Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sometimes I Rhyme Slow, Sometimes I Rhyme Quick

Picked up a bunch of CDs recently, I will try to get to them all over the next two posts.

Random Song 1: Camera Obscura - Come Back Margaret (KCRW Session)

Rhymefest - Blue Collar


Southern hip-hop has been dominating the rap market in the last two years. Yet with the commercial and critical success that both Kanye West and Common received for their respective 2005 albums, people are starting to take notice of Chicago's rap scene once again. Now with the release of Rhymefest's debut album Blue Collar, Chicago is quickly becoming the hip-hop hot spot. Blue Collar has been in heavy rotation on my cd player lately. Not only is Rhymefest a ridiculously talented rapper, but he also brings a sense of fun back into hip-hop. He is able to incorporate sharp humor into his songs without ever fallen into cartoon-like territory (the exception being "Build Me Up" which is just a good way). The album is designed to appeal to a wide range of people. Even if you do not normally listen to rap, there will still be a few songs that should win you over. There is a nice balance of between the tracks aimed for commercial radio (such as Brand New featuring Kanye West); and songs that display Rhymfest's lyrical talents. For an example of the latter just listen to Dynomite (Going Postal). I hope Blue Collar becomes a mainstream hit because Rhymefest is far better than half the rappers out today.

The best part of Rhymefest's "Fever" performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show comes around two minute mark. Rhymefest decides to freestyle for a bit and provides a gem of a line: "Jimmy Kimmel next time let me sit on the couch." Click here to see the official video for the song.

Did I mention that Rhymefest already has a Grammy? No. Well Rhymefest and his buddy Kanye West co-wrote a little song about walking that turned into a massive hit. Here is the Grammy winning song "Jesus Walks" from The College Dropout album:

Random Song 2: Animal Collective - Turn Into Something

Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche


A few weeks back a friend sent me a very interesting article entitled "A Case Against Sufjan Stevens" that was posted on All Music's website. Although the article's intent was to point out the flaws in Sufjan Stevens music, it actually made me want to listen to him even more. The first time I encountered Stevens' material was when I received a copy of his acclaimed album, Illinois, for Christmas last year (oddly enough from the same person who sent the article). Illinois was the second concept album in Sufjan's 50-States project. Each song told unique story about the people and places that made up Illinois history. I know some people who found the album too slow, while others thought it was too depressing. Personally, I loved every minute of it. I thought the writing and instrumentation on the album was fantastic. Needless to say, it ended up topping my "Best of 2005" list. Which brings us to The Avalanche, a disc full of outtakes and extras from Illinois recording sessions. Originally Illinois was supposed to be a double album, hence why there are 21 tracks on The Avalanche. Overall, this is a good album but your level of enjoyment will depend on how you view it. As a B-side album, it far superior than any other B-side record out there. As a regular album, it is not as strong as Illnois but still solid nonetheless. My main complaint with the album is the three alternate versions of the Illinois hit song "Chicago" (Illnois version linked). I find they constantly disrupt the flow of the album. Still, thanks to songs like No Man's Land and The Perpetual Self, Or "What Would Saul Alinsky Do?", I am willing to let the Chicago thing slide. Now I need to start catching up on Sufjan's pre-Illinois albums.

Here is a live performance of "Casmir Pulaski Day" found on the Illinois album:

Random Song 3: Girl Talk - Hold Up

Corinne Bailey Rae - Corrine Bailey Rae


Sometimes the best purchases are the ones that you did not plan on buying in the first place. Such is the case with Corinne Bailey Rae self-titled debut album. I stumbled across her album at the record store, and had a vague recollection of hearing one of her songs. While I wasn't sure if it was the same artist, I figured the price of the disc was low enough to take a gamble. Luckily three tracks into the CD, I heard the song that confirmed my guess was correct. Overall the album has a nice jazzy vibe running underneath its soulful exterior. This is evident when listen to songs like I'd Like To and Trouble Sleeping (KCRW Session linked). Many critics have tried valiantly to compare Corinne Bailey Rae to every female artist from Billie Holiday to Macy Gray. I will not attempt to make such comparisons, as I think she has her own unique sound. She has enough talent to make her own mark on the music industry. I just hope she can produce a solid follow-up album, and avoid going the Macy Gray route (aka. forgotten after one album).

As for that song I "vaguely recalled" hearing, it was her single "Put Your Records On":

Ipod Workout Plan: A Tribe Called Quest - Find A Way. A friend recently informed me that a reunited Tribe is coming to Toronto in September. Since A Tribe Called Quest found a way to tour, I found a way to get tickets. Let the countdown begin...:

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