Beauty and the Best

Music Review

AGT Recommends: Japanese Wallpaper "Cocoon"

I found out about Australian artist Japanese Wallpaper last year and have been hooked ever since. He has a knack for soft, melodic rifts that make you press that “repeat” button on your iPhone. Check out his latest, Cocoon.

Bookmark and Share


Mr. Little Jeans - "Pocketknife"

Monica Birkenes
I first took note of Monica Birkenes aka Mr. Little Jeans when I heard the remix of The Rescue Song (not on this CD) in the movie “Celeste & Jesse Forever.” Birkenes has a lilting, wispy voice that is evocative of beautiful things; she sings in a way that reminds you of a modern nursery rhyme (see chorus on “Valentine” ). Her vocals are put to good use on “Pocketknife.” Several of the songs will stick with you long after you get out of the car. But there’s also a superficial element to this music that may limit repeat listens. Want to hear a real guitar or snare drum? Good luck, because it feels to me like most of this album was created on a synthesizer or computer.

Mr. Little Jeans put some of these songs out as singles long before this CD was released, so for those who have been following her only 50% of this album feels truly new. With that said, the songs that caught my attention are as follows: “Good Mistake,” “Haunted,” “Mercy” (reprisal in track 13 is best), “Valentine,” and “Heaven Sent.” Of the songs previously released, I forgot how good “Runaway” is. I’m not crazy about the original release of Rescue Song, but the RAC remix remains my all time favorite Mr. Little Jeans song.

Bottom line: Strong Recommend! There’s a lot of hooky, original sounding music here.

Bookmark and Share


New Mr Little Jeans - "Good Mistake"

Ever since I heard “The Rescue Song" in Celeste & Jesse Forever I’ve been a fan of Mr Little Jeans aka Monica Birkenes. And it appears that I’m one of a small number. Despite melodic, catchy tunes, Mr Little Jeans just doesn’t seem to have caught on in the mainstream in any significant way. Of course, one of her songs was on the secondary soundtrack for Iron Man 3, so I could be wrong about that *cheese grin*

Little Jeans

Bookmark and Share


J. Cole's "Born Sinner" Is Good, But Not Great

J. Cole certainly seems to be in an enviable position in the current realm of hip-hop. He’s proven on releases like The Warm Up, his outstanding 2006 mixtape, that he has the chops to go bar for lyrical bar with some of the upper echelon rhymers in the game. Furthermore, he’s slated to release a collaborative album with rap’s favorite godson, Kendrick Lamar. And now, he shows that he has the stones to challenge Kanye West by releasing his album (which has a song boldly titled “Runaway” ) on the same day “just to show the boy’s the man now like Wanya”. So it’s not unreasonable to muse that with some good music Cole could rise to be hip-hop’s next obsession; however, despite proclaiming himself the “man,” J. Cole hasn’t really grown up much at all. He’s still rapping about the struggle of being a light skinned rapper and his obsession with fucking everything that smiles at him. Worst of all his music is, as always, so very safe. J. Cole showed the world that he’s capable of being a top tier rapper, but Born Sinner is not the incredible album J. Cole needs. It boasts only a few standout tracks, and while it’s still a better album than Cole World in every way, it has several flaws, the most glaring of which is that it continually taunts us with J. Cole’s obvious talent, but it refuses to ever display it for longer than just a few bars.

The album opens with immediate highlight “Villuminati,” sporting the best real beat on the album: a murky atmosphere layered with sharp drums and a “Juicy” sample. J. Cole “brag[s] like Hov” with some of his most cohesive rhyme schemes and effortless flow to date, and despite some left field homophobia (“Just a little joke to show you how homophobic you are /and who can blame you” ), “Villuminati” comes out as a great start to an album that slowly falls off. Lyrically, J. Cole has stepped his game up in several respects. One of his greatest liabilities in the past was that his rhyme schemes were far too basic to be interesting, and he made up for that by having exciting storytelling (“Lost Ones,” “Dollar and a Dream” ) and lively content in his raps. But on Born Sinner, his lyrics are much the opposite and his content quickly becomes tiresome. Nevertheless, J. Cole weaves his rhymes much more cleverly into his music, working them into quick and fluent flows so that they sound incredible and don’t seem as basic as they really are (the “Rich Niggaz” couplets of “I took a trip down memory lane/ And watching little Jermaine do his thang before he made a name” and “Probably kill for another claim to fame, my brain the same/ Yeah nigga, at least he ain’t insane” are examples of this) It’s these flashes of musical brilliance that give us hope, but they are so few and far between that they can’t make up for some of the poor decisions he makes. 

