Review – Rhetoric – Go to Hell Duke Vol. 1 Friday, Feb 19 2010 

Rhetorc

Damn, he’s the man. I don’t think I’ve seen too many rappers with the work ethic of newcomer Rhetoric. Without a penny to his name, this Chapel Hill hip-hoppster is looking to found an empire. He refers to his future kingdom as Heel Hop, and Go to Hell Duke Vol. 1 is the first rebel yell of this new movement. This mixtape has confident boastfulness sharing a tracklist with almost self-deprecating honesty, songs about hoes only a few spaces above freestyles about summer days and girlfriends. It sounds like a mess, and it kind of is, but it strangely works, at least most of the time.

Let’s get down to the meat of it. Where Rhetoric shines here is where he seems the least aware of it. Sure, there’s decent rhymes and storytelling in tracks like “Greatness,” and lifting beats from popular songs is typical mixtape fanfare, which is why it makes sense for “Tarheel Wow” and “You’re a Jerk (hoemix)” to be here, but all that stuff seems too deliberate. Rhetoric seems to accidentally stumble upon the best parts of the mixtape. The “Wingman For Life Freestyle” doesn’t seem like something most aspiring hip-hop kings would put out, and when was the last time you heard a rapper references farts, getting head in the drive-thru, and The Church of Latter Day Saints all in one track like Rhetoric does in “Let’s Spar?” Moments like these mix Rhetoric’s natural rhyming ability with the type of originality and freshness that could keep people coming back for more. It’s clear he’s just getting a footing on his swag, but when he steps onto the right things, it’s awesome. But of course, he doesn’t always, so we get tracks like “Hear Us Out” and “The Origin of Morgan,” which come out feeling superfluous and undercooked.

When Rhetoric doesn’t waste words or moments, the results can be thrilling. It’s hard not to believe him when he tells us he’s the man on the mixtape’s opening track, because he never lets up on his assault on the beat. The same goes for “Triumph.” When the beats are big, Rhetoric is bigger. When the music is more sparse, Rhetoric gets more light-hearted, like on the aforementioned “Let’s Spar.” It’s a musical sensibility that is noticed, if only subtly. He seems to know the rules of the game. Now, all he’s got to do is find the best ways to throw them out the window.

Go to Hell Duke Vol. 1 is Rhetoric. There isn’t anyone in the game quite like him. This scatter-brained, confident, silly, completely and totally genuine debut sets Rhetoric apart from a lot of the other hip-hop you’ll hear this year. From rapping about farts and being a good ass wingman, to urging his future dominance of the game, every word that comes out of Rhetoric’s mouth is infectiously natural. There are still steps to be taken, but Vol. 1 is a strong first step. Yeah, the “white rapper” thing may cause some people to either completely ignore Rhetoric, or to listen to him expecting Eminem or Asher Roth, and then completely ignore him afterward. So let’s get this out of the way: Rhetoric is not anyone’s copycat, nor is he a novelty. Rhetoric is Rhetoric. And Rhetoric’s legit.

Oh, and “Heel Hop” is the best fucking track on the mixtape.

Overall score: 7.1/10

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Recommendation – Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch Wednesday, Jan 13 2010 

I know I’m late to the party on this, but DAMN, is Regina Spektor amazing. I’ve recently been perusing her discography, and there’s nothing I seem to enjoy more than her 2004 album Soviet Kitsch. I don’t know what’s regularly considered her best album, or what I’m SUPPOSED to be falling head-over-heels for, but I’ve fallen completely in love with this.

From the tenderness of “Carbon Monoxide” to the fury of “Your Honor,” Spektor here shows so many sides of her piano-based anti-folk songwriting genius. She alludes to Fitzgerald and Hemingway in “Poor Little Rich Boy,” and it feels almost like an afterthought, it’s so casual. But it’s all delivered so deliberately. It’s brilliance in the same vein as Ben Folds (though Spektor has a very different style, if the comparison still makes sense).

She’s incredible, but in particular on Soviet Kitsch. The whole album is addictive. It’s beautiful, it’s nasty, it’s powerful, it’s light and fun. I’m honestly completely taken aback by this. Again, I know I’m late to the party, but get this now.

Recommendation – Drought – Demo 2010 Thursday, Jan 7 2010 

The 90s are alive and well.

