New Music Tuesday You be the reviewer

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This week you guys are going to be the reviewers. I went over to bandcamp and picked 1 artist each from the rock, hip hop, R&B/Soul categories for you to listen to and give your opinion.

From the R&B/Soul category

Funkommunity
Album: Chequered Thoughts
Artist: Funkommunity






From the Rock category

thecoasts
Album: Sante Fe
Artist: The Coasts






The Hip Hop category

sammus
Album: M’OTHER BRAIN
Artist: SAMMUS






What’s in your headphones today?

headphones

what are you listening to today?

For me it’s the new Liv Warfield CD The Unexpected. Look for a review soon.

anyone listening to any new grooves today?

share with the class!

New Music Tuesday 02/11/14

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First New Music Tuesday of the new year! I’m excited!

sharon-jones-and-the-dap-kings-give-the-people-what-they-wan-256px-256px
Album: Give The People What They Want
Artist: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Genre: Classic Soul/Funk
Sounds like: A carefully crafted oil painting. Compelling and beautiful; even if you know it’s just a recreation.
Reviewer: Hex

 

tumblr_moj4qtaDJ51spzqczo1_400When you were growing up, did your mom or dad have a special recipe that they would sometimes make that was your absolute favorite thing in the world? Everyone says they make the best greens, but nobody could quite do it like moms. The textures and the spices, the way the kitchen would fill up with the smell when it was cooking. The kind of dish you’d sneak a taste of when you were supposed to be setting the table.

Maybe this happened to you too – at some point you got old enough to be out on your own. You had some pots and pans, and you were starting to get a little confidence cooking for yourself. So you pester them one day for that old recipe. And if you were lucky you maybe got a little note card scribbled with your mother’s cursive handwriting.

But then after you’ve gone to the store and bought all the ingredients, and followed all the instructions to the letter – making sure to check all the temperatures and time everything out perfectly – it comes out of the oven and you taste it on the fork.. and it’s just not right.

All the pieces are there, you can clearly make out all the components of the flavors – but for whatever reason they don’t come together in that way you remember.

It’s like that sometimes in music too, especially when artists get it in their heads to try and recreate classic soul. Whether it’s Lenny Kravitz, Macy Gray, Raphael Saddiq, or even Cee Lo Green – even when we came to know them for their throwback vibes, there always seemed to reach a point where the novelty of it all started to feel stale. Like making this old school sound was more of a technical exercise or marketing gimmick than an actual artistic calling.

Sharon_Jones_and_The_Dap_Kings_SXSW_2010_10Whether it’s a fair criticism or not, it’s hard for us as listeners I think to eventually not feel as if these are talented people borrowing the inspirational voices of people that came before them. The hit songs might stay in rotation, but our perception of the artist starts to change a little. Maybe even to the point where we begin to doubt their authenticity.

Which is perhaps why there seems to be so much excitement and fervor among fans of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Now more than a dozen years into her career, the Brooklyn-based soulstress shows no signs of being anything else than the genuine article. No big star attitude, no signs of using this retro act as a way to kick off an acting career – it seems all this 57-year old former corrections officer at Rikers Island wants to do put on sparkly dresses and belt out grooves in the vein of old Motown, Stax, and Chess Records hits from the 50’s and early 60s.

These sounds and more are on display on the band’s sixth studio release, Give the People What they Want. Originally slated for release in 2010, the album and planned tour had to be put on hold while Sharon went through treatment for pancreatic cancer. Undaunted, Jones emerged from chemotherapy with a new smooth-headed look and a drive to bring her music back to stages around the world for people to dance to.

Give the People What they Want offers a more uptempo look at the band’s sound than previous releases, leaning more on dance tunes than bluesy ballads – but what’s most surprising about the disc, especially considering that it’s only 10 tracks long is that the musical selections span a wide variety of signature sounds from Souls major houses.

images (1)See, now that most of it is considered “oldies” – people tend to think of 60’s soul music as one big lump. But the truth of the matter is that it was a genre much like modern hip hop, filled with slight differences depending on where it originated from. A detail that most bands that try to go retro seem to miss.

