The house iPod is currently churning out speedy sitar riffs from a ménage of Indian tunes recently clustered together. However, my computer headphones contain the fiery talent and spirit that is Christian Scott. His newest release, Christian aTunde Adjuah is a double “disc”, if that term means anything these days and although it is jazz officially, in actuality it is just music. Music as intended: emotional and without form, yet perfectly molded and pleasing to the ear. Christian Scott’s trumpet lays neatly in-between other instruments on some tracks like a caterpillar slumbering before emerging as a butterfly, then on others it’s the main attraction, demanding your complete attention. Songs weave effortlessly unto each other, sprawling different musical genres without prejudice, while creating a pleasing tapestry of sound. Simultaneously expanding jazz as defined yet with roots firmly planted where it is. Christian Scott Christian aTunde Adjuah
The most recent studio release from the Roots (Undun) needs time to sink in, thus this tardy review. Unlike the majority of their hip-hop peers, the Roots continually extend their popularity not through the vulgar appeal of strong radio singles, naked women in their videos or massive marketing campaigns, but through the performance and creation of music of a rare and distinct quality that is not often found among the more popular and readily accessible musical landscape. From the opening notes on Dun, to the last lyrics breathed into the microphone and the closing with Finality, Undun continues expanding the catalog of growth and burgeoning genius that is the Roots. A concept album working through themes of life and decision, it features the usual Roots players along with an appreciated assortment of special guests. Contrasted in musical theme from the bulk of their previous work, though some say it compares sonically with How I Got Over, this release stands alone as a complete work and makes a great addition to any music collection. The Root Undun
The pop rock foursome from Denver is back with Scars & Stories. Producer Brendan O’Brien helps the group further polish their sound on this release and enables the group to expand their range and depth sonically. World travels and real life experiences fuel this release and avid followers of the Fray should notice a growth and maturity in the lyrical content. New listeners should be pleased also as the Fray sits comfortably in a position that aligns their constellation with other stars in the pop rock sky.
Thirteen tracks of metal, extra heavy, with some soul on the side. That’s how you can describe Mastodon’s long-anticipated sonic descendant to Crack the Skye. Constantly pushing forward, with the Hunter, Mastodon ditched the concept album model that has worked so well for them previously, like a snake shedding its skin and angled off into new musical territory. The result is a much appreciated evolution in sound, complete with more palatable song lengths, lyrics whittled down to the essential essences that evoke emotion and surge with force and direction, anthem-type choruses and melodic chords that tease the untrained ear into believing that Mastodon is aiming to go pop, but to the seasoned veteran it’s a sign of developing maturity in their craft. Could this be due to Mike Elizondo, who has handled production duties for Eminem or is it due to road work with Alice in Chains? Who cares? It’s Mastodon, the Hunter, the drums are vacuum seal tight, the songs stand alone and the music speaks for itself.
Jay-Z said it best, “You want my old music, buy my old album”. The Black Keys, the more you bang them, the better they get. This release, “El Camino” is just another welcome stop on the road for Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney before they either arrive at the Rock Hall of Fame or simply bypass it altogether and become Gods of Rock for the generations that come after them. From the start with, “Lonely Boy” to the finish with “Mind Eraser,” El Camino is a hearty and enjoyable effort packed with very danceable melodies, thunderous drums and rhythms that rock with life and feeling. The Black Keys El Camino
The Alabama born Yelawolf, is a multifaceted talent that has spent a better part of the last decade living in various parts of the US while striving towards super-stardom. His first major label release, “Radioactive” may well be the cornerstone of a hugely successful career in entertainment. However, that depends on who you ask. Radioactive has received mostly politically safe, yet positive reviews, but some consider Yelawolf’s Shady records debut missing the mark. Not because of lack of skill by Yelawolf, but by the unfettered efforts to make a pop record instead of a rap record that can go pop. Never mind the forced attempts craft a colorblind pop rap album, Yelawolf is a solid lyricist and some of those pop efforts are great songs. While some fans cling zealously to the music and lyrical style of early TrunkMuzik mixtapes, this new, Eminem stamped Yelawolf shows growth and shines, despite his efforts to stay in ‘bama mud.
With more than 20 years in the rap game, even though their Amazon page boasts 94 releases, the Beastie Boys are soon releasing what is only their eighth official album, the Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. While comment sections across the web rage for or against the Beasties, one thing is for sure, they have stood the test of time. With a little help from Nas on the emcee front, the Boys once again serve up the rap stew that has made them Grammy winners and one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All time.
With rugged drums and subterranean production W.A.R. (We are Renegades), the third solo release from critically acclaimed rapper Pharoahe Monch is a rap album that unfortunately won’t top the pop charts but in every place where hip-hop is a serious topic of discussion around the world, “We are Renegades” will top the list. While the beats are jeep-friendly, the lyrics bend more towards provoking thought than they do provoking the shaking of hips, which tends to keep the pop crowd at bay. However, for lovers of lyricism, bar for bar few lyricists in Hip-Hop from any period can compare to Pharoahe Monch. On this release he pairs his wit, politics and multisyllabic rhymes with crisp production and notable guest appearances.
Taking a different approach as promised after “Hail the Thief”, Radiohead’s newest work and eighth studio album, “The King of Limbs” finds the band in a wonderful groove of ambient evening harmonies, accompanied by rumbling drums, seemingly moody bass notes and sly guitar riffs. Collectively the quirky melodies rub as you would a lamp to find a genie. Part journey to Sham-bala and part Cannabis Cup the various sounds may take several listens for some, while others may instantly find rhythm and groove. The King of Limbs is a nice extension to the already critically acclaimed works of Radiohead.
Adele 21 is the follow up to Adele 19, the 2008 debut from Adele Laurie Blue Adkins that produced the single “Chasing Pavements” and aligned the singer-songwriter with the 21st Century wave of British soul. With the big voice, almost timeless sound, and a cover of a Bob Dylan song, who could disageee. Fast forward to 2011 and you have the Adele follow up album, 21. Unlike Adele’s previous work, 19 features a load of superstar producers and contributors ranging from Mark Ronson, One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder and even Rick Rubin. As a result, the sound on Adele 21 is bigger, and has more bang, with polished songs like “Rolling in the Deep” leading the way. Made to expand her reach artistically Adele 21 serves as a good transition that will old fans will enjoy and new listeners will find quite refreshing.