I’m not talking about Soundgarden’s impending reunion shows after 12 years of inactivity, nor am I talking about Brand New’s bastardization of In Utero with their most recent full-length, Daisy. No, I’m talking about what may very well be the first great release of the new decade.

Texas based rock band Drought has released a self-recorded tape demo, which can be streamed and downloaded for free here. Downloads are available in mp3, FLAC, and a variety of other formats for all the audiophiles out there. Lyrics can also be viewed on the page.

This demo sounds great. The noisy feedback and bluesy guitars ebb and flow under a captivating hiss familiar to anyone who remembers the cassette tapes of fifteen years ago. The opening plucks of “Sacrament pt. I” are reminiscent of Nirvana in the best way possible. If you grew up on any of the great alternative rock classics of the 90s, I highly recommend that you give this band a listen.

-Tim

Recommendation – Tortoise – TNT Sunday, Dec 27 2009 

Tortoise TNTI’m starting the think the late 90’s were the absolute best time for music. Just when obscure music was becoming more popular and just before downloading killed the radio, a wealth of alternative bands were able to thrive in a climate where “alternative” still meant something. Out of that period, we get such landmark recordings as OK Computer, Pinkerton, and my favorite album of all time, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Still, these three albums are heavily based around the guitar, a mode of expression that can be brilliant, but I personally find to be overdone at times. Yeah, that statement is a little outlandish, but with the infinite amount of sounds and instruments available (and with modern technology putting them within a .rar’s reach of anyone who can find a torrent of Reason), I find it easy to get bored with albums that rely heavily on any singular instrument. Again, this is just my personal preference. I am in no way implying that The Sunset Tree is any less great of a record just because of the fact that John Darnielle relies heavily on guitar and bass.

That being said, I’ve been listening to Tortoise’s 1998 album TNT for almost twenty hours straight. Finding it’s basis somewhere between acoustic instruments and electronic experimentation, TNT represents the alternative to the alternative, if you will, an album ahead of its time by about three to five years (depending on whether or not you believe Radiohead invented post-rock on Kid A). Running at about an hour in length, Tortoise delivered a record that sprawled across indie-rock, post-rock, jazz, and IDM, yet somehow maintained a consistency that many of the supposed “landmark” alternative rock albums just don’t have (*cough* Nevermind *cough). TNT isn’t so much a collection of songs as it is a collage of sounds, a concise, genre-defying work that succeeds even where it shouldn’t. It’s hard to tell where one song ends and the next begins, but not in a bad way. The songs flow into one another seamlessly, never blinking but always focused.

Tortoise just finished a tour of the midwestern U.S. as well as Europe, so the band is still going strong. Check out TNT and find out why.

-Dion

Recommendation – The Weakerthans Tuesday, Dec 22 2009 

At least in Pennsylvania, where I am, there is almost two feet of snow in the ground, which makes me want to curl up with a good book, a snifter of cognac, and, of course, some solid winter tunes. I’ve been listening to a few bands pretty consistently this holiday season, but one stands out among them as my favorite: The Weakerthans.

The Weakerthans

No wonder he hates Winnipeg so much--too many pine trees

The band, fronted by Winnipeg’s John K. Samson (who left leftist punk band Propagandhi to start a publishing company–which is the best way ever to leave any band), play a highly idiosyncratic and instantly identifiable brand of punk-pop that is both catchy and endearingly intimate. The intimacy in part comes from Samson’s impassioned, earnest vocal delivery and, perhaps even more so, from his excellent lyrics. There are some great writers to be found in contemporary music, but none that I have found so far has yet to touch Samson in terms of clarity of imagery, strength of voice, and overall cohesiveness. It seems imprudent to recommend a band on strength of their lyrics alone, but the genius of the Weakerthans is the union of rough-around-the-edges, folk-tinged punk music and highly literate lyrical insight. Songs like “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute” (pronounced “vir-toot”) showcase the mastery of both pop and poetry. The song is written from the perspective of Samson’s cat, and provides a shockingly vivid portrait of disaffection and loneliness. I could rave on and on about Samson’s lyrics, but I’ll spare you and end with this: check this band out, if you haven’t. The Weakerthans are in heavy rotation in my winter playlist, and though they haven’t released an album since 2007’s Reunion Tour, they are a band to watch in the future. Hopefully 2010 yields a new release from them.

