Mos Def / The Ecstatic / Downtown
The Ecstatic is the kind of album that black role models like Cliff Huxtable or Denzel’s character in Boyz N The Hood wouldn’t be afraid to throw on their turn table. The album, especially its second half, is more indebted to 70’s soul, jazz, and reggae than themes prevalent in modern hip hop – making scant references to alcohol-fueled parties and even fewer to cocaine. The album’s lyrical message is captured as well by the title as by the album cover. Be Ecstatic. Confidence, movement, and progression are touted as necessities on these tracks, but for Mos Def they’re necessities for justice and peace instead of material success. Middle-eastern and Spanish influences abound on “The Embassy” and “No Hay Nada Mas,” respectively. Despite an ambitious and hopeful goal, sometimes the flow gets sapped by half-baked and repetitive interludes like the end of “Quiet Dog Bite Hard”.
Download: “History”, “Casa Bey”
Dance Gavin Dance / Happiness / Rise
California five-piece Dance Gavin Dance is a baffling mixture of influences. Songs mix gang vocals, dance-tempo guitar riffs that are no less technical because of their quick pace, and – hardcore bellows? The result is a sort of dance-post-hardcore… for the ladies? It’s truly bizarre to hear, as on “Carl Barker,” the vocals accompanying a funky guitar lick switch from croon to wail without the guitarist seeming to notice. Happiness is definitely one for the adventurous; bring your dance shoes and your facial piercings.
Download: “NASA”, “Carl Barker”
Kasabian / West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum / Sony BMG
The modern heirs to the Brit pop throne, Kasabian, are back with an album that’s equal parts Oasis and Stone Roses. Look to “Underdog” and “Where Did All The Love Go?” if you’re looking for brash Liam Gallagher-style vocals. Turn to “Vlad the Impaler” and “Fire” if you want to hear some thumping over driven basslines ala Gary Mounfield from The Stone Roses. These comparisons are nothing new to Kasabian, who have faced them with the release of their previous two albums. A new development with this album though, has been the comparisons with The Beatles. Singer Tom Meighan definitely sounds a little like Lennon at moments, particularly on the slow rocking “Thick as Thieves.” If a combo platter of British influences makes for a unique sound then Kasabian has certainly found theirs, but, either way, they’ve put together a solid album.
Download: “Underdog”, “Thick as Thieves”
Drop Dead, Gorgeous / The Hot N’ Heavy / Universal
Is there that much to be angry about in Denver? Maybe not as much as there used to be. The latest offering from Drop Dead, Gorgeous shows a slightly softer side than previous recordings. The melodic choruses, such as the one on “Southern Lovin’ (Bell of the Ball)”, are hook-filled enough to make the generic screaming and rocking breakdowns bearable. Their sparing use of synthesizers and other technology adds some occasional flavour to otherwise forgettable sections when Danny Stillman isn’t showing off his vocal range. The Hot N’ Heavy is noteworthy for Stillman’s impressive singing, but, unfortunately, the album usually just makes you listen to him scream over the same chugga-chugga-chug riff you’ve been hearing all decade.
Download: “Southern Lovin’ (Bell of the Ball)”, “Two Birds, One Stone”