Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour album review

When Scissor Sisters announced their fourth studio album Magic Hour, fans rejoiced. When it was announced that they would be collaborating with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Calvin Harris, Azealia Banks and Diplo the anticipation grew to ultimate proportions. Finally the album dropped and the people are unfortunately left feeling unappeased.

The album opens up on a familiar note with “Baby Come Home” their signature disco sound coupled with a steady beat that can only be described as groovy. “Inevitable” starts off with Pharrell William’s melodic beat, complete with a hypnotizing keyboards and a hint of percussion, is a great pair with the Beegees-esque vocals of Scissor Sisters. The biggest surprise of the album was the fact that “Only the Horses”, was one of the most forgettable tracks considering that it was a Calvin Harris production. This collaboration had the opportunity to be epic, but it ended up just falling through the cracks.

Things start to pick up pace again during “Let’s Have a Kiki”, an underground vogueing anthem where someone tells a story about the misfortunes that they have had on their way to a party. The track “Shady Love” features new comer raptress, Azealia Banks. This track sounds all over the place, similar to Azealia’s breakout track “212”. Unlike “212”, the rapping, singing, and noise combination really didn’t mend together as effortlessly as the latter track did.

This album seems to be missing the intensity that Scissor Sisters are so known for. Rather than making you want to cover yourself in glitter and bust a move on the dance floor, most of the tracks just make you want to sway around while holding up a lighter. The emphasis on ballads in Magic Hour isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it might be disappointing to some fans who were expecting some colorful dance tracks while still maintaining their vintage feel.


Azealia Banks – 1991 album review

Barely old enough to order a drink, Azealia Banks serves up a heaping dose of lyrical debauchery on her newest EP, 1991, which was released digitally last week (physical release set for June 12th).  Banks’ sexually charged, in-your-face vocals pair nicely with the stripped down, early 90’s house music vibe heard throughout the album.  As we reach the midpoint of 2012, the “young terror from the nyc” is poised to the newest alternative IT girl, ready to be played out by mainstream radio and hipsters alike.

The obvious standout of the album is “212” featuring Lazy Jay’s 2009 track “Float My Boat.”  While the track may have been leaked last year, it feels fresh as ever as Banks’ rapid-fire lyrics dance with playful horn blasts and tropical riddims.  Plus, Banks flexes her singing skills with a sultry hook that may be sweet enough to forgive her for vulgarity on the infamously repeated “I guess that cunt gettin eaten” line.  Also leaked last year, “Liquorice” takes you on a high-speed ride of 808-drums and retro trance synths courtesy of UK producer Lone.

The album’s title track (“1991”) and “Van Vogue” are stellar additions to round out the album.  The two tracks, produced by eclectic bass music producer, Machinedrum, continue the EP’s housey agenda to a percussive wonderland.  “1991” is a minimal, Burial-esque track featuring pulsating bell sounds and an evolving melody that sounds like it could have easily been produced in, well…1991.  “Van Vogue” has the same feel as “1991” tinged with subtle R&B influences and airy reverb as well as a cleverly placed sample of a barking dog midway through the hook.

At the end of 1991’s mere 16 minute run time, you’ll hear a multitude of foul-mouthed phrases that should never be spoken in public.  But even after Banks’ gritty lyrics, you’ll somehow be left with a strange feeling of playfulness and innocence in her voice.  She’ll leave you shocked, confused and begging for more.  1991 is a breakthrough album that already feels classic.


Exitmusic – Passage album review

The Brooklyn based duo Exitmusic have a knack for capturing the mood of a pivotal moment. The duo is made up of Devon Church and Aleksa Palladino. Palladino is also an actress most recently noted for her role on HBO’s critically acclaimed series: Boardwalk Empire. But music came before acting for her ever since her teens. Growing up, she was encouraged by her mother, a then professional opera singer, to pursue her passion for songwriting. Palladino met her counterpart, Church, shortly after he moved to New York after teaching English in India. The two collaborated with their individual strengths to form a band, touring with Phantogram for a year in 2009 up until they returned to NYC to record an album of their own.