Like what you hear? Craving more than these four albums? John Samson released the first in a series of 7″s, entitled City Route 85, on November 3, a song from which can be heard here. Be sure to give this band your attention and keep an ear to the cold, frosted Canadian ground as we move into a new year. Hopefully The Weakerthans will grace us with album #5 by this time next year.

Listen/watch: http://www.theweakerthans.org/audiovisual/ and http://www.myspace.com/theweakerthans

– David

Recommendation – Katie Tate Sunday, Dec 20 2009 

“I hope this song starts a craze / the kind of song that ignites the airwaves / the kind of song that makes people glad to be where they are with whoever they’re there with.”

Jesse Lacey

There’s something about music that defines our lives perfectly. We love singing loud and out of key with our closest friends in our cars and at our bonfires, and hearing these songs years later brings us back to that exact moment with amazing clarity.

Every day, songs like this happen to Katie Tate. So, she puts these songs to her voice and guitar (or piano) and records them. She then uploads these songs onto MySpace for our listening pleasure.

Yeah, that’s pretty much all I have to say. I’d go on and write some really profound, verbose plug, but that’d be lame. No need to practice for my future of Journalism with this entry. Her songs speak for themselves. If you want to hear totally rad songs about mewithoutYou, boys, and hair, listen and have a good time. If not, I take it you have a very boring, miserable life.

-Tim.

Good things come from New Jersey Thursday, Dec 17 2009 

Mike "The Situation" from MTV's Jersey Shore.

I’m totally kidding. The Situation isn’t even from New Jersey. That show is extremely entertaining however. This is all erroneous. Or is it?

What I would like to talk about, however, is the state of New Jersey’s music scene. Now, just to be forewarned, I haven’t done my research, and this is merely for recommendations.

Now, when it comes to the “scene”, the three most recognizable bands from my great state of NJ are The Early November, Hidden In Plain View, and My Chemical Romance. Both Hidden In Plain View and My Chemical Romance are from North Jersey, and most South Jersians, like myself, tend to be biased against North Jersey (see: MTV’s Jersey Shore). While My Chemical Romance is still doing their thing, writing new music after 2006’s concept, The Black Parade, it seems for the time being that they have dropped off the map (however, I am excited for whatever they release in the near future). It also doesn’t help North Jersey’s cause that Hidden In Plain View broke up in 2007 . The Northern Jersey music scene has seemingly fizzled away into nothingness.

So what became of the South Jersey music scene? In May of 2007, legendary pop-punk emo band the Early November decided to call it a day. Amidst reunion rumors, lead singer Ace Enders has tried to stay relevant by releasing his solo albums, including I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business, The Secret Wars, and 2009’s When I Hit The Ground. These albums, and Ace himself, have seen moderate success, yet South Jersey hasn’t felt the same impact from Ace’s solo stuff compared to The Early November. So, in the two years since The Early November’s departure, who has answered the calls to save South Jersey? For me, two bands come to mind.

Awesomeness in a 3 song EP

In my honest opinion, Man Overboard is the best band to come out of South Jersey in the wake of TEN’s break up. They’re what pop punk should be; intelligent, and catchy as fuck. “Love Your Friends, Die Laughing”, which is found on their Hung Up On Nothing EP, is South Jersey’s equivalent to Brand New’s “Soco Amaretto Lime”. They’re currently on tour after releasing a 7″ split with Transit. I recommend that you readers start listening to this band, because I predict that they’re gonna be big.

Now, time for me to unveil my master plan for this blog post. I would like to introduce everyone to a band that holds a very special place in my heart. If I could have your undivided attention, may I present to you, my band: Hand Me Down Buick.

That kid with the glasses is soo handsome.

After 2007’s The Greater The Risk, which was produced by John Naclerio (who produced My Chemical Romance), mixed by Rob Freeman (guitarist of Hidden In Plain View (omg, this post just came around full circle!)), and mastered by the guy from The Ataris, whose name escapes me, Hand Me Down Buick went on a short hiatus, which was due in part of three of the members leaving. This left Kenny (center) and James (farthest right) looking for new members to continue the Hand Me Down Buick legacy. Answering those calls were Frank Sacco (far left) and Erik Grasso (next to Frank), who both happen to be Hammonton natives, aka, The Early November’s hometown. Oh, the parallels don’t stop there, kids. Frank is good friends with the members of Man Overboard. Anyway, also answering the calls were keyboardist Holly Capozzoli, and drummer Max D’Aulerio (yours truly). We wrote new songs, and decided to record with John Naclerio, and our four songs can be found here. It makes me proud to be a part of this band. I’m extremely happy with how things turned out, how they’re going, and the reaction so far. Tim Hardie and David Pritchard, who are now co-writers for this blog, are both very critical of music. Tim loves the songs, and David said they weren’t bad (and when you get to know David, and his musical tastes, you’ll recognize that “not bad” is actually a huge compliment). So, readers of The Decomposed Blog, I wanna know your thoughts. Listen to the songs, and leave feedback. If you love it, awesome! If you didn’t, hey, that’s ok! I value all of your opinions highly.

