Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Making up for lost time: The 2008 also-rans Part One

Well, as I said in the last post, over the next week or so, I'm going to prattling on about some 2008 albums I've liked, but not liked enough to credit them a place in my year-end top 50 (which still needs some fine-tuning, might I add). It should just about make up for the distinct lack of posts this year, I think. On with the show...

4gotten Floor are Alex Dandi (Pintronix) and the inimitable, enigmatic Chelonis R. Jones. Anyone expecting the lush, textured, complex tech-house of Jones' solo work might be slightly disappointed by 4gotten Floor's self-titled debut, but anyone looking for a heady, breezy blend of house, disco, electro, r'n'b and pop will find a lot to love here.

4gotten Floor is easily Jones' most accessible work to-date; a fact that acts as both a blessing and a curse. It's both an easy in for those needing an introduction to Jones' mellifluous voice and cracked psyche and an all-too-sugary confection for those of us who know he's capable of much more. The likes of the coarse, lusty vamp of 'Bitch Exemplar', the emphatic house-pop of 'Pups' and the crazed electro-rock of 'Mad Love!' are as bright and strange as anything off Dislocated Genius, but fluff like 'Gossip Killed J.' and 'Delicious?' are a bit on the forgettable side.

It's an uneven record then but one that deserves more attention than it's been afforded so far, if not quite up to the high standard Jones has set himself in the past. That said, when it's good, it's a blast.

4gotten Floor - A.A.A. (Afro-American Alienation) (mp3)

4gotten Floor - Mad Love! (mp3)

I really wanted to include this in my top 50, but I just couldn't, y'know. Few albums have tickled my ears more than Welcome this year, but no matter how many times I listen to it, it never coalesces into anything more than just a collection of sketches and savvy genre exercises. James Pants is certainly a talented man and I'm sure he'll go on to make great records, but this is a showcase of a talent who isn't quite there just yet in terms of actual songwriting.
A lot of Welcome feels doodled and half-finished, despite the fact that it's one of the best-produced albums of 2008. Maybe Pants would be better served producing other people's work? Imagine what a more song-minded performer would do with a beat like 'Cosmic Rapp''s speaker-poppin' electro-hop or 'I Choose You'' s slinky disco.
What makes Welcome more frustrating too is that when Pants focuses on the songwriting a little more, like on the excellent new-wave pop of 'We're Through' or the cavernous garage-funk of 'My Girl', the album really takes off. The occasional great moment, however, doesn't cover up the fact that Welcome is one of 2008's biggest missed opportunities and try as I might, I just can't love it for what it is, but end up rueing what it could have been. Sigh.

I've wanted to love Rick Ross ever since I first heard 'Hustlin''. He's got a booming, bassy, authoritative bark that lends itself so well to crack-rap production habits and blasting out of sub-woofers, but Port Of Miami was such a massive disappointment. All one could ask of Ross is a decent throwaway drugs 'n' guns opus but his debut wasn't even that. Trilla is though, nothing more, nothing less. A lot of the album clunks and Ross is never going to be measured against his hero, Scarface in the rhyming stakes, but many of the album's pleasures come as a product of Ross' limitations.
Guests often show him up here, most notably Jay-Z on the spectacular 'Maybach Music' and both Lil' Wayne and Young Jeezy on 'Luxury Tax', two of the album's big showstoppers. The album's real high-point comes when Ross teams up with T-Pain (another performer who's never let his shortcomings get in the way of success) on the eerie, bumpin' 'The Boss'. The likes of these make up for dross like 'Money Make Me Come' and the closing, Human League-cribbing (not good, early Human League, might I add. That'd be amazing!), 'I'm Only Human' and while Trilla isn't the gangster classic that (I think) Ross is capable of, it's definitely a lean in the right direction.
Back later in the week with more of the year's nearly men (and women).

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Back by Dope Demand!

Okay, okay, it's been too long. I'm not going to proffer an excuse for my absence (though if you're looking for a scapegoat, let's blame the economical downturn. Everyone else is), but posting something, anything on this blog has been long overdue. But now I'm back. For good this time. Honest.
Anyway, my year-end lists will be starting in earnest pretty soon (December 1st, most probably), so you'll no doubt be sick of my musical opinions by the time 2009 comes knocking. Before all that though and because posts have been few and far-between this past 12 months, I'll be filling you in on some records that I thought were noteworthy, but not noteworthy enough to gain a place in my top 50 in a series of posts starting today.
Before all that though, here's a little mix for you that I threw together rather slapdash-like yesterday afternoon. It's mostly hip-hop and there are parts where I haven't even bothered to mix, but it's fun (I think), so here it is...
Hudson Mohawke - Ooops! (Wireblock/Luckyme)
The Cool Kids - Black Mags (Chocolate Industries/XL)
Dr. Octagon - Blue Flowers (Mo'Wax)
Flying Lotus - RobertaFlack (feat. Dolly) (Warp)
The Pharcyde - Passin' Me By (Hot Chip Remix) (Delicious Vinyl)
Dead Prez - Hip Hop (Epic)
Busdriver - Secret Skin (Epitaph)
John Carpenter - Assault On Precinct 13 (Main Titles) (Record Makers)
Architeq - Birds Of Prey (Tirk)
King Midas Sound - One Ting (Dabrye Remix) (Hyperdub)
Beatconductor - Real Hip Hop (Spicy)
Tha Liks - Goin' Crazy (Loud)
P. Diddy, Black Rob & Mark Curry - Bad Boy For Life (Bad Boy Entertainment)
Hope you like,

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