Saturday, October 29, 2011

Album Review: "The Cant Resurrection" by A.M. Breakups

1. Chapter 1
The Cant Resurrection starts off with a looming, detective drama-esque instrumental with heavy piano riffs and haunting synths. A funky guitar and consistent tambourine jingle adds another layer, and in some ways, a different side to the beat, as if it had an alternate personality. The atmosphere and depth of this beat is a prime example of AM Breakups’ ability to hold his own without any vocals at all on a track.

2. Reference; Utica, NY 1951
In what is sonically a natural progression from track 1, “Reference” continues the theme of bi-polar instrumentation. The somber piano battles the upbeat, chopped up drum loop for the entirety of this beat while ambient cries streak across the backdrop.

3. Amphetamine ft. Teddy Faley
This beat gives me the feeling of being at the secret back room of a Shanghai opium den. Oh yes. Volume-wise, Teddy’s vocals take a slight backseat to AM’s instrumentation which can be expected from a producer’s album. Breakups definitely has the producing skill to get away with it, but the meticulous engineer in me wishes Teddy’s vox were up a decibel or two.
Faley’s strong suit is clearly his expansive range of emotion in his delivery. With a flow purely poetic and almost spoken word-like, Teddy proves you don’t need to overcomplicate your rhymes in order to have lyrical depth. Also, his engineering style in itself is used as a tool to further the meaning in his words. “I bought a drink for every person in that bar, but said I wasn’t going nowhere, and I wasn’t going nowhere far”. My favorite line in this track is: “There’s no point in a staring contest won by anyone not paying mind”.

4. Dreams ft. V8 & Eleven
“Dreams” starts off in an instant with the ramblings of V8 which can be perceived as either complete insanity or pure, uncut genius depending on the listener. One major gripe I have with V8’s flow is that he spits incredibly fast, which would be fine if his lyrics weren’t so galactically abstract. Most of his verse sounds like pure gibberish at first listen, and it doesn’t help that his vocals are a couple decibels too low. However, you can’t deny his unique delivery and content. He’s clearly talking about SOMETHING, and convincingly too, it just may be too much for the normal mind to process.
The chorus is easier to hear, but just as difficult to understand completely. “…Bounce off of metal and stick to glue/ Imagine me for you and you for me, so happy together”. There’s no doubt it is catchy though. The mixing on this track is exceptional. I’m a fan of the sped up vocals, echoes, and other effects. Eleven comes in strong with some catchy phrases like “colossal collisions” and “spinal drip, spinal graphs, hieroglyphs”. As someone with already bad hearing, I don’t like having to pump the volume so high to figure out what these guys are saying. The beat is simply too high. I’m the first to scream for complexity in hip-hop, but this song becomes a chore to truly understand. But with a trippy, bassy beat and solid flows like these, you can fully enjoy it if you aren’t thinking too hard.

5. Quaker Interlude (God Strong Optimis)
This is an awesome interlude. It’s warped, pitched-down drawl floats you along into a particular vibration. It’s soothing, thumbs up.

6. Forms ft. Billy Woods
This track continues the cheery feel, sounding very familiar until at about minute one it’s messing with your head. AM completely shatters any assumed predictability in hip-hop production and makes it sound good. There are “off beat” segments and expected structure is thrown out the window… and it’s enthralling. Billy Woods is heavily in tune with AM’s style as you can see right away. “We used to rhyme up in the building like Good Times, hard times”. Great content and delivery. The end of the song has a great closing melody leading into outro… gongs? Whatever it is, it sounds good.

7. Dukes Up! Ft. DJ Dylemma
Fresh cuts from Dylemma and a spacey-somber beat from AM. This is good smoking music. I’m not sure where the audio clip is from at the end, but I’m guessing either Lost or BBC’s Survivors? Hmn.

8. Blackout (Another Trip Pt. 2)
Trippy synth action starts off and leads into a multi-layered drum array. Smooth guitar riffs bring in an oldschool vibe that leans nicely into the left speaker.

9. When Yr Eyes Are Closed
This one’s a ghoulish instrumental with some classic samples. Pretty straightforward.

10. Chapter 2 ft. Billy Woods & Eleven
Here is a more bombastic beat from AM with loads of different sounds hitting you from all angles. Despite its jazzy core, it definitely provides its fair share of hype, especially with Woods’ verse supporting it. Eleven approaches this joint with a more laidback flow, giving you two different tones from both lyricists.

11. Hearts
Such a great instrumental. The creepy melody and off-kilter drumwork make this a hypnotizing affair. Sparse audio samples accentuate the drums at parts.

12. Machine Gun Etiquette ft. Teddy Faley
Faley lends his spoken-word-like bravado and progressive engineering in full effect for this track. His indirect wording makes the track meaty and highly replayable. “My standstill iller than ya superman dance”. The music breaks into a weird convo… then in the effect-centric breakdown common in Faley’s music. The rhyme scheme at the end is unique and catchy.

13. Streets
Spooky and triumphant, this beat is in two different places like many of AM’s other beats on this project. It’s as if two different entities are at play here that work together to form one unifying sound. The track then twists into an outer limits mixed with mechanical dystopia type madness. Steady horns lead us through the middle of this beat as a lengthy bridge to a re-funkified continuation of the main melody. Now lustrious female vocals encompass what has become the soundtrack to a melancholy circus. The outro pulsates and vibrates interjectedly with pitched-way-the-fuck-down vox.

14. Stick To Downrockin’ ft. Bedtime9
Funky and dirty is this track, as AM dominates with a steady groove throughout half the song till a point comes where the song ODs on Robitussin. Everything slows down to a crawl and Bedtime comes in with subdued vox that trudge along with the beat. His vocals were definitely on the low side, but he spits lethargically enough so his lyrics can be made out.

