Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Know You Got (blue-eyed) Soul

Just in time to comply with rob's plea for content, I got two new blue-eyed soul albums. This is right in my wheelhouse (as opposed to this wheelhouse, which has been celebrating the Tribe's football playoff appearance for almost a year now). Reviews are in order.

Mayer Hawthorne's new album, "How Do You Do," is a bit more diverse than his first one. This isn't always a good thing. A few tracks are typical MH, neo-vintage soul with clever lyrics and toe-tapping tunes. Like "The Walk":



As you can tell from the production quality of this video, MH left Stone's Throw and signed with Universal, so now he has some serious money behind him to pimp his ride.

Other songs, like "A Long Time," sound like Steely Dan. Others, like "Stick Around," sound like The Foundations. "Henny & Gingerale" (which may be good for Igor's hangovers) sounds like Marvin Gaye. Still others, like "No Strings," sound downright modern.

The only clunker on the album is "Can't Stop," featuring Snoop Dogg. The track suffers from all the problems of current popular hiphop -- the music is plodding, simplistic, and hamfistedly unsuccessfully dramatic. The lyrics have the same issues. In contrast with MH's usual playfully smart flow, "Can't Stop" actually features the line "let me hit it from behind." Someone needs to tell Snoop that Biggie said that shit 17 years ago.

But I can't get too mad at Mayer. I know this is a stretch, but if I were to put myself in the shoes of a thirty-something white guy named Andrew who grew up listening to hiphop and Motown and who rocks chunky tortoiseshell glasses and a stodgy 1950's haircut, I would be completely blown away to have Snoop Dogg on my album and I'd let him do whatever the hell he wanted. Again, this is a stretch for me, but that's my hunch.

I suspect that MH knows that "Can't Stop" sucks because the next song, "Dreaming," is brilliant. As I listen to the intro I expect to hear Nat King Cole, but then it morphs into a peppy Beach Boys/"Beatles For Sale"-vintage-Beatles sounding song about, of all things, the destruction of California featuring the words "restitution" and "detrimental," perhaps in an effort to make up for the preceding "hit it from behind" embarrassment.

I like "How Do You Do". You should check it out.

Allen Stone's self-titled album is a bit more blues than soul but it's still soulful enough for purposes of this review. As I said before, Stone sounds vaguely like Stevie Wonder. This is unfortunate for him, a bit of a blessing and a curse. Here's why.

Jay Kay sounds a bit like Stevie Wonder, and this is good for him because Jamiroquai made decent music.

Eddie Murphy can sing like Stevie Wonder. But when Eddie tried to make music all he could muster was "Party All The Time".

Allen Stone falls somewhere between Jay Kay and Eddie. The net result is a forced/contrived album with about as much depth as something from Maroon 5.

I really wanted to like this album. I want to root for a dude who can simultaneously look this goofy while making these fantastic sounds:



But in the end I'm just not feeling it. Maybe a better producer could get more out of Allen Stone. And yes, those are my grandmother's glasses.

As a coda, I'd like to encourage everyone to revisit Amy Winehouse's (slim) discography. Until she died I never realized how important she was (and still is) with the 24-to-30-year-old set. I first heard about her on various music blogs and listened to a track or two but never bought an album. Then zsister gave me both albums and told me I had to listen to them. This is huge because zsister doesn't listen to music. I guess people her age grew up listening to girl power acts like the Spice Girls and Britney Spears and at some point they realized that this music is bogus and then found Amy Winehouse who could back up all the swagger and bravado that goes with girl power. And they could tell their parents that they were listening to a "real musician" and their parents would agree. I developed a little bit of a mancrush on her based on the picture of her CD collection on the liner notes to "Frank." She made two excellent albums that deserve another listen. Ghostface would agree.



*** SPECIAL BONUS REVIEW ***

FOG:TB Squeaky suggested that I listen to the new We Were Promised Jetpacks album, "In the Pit of the Stomach". The buzzy RS preview is accurate -- it's good. Sometimes it sounds (musically, not vocally) like Franz Ferdinand, other times like Death Cab For Cutie, still other times like Alice in Chains or Neurosonic. All these different sounds are unified by a complex percussion section (I can't imagine they have just one guy hitting all those drums) and the lead singer's unique voice. Every song feels like a surging wave of sound and angst. You should give it a spin.

20 comments:

T.J. said...

I guess I need to start listening to some of the music you guys post...

Danimal said...

pretttteee good z.
ya think mh is as stoked to have snoop on the album or that babalicious chick in his video? close call.

Squeaky said...

Just say this was coming out. http://goo.gl/tAeEU Actually psyched to see this flick.

Hint:Everyday is sunshine.

And saw them at the Boathouse with Primus. One of the best shows I've ever seen.

TR said...

Second the call on We Were Promised Jetpacks. The fine folks at pandora.com turned me on to that band. Strong to quite strong group of musicians.

rob said...

is it technically a mancrush if the crush is on a woman? can we get a ruling here?

Dave said...

i will listen to "we were promised jetpacks" simply for their name, which is stupendous.

zman said...

There should be a law banning televising Rex Ryan in hd.

Igor said...

For those of us in a vasovagal mood, check out the latest works by Feist or Zola Jesus.

We Were Promised Jetpacks is pretty good as well.

Yes, please, on the Fishbone documentary. Saw them as recently as 5 or 6 years ago at JazzFest and they were still bringing it.

Danimal said...

If I had a meaningful conversation every time I ran into building cleaning guy while leaving men's room at 8.am.....we'd be like best buds. I wonder if I will someday regret this.

TR said...

That Allen Stone song is terrible. I wonder if the "Hanson Brothers meets Jason Mewes" look is working for him with the ladies.

zman said...

This is the second worst thing I've ever seen, trumped only by TR's pledge auction performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKro8h5_688

TR said...

I hope he bought her a sandwich after the proposal. And a nose job.

Danimal said...

no you dih'n

zman said...

This is actually worse than that proposal video. David Brown is spinning in his grave.

http://www.astonmartin.com/cars/cygnet

zman said...

Doesn't it seem geographically odd for Boise State to compete in the Big East?

Danimal said...

meant to provide this yesterday...not very timely of me.

Definition of VASOVAGAL

: relating to, involving, or caused by action of the vagus nerve on blood vessel dilation and heart rate

and i assume everyone here is familiar w/the vagus nerve. on with your day.

yes zman. unless there is a big east conference in hawaii we don't know about. or alaksa.

zman said...

I got bass for your vasovagus.

Danimal said...

Vaso Vegas - pretty cool band name if I do say so myself.

TR said...

The members of Nashville Pussy are not impressed.

Tim "Colombia" Watson said...

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