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December 29, 2008 |

By TK Burton | Music | December 29, 2008 |

thecool.jpgLupe Fiasco: Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool
[1st and 15th, Atlantic]

How much do people talk about Lupe Fiasco in the States? From way up in the highest chamber of my hipster ivory tower in London, I hear a few good things said about the disastrously-named rapper, so I imagine you lot in the Uniteds must be sick of the sight of him, right? Everyone keeps going on about him, and all you want to do is for them to shut up, am I correct? Sorry, but I’m going to be serving up another slice of Fiasco-love pie, so look elsewhere right now.

Lu-Fi, as he is known to no-one, is such a good rapper that I don’t know where to look when he’s halfway through his slickest, fastest outpour. There’s something a bit disheartening about someone speaking so much sense, so dexterously and quickly — I can barely form full sentences, or remember what my sister’s called. Meanwhile, Lupe is putting his verbal skills into producing an album of socially conscious, confident, musically adventurous hip-hop. The first proper track on The Cool, after the obligatory intro and skit crap, is the completely brilliant ‘Go Go Gadget Flow’. I love it for several reasons, first because it references ‘A Raisin In The Sun’, Inspector Gadget and Isaac Asimov; second because it’s got such a wicked violin riff and killer flow; and third because it features spelling, which I always love in songs. Don’t you? In this case, he spells the place of his upbringing - “M A D I to the S to the O N”. Which happens to be a near anagram of some other excellent song spelling: Prince’s ‘D to the I to the A to the M. O to the N to the D to the pearls of love’ from ‘Diamonds and Pearls’. Good work, boys!

It’s such an appealing taster - and then stuff carries on getting better, amazingly. ‘Superstar’ makes a joyous game of kicking celebrity culture in the nuts, at one point speaking from the point of view of a door attendant:

Well your name ain’t on the guest list, who brung you?
You! The more famous person - you come through
And the sexy lady next to you, you come too.

He keeps that double syllable rhyme alive for twelve amazing goes, in a feat of rapping going back to the opening of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself. It’s so exciting.

Just as thrilling is his pitch-black swipe at gun culture in the brilliant ‘Little Weapon’, where Lupe’s jumps in against monastic background vocals and bracing guitar with the mock-flippant line “I killed another man today/ Shot him in his back as he ran away.” But then again everything is challenging and interesting and novel on this relentlessly adventurous and bold album. It makes me tingle just to think about it: ‘Gotta Eat’ sees him in bitterly sarcastic mode over what sounds like a harpsichord loop; ‘Put You On Game’ is old school rap of the best sort; and ‘Gold Watch’ has a fantastic beat and uses the sound of an argument, looped over and over. Best of all - and this is saying something; all of these songs are golden - is Dumb It Down, which is the best rap put-down song ever, directed at everyone, full of punch, audacity and gorgeous irony.

What I loved with this record, this year — beyond hearing a promising newcomer become a master — was that this album makes sense as a whole. I’ve picked out songs that are great, and they all stand alone perfectly well. But nothing can capture the incredible changing of mood over the course of the album: the pervasive sense of sheer dread; the darkness which the album lurches into halfway through. This sense of trajectory makes the album a truly great one: a rewarding, state-of-the-times work of art that offers far more than a poddable list of soundbites.
—Caspar Salmon

thisisthelife.jpgAmy MacDonald: This Is The Life
[Veritgo Records]

In general, I prefer angrier and darker music than a nice, upbeat, well-crafted pop song. I have a major devotion to Nine Inch Nails and Tool. However, there are days when I need a happy, dance-in your-office-chair song that is work friendly, which will eliminate most shake-your-groove-thing music. Pop music is capable of filling this void, however it is generally over-processed crap that destroys brain cells and is as good for you as a Hot Pocket (or maybe less). Enter European pop musicians.