15. Noah
Is a somber tune with lively drums… Paradox? That’s what AM is all about.

16. Third Neon Out ft. The Model Citizen & Eleven
Mod spits first on this classic boom bap assemblage of sounds. Mod’s vocab is on point and his content gives you a unique perspective. Rhyme scheme is tight. Eleven does a good job on the chorus, makes it catchy.

17. Perfect Science
This isn’t a beat as much as it is a sonic segue of melody.

18. Low Bombing ft. V8 & Shortrock
“You’re not invited, neither am I; same plots”. This is how this song starts, and is a fitting precursor to the conceptual and metaphorical expansiveness that follows. His stream of conscious-style flow is unheard of elsewhere. “Chickle little, I fiddle, and collect my viddles… ya goin’ home”. “Standing still, colonizing my libido into a plexis of per diem. My fantasy to get you outta here. When are we gonna leave, cuz here comes the vultures”. Yeah, not everyone will understand this. This is for people who can think outside the box. Shortrock’s contributions help make this a vortex of apparently alien thought and sound.

+ Progressive instrumentation and content
+ Multi-layered beats make for complexity which, in turn, provide extensive replayability
+ All-Star cast of emcees
+ Considerable amount of tracks make this a "bang for your buck" purchase.

- Mixing/Volume inconsistencies. Vocals were too low on a couple tracks.
- Overly abstract lyricism in some parts.

Compatibility/Appeal Rating:
Underground: 95%
Mainstream: 5%

Favorite Song: Hearts

Face Value: 9/10


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Friday, February 11, 2011

Album Review: "Brother From Another Planet" by MC Elijah Black

1. The Mystery (Intro)
Mellow sample really sets the mood for this album and Elijah’s style.

2. Arrival
The beat has a weighty bass and crisp snare with a soothing piano melody. Sci-fi imagery is entertaining. Solid chorus. “Hard to seize.. stormy sea” – slurred and ran out of breath a bit. “Kill time/hourglass/wind blew” dope segment there. “The end so close to beginning times”. His delivery could use some more personality and flavor. It’s good but could have more of an impact if it varied more.

3. Take It Back
This beat is on a mellow tone as well, but layers some grittiness on it with the key-bangin’ piano melody. Vocals could use more EQ. Liked the delivery on “sweet night incense”. The chorus is a refreshing jump in tempo from his usual flow. “Nothing is fact, all we have are opinions”. “If my mind falls off the track”, this tribute has been done before a lot but it’s well executed at least.

4. Body Rock
Nice beat, a lot happening here. Cool story being told. A lot of samples so far in the project that tie in the tracks to the overall “sci-fi soul” theme. The chorus/outro is lackluster and feels incomplete.

5. Trust (Let Go)
Opens with an authentic 90s flow and delivery. The chorus is kinda quirky, but likeable. “Calls me a joke”, subpar. Doubles are off. Nice rhyme scheme. I can appreciate that Lost Boyz reference.

6. Death On A Platter
Funny intro. “Greasiest spot in the hood”. Great concept. Pronunciation is much clearer here than in the other tracks so far. The chorus was too basic and plain. Could have had more lyrical sugar.

7. Earth Girls Are Strange
Really tight beat Elijah melds perfectly with. Tight chorus. Black builds his delivery up precisely with the melody. At around 2:30 Elijah reaches the point where he has officially sung too much. The chorus is dragging, feels like filler. Decent outro, kinda long though.

8. Space Ice Cream
Funky beat. “Spit this in circles/goes around”, could have been setup better. Catchy chorus. “One cup of that space ice cream”, haha. Very abstract content.

9. Didn’t Cha Know (Venusian Princess)
Black’s emotion and mic presence is brought up a notch here. Tight flow all over. “Can’t regret your life away”, NICE. After the chorus, it’s allllll the female vocalist who is dope... but that’s not who we’re here to see.

10. No Sun
Great topic. “That’s what I call perfect timing”, ok. Elijah is oftentimes too abstract. Drab chorus. Again, the back end of the song drags. Looping an already weak chorus for over a minute is not the look.

11. Mad Machinist
Opener is ear-catching. “These cats is ‘soul plane’”, tight. Quirky chorus, this one was decent. “They just Napoleon”, ok. Nice concept. This one could’ve used a 3rd verse.

12. So High
Takes a while to kick in that first verse. “Time flies/Time lies”, not bad; original. Time/Movie metaphor was cool. Pleasantly lighthearted tone. Another really short song.

13. No Sun pt. 2
Flow switches a plus. Heavy multisyllabic rhymes. “Part of her constellation”, tight. 2nd verse a slight step down from the first. Dope beat.

14. Beach Whale
This beat is probably the biggest departure from the feel the others have set throughout the project, but still fits when you wait for the verse to drop. “Fish out of water”, simple but well placed in a catchy rhyme scheme. “Chains on ya mind, change ya mind”, ok. The singsong adlibs add to the track.

+ Good beat selection.
+ Excellent overall concept and theme.
+ Very, very cohesive.
+ Good flow and ambitious lyrical complexity.
+ Nice lyrics, but it sounds like he's holding back.

- Pronunciation could be crisper.
- Some cases of redundancy. (Ex. We don’t have to visit Atlantis in every song)
- Cavernous gaps in song structure. Many tracks have only 1 verse and one too many tracks let the beat ride for half the song.
- For the most part, mic presence and emotion remain too low-key for my tastes.
- Elijah's singing was very hit or miss.

Compatibility/Appeal Rating:
Underground: 90%
Mainstream: 10%

Favorite Song: Mad Machinist

Face Value: 7.9/10


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