So, to reiterate everything… North Jersey is quickly becoming irrelevant. The guido infestation is invading the music. South Jersey is making up for it. I’m in a band. The end.

-Max

Admit it: We’re all in love with Angel Deradoorian Wednesday, Dec 9 2009 

Deradoorian

Shamelessly downloaded from MySpace.com

Anyone who denies it is simply a liar. Dreamy eyes, elegant figure, a 1950’s like charm, and a facial structure that would make a stampede of kittens go “Awwww.” To top things off, she released one of the most surprisingly good,  most tragically overlooked EP’s of the year. She’s Angel Deradoorian and her EP is called Mind Raft and you just fell in love, didn’t ya?

Let me give you a little background: Angel Deradoorian resides in Brooklyn, New York. You might recognize her voice from a nifty little band called Dirty Projectors who undoubtedly released the best record of the year (more on that in a future post). She’s one of three female vocalists who provide the flawless clap-on clap-off harmonies on Bitte Orca, freeing main songwriter Dave Longstreth to go absolutely apeshit on the arrangements and lead guitar lines, like some kind of hipster version of Led Zeppelin. It gives the whole band this really weird post-pop feel, while maintaining some presence of modern day R&B.

But what Deradoorian does in her project is different. Instead of going for the eclectic “impressive for the sake of impressive” arrangements that catapulted Dirty Projectors to hipster superstardome earlier this year, she opts for more skeletal, electronic based production, letting her voice do all the work; and what a beautiful voice it is. Deradoorian takes the kind of croon typically reserved for smoke-filled piano clubs in the 1920’s and transfers it effortlessly to 21st century music.

Did I mention she’s gorgeous?

Do yourself a favor; go out and get Mind Raft. RIYL: Radiohead, Dirty Projectors, bleep bloop blip, female voices over meticulous electronic beats.

Recommendation – “Hearing Damage” by Thom Yorke Saturday, Nov 21 2009 

Thom Yorke

Making Twilight movies cool since... the first Twilight movie.

I’m going to request that you do something that may be difficult for many; I need you to put away all your preconceived notions about Twilight. Yes, I know it is our sacred duty as Bohemians to hate anything and everything popular (I’m being sarcastic, which is very Bohemian of me) but how many of us can honestly say we’ve even given the Twilight books a chance? I can. And they suck, but that’s not the point. If there’s one thing that can make a Bohemian change their stance on something, it’s Radiohead. Therefore, I recommend you check on Thom Yorke’s track from the New Moon soundtrack.

“Hearing Damage” may sound pretty sophisticated and dense to some, but Radiohead fans know that this is actually pretty simplistic music for Thom. A pulsing backbeat and a programmed drum sample are pretty much all that drive the music. However, Thom’s voice and killer sense of melody paint a strikingly sincere picture of love on the cold, electronic canvas.

I, like many, was a little apprehensive when I heard Thom Yorke was not only contributing music to New Moon (as he did with the first Twilight movie), but that he had written a song specifically for the movie. I formed my lips to scream “sell out,” but just as the lyrics of “Hearing Damage” speak to an unnamed love, I will now speak to Thom: “You can do no wrong in my eyes.”

Go To Hell Duke Vol. 1 Album Art Friday, Sep 25 2009 

Go To Hell, you silly institute of higher learning!

Go To Hell, you silly institute of higher learning!

Rhetoric

He loves Chapel-Hill, he hates Duke, and he’s about to drop one of the best mixtapes you’ve heard all year. Rhetoric is a new cat in the rap game, but I’ve been lucky to hear a few of his demos and I want you to hear it here first; he’s one of the big things in rap to look out for next year. Also, how can you deny the badassitude of that album art?

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