Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Kooks: "A Good Thing to Me"

Another great import from the U.K. that I have been listening to lately is The Kooks. They first caught my ear with the catchy single "Naive". It had some success here in the States on college radio, but were a staple on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio One show. Their follow-up, "Ooh La", is just as addicting with precise guitar strokes and a hummable chorus about a past love (who doesn't like the word petticoat?). Look for The Kooks to make some noise on the festival circuit this year starting with Coachella (An insane lineup already).

The Kooks - Ooh La

Thursday, March 22, 2007

8Ball & MJG: Southern Legends

8Ball & MJG "Ridin' High" 3/5 Narks

Two guys that have been consistently heating up the underground in South are 8Ball & MJG. I first heard about them in middle school and have always appreciated the way they verbally spar with each other on their albums. With each album (9 so far), the duo has been just short of worldwide acclaim (one solo was even titled, "Almost Famous"). 8ball & MJG gained more pop-cred when they joined their Tennessee counterparts Three-Six Mafia & Young Buck on one of last years classics "Stay Fly". Their tireless effort finally caught the eye of Diddy and he signed them to Bad Boy a few years ago. "Livin' Legends" went gold in 2004, which was solid for the group, but didn't make the noise BBE expected.

Their latest effort, "Ridin' High", was just released with almost no promotion (sales of 45,000 in the 1st week), but shouldn't be ignored. Fans familiar with the group will love the bass heavy tracks, filled with the usual bravado and clever word play 8Ball & MJG always deliver. It may be devoted mostly to trunk rattlers ("Turn Up the Bump" and "Cruzin") and strip club anthems ("30 Rocks"), but many of the rappers in the industry could learn a thing or two from these legends as to how to make solid albums.

The highlight of the album is the title track, "Ridin' High". 8Ball & MJG spit their southern drawl with ease over a futuristic beat that could have been on "the Fifth Element" soundtrack. Its nice to hear the duo flow on a track that is more musically diverse than their usual fare.

Although they have rarely pop up on mainstream radio, 8Ball & MJG continue to make their presence known in knowledgable rap circles. Not by using lyrical genius or high-profile producers, but by consistently solid at showing the rest of the industry how Southern hip-hop is done.

8Ball & MJG - Ridin' High

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Arcade Fire: Hauntingly Good

Arcade Fire "Neon Bible" 5/5 Narks

Though I haven't heard their 1st album, the heavily lauded "The Funeral", Arcade Fire's latest album has been so highly anticipated I couldn't ignore it. I heard about it since last year on every blog, column and radio show imaginable. At first, I was a bit hesitant to check out Arcade Fire. I thought they would be a bit too dark for my taste, but that happens to be one of the band's strong points. Albums that have this much to live up to usually don't quite deliver the goods (see The Killers "Sam's Town" and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's latest), but "Neon Bible" sets the tone for the rest of 2007.

Recorded throughout last year in an old church, Arcade Fire uses instruments like the piano, violin and organ to evoke a sermonly/orchestral feel. "Neon Bible" commands you attention from the start with the anthemic "Keep the Car Running". With a fist-pumping chorus and instrumentation that could rival an '80s The Cure song, it could easily move from indie to mainstream rock playlists. The album builds steam with a darker tone on songs like the haunting "Black Mirror" and "Oceans of Noise". Lead singer Win Butler, uses a unique singing approach filled with wails and shouts that layer precisely within the creepy landscape.

The stand out cut has to be "Intervention" (one of the best performances in years on SNL). Paranoia filled lyrics such as "Been working for the Church while my family dies/Your little baby sister's gonna lose her mind/Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home/Hear the soldier groan "We'll go at it alone.. '" cover everything from war to religion. The menacing organ sounds straight out of a horror movie (its a good thing, trust me).

Lyrically, Arcade Fire has been criticized for being not overly articulate. I would agree, but it is only because they didn't need more than basic language to get their point across. Tracks like "Windowsill" lure you in with shouts against capitalism that are self-explanatory (Don't wanna live in my father's house no more/Don't want it faster, I don't want it free) and don't need words from an overused Thesaurus to tell the story. The main draw to "Neon Bible" is an encompassing, haunting sound and for that, Arcade Fire has created a masterpiece.

Arcade Fire - Intervention

Monday, March 19, 2007

Recovery Post: 'Bright'en Up

What can I say, an insane week in Acapulco followed by a birthday bonanza/St. Patty's Day extravaganza doesn't leave a lot of brain cells left for blog material. Here's the recovery post...

For the most part, there are some artists that you love or hate. There isn't an in-between. You either check for everything they put out or avoid it. Bright Eyes had previously fell into the "hate" category for me. Although I applaud almost anyone who tries a variety of different of sounds and is constantly evolving, I found his music a little too quirky for me. While I haven't been as impressed with Bright Eyes as most of the past reviews I have read, six news songs might have changed my mind.

Bright Eyes aka Conor Oberst just released an EP, entitled "Four Winds", March 6th. The 6-song set is a collection of b-sides, rarities and the first single of the band's next album (title track "Four Winds"). The songs have a folky sound interwined with a country tinge (I'm always down for harmonica) that should be welcomed by past fans and maybe bluegrass listeners. The disc is intended to (and should) tide over fans until the full length album, "Cassadaga", is released on April 9th.

Here is the first single "Four Winds". Its hard to imagine hes talking about the Apocalypse with the breezy-feel of the song.

Bright Eyes - Four Winds

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Spring Break '07: Ann St. Takes Acapulco

Its officially, I have almost no motivation left for work now. My colorful flowcharts are beginning to take the form of a bright yellow sun (print buys), a crisp dark blue ocean (outdoor boards) and a cool, tan glass of Corona (direct mail campaigns). The endless lines of numeric code all seem to read like flight numbers and times in the billing system. My Designated Marketing Area map in my cube seems to have morphed into the shape of Mexico. This can only mean one thing....Spring Break in Acapulco with Drew, Laura, Gigs, Philbin and Bohnerface (Face for short). I expect to hear more of Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" than Millhouse could ever handle. Sunshine.....87 degrees.....Clubs 'til 5AM.....Modelo.....Here.We.Come.

Hear are a few other songs that I expect to be in heavy rotation in every corner of Acapulco, Mexico:

Rihanna ft Sean Paul-Break It Off

Young Jeezy ft R Kelly-Go Getta

DJ Khaled ft TI, Birdman, Lil' Wayne, Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Akon-We Takin' Over

Rich Boy-Throw Some D's