Otonana Trio | The Ramen War
This band is probably a bit more ~uNdErGrOuNd~ than most of the things I post, because I saw them at a local show.  I don’t generally review a whole lot of albums by local bands just because I don’t generally BUY a lot of albums by local bands, but I really liked this band’s live show and decided to pick up this album.  I think the artwork’s pretty cool, too.
Otonana Trio is a funk band from Tokyo, Japan.  Their music leans heavily on riffs and grooves, and the bassist and drummer are incredibly tight.  The singer sings mostly in English, sometimes in Japanese, and his singing style is somewhere in between regular singing and rap-singing, like the guy from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  To me, their strength is more in the compositions than the vocals or the words; this band sounds pretty good on CD but they sound great in live performance.  If you ever see their name on the bill at a local show, I’d say check it out.  Apparently they tour the United States fairly regularly.  Neat!

Otonana Trio | The Ramen War

This band is probably a bit more ~uNdErGrOuNd~ than most of the things I post, because I saw them at a local show.  I don’t generally review a whole lot of albums by local bands just because I don’t generally BUY a lot of albums by local bands, but I really liked this band’s live show and decided to pick up this album.  I think the artwork’s pretty cool, too.

Otonana Trio is a funk band from Tokyo, Japan.  Their music leans heavily on riffs and grooves, and the bassist and drummer are incredibly tight.  The singer sings mostly in English, sometimes in Japanese, and his singing style is somewhere in between regular singing and rap-singing, like the guy from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  To me, their strength is more in the compositions than the vocals or the words; this band sounds pretty good on CD but they sound great in live performance.  If you ever see their name on the bill at a local show, I’d say check it out.  Apparently they tour the United States fairly regularly.  Neat!

Black Sheep | A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Black Sheep is a New York hip-hop group from the early 90s; if you know me well, you know that means I don’t even have to hear a group like that to like them.  For a long time, this album didn’t interest me particularly, just because I had never heard these guys do anything else; a lot of times I can tell if I will like a rap artist based on their features that they do on other peoples’ tracks, or that sort of thing, but I don’t know of any tracks I have with these guys on it.  Anyway, it turns out one of these songs I had heard before; The Choice Is Yours has been in some commercials (the hook goes ‘you can get with this, or you can get with that / you can get with THIS, or you can get with that’, etc.). 

Anyway, this album…  sounds like 90s rap.  Lots of jazzy samples, rapping tending towards the fast side, often cramming lots of syllables into a small space, and songs about partying, double standards between the genders, and the newly emerging trend (for the time) of violence in rap music.  The first song, U Mean I’m Not, is as good a send-up of over the top violence as Odd Future ever made.  They also really like rapping about sex, although not quite in as explicit of detail as some (say, Kool Keith, for example). 

There are some really, really fantastic beats on this album, including The Choice Is Yours, Black With N.V., and Similak Child.  There’s also some hella outdated slang, or some stuff that maybe just never caught on to begin with, but it’s all delivered with charisma and charm, so I can let it slide.  The only thing that really annoys me about this album is the skits.  I’ve only heard a few skits on rap albums EVER where I thought ‘this doesn’t detract from the quality of this album’.  Skits are THE WORST.  I think like, 99.9% of the time they’re only funny or entertaining to the people doing them.  Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City told a better story than 99% of rap albums with skits and it had comparatively few.  Anyway, off of that soapbox, this is, in my opinion, an underrated classic of 90s rap.  I recommend it for fans of the genre.  If you’ve never listened to  90s rap, this isn’t a horrible place to start, but there are probably more well-known artists that might serve better, like A Tribe Called Quest or Nas or something.

Coleman Hawkins | Body And Soul
This is a compilation album of jazz saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, compiling tracks recorded between 1939 and 1956 that were recorded on the RCA Victor label.  Most of these are standards in either the swing or bebop style, and most of them are pretty quick; none of them quite reach the five-minute mark.  Coleman Hawkins swings heavily throughout; fans of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, or other artists of this period will enjoy this music.  If you’re looking for softer, cooler jazz, maybe this won’t be your thing, but I liked it pretty well.

Coleman Hawkins | Body And Soul

This is a compilation album of jazz saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, compiling tracks recorded between 1939 and 1956 that were recorded on the RCA Victor label.  Most of these are standards in either the swing or bebop style, and most of them are pretty quick; none of them quite reach the five-minute mark.  Coleman Hawkins swings heavily throughout; fans of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, or other artists of this period will enjoy this music.  If you’re looking for softer, cooler jazz, maybe this won’t be your thing, but I liked it pretty well.

