Kanye West – Graduation (buy)
The biggest surprise about Kanye West’s much hyped Graduation album is how mellow it is in comparison to his previous works. Beside the Daft Punk infused song “Stronger”, there is no other songs that will make you want to instantly hit the dance floor. While not his best, Graduation is easily Kanye’s most consistent album yet. The softer songs are the ones that really resonate. Song such as the stellar “I Wonder”, “Everything I Am” “Champion” and “Homecoming (ft. Coldplay’s Chris Martin)” will have you hitting the repeat button often. Yes, his ego is still big as ever, but he does have the talent to back it up. Even at his most egotistical, Kanye is still able to maintain a likeable persona. This often achieved by his effortless mixing of social observations and witty wordplay. The most interesting, and personal, song on the album is “Big Brother”. Part ode to his mentor/boss Jay-Z, part reflection on sibling rival; Kanye skillfully details the tension that undercuts his relationship with Jay. With the exception of two horrible songs (“Barry Bonds” and “Drunk N’ Hot Girls”) that slow the album to a crawl, there is much here to enjoy. Kanye may not be the best rapper in the world; but after three solid albums in five years, he has earned the right to be the Charles Barkley of hip-hop.
Kanye West - I Wonder (buy)
Kanye West – Homecoming (ft. Chris Martin) (buy)
Video: "Stronger" (previously posted here)
Caribou – Andorra (buy)
In a genre that has already seen strong releases this year from both LCD Soundsystem and Panda Bear, Caribou latest should have been the icing on an already sweet cake. While Andorra is a decent album, I feel that the euphoric critical praise it has received is a bit much. The album starts off with a bang thanks to the wonderfully infectious “Melody Day”. The problem with starting off with such a phenomenal track is that the rest of the album never catches up. Only “She’s The One” and “Sandy” seems to come close to being as memorable, but still they are a distant second. To be fair, the first half of the album is very strong. The real issue I had with the disc is the second half. It is here were the songs are listenable but not memorable. After a few listens, songs such as “Sundialing” and “Irene” seem to blend together. Again, this is by no means a bad album, just not a groundbreaking one. Should you give it a listen? Yes. Yet if you ask me which album deserves more praise Caribou’s Andorra or Panda Bear’s Person Pitch? I would say Person Pitch has this album beat hands down.
Caribou – Melody Day (buy)
Caribou – She’s The One (buy)
Video: "Melody Day"
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass (buy)
Aptly entitled None Shall Pass, Aesop Rock’s latest album is a cryptic puzzle that is almost impossible to solve. Lyrically dense, it is hard to dispute the fact that Aesop Rock is anything but a gifted rapper. The problem is that he is too smart for his own good. Normally I support any artist who tries to bring a certain level of intellect into hip hop. Yet as an album, None Shall Pass is often more infuriating than clever. Even after numerous listens the same questions kept appearing in my head “what the heck is this about?” Needless to say, this album is not for the casual listener. This album requires commitment from the listener to focus on every single detail. The problem is there is no real payoff for the time you invest. Even the standout tracks such as the fierce “ Five “Fingers”, “Cintronella” and the title track, leave you wanting more clarification. I am sure that Aesop Rock is saying many insightful things, but unfortunately he has buried them under too much cryptic code. Frankly at this point, I am tired of digging for them.
Aesop Rock - Five Fingers (buy)
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass(buy)
Video: "None Shall Pass"