But it’s this detail that I think sets the Dap Kings apart. Instead of getting cornered into one style, or worse trying to mash everything together into a collection of recognizable clichés – the band takes great care in trying to treat every point on the curve with individual care, offering Sharon Jones and her trusted backup singers the Dapettes plenty of room to channel not only Aretha, but the likes of Lyn Collins and Betty Wright as well.

It’s a treat to listen to, and I have to imagine it’s going to be even better in concert. Definitely check it out.

See what you think, here’s “Retreat”

Isaiah Rashad
Album: Cilvia Demo
Artist: Isaiah Rashad
Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap
Sounds Like: a damned good album from another member from the steadily rising TDE artist collective (4 out of 5; definitely worth buying at full price via whatever medium)
Reviewer: DJ Fusion

Usually when you hear individuals in the Hip-Hop world say “This Is My/Our Year”, “My crew is going to run s*** in [fill in the blank year here], “My album/my people’s album is going to be great” and more in the rap world, it’s just a recycled and tired marketing cliche that 99.9% of the time is not true.

Either an artist’s official albums/EPs dropped really aren’t dope (or hell, even worthy of white noise status to play in the background while doing dishes), there’s a bunch of weak rapper types/weed carriers with ghostwriters attached to 3 dope MCs max or said group/label/collective doesn’t even really release much music at all to even critique.

Well…TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) hasn’t fallen into that trap.

After coming on the scene about 3 years ago with high quality official mixtapes and albums from Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q displaying all different types of styles, topics, production and views, the next man up on deck to impress is Tennessee’s own Isaiah Rashad with his first official release “Cilvia Demo”.

The tight slice of life 14 track release (all of the songs except one run from 1 1/2 minutes to barely over 4 – a minor miracle) nicely delves into his mindset on a lot of topics – the joys and pains of past and present family life (including a REALLY bad relationship with his father), women, friends, fame, the State of Hip-Hop at large, various stages of hypocrisy (his own and others), survival and more.

Isaiah Rashad’s lyrical, songwriting and hook game is clever and on point throughout “Cilvia Demo” that keeps listeners engaged from beginning to end – he definitely knows how to structure songs & properly emote almost to perfection on tunes that range from straight up brags to deep thoughts.

The great ready-to-cruise-and-headnod grooves of dark soul & jazz vibes from producers Ross Vega, Farhot, Danny Dee, Sounwave, The Antydote and more fit perfectly into the young MC’s various styles and nicely support his cause of telling interesting stories to the music.

“Cilvia Demo” is a very good and solid step into the Hip-Hop arena by Isaiah Rashad that puts on front street his multi-faceted skillsets on the mic. Unless something insane happens, it looks like he’s here to stay and is one of hopefully many MCs to constantly be on lookout for in 2014 and beyond.

Personal Favorite Tracks: Tranquility, Heavenly Father, Ronnie Drake feat. SZA, Brad Jordan feat. Michael Da Vinci

Music Video: Isaiah Rashad – Heavenly Father

Music Video: Isaiah Rashad – Tranquility

Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo Full Album via YouTube:

algebra
Album: Recovery
Artist: Alegra Blessett
Genre: Soul
Sounds Like: groovin’
Reviewer: Bef

Atlanta native Algebra Blessett is finally back with her sophomore CD Recovery. It has been 6 long years since she released her debut full length CD Purpose. I loved Purpose quite a few songs from that CD are still in rotation today.

I vaguely remember the lead single for Recovery so for the most part I went into listening to this CD completely blind. I didn’t know what to expect and I kind of liked that.

From beginning to end I found myself grooving to each song.

As with most R&B CDs this CD is about love. Good love, bad love, wrong love, dangerous love. Love, Love, Love! And that is just not a bad thing.
Algebra as a songwriter has a way of capturing the essence of many “love situations”. I’m sure many women who will listen to this CD and pay attention to the lyrics will be waving their hands in the air talking about YAS HONEY this song tells it like it is! But of course that is not to say that the fellas can’t enjoy these songs as well.

If you love that mellow smooth sound of what many still call neo-soul you are going to like this CD. Everyday I find a new favorite song. Today it’s Danger Zone, the other day it was Struggle to Be ft. Q. Parker.

The sophomore jinx did not happen with this CD. Dare I say I like this CD better than the first.