Their full-length release, ‘Passage’, is a melancholy and ethereal take on modern day pop. It is seemingly a perfect fit for that classic climactic scene in a thrilling film noir. Aesthetically, there may not be much to dissect while listening to the album, but it plays like a well crafted soundtrack. It is not neatly tied together with distinctive shifts that give it cohesion. That is what brings beauty to the tracks: that it is haphazardly thrown together with loose threads and dead ends… yet done prophetically and with all the emotional upheaval that breaks your heart and tightens your throat.

Arpeggio’s and pitchy vocals shiver through out, as if the singer was on a balance beam during the recording. But the beats building up to the climactic bridge lead the listener into a cathartic release of pent up anticipation. With only one album under their belt so far, Exitmusic has made quite the entrance; with melodies flourishing to a rouse and accompanied by the occasional sun-drenched ballad, their sound is heartbreaking. The music is enough to make you swoon and soon revel in the fill of nostalgic bliss it bellies upon you. Exitmusic’s “Passage” was released on Secretly Canadian Records and is available online or in stores all over the world.

Jay-Z Kanye West Reviews

Watch The Throne Tour – Kanye West & Jay-Z in Montreal

Yesterday, amidst a crowd of 15,000 fans, two of the biggest names in hip-hop took the stage for a two-hour and forty minute marathon of rhymes and beats. As Ye and Jay rose above the crowd on fourteen foot platform covered in LEDs, you could tell this show would be one for the ages. Spitting their verses on “H.A.M.” from their respective “thrones,” and moving right into “Who Gon Stop Me” without a pause. And then joining each other on one stage to belt out their lead single with pyrotechnics and lasers spazzing all over the Bell Centre: “Otis.”

Did I mention this was only the first ten minutes of the show?

The Throne worked through a large chunk of their new album, and then started taking turns on their solo tracks. Hova was right at it with “Where I’m From,” “Nigga What? Nigga Who?” and coming back later on for “Hard Knock Life” and “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” It seemed to me like Jay wanted a lot of the stage time to be given to Kanye – who was sporting a skirt/kilt and leather leggings for the better half of the night. For every Jay-Z song, there were three Yeezy songs. While I don’t mind the imbalance, as I’m a bigger fan of Ye than Jay (crucify me now – you have my permission), it still seemed strange to me.

Regardless, Kanye was flawless when it came to renditions of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” (that had a laser light show reminiscent of his Glow in the Dark tour) “Jesus Walks,” “Touch the Sky,” and “Good Life.” Heck, the songs I’ve listed are just the tip of the iceberg. The duo went through about forty tracks in total, and Kanye even got the chance to do his eight minute version of “Runaway,” as well as  a powerful sing-a-long to finish off “Heartless.” All while standing on a raised platform, of course… in a kilt.

They got through the majority of their new album. “New Day” was definitely a highlight, with the two rappers just sitting on the stage, spitting their rhymes about being fathers one day soon. And when it came time to finishing off the night, “Niggas in Paris'” Blades of Glory sample came through the speakers – the crowd went off! And when they were finished? Again. Went off for the encore. Came back on. Guess what? They played it again. And when it was done? Jay yelled, “AGAIN!” And finally… one more time. Unless my ability to count was lost, they played “Niggas in Paris” five times. And you know what? The majority of us didn’t mind one bit, dancing and bumping to it like it was the first time it had been played. Every. Single. Time. The Bell Centre hasn’t been so electrified by a hip-hop crowd in a while.

Egotistical much? Yeah, but a well-executed show no doubt. They gave the fans more than their money’s worth in lasers, lights and pyrotechnics. I have no idea if another tour like this will hit your town after this leg, especially with Jay’s baby on the way. If you can make it out to a show, despite the pricey tickets, it’ll be well worth your time. That shit cray.


Das Racist – Relax review

In previous reviews, this writer constantly said that the world of independent hip-hop and rap is where the genre keeps the pace and produces the better music. When it comes to the trio known as Das Racist and their latest record “Relax”, they keep that statement in the fact column of the debate. Pop this record into your stereo and you will hear something that will have you talking for a long time. Relax is a record that will be replayed a thousand times in one day.

