Monday, December 19, 2005

big ups to da critical massive

blah blah blah

Wiping the harddrives means various hoops to jump through to get access to my hosting service again (long story), so while we're waiting, here's a new bit of Stylus reviews.

I've gotten myself into the position of writing for free for Stylus; mostly as an excuse to get my writing sharper, produce more blurbable work to be introduced as sample text to net freelance work (Music Mags! I'm Available! Call Now!) and also to keep me plugged into what's what on the pop airwaves. I'll be posting my weekly snarkiness here on days when I don't have a longer article together, along with corporate sponsored links where you can either hear the music or see the video and make up your own mind.

Ten Years - "Wasteland" (click on "launch music player")
The pain of the wounded middle class has so much to answer for: self-inflected cigarette burns, eyebrow piercing, the fashions of Hot Topic and "Next... on the WB..."-style tracks like this. So wrought with vapidly introspective Shelley-by-way-of-Sevendust lyrics; so predictable in their rising and falling guitar riffs; such meaning in their plaintive, echoing torment... oh, the humanity!
Alright, obviously I can't take Ten Years too seriously; but I do have to admit this track is morbidly entertaining. 'Wasteland' is catchy, well-structured and melodramatic enough to hold your interest while it's on; but skirts relevancy and further review by dint of lack of depth. I need an Amy Lee guest-vocal, a demonic vocoder chorus or something similarly and pleasantly batshit-crazy (isn't anyone doing emo-banjo solos yet?) to bust up the tedium of a well-done formula that's getting a tetch tired. Otherwise, this is nice but hardly noteworthy enough to stand out in a too crowded field.

Mary J. Blige - "Be Without You"
If anybody's earned the right to coast on sheer harmony and talent, it's Mary J, one of the few women in modern R+B with the longevity to have serenaded two generations of spurned baby mamas. Blige may have stopped growing artistically quite some time ago, but she's still plenty capable of connecting the quiet storm dots with more pinache, emotion and skill than any four bubblecrunk pretenders to the throne.
On 'Be Without You,' Mary cries a little, raps a little, channels a little Aretha and does what she does best: crafting a nth iteration inner-city-couples-only-skate-jam that wouldn't have sounded any more out of place in '94 than it will in '06. It's nothing special, but the musicbox-dancer piano, on-the-three handclaps and Mary's sweet, soulful voice make this more than kind enough to merit a listen and a lap around the roller-rink.

Cast of Rent - "Seasons of Love"
When I was in college, RENT had just hit in a big way and you couldn't escape the soundtrack at any of the theater kid parties. One night, curious as to what all the fuss was about, I isolated myself next to the stereo and forced myself to listen to the full score to find out what all the fuss was about. About an hour and a half later, I still had no idea. The audio equivalent of jazz hands, this overblown up-with-people pap is as unlistenable,soulless and calculated as anything I've heard this year. Evicted.

Nelly f/ Paul Wall & Big Gipp - "Grillz"
All three verses are reasonably clever ("where i got em? you can spot em/ on the top and the bottom./ Got a bill in my mouth like I'm Hillary Rodham") and it's about time that somebody got Gipp and Paul Wall on the same track to discuss orthodontia, but 'Grillz' is still a little disappointing. Most of the blame for that can be laid at Jermaine Dupri's not so def barely-there production, which recalls the similarly boring Neptunes single 'Flap Your Wings'. I'm not against minimalist hip pop ('Laffy Taffy' is still on heavy rotation around the house), but these guys deserve something better to rhyme over than 'Urban Preset 42', no? Anyway, I tend to prefer Nelly's "let's get freaky and fuck" anthems over his fashion statement/advertising jingles; I can't pretend to care about fronts and tennis shoes, but sex is a product even I can stand behind.

Matisyahu - "King Without a Crown"
I came for the kasha, but I'm staying for that skankin' dub: against all odds, Matisyahu's odd mix of pro-Yahweh, anti-drug Hassidic reggae is touching, sweet and eminently fun. Though Matisyahu gets his foot in the door on gimmickry, he keeps your interest getting by on skills and songwriting, not novelty; the guy can sing, he can scat and he can flat out rock the beat. Worth a listen for even the slightly curious, you may well walk away a believer.

Trace Adkins - "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"
Although nominally a stab at country/hip hop crossover, 'Badonkadonk' is more novelty Southern rock than anything else. With lyrics that suggest that yon fair maiden's keister has "got it goin' on / like Donkey Kong", a cornpone fiddle desperately competing with an electric guitar and a poorly edited video mix (replete with dubbed in pseudo-reggaeton/electro/disco beat and a ten gallon hat full of awkward white-gal ass shaking), you COULD make a case that there was some ironic enjoyment to be culled here. You'd be wrong, though. Nashville's Muzik Mafia (which this is clearly trying to rip off) make cheap throwaway pop with a country flavor that keeps its savor for a long time into the chewing. This, on the other hand, kinda sucks. Don't be fooled by cheap imitations, kids.

Don't believe me OR your own ears?
Get a second opinion.

losin' it

My thanks to those of you who sent out impassioned "we'll-get-through-it-together" emails, notes and friendly wishes when my hard drives crashed; it's appreciated. However, please note: suggesting I get an Apple is like telling a man whose boyfriend just broke up with him that he should consider dating women. Not the place, not the time.

Anyways, the data is gazonkered and effectively irretrievable. A backup from March of this year is providing mostly solid, but literally hundreds of albums and thousands of singles that I've acquired since then are gone for good. Sure, most of this is fairly easily found again (even though I generally give away discs once I have them on my hard drive, there's always slsk and the like), but the real stinger is the TIME spent putting that collection in digital format as well as the constant nagging "do-i-still-have-X?" worry burning in my head. Not knowing what comprises my music collection is a real pain.

But don't cry for me Bloggentina; life is great both professionally and personally and new music is still a constant both at work and at home (the benefits of working in a music club and living with a cute music industry hack). Yes, it's a bummer, but I'm gonna keep on truckin'. There's plenty yet to share with y'all as well; this mini-tragedy provides a perfect opportunity to go back and explore some of my older (read: "older to me") backed up music to turn folks on to. Let's see what I can find.

What I wouldn't MIND, however, would be some best of '05 mix CDs so that I can get a good look at what the year had. Since that backup took place in the START of March, the year 2005 is musically lost to me in it's entirety and I know that I at LEAST need a few best of the year discs.

Anybody care to oblige? Address on th' right.

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