Highly recommended.

ruben
Album: Unconditional Love
Artist: Ruben Studdard
Genre: R&B/Soul
Sounds Like: Easy listening R&B
Reviewer: Bef

The velvet teddy bear is back!

I struggled with this review because the best way for me to describe the CD is Easy listening R&B and I know many folks will be turned off by that. But I don’t mean it in a bad way.

Ruben is a smart man he knows that his voice is better suited for the adult side of R&B. it’s not to say that he wouldn’t have success if he made a more radio friendly CD. I’m sure he would with the right producers and promotion but in my opinion his vocal talents would be wasted.

So what is Unconditional Love all about well you guessed it love, being in love for the most part.

It’s also filled with remakes. Now it is not all remakes but there are quite a few. He does them well. He doesn’t stray too far from the familiar on each of them. As we know remakes can be hit or miss but I was pleasantly surprised at how well these were done.

This is a CD for lovers but it’s not a slow jams to get the drawls type of CD. I guess I should say it is a CD for couples. It is very romantic.

Of course for the most part the CD is full of slow songs there are just a few mid-tempo songs but they seem to fit well with the flow of the CD.

I’ve always liked Ruben so it’s good to hear his voice again.

Recommended

What are you listening to today?

what-song-are-you-listening

I really can’t think of anything to post LOL

So what’s in your headphones/earbuds this week?

I have a ton of songs on my iPod and I just put it on shuffle and get my groove on but every so often a song will come on that just needs to be repeated a few times.

This morning it was this:

Robert Glasper ft. Faith Evans – You Owe me

Also, the buttermilk remix of Prince’s breakfast can wait y’all know how Prince is so I can’t provide a link but you can get all the remixes on iTunes…

So what are you listening to today?

New Music Tuesday 11/05/13

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eminem
Artist: Eminem
Album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap
Sounds Like: a truly uninspired Hip-Hop joint from someone who can do way better; an average album only saved by the natural talent of an MC who skills still shine through even on autopilot; “The Marshall Mathers LP 2: Sounds A Hell Of A Lot Like The 1st Album & His Other Works from 13 Years Ago, Now With Up-To-Date Slang References & Guest Stars…Guest Starring Rick Rubin & More Rock Music!” (3 out of 5; worthy enough of copping the full album when it’s on sale; worth getting a couple of mp3s)
Reviewer: DJ Fusion

By now, rappers should know that there’s a high chance the Curse O’ Mediocrity will rear its ugly head the second that they decide to label their latest album as the sequel to one of their best releases.

The “Blueprint 2″ was a the bloated sonic sculpture of meh in comparison to Jay-Z’s most inspired album since “Reasonable Doubt”. Lil’ Wayne’s “The Carter” series has been on a downward quality spiral since the 2nd one. Does anyone who isn’t a Lupe Fiasco stan even CARE about “Food & Liquor 2″ now?

It feels like rapper title sequel-itis goes down the second an established MC starts running low on inspiration or has just gotten damn lazy – it’s the easiest way to jumpstart good, nostalgic feelings and a hype wagon hype from fans & critics without necessarily having to put in as much work in the studio.

Unfortunately, this scenario has gone down in spades with Marshall Mathers’ aka Eminem’s latest full-length solo release, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2″.

Now, don’t get me wrong – “MMLP2″ and it’s 16 tracks (22 if you cop the deluxe edition) doesn’t suck. Totally.

Detroit’s most known mic representer puts together a very…competent album. Not great. Not horrible. Passable enough.

On the positive end, the majority of “MMLP2″ ‘s production isn’t totally embarrassing, featuring a mostly high ratio of OK to solid Rock, Minimal Electro, Bounce, Pop & Boom Bap influenced beats by Rick Rubin, Emile, DJ Khalil, the MC himself & more.

And Eminem still knows how to spit like crazy. He’s always been that dude on the mic who gets off some crazy “holy crap, he said all of that AND barely took a breath?!?!” whose lyrical & verbal stylistics can still amaze when he’s really going in.

When it meshes well with the beat at hand (especially with “Love Game” featuring Kendrick Lamar), some high caliber audio goodness is at hand.

Unfortunately, there is too little of those types of cool song combos on hand here everything fall into place just so…and for various reasons.

“MMLP2″ ‘s major problem is that Eminem doesn’t have any the three major factors that have always sparked the heights of his creative inner fire during his major label career – controversy, competition & the guiding hand of Dr. Dre.

