New music reviews (8/6/2010)

I’ve long since given up on keeping to my review regimen, but I’m still trying to hear as much 2010 music as I can.  Here are some reviews I’ve been sitting on for awhile, and some others that it just took me awhile to get around to.  Next week I’ll catch up on a bunch of local releases.  Ive also updated the 2010 albums list.

Reviewed below:

Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?

Big Boi – Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Best Coast – Crazy for You

M.I.A. – Maya

Meth Ghost Rae – Wu Massacre

Lights On – Here Comes the Ocean

B.o.B. – The Adventures of Bobby Ray

++ = highly recommended

+ = recommended

+/- = recommended with reservations

– = not recommended

Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?

Their “pop” album. Emeralds work surprisingly well in shorter bursts, but these tracks don’t sneak up and overwhelm like their lengthier work can. It’s pretty, but not gorgeous. Still, a decent Emeralds album is a great album by almost any other standard. If it sounds like I’m disappointed, it’s only because I think so highly of the rest of their discography up to this point. (+)

Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

I could write more about this one, but what’s the point? It’s a high profile release that’s been universally raved, and the raves are spot on. For the first couple of listens, it’s almost overwhelming how many great tracks there are. After familiarity sinks in, it’s still hard to pick favorites. (++)

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

I love love love this album, which is likely to surprise anyone who knows me personally. I think The Airing of Grievances is one of the most overrated albums of the last few years, and I didn’t enjoy them either time that I saw them touring behind that album (I’m not a masochist, they were just opening for bands I like). This album clicked with me in a big way, though. I like the earnest, literate, ambitious, punk-influenced stuff, and while Airing would seem to fit that bill as well, it didn’t have the same scope, and it definitely didn’t have these songs. “A More Perfect Union” and “The Battle of Hampton Roads” might be my favorite 21 minutes of music released this year, and it also helps that they seem thematically tailored to my interests.

Unfortunately, I saw them recently at Pitchfork and the live show still doesn’t do it for me. Sloppy in all the wrong places, and the righteous anger just seemed drained. I’ve been surprised by how many journalists and bloggers have singled them out as a festival highlight. Guess I’m back to just not getting it with this band. Still, a lackluster live show isn’t going to change my opinion of an album I would rank as one of the year’s best. They get another chance to sell me on their stage show, too – I’ll be going back for round 4 in September when they play The Earl with Free Energy. (++)

Best Coast – Crazy For You

Cleaned up enough that lo-fi doesn’t come across as a crutch or gimmick, but still far from anyone’s definition of sparkling production, Best Coast’s debut album is exactly what you would expect based on the 7”s that preceded it. She’s still singing about boys and pot through a haze that feels warm and vintage, with one or two solid hooks per song and the energy of early punk. It’s too bad the lyrics are so vapid. (+/-)

M.I.A. – Maya

The problem isn’t that this is too noisy or unlistenable, it’s that so many of the songs are a total bore. The abrasion of “Teqkilla” suits Maya better than the half-assed singing and auto-tune that drags down tracks like “Story To Be Told.” By my count, the snoozers outnumber the screechers. If the album didn’t cohere thematically (which it does, even if the themes can seem misguided and occasionally silly), it would easily pass as a collection of b-sides. It’s a strange combination of experiments that don’t quite work and filler that would normally be cut from an album like so much momentum-killing jetsam.

I’ve begun to genuinely feel bad for Maya – she’s made some great music before, and the haters have been piling on just a bit too gleefully lately. Unfortunately, you need a better album than this to get them to shut up. It’s also counterproductive to praise her for defying expectations or to give her a pass for “experimenting” when so much of this album is unchallenging and pedestrian. This is no Metal Machine Music, and it’s not a future classic. It’s hopefully just a temporary bump in the road for an artist who will go on to make more music as vital as those first two albums. (-)

Meth Ghost Rae – Wu Massacre

Looking over my 2010 albums list, I realized I never got around to reviewing this one. That’s a shame, because I like it quite a bit. It’s short, but filler-free, and better than 8 Diagrams, the last Ghost album, and damn near everything Method Man’s done outside of Tical. It’s no Cuban Linx II, but it’s a nice follow up. (+)

Lights On – Here Comes the Ocean

Lights On are from California, and they sound like it. Here Comes the Ocean has a clean sound and shiny, meticulous production that recalls contemporaries like Local Natives, The Morning Benders, and The Broken West. Unfortunately, there’s not quite enough personality here, and the high production values only contribute to a feeling of politeness that leaves most of the songs sounding forgettable and inert. Opener “It’s My Time” and first single “Red Lights Flashing” are undeniable earworms, but the rest of the album is pleasant but unmemorable new wave-tinged power-pop that sonically references everything from Television to Echo and the Bunnymen without ever finding a voice of its own. Still, those two aforementioned songs are very good, and the band definitely knows their way around the studio, so they’re worth keeping an eye on. Maybe the next album will get it together. (+/-)

B.o.B. – The Adventures of Bobby Ray

I think I said everything I have to say about this album here. (-)

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