There is no doubt that the trio from Brooklyn, put their work in at the studio because the craft of each track are touched with various forms of perfection. It’s hard to pick a stand out song when the music is produced and written the way these guys did. Its remarkable to find music like this. Very unique production with “Out side the box” type bangers and crafty lyrics that make your jaws drop. Their first single off of “Relax”, Michael Jackson, is a total standout. The beat has you wanting to blast the song to the point of blowing your speakers out.

You can’t deny that these guys are a breath of fresh air. Another standout about “Relax” is the crafty lyrics they put together. How can you not hate the lyrics from the track Shut Up, dude. “They say I act white but sound black, But act black but sound white, But what’s my sound bite supposed to sound like?” Some of the best writing in the genre appears on this record. One more reason why to pick this record up. It is a very rare happening in the genre known for a lot of disappointments and garbage.

Relax is an album to pass on to your friends, acquaintances, family, and even complete strangers. Every fan of the genre needs to pick up this piece of musical treasure. There is nothing in the main stream that can compare to the musical genius of Das Racist. For those who never heard of this pool of talent, this is the perfect record to start with.


Big K.R.I.T – Last King 2: God’s Machine review

Big K.R.I.T has been getting quite a buzz over the past year or so. Appearing on the BET Hip Hop Awards, being nominated for 3 awards including Mixtape of the Year. With his major label debut to come out very soon, K.R.I.T has a lot going for him. Sadly, his newsiest release, the mixtape Last Kink 2: God’s Machine fails to impress. It falls short of expectations, and unfortunately doesn’t deliver.
Last King 2 offers many collaborations, but no substance. A lot of the tracks are repetitive, odd, and sometimes really hard to listen to. The Hip-Hop/Rap genres are getting very stale, and its sad with K.R.I.T’s reputation and talent that he fails to really the listener to bump their head in enjoyment.

However, there are a few enjoyable tracks that were okay and have some replay value.  “Pimps” Remix featuring 2 Chainz & Bun B was one standout on the record. The production on this track was great. Old soul guitar and horn sections in the track are what makes the song listenable. Being a fool for great production, this track was one of the few standouts on the record. Also. “Born on the Block” featuring Killer Mike & Big Sid mix rock riffs and hip hop drums that get you bumping the track loud and bobbing your head. It was a very enjoyable track off a record that didn’t offer anything else like it.

A lot of the production just seems very plain and besides the two stand outs, the music just doesn’t have that factor that gets you talking. Sounds like a bunch of loops were put together fast, and the unnecessary guest spot. Maybe this was just put together to keep the fans hooked till the major label debut comes out? It really doesn’t do a good job keeping someone hooked, rather just gives the listener another underachieving mix tape to just forget.

Last King 2 can be described many different ways, but nothing good will be said. It’s not terrible but its nothing to talk to speak big about. Lets hope that Live From the Underground brings the heat.

Lil Wayne Reviews

Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter IV review

With the flick of a lighter and Wayne’s signature pot-head giggle, Tha Carter IV kicks off like the distinctive whistle of an atomic bomb in a high speed plunge toward earth. In less than fifteen seconds, the self-proclaimed “King of Hip-Hop” will have you cowering beneath your kitchen table with your head between your knees in tumultuous anticipation of the lyrical explosion that is undoubtedly on it’s way to fuck up your world…

Unfortunately, the record begins not so much with a bang, but with a whimper.

Tha Carter IV’s hackneyed inaugural track “Intro” is a rigid, mid-tempo washout from the moment Weezy starts into his indolently written verse, until he finally puts the track out of it’s misery. Had he simply scrapped Intro all together and started off with the album’s second track Blunt Blowin’ Tha Carter IV would have had the volatile, momentous launch that is the God-given right of any release from the Young Money war chest. After all, Intro, Blunt Blowin’, and ten more of the record’s other eighteen songs start off with the exact same ‘lighter click, inhale’ combo anyway.