And without that, he’s painfully lost and falls back to the same ol’ thing – rhyming about being the best MC out there ever, relationship problems with family & women, struggle, hypocrisy, etc. – but presents no new spin at all with presenting the subject matters at hand.

It feels like if you heard him talk about this before, you’re not hearing a damn new thing now.

Also – ironically – in 2013, one of his big strengths at least as a singles artist – making fun of some segment of society by talking all the s*** – has been neutered.

Honestly no one really cares about Eminem’s personal life or opinions about anything like they used to, especially as an artist fully embraced by mainstream America for years. The #SocialNetworkEverything era of stars/”stars” and their fans constantly cycling the ability to to make fun of themselves better than a rap line or any parody music video has been of no help to his creative cause.

Add into the mix that they’re no real competition or conflict coming at him from the Hip-Hop world from fellow MCs, media and more – good or bad, equal or imbalanced, direct or indirect via sales, trash talk, tunes, etc. – we get an almost…typical dude on the mic compared to the Eminem of old. Like Jay-Z, Enimem puts out his best work when challenged by something pushing against him.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, he still spits circles around most MCs currently out – especially on the mainstream rap end where “Ey!” is a bar – but it feels like the air is slowly getting out of his tires regarding giving much of a s*** about pushing boundaries anymore. And maybe years in the game plus more money than most of us will see ever has played a role in that.

“MMLP2″ also has some awkward song structures and sequencing…where either the blending beats and lyrics feel a tad off or you go from a mellow sounding tune to mad “King of Rock” screaming and whatnot track from track. It is not a smooth transition album that feels planned to flow a certain way from start to finish on a topical or sonic end.

While we can talk about the ups & downs of Dr. “I’m Never Going To Release ‘Detox’…EVER” Dre in the past few years, it feels like he knows way more how to work with Eminem to put together an cohesive album than Rick Rubin did with the “MMLP2″ end result.

Being in the era where most of the older, money making mainstream MCs – and hell, a lot of the younger ones – barely utter a peep against contemporaries or go hard in creatively challenging each other with a “whose album is the hottest this year/week/Bored Black Twitter Cycle”, doing the bare minimum to keep steady income flowing their own fiefdoms of fans seems to be the norm.

Eminem used to be that guy for a while who would shake things up a bit, dropping a verse on someone’s track or a project to make heads go “damn, I need to step up my game”.

Perhaps due to being comfortable with his status in Hip-Hop, his bank account and touring schedule, it feels like Eminem is being just like everybody else. Just getting by. And it’s kind of sad.

“The Marshall Mathers LP 2″ is going to get guaranteed airplay on tons of stations. He’ll be on the best of press junkets & TV show appearances. He has Billboard Top 100 tunes ready and at least 2 for indie/underground music heads folks will talk about for a bit. I’m sure the album will go platinum worldwide pretty damn quick.

But this album is not by any stretch of the imagination anywhere near greatness and is by far the most boring, middle of the road collection of tunes he’s ever released. This is the first album Slim Shady has become Cruise Control Eminem. Hopefully this isn’t the first step of really falling off.

Personal Favorite Tracks: Love Game feat. Kendrick Lamar, So Far…,

Music Video: Eminem feat. Kendrick Lamar – Love Game

 

snarky

 Album: Family Dinner – Volume 1
 Artist: Snarky Puppy
 Genre: Jazz/Funk/Soul
 Sounds like: Soulful, funky, and fun – one of the best albums of the year so far.
 Reviewer: Hex

 

When we listen to music – we gravitate to stars. The singer with the angelic voice. The lead guitarist with chops that blaze fiery lines into your soul. Jazz masters who take horns made of brass and blow romantic poetry. The spotlights naturally shining for the person on the stage that blooms with the most power and charisma.

But for those performers to shine, they need the players. The bands behind them that hold down the grooves, create the atmospheres, and most importantly hang back into the shadows as the starlight graces the star of the show. Knowledge, skill, and tasteful soul provided by professionals who understand the role of rhythm and groove in making the headliner look beyond good.

