Album Review: Lily Allen’s ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’

British pop star Lily Allen has done it again – no, not another paparazzi-filled night out, but a sophomore album release.

This time around the lyrics remain explicit but are cleaned up nicely to fill in the blanks. They are still risqué and unfriendly for easily offended individuals. Yet, the level of maturity in topic is noticeable in comparison to Allen’s introductory album, Alright, Still.

Allen’s freshman album was a combination of ex-boyfriend attacks, a dark sense of humor, heartbreak, dealing with a lazy brother who smokes too much and sex. So how does she go from risqué to even better and riskier? Allen does not seem to have much trouble completing this task. “I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless, ‘cause everyone knows that’s howyou get famous,” – Allen’s lyrics to “The Fear” her first single off It’s Not Me, It’s You, set the tone for her second album.

The album has a more personal insight of who Lily Allen actually is. She still gives her listeners the sarcasm and rebellious attitude with appealing lyrics such as, “But you and I have come to our end. Believe me when I tell you that I never wanna see you again. And please can you stop calling cause it’s getting really boring,” found in track number seven titled, “Never Gonna Happen.”

It is obvious that the petite lady known for her door-knocker earrings comes off as a very self-assured artist. If by chance the confidence is lacking, it’s difficult to see through the show she’s putting on – you would be too distracted by her unique style and lyrical freedom. Allen’s new album does not take the listeners through a standard trip down memory lane or a predictable girlie love-and-heartbreak album. Instead she hits controversial topics such as politics and religion.

But of course the album is not too serious to bore you she also throws in a song about Chinese take-out with TV watching, a small dosage of love lyrics that can’t be measured tremendously, but only in “Who’d Have Known.” She also moves onto the topic of family matters, some about her brother, some reaching out to her father.

Love or hate Ms. Allen, she probably wouldn’t care either way as long as she is doing what she does best and that’s to create her own music.From Britain? Yes. Funk swagger? Yes. I’m sure we can make space for her in the United States – maybe even demote Amy Winehouse who seems to have gone M.I.A. or simply gotten stuck in rehab and let a new British native take the throne.

Capitol Records

-Ariana Valentin, Asst. News

Album Review: Blackout Beach’s ‘Skin of Evil’

Blackout BeachBack in late September of 2008 Carey Mercer sent Pitchfork Media a letter in regards to his sophomore release under his solo project Blackout Beach.

“I wrote this record because I desired to make something that stays on task. I picked an easy task: desire, longing, flight, the sorrow of absence… the DNA of most good songs,” wrote Mercer in the brief letter’s opening sentences.

As a fan of Frog Eyes and Mercer’s other projects, I thought I knew what to expect from Skin of Evil. I imagined something similar to the feel of the first release, Light Flows the Putrid Dawn, or possibly something reminiscent of his songs on Swan Lake’s first album Beast Moans. Instead of hearing a tidal wave of instruments break against Mercer’s dramatic and often times fierce delivery we hear something more focused and ultimately more intriguing this time around.

The differences between Skin of Evil and Mercer’s other work are vast and appealing. With Light Flows the Putrid Dawn we saw that Blackout Beach was the darkest of his projects. That darkness remains, but rather than acting as a rough commentary that wraps up the human experience in a blanket of fog, it instead reveals itself as a clear and powerful force. The album doesn’t push you through the music like other albums with a similar approach; it acts more like a guide delicately leading you through your journey.

The journey itself is a story about a temptress named Donna. She is the ideal notion of what classical Greek society would’ve considered the perfect woman.

Eight of the songs on the album belong to former lovers, all still consumed with their love for Donna. The other two songs belong to Donna and her current lover- William. The results of each individual’s story equate to a musical triumph.

The combination of Mercer’s close attention to language and detail with his newfound minimalistic musical approach are the secret behind his brilliance. The drum machine sounds vintage, providing a fuzzy lo-fi familiarity to the songs, as if they were beats a friend was showing you in his basement. The guitar hits you like raindrops against a pond, crashing against the surface of the songs and rippling outward over the music.

His vocal delivery is much more straight-forward, confined within the songs. Added to this is the presence is a female vocalist, possibly playing Donna, to help some of the tracks along.

This atmospheric and gripping album only spans a little over thirty minutes, but it remains constantly strong, building up the experience, making every minute matter to the listener. Mercer’s stage is set, we can only hope for a tour to be announced so that audiences can be pulled into the theater of his work. It would be a shame if we couldn’t share this experience with Mercer in a live setting.

Soft Abuse Records

-Jason Cunningham, Entertainment Editor: ccsurecorder.entertainment@gmail.com

Album Review: JFJO’s ‘Winterwood’

Despite their name, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is tough to place.

Most of their musical style falls freely into the jazz or jazz-fusion arena. The problem is this instrumental band is so unique, so different and so original that they sound unlike any other group also associated with jazz or jazz-fusion. JFJO, which currently houses four members, Brian Haas on keyboards, Chris Combs on guitar, Matt Hayes on upright bass and Josh Raymer on drums, has been on the scene since 1994.

Their latest album, Winterwood, which is available as a free download on their personal Web site, is their second album in as many years and showcases the band being as quirky, abstract and enjoyable as ever.

