He's dead on.  

If you're a fan of hiphop, or not, this album is worth a listen.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Best White Stripes Album

So, I was up late last night talking with Commando on facebook, trading songs back and forth from Spotify, and we both started talking about how much of a talent Jack White is. I'm partial to Elephant for its lyrics and the guitar work. First, we have the riff that launched a thousand ships in "Seven Nation Army." While that song is memorable, and fun as hell to play on the bass guitar, it's not the best. Which one is your favorite? I'll do a song-by-song evaluation, but any level of participation is welcome here. 

"Black Math" has amazingly blistering guitar, a solid drumbeat, and his voice is squeaky clean.

"There's No Home for You Here," the overdubbing gives his voice in this song a sonic quality. I love the spoken-sung sections. Lyrically, it's entertaining, "Completely baffled by the backward indication that an inspired word will come across your tongue/Hands moving upward to prepare the situation of simply, 'HALT' and now the conversation's done." The bridge at about 2 mins in is spectacular and his soloing. 

"I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself," a solid song, nice beat, it sounds like it was recorded live, and then we get to that ending....and...well, the wheels come off about 2:20 in. 

"In the Cold, Cold Night," You'll laugh, but I think her voice is super sexy on this track. The organ's subtlety in the background gives the song a sense of warmth, despite its title. 

"I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart," One of their strongest songs, lyrically. It tells a story, has some wit, and musically, the piano and guitar blend together beautifully, and the basic drumming compliments the melody. "I never said I was the heir to a fortune/I never claimed to have any looks/But these kind of things must be important cause somebody ripped out my page in your telephone book."

"You've Got Her in Your Pocket," Hauntingly gentle. "I want to keep you in my pocket/where there's no way out/put it in the safe and lock out/cause it's home sweet home" with that falsetto ending. Lovely. 

"Ball and Biscuit" I can't hear this and not think of Led Zeppelin. The guitar is perhaps his best on any album. I rank this up there with the Black Keys' "Little Black Submarines" among the songs that make me think of Zeppelin. A short description of a long fabulous song. Click to 1:47 in for a taste of the guitar. 

"The Hardest Button to Button" UH OH! Blitzing both musically and lyrically. I appreciate the wry observation of a verse that says "We're a family/and we're alright now/we got money and a little place to fight now..." A brilliant song. I can listen to it endlessly.

"Little Acorns," It took me a long time to enjoy the spoken-word intro. But, I see the beauty of it now. The song itself is excellent with its changing tempos, hard-rock guitars, and ample use of a back-beat bass drum. It just works. The last 5 measures are louder than the rest of it, on purpose. It ends like a fading electrical charge. 

"Hypnotize," The best song on the album, hands down. I think it's flawless, musically, lyrically, and vocally. The change at 0:47 in sets up for the best jam on the record, dropping at 1:13. 

"The Air Near My Fingers," Great lyrics, the rhyme and thought shifts remind me of Andre3000's work on Stankonia. Seriously good beat. The deliver of the lyrics, his cadence, perfect ripostes the melody and the beat, especially in the verses more than the chorus. The beat change at 3:03 is among my favorites. I think Meg's drumming, while not amazing, is top-notch. 

"Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine," A solid song. I like the guitar work more than anything. It's my least favorite from the album. 

"Well It's True That We Love One Another," We end on a three-way (as many good things do) vocal with Jack and Meg singing with Holly Golightly. When Jack implores Holly to give him some of that "English lovin'" she rebuffs him, telling Jack to go jackoff; he rejoins that if he did that "Holly, there won't be anything left for anybody else." He gave us what he had left, and it was amazing.

Here's a video showcasing his particular talents. I love at the end how they start chanting "John the Revelator" from the old Gospel song as sung by Son House.