Despite the negative picture I’ve painted thus far, Lil’ Wayne quickly redeems himself, with an album whose track list is not only lyrically substantial but fearsomely catchy and addictive. Creative and original cuts like the chilling, pseudo-political President Carter and evocatively emotional Mirrors add humanity, depth, and dimension. Songs like How to Hate bring humor and edge, while its sister track How to Love provides us with a rare and momentary glimpse of the more sensitive side of the hip-hop powerhouse. If nothing else, Tha Carter IV is unquestionably, an album of layers and refreshing complexity.

So, once again I find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum from my music reviewing peers, who have unexplainably been foaming at the mouth, spitting licentious vitriol all over Tha Carter IV. In this writers humble opinion, Tha Carter IV, as a whole, is a much needed return to form for Weezy, especially after the half-witted rap-rock monstrosity that preceded it, Rebirth. If you can work your way passed its bumbling, snooze-worthy beginnings, and a few irritatingly repetitive and ridiculous production decisions.
Tha Carter IV is a great album.

Reviews Rihanna

Rated R – Rihanna

Time flies when you’re making money, but it has been two years since Good Girl Gone Bad (and its plethora of re-releases) and almost twelve long drama-filled months since the Chris Brown “incident.” Everyone’s been salivating ever since word got out that Rihanna had started work on her fourth album, especially because her image’s staggering transformation from flirty young island girl to seriously bad diva wasn’t even provoked by anything as severe as criminal assault – what crazy change is going to come next?

There really is only one word to describe Rated R, and it’s Raw. There is no genre that you can tag on this album and be comfortable with your decision afterward because just like Good Girl Gone Bad, Rihanna does not limit herself to a strictly R&B sound. It’s definitely urban, and it definitely incorporates a lot more rock (she does get the Slash on a song called “Rockstar 101” after all), but by the time her fifth album rolls around, she will most likely be unrecognizable once again. Rihanna may have just gone “bad” before, but now she seems to be going all-out thug on us. From songs like “Wait Your Turn,” to “Hard,” to “G4L (Gangster for Life),” it’s clear that she isn’t messing around when she says “I lick a gun when I’m done because I know revenge is sweet.”

Def Jam is probably counting on the fact that people are going to be digging through all of these songs (after having bought the album) for the remains of one Christopher Maurice Brown, and to put it briefly, they’ll find him – strewn everywhere on the entire album, bits and pieces on a hook here, a chorus there. Riri isn’t raging non-stop on though; the lyrically controversial first single “Russian Roulette” is not angry, per se. The guitar is only heard sparsely after the intro, as is the rest of the instrumentation, and the song itself has an almost quietly sinister quality to it. Similarly, “Fire Bomb” is also perhaps one of the closest things you’ll get to a ballad on this album, although its story about cars and lovers and things blowing up is strikingly reminiscent to Rihanna’s altercation with her ex in his car. There is really a little of Chris everywhere in Rated R, on its artwork, the way it was marketed, and obviously in the music. Rihanna may not be singing about the incident in every song, but you have to wonder if her entire mindset hasn’t completely changed after a trial that has tested every last ounce of her resilience. “Stupid in Love” sounds exactly like a typical Stargate ballad, but the truly depressing lyrics set it apart from the rest of the album (although not necessarily in a good way).

Apart from the lead single, other standout tracks include “Te Amo,” which has Rihanna singing to a lady, but also leaked ages ago on the Internet and “Cold Case Love,” which is one of Rated R’s few collaborations, though this one blows’s out of the water. There’s no denying that this album is another step up in intensity from Good Girl Gone Bad (who would’ve thought it was possible?), with the F-word and N-word thrown casually around and the audible grit in every word that Rihanna spits out. It’s just a shame we can’t have a “Kanye vs. 50” throwdown because Chris Brown’s management pushed his album back so much (smart thinking).


