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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Just in time for fall, James Blake announced his Enough Thunder EP today. It arrives October 10. While I was slightly underwhelmed with “Fall Creek Boys Choir” his Bon Iver collaboration, I am continually blown away with his “A Case of You” Joni Mitchell cover. Both songs are included, as well as four more originals. Yes, Blake seems to be the ultimate hype-machine/dub-whipping boy these days, but I can’t help but be excited by this announcement.

Abel Tesfaye is one prolific mystery. He also has one of the best voices in all of modern music. With his audience still reeling from the devastating masterpiece that was House of Balloons, he decided to drop the also excellent Thursday mixtape, fittingly, last Thursday. The ominous, after-hours beats, the creepily fascinating sexuality, the frighteningly drug-fueled party scene– it’s all here, it’s just that this is a more reserved, individual work than Balloons.

For the last 20-plus years, R&B has been a pretty R-rated genre. The Weeknd pumps that rating up to Kubrick-ian or Lynchian NC-17 levels without sacrificing an ounce of the instantly satisfying, endlessly listenable sound that has led to the sound’s vast popularity. Granted, this, and most everything else on Thursday, is nothing new for Tesfay. His music is rooted in dusk to dawn fantasies/nightmares that are both gorgeous and disturbing. It’s the sort of timeless fascination that has captivated both artists and consumers of art since the beginning of time. But, The Weeknd is just so good, it’s like nothing you’ve heard before. Oh yes, and on “The Zone”, Weeknd discoverer(?) Drake absolutely blows our minds with a killer flow in the last two minutes or so.

While certainly a fantastic work (especially considering this thing is FREE!!!) the mixtape lacks the surprise-factor and all around production value that made House of Balloons an album of the year candidate. Thursday is free, it’s The Weeknd’s second of three albums set to arrive this year, and it’s pretty damn good, so it’s hard to be too critical of it. Still, you can’t help but hold it up to its predecessor. Regardless, Abel Tesfaye’s project is one of the most exciting and promising around today. Look for the trilogy’s finale,  Echoes of Silence, this fall.

As critically acclaimed as Pavement has always been (and justifiably so), you’d think Stephen Malkmus as a solo artist (well at least as an artist outside of Pavement) would receive equal praise. On the contrary I find his work after Pavement has been vastly underrated. “1% of One”, “Real Emotional Trash”, “Mama” and “It Kills” are some of my favorite songs of the entire Pavement/Malkmus catalog, yet they’ve all been a part of relatively under-appreciated releases. Having said this as you can imagine, I am thoroughly enjoying Mirror Traffic, from Malkmus and his Portland bandmates, The Jicks.

A lot of reviews are calling this a mellower, more mature album. And while I don’t think I could ever feel comfortable calling Malkmus mature, it’s true, the majority of these songs are warmer, more reserved tunes. Songs such as “Asking Price” and “Share the Red” are grown up takes on the laid-back sounds of “Major Leagues”, “Range Life” and “Heaven is a Truck.” So yes, it’s safe to say it’s a generally more relaxed and folksy album, but it’s definitely not a countrified or acoustic change of pace. This is still Malkmus, so his irony, self-awareness and guitar are at the heart of what make this record great.

Speaking of guitar. Malkmus can still shred like J Mascis (or Stephen Malkmus!) when the band pumps up the energy. On first single, “Senator” (no I’m not going to mention the obvious phrase that everyone has been when talking about this song) the rocking guitar and crunchy tone almost sound downright angry. There are other bursts of vintage slacker jangle scattered throughout the album, but rather than catch a roll, Malkmus and the Jicks slow things down and contemplate. `While I wouldn’t say this album is excessively mellow or mature, it is more thoughtful, and it really does sound like it was created by a man coming to terms with aging into his mid 40s.

Click the link to hear “Senator.” Read More