Thursday, January 6, 2005
Encore | Aftermath Records
It’s no surprise that Encore is already sitting at number one on the charts—whatever Eminem has to say, it seems that a lot of people are always willing to listen. It’s fortunate, therefore, that the topics he’s talking about these days have a little moreconsciousness.
At 32 years, Marshall Mathers might just be ready to grow up—talking politics on “Mosh,” singing to his daughter in “Mockingbird,” reflecting (responsibly) on his public feuds in “Like Toy Soldiers,” and apologizing for an old racial slur with “Yellow Brick Road.” This is Eminem showing restraint, responsibility and maturity, which might seem a bit highbrow, and so we’re also given “Big Weenie,” “Puke,” and “Ass Like That,” displaying the prankish, obnoxious irrationality of his early days. And, of course, there’s always some beef to be had, and Michael Jackson makes the easy target: getting mocked in the first single “Just Lose It.” But that’s all to motivate people to buy his albums, and let’s face it: Em’s not just a mouthpiece; he’s also a record-mover. (BS)
Skankin’ Cali Style | Represent Music
Dub, dancehall, ska, raga—any flavor of reggae you want, this wonderful sampler has it all. Skankin’ Cali Style features reggae-influenced music from Monterey Bay and beyond, compiled by Salinas’ own Jason Hobbs. With 20 tracks from 20 different bands, it’s a great introduction to some of the great reggae coming straight out of our backyards.
It’s not surprising to hear a heavy concentration of latin-tinged, Sublime-esque dub styles—this is the generation that looks towards Long Beach, not Trenchtown.
But there’s a refreshing, positive energy that reveals some serious talent: Habanero’s “Beat ‘em Down,” Dub Congress’ impressive “One Life,” and Souldier of Fortune’s “Payaso” are all great songs. One of Many gives a good punk take on “Elated,” while Sneaky Long’s ska jumper, “Friday Night” will get you bopping right along.
The real tie that binds this project, though, isn’t just reggae. This is our music, California’s music. Where else could you hear a band named Cali Nation, singing a song called “Salinas”? (BS)
Funeral | Merge
Funeral, the first CD from Montreal’s the Arcade Fire, came out in September, and already it’s induced scores of worshipful music writers to churn out drool-slick paeans to the young sextet’s astonishing genius. Hard as it is to imagine that any band could live up to the hype, somehow this one does. One of those rare groups that conjure up a host of impossibly disparate influences (Pavement, New Order, the Velvet Underground, the Cure, the Talking Heads, the Go-Betweens, Neutral Milk Hotel) without relinquishing its originality, the Arcade Fire contains multitudes.
Built on the husband-and-wife juggernaut of co-vocalists Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the Arcade Fire harnesses guitar, piano, glockenspiel, violin, and accordion in the service of a sound that’s symphonic and raucous, sloppy and majestic, chaotic and yet fully realized. The bilingual duet “Une Année sans Lumière” (“A Year Without Light”) is melancholy and hopeful. The darkly gorgeous “Crown of Love,” begins as a fairly conventional piano ballad, adds sweeping strings, and culminates in a relentless two-chord coda.
Over all, Funeral is one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory: soul-scorching redemption in 48 minutes. (RSS)