(Reblogged from mmmsimpsons)

Common | Nobody’s Smiling

Common’s new album is produced entirely by his old collaborator, No I.D., although a few tracks feature the production crew Cocaine 80s as well.  No I.D. has had something of a resurgence in the past few years, reconnecting with Common and producing several tracks on Nas’s fantastic Life Is Good.  There isn’t a weak beat on this album, although some of them aren’t as interesting as the others. 

Chicago, as you may be aware, is currently experiencing something like a crisis in terms of its gang violence and crime rate.  This is reflected in the hip-hop music from Chicago, including Kanye’s own Yeezus and the music of Chief Keef, King L, and other rappers from the Drill scene.  While Common does not adapt his style to that particular subgenre here (which I’m not mad about), his lyrics do reflect the bleak outlook that has pervaded Chicago’s music, and he does feature many young rappers like Lil Herb and Odd Future’s Vince Staples, whose guest spots are highlights of this album, like on Earl’s Doris.  The best track on this album is Kingdom, featuring a tense gospel choir and powerful verses from both emcees.  Big Sean offers a surprisingly serious guest spot as well, although he still uses his little voice inflection flourishes.  His track, Diamonds, is another highlight.  

All in all, this is, like most of Common’s albums, very strong, and not as experimental as, say, Like Water For Chocolate or Electric Circus.  It follows The Dreamer/The Believer pretty naturally, actually.  

Onra | Long Distance

Onra is a French producer who mostly does instrumental hip-hop.  The other album I have of his is probably his most well-known, called Chinoiseries.  That one is a beat tape made from music he bought at a Vietnamese curb market.  This album *might* kind of be a beat tape.  It’s somewhere between instrumental hip-hop and dance music. 

Most of the beat tapes I have have some kind of ‘flavor’ to them, whether it’s Vietnamese music like Chinoiseries or video game music like Jonwayne’s Bowser.  If this one has a theme, it’s 80s synth-funk, like Prince and Parliament/Funkadelic.  There are even some guest vocals this time around, mainly from one of the members of Slumvillage and a singer named Olivier DaySoul.  I hesitate to call this a beat tape, though, because most beat tapes have a shitload of very short tracks, and this album only has a lot of kind of short tracks.  It even has some long tracks, and sometimes the beats go on for long enough that they get kind of repetitive.  All in all, I think I like Chinoiseries better, but this is a cool sound nonetheless.  I will say, that album art is definitely some of the most eye-catching art I’ve added to my collection in a long time.  Don’t y’all think it’s beautiful?

Interpol | Turn On The Bright Lights

Interpol is a ‘post-punk revival’ band, which, as far as I can tell, means they’re a modern band who takes heavy influence from Joy Division and their ilk.  I didn’t go seeking this album out especially because I’ve recently listened to Joy Division, but I saw some friends posting tracks from this and had seen it before on ‘essential albums’ lists, and thought I’d check it out.

This band’s sound is characterized by droning, sometimes dissonant guitars at mid-tempos mixed with fairly depressing lyrics.  The music focuses more on a combination of riffs and textures than solos or virtuosity.  The singer’s voice, when quiet, is like a combination of Thom Yorke and Ian Curtis, but when he’s belting, the Joy Division influence definitely shines through, although he is, in my opinion, a bit more tuneful than Curtis.  These songs also tend a little to the longer side, never being shorter than three minutes and often reaching as many as six.  Anyway, I like this band’s sound pretty well.  Comparing them to other modern rock bands, I don’t like them as much as, say, The Strokes, but I think I like them more than The White Stripes.  I like them pretty well, I think.  There are some tracks on here I’d go back to listen to again, namely Obstacle 1 and Say Hello to the Angels.  

Also, fun fact: this is the very first artist in my music library whose name begins with I.

Today, I discovered that Amazon.co.jp has several albums I’ve been unable to find on American Amazon, eBay, Discogs, or my other music-buyin’ sources for pretty reasonable prices, by artists like Austin Peralta, Nujabes, Ryo Fukui, and Herbie Hancock.  Neat!

I also bought my ticket to see Flying Lotus and Thundercat in October.  Hell yeah.

(Reblogged from noirlac)

Lootpack | Soundpieces: Da Antidote

Lootpack was a hip-hop group consisting of Madlib (rapping, producing), DJ Roman (scratching) and Wildchild (rapping).  If you’ve heard Madlib’s beats before, you probably have a basic idea of what to expect: fuzzed out jazzy, hazy boom-bap built on just a few little samples.  Like a lot of underground West Coast hip-hop (Dilated Peoples, The Pharcyde, etc.), a lot of these songs are just bragadoccio, or rapping about how good they are at rapping, or that sort of thing, but it suits this style of music just fine.  There are a few quotable lines here and there, and the music carries a solid vibe throughout the album.  This album doesn’t stand out a whole lot in terms of things you will only hear on THIS album, but if you like Madlib’s beats, or underground hip-hop, you’ll probably like this.


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