The first two tracks on this album, “Dove’s Army of Love” and “Song of the Vipers” are two of the more upbeat and jovial songs I’ve heard from this group. The album then quickly moves from these two inspiring songs to the mellow “A-Bird” before being brought right up with the up-tempo “Oklahoma Stomp”, which sounds just as you might imagine.

A few of these songs, such as “Song of the Vipers” and “Earl Hines” resonate the feel of the old West. These songs without a doubt refer back to the band’s home of Oklahoma in sound. I can’t help but picture anything else in my mind when hearing the culmination of this band’s work. “Song of the Vipers” will make you want to get up and do a jig. It’s a feel damn good song.

The album ends on a high note. “Bumper Crop of Strange” is an amusing collection of sounds that picks the spirit of the album right back up from the mellow sounds that precede it. “Autumnal – Vernal Equinox”, the closing track for the album, is a thundering one, taking a whole seven minutes of your time. Those are seven minutes you should be willing to spare considering the uprising feel of the track.

In comparison to the rest of JFJO’s albums, Winterwood holds up incredibly well. It is, in fact, one of my favorites of theirs. It’s a 72-minute, that’s right you guessed it, jazz odyssey.

Kufala Recordings

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment

Album Review: Black Lips’ ‘200 Million Thousand’

It’s a trend that has been seen many times before.

Indie rock bands with a taste for the lo-fi side of life tend to find motivation and/or sobriety by their third or fourth album and ultimately betray the very DIY production values and messy antics that gave them a name to begin with.

We’ve witnessed it with The Strokes and Kings of Leon just in the past few years, and while the new sounds and neat packages don’t always disappoint, they nevertheless feel a bit safer in their attempts at grandeur, as if fun is the necessary victim of higher production values and more complex artistry.

On their fourth album, 200 Million Thousand, Black Lips throw up a big fat middle finger to the very idea of more production, opting instead to lay down a thick layer of scuzz over the entire track list and proving that a band need not grow up, sonically or mentally, to show maturity.

On their last release, 2007’s Good, Bad, Not Evil, the band was able to clean things up a bit without losing their signature garage-psychrock sound that always seemed to be coming from a dank basement circa 1967. Nevertheless, in its desire to prove itself eclectic the album instead came off as scattershot, presenting a track list of mostly winners with some duds and joke songs that, though superficially entertaining, warranted skipping over after two or three listens.

Previous releases provided more consistent atmospheres but were similarly uneven and sometimes too messy, even by lo-fi standards. 200 Million Thousand seems to find a healthy balance between the two and, more importantly, resists fucking around (with the exception of the “rap” song near the end, “The Drop I Hold”), the result being the group’s most consistently entertaining album to date.

Though the highs may not be as high there are also no real lows to speak of. Instead the Black Lips focus on fleshing out their sound in lieu of running from it by finding inspiration in the darker corners of their music. “Take My Heart” and “Let It Grow” sound as though they could’ve been seedy gems on the group’s 2004 album Let It Bloom, while “Trapped in a Basement” evokes Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (of “I Put a Spell On You” fame).

Things remain dark, especially on the second half of the album, but never lose the fun sense of spontaneity that no doubt spawns from the band’s stubborn adherence to live recording sessions.

This stubbornness may, in fact, give insight into how the group manages to remain fresh without significantly altering their sound; The Black Lips know that they’re making dank, dirty, scuzzy rock music, and that they don’t need to add production or kill the fun to make it good.

Vice Music

-P.J. Decoteau, Staff Writer

Album Review: Buckethead’s ‘Slaughterhouse on the Prairie’

“Crouching Stump Hidden Limb”- that’s just one example of the unique and macabre song titles guitar shredder Buckethead devises.

On his 25th studio album, Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, Buckethead has references to basketball players and the chicken meat industry, among other things. Buckethead is quite simply a workaholic. He produces his solo albums like nobody else.

Hardly ever is there a period of production quietness from this unique fellow. Constantly teaming up with new collaborators and releasing solo album upon solo album, Buckethead is the type of artist a fan loves. Slaughterhouse has that typical Buckethead sound. Attitude towards another Buckethead album of escalating guitar solos entirely depends on one’s favorite flavor of Buckethead.

Albums of his range from straightforward shred heavy thrash inspired albums like this one to metal themed albums like Somewhere Over the Slaughterhouse (yes he loves slaughterhouses) to experimental concept albums such as Bucketheadland, which gives the listener a tour of his fantasy amusement park.

The album kicks off with not one, but two tracks in honor of NBA star LeBron James. The first track, simply titled “LeBron” is an absolute stunner of an opener for an album. I’ve always been captivated by Buckethead’s ability to capture the sound that one would expect from his instrumental track’s titles.

The song that follows the opener, “LeBron’s Hammer”, does just this. It’s as if Buckethead was watching a highlight reel of LeBron when creating this track.

Buckethead’s music is almost indescribable to someone who has never had the pleasure of actually listening to him before. A few words do come to mind when listening to this latest album. Pulsing, energetic, soaring and obliterating are the first few that roll off my tongue.

My words don’t do justice for the masked man who wears a bucket on his head. Slaughterhouse is yet another musical success for Buckethead, after all, 25 albums is a lot. The magical thing is that each of these 25 albums, while sometimes displaying the same side of Buckethead, never sound redundant.

To keep a sound so fresh over that many years and that many albums is an amazing feat. I look forward to Buckethead’s 26th album which should be out in, oh, a few months.

 

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment