Welcome to A&A. There are 12 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
If you have any problems, criticisms or suggestions, drop me a line.
A&A #274 reviews
Johnny Berry and the Outliers
Johnny Berry's got a rough-hewn baritone that sounds great when mixed with traditional country music. And when I say traditional, I mean unadorned. Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. Or, in this case, Johnny Berry and two guys from Kentucky (with some friends on the side).
Honky tonk laments, heel-clickin' two steps, rip-roarin' wailers...you name it, Berry plays it. Now, again, we're talking about real country music. None of that Californy nonsense, no trips to the hills. Just a guitar and a pair of shit kickers.
Berry's songwriting is solid, and he's obviously smart enough to know when to turn to a friend for help when he needs it. But what I like best is the presentation. This sounds authentic. For that very reason, it probably isn't. Life goes on. This disc sounds great.
A fine CD for traveling down the road a piece. Especially if you're hankering for a bit of what Johnny Cash used to do so well. Johnny Berry and the are worth quite a few spins.
Stellar beatwork by Copperpot, incisive and insightful rhymes by Longshot. I'm always in the mood for something political, and this disc hits the spot right.
When I describe the beats as stellar, that's an understatement. I'd love this album if it were an instrumental. Copperpot combines the collage style of PreFuse 73 with the smooth grace of RJD2. These songs are real songs, assembled by a master.
And that's not to slight Longshot, who is one of the more creative MCs I've heard in a while. He's not afraid of taking the time to fully expand an idea within a song. He does this without getting lost or, even worse, dull. This is incendiary fare.
A collaboration that deserves to continue. CopperShot blisters every track on this disc. Don't listen if you don't want to think...even though these songs are too infectious to put down.
The Death Set
New wave meets no wave. The Death Set uses bouncy keyboard riffs and increasingly strained vocals to create a grating and exhilarating album. This disc might be that one night stand you can't resist--even though you know you'll be paying for it in the morning.
Manic, crazed and yet surprisingly tuneful. If I were in a sillier mood, I might call these songs goofy. But I don't think that's quite right. Nonetheless, these folks visit the rational world infrequently.
Which makes these songs that much more exciting. Sane people wouldn't make stuff like this. I have to admit that guessing which mental disorder is most prevalent in the band is a lot of fun. Mania is winning out right now.
The vast majority of people will run screaming from this album. And they should. The Death Set is for true believers only. And if you can figure out exactly what to believe after hearing this set, you're way ahead of me.
Zen of Logic
As if by divine providence, I've received a number of albums with great beatwork this month. DJ Logic, however, has the only one that is largely beats and beats alone. And it's mind-jarringly good.
Absolutely masterful. I hate to repeat myself, but in my book the master of the hip-hop instrumental is RJD2. DJ Logic takes that smooth, strong sound and adds more of an electronic sheen to it. And he's got a slightly different musical perspective as well.
More of straightforward hip-hop influence in the beats, while the attendant music is more on the rock and roll side. At times pretty, at times chunky, always inspiring.
The tracks with guest MCs don't stint on the beatwork. Rather, there seems to be a sense of real collaboration, something greater than the parts. Which is always the best way to go.
Return to the Sea
Loping (sometimes lurching) geek pop that can be as simple as a trio and as fleshed out as a small orchestra. And while the songs have that laptop feel, these are "real" performances.
You might ask why it matters if the music is programmed or played. It doesn't, I guess, but there is a difference in sound--or rather, texture. And this sounds like a band. Barely sometimes, but a band nonetheless.
The songs themselves are often goofy and always intricately plotted. Such crafting can lead to something stilted, but these boys always manage to infuse a warped energy into the pieces. Kinda like a French Canadian They Might Be Giants.
Except that these guys aren't nearly so snarky. They're actually painfully earnest, which makes these songs even that much more engaging. I'm not sure why someone would make music quite like this, but I'm sure glad Islands did.