American airwaves have been introduced to a host of European artists, mostly from the British Isles. Amy Winehouse is a train wreck of epic proportions, Duffy has a nice retro-sounding voice, Adele has a gorgeous voice, and Lily Allen is just quirky fun. Along this same vein is a 21 year old Scottish girl named Amy MacDonald. Influenced to start writing and singing her own songs after purchasing a Travis album, Amy has been performing acoustic shows in her native Scotland since the age of 15. Along with writing her own songs, she is also a self-taught guitar player. Her first album, This is the Life, was released last year in most of the world, gaining release in the US this year. Her songs are very catchy, with pretty good lyrics and a nice, upbeat tune. The album can almost be classified as pop, but isn’t over-produced within an inch of its life (see Spears, Britney, Beyonce, etc). The album was released when MacDonald was 19, with most of the album written before the age of 18. The lyrics sound far more adult that one would think a person under the age of 21 could manufacture. Her voice almost sounds Irish, much like that of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, but still Scottish.

To date 5 singles have been released from This is the Life. The first single, “Poison Prince”, is said to have been written about Pete Doherty, Kate Moss’ former junkie partner, all around disaster, and lead singer of Babyshambles.

The third single is the song, “L.A.” Amy, a big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal, apparently wrote this song after watching Donnie Darko.

The final song that I will post is called “Footballer’s Wife”. This is the final track on the album. The song is an attack on celebu-tard culture as we commonly refer to it. At its core, it is an indictment of the masses of ridiculously untalented fame-chasing women who latch onto a footballer (or soccer player, if you wish) or whatever means that they can think of and use that as a catapult for their own undeserved fame. As Amy said about this song and in reference to autobiographies being written by these women, i.e. Victoria Beckham’s autobiography, “They’re only 19, 20 years old or something. I don’t know how anybody could write their life story at this age. It’s pathetic.” She has received criticism from some as she is engaged to a football player, but this has been very limited. This song has not been released as a single.

The entire album is a good listen, with most of the tracks showing a depth that is generally not found on albums in which most of the material was written before the artist was 18. There are a couple of weak tracks, with the most notable being “Let’s Start a Band”, which starts off nicely, but dissolves in a chorus that repeats the lines
“And if you want it too, then there’s nothing left to do
Let’s start a band
Let’s start a band
Let’s start a band
Let’s start a band.

The entire album is pretty radio friendly, catchy, upbeat, and most importantly, will not kill brain cells. If you have a weakness for well-crafted pop or UK singer-songwriters, I recommend giving Amy MacDonald a listen. I have a feeling that you would not regret it.

Stainlessstyle.jpgNeon Neon: Stainless Style
[Lex Records]

Who can say no to an ode to the “Back to the Future” car?? From producer Boom Bip and Gruff Rhys, frontman for Super Furry Animals, comes the project Neon Neon and likely to be their only album, Stainless Style. It is a really well-done, all over the place album, and I have been rocking it all year. Supposedly about the life of John DeLorean—yes, that DeLorean, who brought us the most awesome car EVER—the album starts out with heavy electronic and industrial overtones that it carries through most of the album, but that seems to be the only link aside from Rhys’s smooth, straightforwardly simple vocals. It goes everywhere from electronica, to a retro-80’s synth sound, to some amazing hip hop featuring Fat Lip, Sean Tillmann, Yo Majesty, and—my other favorite find of 2008—Spank Rock, as well as vocals from the lovely Cate Le Bon.

“I Told Her on Alderaan”

They meld this sound together pretty flawlessly, and every song has a definite standout quality. “Sweat Shop” is a sexy, beat heavy track that makes me wanna booty clap. (Um, yeah, that is coming from the girl that throws goats at nearly everything in her life. Although I will fucking get down. I can drop that motherfucker.) It is that irresistible. I don’t know exactly how “Sweat Shop” applies to J. DeL’s life, but he must have been a peee-ump!

“Sweat Shop” (kinda NSFW)

Gruff Rhys’s voice works so well with the 80s throw back thing they do in this album. It has a kind of Hal-like smoothness to it—no growly throat, no vibrato, just a voice that sounds like what a computer might if it was programmed to sing. “Dream Car,” the clear ode to DeLorean’s namesake, ends the album kinda back where it started; electro-beats, a surprising bit of hand drums, and a super fucking catchy melody. The whole album is an awesome feat of collaboration, and is a great example of taking a random theme (the DeLorean Car) and giving it its own soundtrack. Good group work, kids! (Mini diversion: Best theme for an album, existing or not? I like a good farmyard theme, personally.)

Pajiba Music

The Year In Review, Day 5
/ Pajiba Music Writers & The Eloquents

Music | December 29, 2008 |

TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

The Year In Review Part 4 | Holiday Movie Open Thread

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