Evolution of a Man – Brian McKnight

Brian McKnight just seems to be one of the last few models of consistency left in the R&B world; whether or not the charts agree, though, is up for debate. Evolution of a Man marks the changes and maturity that Brian McKnight has gained in the seventeen years and that have seen him release over ten albums since he first came onto the scene. While his star is definitely waning (Usher’s fate in another ten years, perhaps?), he’s still found it in him to make a decent record to appease his both his fans and aficionados of that smooth unautotuned nineties-flavoured R&B.

This is no Anytime or Back At One – that time is past – but there are a couple of beautiful songs on the album. Sometimes I wish that every song had some piano on it, because the few that do are among the most outstanding. “Another You” has some jazzy undertones, showcasing Brian McKnight’s readiness to experiment (although this is much better than that country thing he tried in Ten), and “Never Say Goodbye” is likewise exquisite, with some Boyz II Men-esque harmonies.

The album does occasionally step it up to 2009 though, with tracks like “I Miss You” that have some synthwork reminiscent of something Polow da Don would come up with. “I Betcha Never” is another one that seems to be out of the usual Brian-McKnight realm, with jumpier beats and a post-2000 sexiness. He channels Stevie Wonder on “While,” with some really interesting tambourines livening the mood, and making it different from the smooth, sultry sound he is known for.

While the first single, “What I’ve Been Waiting For,” is without a doubt one of the best ballads on the album, there are times, especially in the chorus, when the voices of the Backstreet Boys (although with a lot more soul) come to mind. “Next to You” is a darker mid-tempo song with a sound that is quite different from the others, with sparse instrumentation and dramatic vocals. As a whole, Evolution of a Man, although it is in every aspect a solid (songwriting, production) R&B album, especially by today’s standards, it probably won’t be able to touch the late nineties gems that really sent Brian McKnight flying. That being said, the evolution is far from over; if he keeps this pace he can probably crank out another couple albums in the next decade.

Jay-Z Reviews

Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3 review

He’s baaaaack.

All that hanging around Kanye must’ve given Jay-Z the resolve to take hip-hop in a different direction (and we don’t mean auto-tune), because the experimentation on this album is producing some much appreciated new sounds. He’s also brought in a staggering number of guests, from Swizz Beatz and Drake to the more obscure Luke Steele (from psychedelic pop group Empire of the Sun) and J. Cole, the first signee to Jay-Z’s own label Roc Nation.

While you can definitely hear the musical innovation that having Kanye West as the main  producer brings, Jay-Z’s lyrical stamp is still all over the album. What that means, unfortunately, is that most of it is typical, predictable, Hova fare. You’ve got the bravado, the swagger, and the (repeated) declaration of his position as hip-hop king. While Jay does switch things up on tracks like “On to the Next One” and “Young Forever,” which sample “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice and “Forever Young” by Alphaville respectively, the rest of the album is missing that spark that makes a rap album blazing fire. Two of the best songs on the album are only memorable because of the featured artists – note to other rappers: R&B divas do your tracks good. Phoning in Rihanna and Alicia Keys was a good decision; the only minor setback is that Jay-no longer owns the spotlight on “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind,” although I have a feeling he doesn’t mind.

Unlike its immediate predecessor American Gangster, which focuses thematically on – what else – the life of a street king, The Blueprint 3 is (structurally and lyrically) more akin to The Blueprint²: The Gift & The Curse. It even has a second try at a duet with Beyoncé, but while “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” was a pump-up-the-jam kind of song that I wouldn’t mind cruising to, “Venus vs. Mars” is just plain awkward. Jay-Z has a seductive side now? Maybe only to Beyoncé, and I’d rather we keep it that way.

For true fans, this album would be a worthwhile purchase; there are three or four truly remarkable tracks that would make your regular playlist rotation easily, but you’d have to be a real fan to actually take the time to sift through the rest. That being said, Jay-Z can still spit rhymes with the best of them, and the fact that he’s turning the big 4-0 at the end of this year has not escaped his attention – it probably really does hit home for him because “Young Forever” is brilliant both in lyrics and delivery. How fitting that it also serves as the conclusion to Jay-Z’s latest offering; it makes the lesser songs easier to forget… and much easier to forgive.

What are the chances that Mr. Shawn Carter will finally “retire” when he’s 50?