Monthly Report: May 2013 Albums

1. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
I'm not a big dance music head, but I fuck with Daft Punk, which I suppose makes me like a really huge number of people. But I'm not that fanatical about it, they just clearly have a good ear and make some jams. And I think I'm probably more open to this album, or at least put less pressure on myself to enjoy it, than a lot of those folks, because I don't really give a damn either way and don't worship Discovery so much that I need another. So I like this chill disco prog album they made -- there are really several stretches of it that basically make me feel like I'm listening to Trans Am, who really have kind of a similar approach to creating tributes/pastiches to some of the same influences, and I'm surprised nobody else has picked up on that. "Fragments of Time" is definitely my favorite of the vocal tracks on here, besides "Get Lucky," although I would've been fine with this being more of an instrumental record overall (or at least no Strokes and Animal Collective lames). This just makes me want Nile Rodgers to have some big full album vehicle right now, though.

2. Dungeonesse - Dungeonesse
I already reviewed this album so I don't know if I have a lot else to say about it, but I'll just re-iterate that I'm a huge fan of everybody involved in this album and really think they went hard on this shit and did something better than the 'oh indie people doing pop/R&B' boilerplate responses it's been getting really warrant. The vocal arranging is fantastic, the beats go all over the place and don't just go through simple loops or offer some condescending idea of 'catchy' music that you often get in projects in this vein.

3. Tricky - False Idols
Like a lot of people, I got off the bus with Tricky a long time ago -- last album I heard before this was Juxtapose, which was, jeez, 5 albums ago. So I'm not qualified to call this a 'comeback' or not, but I'm enjoying it, at least once I get past the way it opens with another stupid semi-cover, this time of Patti Smith's "Gloria." He still has a unique way of putting together sounds that's distinctly Tricky, it's nice to hear that still in tact, the mid-album stretch with "If I Only Knew" and "Is That Your Life" is pretty great.

4. Little Mix - DNA
I liked their stateside semi-hit "Wings" enough to check out the belated U.S. release of this Brit's group album, and it's full of similar tracks that make me kind of nostalgic for the sound of American pop R&B in the early 2000s and late '90s. The harmonies aren't anything special and no one voice really leaps out, sometimes it sounds like they're so afraid of sounding too British that they don't let much personality come out, and none of the songs here are classics, but it's still pretty damn bubbly and enjoyable.

5. Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood - Black Pudding
After last year's great Lanegan solo album that kinda put his voice into some new, weirdly modern contexts, he sounds good back here in a dark dusty acoustic environment. Nothing special, really, but the record has some great ambiance, "Mescalito" sounds amazing.

6. Hustle Gang - G.D.O.D. (Get Dough Or Die)
There was a point a few years ago, before T.I. did his time and everything stalled out, where Grand Hustle had some really huge potential as a rap label: Young Dro still had some commercial potential, B.o.B hadn't turned out to be a cornball yet, they had Meek Mill waiting in the wings, 8Ball & MJG were on the team. So there's something really anti-climactic about T.I. finally focusing on the roster now that some of those guys are gone and everyone else has lost momentum. It's nice that they have Trae in the mix now too, though. This tape is actually pretty dope, especially with Dro dominating things way more than I expected him to.

7. Spencer Owen - iTunes Changed My Life
I've been friendly with Spencer Owen in online music nerd circles for, wow, over a decade now, he's a bit younger than me but always seemed like a smart kid with a good sense of humor. Recently on Twitter he linked this record he made I guess a few years ago but just released on Bandcamp, which is a collaboration with Morgan Klein (who I met a while back when I interviewed Beauty Pill and he was there as a photographer, and we had a moment of 'oh hey, you know Spencer Owen!?'). It's a really jokey and strange and surreal album, to a point that I sometimes find off-putting, but also in parts sounds really good and unique and I'm impressed by it.

8. various artists - The Music of Nashville Original Soundtrack Volume 2
I've fallen behind on a lot of TV shows in the past few months, and I feel bad about not keeping up with Nashville in the second half of the season at all, because it really was one of the best new shows of the fall, and I'd like to keep watching, but I don't know if I'll ever catch up at this point. And one of the reasons I like it is that the music has been pretty consistently impressive (although man, Connie Britton is really just not up to pulling off the superstar she's supposed to be with her voice, they should be dubbing her vocals). So at least I can dig these soundtrack albums. A couple weeks ago, I worked at the Ford's Theatre Annual Gala, and one of the performances was Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio doing a couple songs from the show ("Fade Into You" from this album, and "When The Right One Comes Along" from the first soundtrack), they sounded really great. This album has a cover of "Ho Hey" on it but otherwise is a pretty strong listen.

9. Eve - Lip Lock
I always thought Eve was a pretty dope rapper, and it's a shame that when her career took a downturn she couldn't even get that last album released with a fairly big hit like "Tambourine" and just went away for ages. Coming back with a wannabe-mainstream independent album like this is kinda weird, though -- she could made any record she wants, and put the dude from Cobra Starship on the hook of one of the first singles for some kind of misguided attempt at pop crossover. Most of the record is pretty good, though -- "She Bad Bad" and "Wanna Be" and "Grind Or Die" and a lot of other tracks are just Eve flowing hard over harsh synth beats.

10. French Montana - Excuse My French
For the past year or two I've been kind of turning up my nose at the whole premise of French as a national star, especially once he started having his own hits that he was on about as much as DJ Khaled. But since the album turned out not to sell like gangbusters, I can kind of enjoy it on its own merits as a record full of dumb bangers. Plus it's cool that a couple of talented Baltimore cats like J. Oliver and Los are on this record.

Worst album of the month: The-Dream - IV Play
I've never been a huge fan of The-Dream as an artist -- he's got some undeniable classics as a writer, but his first two albums worked largely in spite of his Winnie The Pooh voice and deeply unlikable personality. This album isn't as bad as 1977, but it's still pretty curdled and charmless, dude just does not have the hooks like he used to, and can't make beats as well without his old co-producers, Tricky Stewart and Los Da Mystro. There's some OK songs (wish the one with Kelly Rowland was just saved for her album), but this is way worse than Love King, which I expected this to be on par with.
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