Album first impressions pt. 1

April 8, 2011

I've gotten some large influxes of music recently, posting my first impressions of eight albums I've given a listen or two. It's a pretty eclectic mix, new and old stuff. Reviews are unordered, and only qualitative ratings. Unexpectedly, Kanye's newest work is my favorite album of 2010. More to come.

James Brown - Love Power Peace (Live at the Olympia, Paris, 1971): I have a soft spot for live albums, and this has to be among the best. I don't have much exposure to funk (the closest thing being jazz fusion), but it's easy to fall in love with the layered big-band instrumentation, high energy, and evocative call-and-response segments.

LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem and LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver: I liked their most recent album This Is Happening quite a bit, so I checked out the rest of their discography. LCD Soundsystem has a pretty unique sound, rough and unvarnished singing/spoken word over some of the dirtiest bass lines and drops I've ever heard. It's easy to see why their work is such an appealing target for remixers and DJs. I'd argue that James Murphy has taken the art of repetition to perfection, surpassing even French house demigods Daft Punk. I like these two albums less than This Is Happening, but they're still going on my coding/work playlist since they're quite listenable for long periods of time.

Radiohead - King of Limbs: Disappointing. I had to come around to In Rainbows, which is now my favorite Radiohead album, but I don't think I'm going to acquire the taste of King of Limbs any time soon. It feels heavily influenced by dubstep, a genre of electronic music I'm not particularly infatuated with. I'm willing to give King of Limbs a few more listens because of brand loyalty, but it probably won't make my list of top 5 favorite Radiohead albums.

Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope: She reminds me of Feist, but with better clarity and range. I'm slowly adding female vocal music to my collection (see also: Cat Power), and this is a nice find. Where Feist has this airy, carefree feeling that permeates her music, Spektor is more raw, emotional, and pure. She also has some adorable speech impediment that makes "better" sound like "betto". Recommended.

Little Boots - Hands: I think she has mild internet fame for her videos playing a Tenori-on, and now she has an album. It's pop, which is not normally my thing, so it's a bit hard for me to judge. It's a little formulaic (expected), and reminds me of Lady Gaga, with a hip hop or alt rock feel. The autotune still grates on my ears, and is a waste of her talent. Probably won't go on my regular listening rotation, but recommended for the genre.

Robyn - Body Talk: Robyn is a Swedish pop/dance artist who turned down the recording contract that eventually went to Britney Spears. Happily, Robyn also makes much better music. I've been watching her since happening across Body Talk Pt II; 2010 saw the release of Body Talk Pt I and Body Talk Pt II as well as this most recent album, which pulls the hits from the first two Body Talk albums and adds a few new songs, forming what is effectively a "best of" compilation. Releasing three albums of new material in a year is impressive; even more impressive is the quality of each song on Body Talk. I could see any song off this album being a single. Recommended even if you don't like pop. Listen to Fembot and Indestructible.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: There's a reason this album made numerous "best of 2010" lists. It's the best fucking album of 2010. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but I actually like it more than Arcade Fire's 2010 entry, The Suburbs. I heard MBDTF's opener, and was already overwhelmed. I could go through and recommend each track on the album for a different reason, but I'll promote in particular Runaway and Blame Game. Kanye was always one of the best hip-hop producers in the business, and now he's got the rapping chops to match. Sick beats abound. I love the super smooth production, every note is polished to a glossy sheen. I'm impressed with the variety in styles. To conclude: I don't particularly like hip hop, I don't like Kanye's earlier work, I don't like Kanye the person, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is undeniably brilliant. It's a hip hop album for the ages.

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