Genre: Comedy Rap
Origin: Berkeley, CA; based in New York City, NY
Well, their appendages are still in a box and on a boat, at least for a little while longer. That's because the Saturday Night Live viral video gangsters known as The Lonely Island are back with their second LP, the handsomely titled Turtleneck & Chain. Their first standard recording, Incredibad, gave consistent viewers a chance to grab a hold of their music sans the audience laugh track, and even though that album may have had its ups and downs, Turtleneck & Chain doesn't really change the game. That's a good thing, however, considering these guys just want to have loads of fun, and I mean loads of fun.
Like Incredibad, The Lonely Island try to up their rap ante by bringing in many musical guests, with mostly good results. The title track with Snoop Dogg has some pretty nice beats going for it (no doubt influenced by the guest himself), and Snoop Dogg makes the most of his appearance toward the end of the song. Justin Timberlake on "Motherlover" is reminiscent of his work on "Dick in a Box," and Santigold provides some pretty cool choral work on the dubstep-laced "After Party."
Perhaps the most stunning of all is just hearing Michael Bolton feature on "Jack Sparrow." It's an absolute riot listening to him shoot off guns and interrupt much better music, and his appearance clearly eclipses that of Nicki Minaj on "The Creep," whose vocals are mostly snores making their way through lyrics better suited for an artist that would give it more breadth. Even Akon, whose influence is pretty ubiquitous on "I Just Had Sex" from the bright synths to the Auto-Tune, has a much better sense of how to approach a song with such a title. Let's just say the consequences of that track might actually produce better results.
Though those like myself who are familiar with the SNL Digital Shorts, there's the underlying feeling that this troupe is always best when they release their "singles" and accompanying videos. The visuals help to greatly exaggerate their already outrageous raps. Take the Rihanna-featured "Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde" for example, whose lyrical nature really requires a visual target for the empty spaces in between the vocals. Otherwise, you have a rather silly concept that's unsure of where it's going on its own. The quick visual edits of "Threw It On The Ground" are also somewhat lost in the translation, leaving oneself wondering how they can obtain the video on Hulu to rewatch it again and again.
There are some greats and not-so greats, but would you have expected any more from any album by these guys? Those that are familiar with the Digital Shorts probably already know what to expect upon release, and there's no reason to deny their listening to this album in order to find their favorites. Fact of the matter is, The Lonely Island know what they're doing and they're having the time of their lives doing it. Don't expect Turtleneck & Chain to be some kind of accomplishment by any means, but it's hard to resist the sprinkled charm of The Lonely Island and their heightened sense of body part awareness.
The Lonely Island - Jack Sparrow (feat. Michael Bolton)
The Lonely Island - Turtleneck & Chain (feat. Snoop Dogg)
Turtleneck & Chain is available on Universal Republic.
Death Cab for Cutie's new LP isn't out until May 31st, but Codes and Keys is already making the rounds with singles and drops circulating the net. One such single is the album opener, "Home Is a Fire," which now has an accompanying music video. Directed by alt-artist Shepard Fairey, the song takes on a literal path through Los Angeles with varying degrees of blurs, edits, and lens changes. Lyrics appear to be pasted onto different alleyways and overhangs, later shown actually being made in the process and then placed throughout the city.
It gives the music an interesting twist, if perhaps too literally, in that it makes Los Angeles look more or less appealing and repulsive, especially if you live there (as this reviewer does). Then again, if it's anything like Fairey's work that includes the Obama campaign portrait, the video fits the bill of taking something rather ordinary and replacing it with a glaze that purposely sends an interpretive message to the intended audience. It makes Death Cab for Cutie out to be a band that's fresh and bold, but would you have expected anything different?
Let us know what you think of the music video, and don't forget to check out whatever else Death Cab has up their sleeves on Codes and Keys, available May 31st on Atlantic Records.
David Portner, also known as Animal Collective member Avey Tare, released his second solo record, Down There, in the fall of 2010. The title really meant what it implied; it was a murky, confused, and euphoric album that showcased the complexities that Avey Tare often brings to the lyrics of many of Animal Collective's songs. Considering the smashing success of Animal Collective's most accessible effort, 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion, listening to Down There is quite a different, more personal experience. Gone are the Beach Boys-equse harmonies and soothing beats, but Portner allows for us to enter his psyche and drown within the sounds, creating some kind of weird and exotic pathway that was best experienced on tracks of Animal Collective's Feels. "Laughing Hieroglyphic," the opening track off Down There, is fantastically hypnotic and sensory, almost asking us for our attention from the get-go and refusing to bubble up to the surface for breath. Even if the album was somewhat overlooked in 2010, at least this track is continually intriguing and worth taking a second look.
Check out "Laughing Hieroglyphic" below and tell us what you think. Is it better or worse than any of Avey Tare's solo outings or of Animal Collective's? Do you feel the eccentricites of Portner's personality through the music or lyrics he creates? Is it self-indulgent?
Avey Tare - "Laughing Hieroglyphic"
PJ Harvey has always gone out with class, whether it's the magical gathering of alternative and indie rock on Rid of Me or the versatility of Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. You can always expect hearing something from her and feeling a sense of purpose, as if the way she writes or sings or strums was just meant to be. She may not always have the perfect balance of musicality with her lyrics, but you can always depend on having an experience with it. Her latest LP, Let England Shake, is perhaps her best effort in a while, consisting of songs that plant her alternative stylings back with new newer, bolder punches. "Written on the Forehead" is just a great example of the work she puts into this album, gracefully singing "Let it burn!" with her usually fantastic rock sensibilities. If you ever felt the need to take it slow with a message that defines you, take that moment and listen to PJ Harvey.
PJ Harvey - "Written on the Forehead"