When we think of artists like Jill Scott, Common, Erykah Badu, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Jackson — it’s the magic of the songs we think of first. The lyrics that speak to us, the unforgettable voices, the statements their albums make to our hearts. But it’s the music that stays with us. The ability for a band to lay down a groove, break it out when the song calls for it, but then fall back in the pocket and keep our heads bobbing while we sing along with that hook again and again.

368778275_1371826055Whereas rock bands derive so much of their personalities from the way they capitalize on their imperfections as players – If you want to put on a real Jazz, R&B, or Funk show – your band better be able to hold it down, or the whole show falls apart.

Ace backing bands are a longstanding tradition in music – from the house band known as “The Funk Brothers” that provided (and frequently wrote) songs for classic Motown, to a young Jimi Hendrix working as a backup player for Wilson Pickett on tour.

But where do these players come from?

More often than not, stars will hire “musical directors” to organize and lead their bands. Those musical directors in turn recruit from players they knew in music school, or hold open auditions, or rely on recommendations from producers or other players to help them find talent. But when the tour is over, those players are for the most part let go.

As a result, you have a lot of cats out there with big name touring experience and serious musical talent who are basically just living gig to gig hoping for that phone to ring. It was this situation that started to get University of North Texas grad Michael League thinking. He knew a bunch of ace players in and around the Texas Jazz scene, and he had made a ton of similar connections after moving to New York – why not get them all together and try to get a steadier gig going?

League called this collective of players “The Fam” – a group of pros that could call on each other if they needed players for a given gig or tour. But the more they played together the more they realized they had something unique– and eventually it gelled into a band.

5591206242_f68af875ccSnarky Puppy easily has the chops to make it as the kind of instrumental super group that music nerds would gush over forever. But on their debut album the group took things one step further and called on a number of the star artists who had hired them in the past to come sit in and sing with them.

The resulting album, The Family Dinner – Volume One is an amazing collection of grooves. Offering a tight mix of funk, jazz, blues, and even Latin music, The Family Dinner is a veritable potluck of flavors and styles. The vibe is loose, the playing is fantastic – but what’s most impressive about this collection is the way it doesn’t feel like a players album.

Snarky Puppy Lalah Still-thumb-473xauto-12135Songs like “Free Your Dreams” and “Too Hot to Last” melt into your headphones and get your head bobbing. So much so that it’s hard to believe most of them were recorded as live takes. A fact that becomes inherently clear when you listen to the album’s crown jewel – “Something” where Lalah Hathaway steps out beyond an already infectious neo-soul groove to light up the stage by singing actual chords as part of her improvised vocal solo – a trick so impressive that the band themselves can’t believe it!

The video of the performance has gone almost instantly viral – drawing incredulous praise from fans and musicians around the world for Hathaway’s vocal abilities.

In fact if there’s any criticism to be made about the album at all, it’s that the songs in the collection do almost too good of a job of featuring the singers on each track – as if it’s just become habit for the players in the band to lay back and let the singer cook. While it’s impossible to deny just how great a song like “Something” is (it’s been on repeat in my playlists for weeks now), it’s hard not to come away from the track feeling like you want to hear more Lalah Hathaway, and not so much the actual band that released the album she’s appearing on.

Either way – you gotta hear this album. Seriously, it’s fantastic.

See what you think, Here’s “Something”

Album: Black Radio 2
Artist: Robert Glasper Experiment
Genre: jazz/R&B/Soul/hip-hop
Sounds Like: pure awesomeness
Reviewer: Bef

Grammy award winning musician Robert Glasper is back with Black Radio 2. The follow up to of course Black Radio. The genre bending CD that garnered him a Grammy for Best R&B Album of the Year.

Black Radio 2 again bends or should we say blends “black” genres Jazz, R&B, Soul and Hip Hop.

The CD moves fluidly through all 17 tracks even when the theme of the songs changes the the transitions are smooth. Something that can be lacking in music today.

The CD is of course about all aspects of love mixed with some uplifting and even spiritual themes. All of course are things you can hear on any given day on Black Radio.

He does this concept so well!

Each song will have you either swaying to the beat, bobbin’ your head or just down right groovin’ to it. There are some good chair dancing songs on here LOL

Please do your ears a favor and go get this CD. Nothing on it will disappoint you!

Check out the lead single ‘Calls’ featuring the amazing Jill Scott