In terms of beat selection, for the most part they are on point. The foggy synths of “Trouble” flow through a grandiose choral sample as Cole again makes the most of his simple rhyme schemes (“Gettin’ to the Promised Land, you don’t want problems, I promise man” ). There are a few missteps in terms of beats: “She Knows,” “Chaining Day,” and “Crooked Smile” – which is the most insipid song on the album (still an empowering message) – are all monotonous beats. But the worst decision J. Cole made was choosing to use the classic
Outkast and A Tribe Called Quest beats of “Da Art of Storytellin Pt. I” and “Electric Relaxation”; it’s cool that Jay-Z shelled out for the beats but the fundamental issue with getting these tracks is that Born Sinner isn’t a mixtape; the appeal of spitting over classic beats on a mixtape is evident: you want to showcase your skills and give listeners something that they know as the backdrop for your lyrics, but to use the beats on an official album says that you want your iteration of the song to challenge the original, and J. Cole’s songs are not even close to strong enough to even get in the ring. Essentially, J. Cole’s selection of those beats automatically means that two songs on the album are completely forgettable (furthermore, Kendrick Lamar, who doesn’t even have a verse on “Forbidden Fruit” still resonates thanks to his incredible gift for hooks). Ultimately, Born Sinner is simply a good album; there are a few standout tracks and the desire to recreate Take Care via darker tones and obsession with his sexual conquests becomes tedious after a while, but fortunately, where Cole World had an abundance of daft lines in each song (“I love it when you give me heeeeeeead, I hate it when you give me headaches” ), Born Sinner is tightened up lyrically, and when J. Cole is rapping for real (“Villuminati”, “Rich Niggaz”, “Ain’t That Some Shit”, even “Let Nas Down” despite the theme of the song being corny by nature), he gives us every reason to keep believing in him. Maybe his next album will deliver on the expectations, but Born Sinner isn’t the “real” hip-hop that everyone has been clamoring for; it’s just a great mainstream album that caters to everyone who isn’t going to buy Yeezus.

Bookmark and Share


Random Access Memories CD by Daft Punk Review


It's here! Daft Punk's highly anticipated new thirteen track album "Random Access Memories" has finally arrived. But the question I'm sure you're all asking is: “is it worth my time?" Well, luckily we here at All Good Things make it our business to help you answer just that. We have listened to the new CD in its entirety and now, for your convenience, we have prepared a track by track breakdown of the whole album so you can hopefully better decide whether "Random Access Memories" is for you.

1. Give Life Back To Music
Setting the tone of the album early on is this nu-disco track that, while not pushing any boundaries, is pleasant enough and has some energy behind it. 

2. Game of Love
Slowing things down a little, this entry is one for the ladies, or at least when the ladies are around if you follow. It's smooth and has some wistful lyrics  

3. Giogrio By Moroder
Opening with a little anecdote about George's past and how important the synthesizer has been to his music making process, this one uses both modern and 70's style synthesizer sounds to move between acid jazz territory & back again.

4. Within
Continuing with the jazzy sound of of the previous track, this one is much more loungy with piano & of course again synth bending along with a simple analogue drum beat & Daft Punk's signature styled vocals over top.

5. Instant Crush [BETTER]
One of the catchier & more accessible tracks on all of "Random Access Memories".  It mixes wanky electric guitar thrown in for good measure and a hook that can easily get stuck in your head if you're not careful.

6. Lose Yourself To Dance
Taking a break from the vocoder, this track has some falsetto vocals with okay some vocoder on backup but the rest of the samples are also mostly analogue. Although almost exclusively dance tracks, if there's one track on this album I'd have pegged as its club single, this would be it.

7. Touch
This could best be described as spacey and what the inside of Daft Punk's stomach must sound like. It starts off as dissonant but builds and layers into harmonies and melodies. It's not instantly accessible like "Instant Crush" but enjoyable upon multiple listening.

8. Get Lucky [BEST]
And we're back to nu-disco. It's pleasant and also a contender for this album's big club single but there's not much more that can be said about it beyond that.

9. Beyond
Now this track is different, it begins with sweeping orchestral music before moving into a funky jam with slide guitar of all things. I've heard people mix urban and country sounds before and it works again here.

10. Motherboard
If you're expecting this one to be really lo-fi, think again. This does use some of that but mostly its sound is built around acoustic guitar, violin, flutes and a subtly tribal drum beat for an ambient, instrumental experience which I always enjoy.

11. Fragments of Time
Again this has an almost country sound to it but now its mixed with adult contemporary. If you were looking for a tune to introduce your mom or dad to Daft Punk with, this would be the one.

12. Doin' It Right (feat Panda Bear) [BESTEST]
This I like. It's low fi, has phat bass & blends that with a sense of new wave. It sounds like a mash-up more than anything and I am a sucker for a good mash-up.

13. Contact [BETTER]
After so many four-four drum loops in this album, "Random Access Memories" closes with a refreshing & envigorating break beat through a traditional drum set with a wall of noise that builds to a crescendo before drifting off.

As you can see from the notes in brackets, if I to pick out personal favorites they would be "Instant Crush" & "Contact" but most of all "Doin' It Right.” Overall, "Random Access Memories" is a laid back collection of
nu-disco with a bit of an electronic and jazzy edge and a lot of vocorder. If you're a fan of any of these sounds or genres, then this album would definitely be worth your time and it is available now through all your traditional music outlets, as a whole or by piecemeal if you prefer. 

Bookmark and Share


Tabria Reviews Kid Cudi's "Incudi"


Kid Cudi's third studio album takes listeners on a dark, psychedelic journey through the artist's psyche. Cudi is known for pushing the envelope with his music and aims to reinvent himself after each release. He took complete control of this album by essentially writing and producing the entire project, which is a feat unbeknownst to most rap/hip-hop artists. 

While Indicud hasn't won Cudi any new fans amongst critics, it certainly has warranted him respect. The focal point of this album is whether Cudi can create an entire musical project by himself. Hence, you have extended instrumentals and tracks where he may take the backseat in lyrics and focus on production. This is most apparent when he collaborates with rhymeslayer Kendrick Lamar on "Solo Dolo Part II". While Lamar brings consistent lyrical fire ("Eternity, no such thing as time will tell / Infirmary, burn like magnetic combustion / Bad credit with me, and paramedics are hustling"), Cudi produces rather uninspiring lyrics ("Searching all day in the streets for DMT / Don't sip it, though -- it couldn't answer / Drip, drip all day -- bumping' MGMT, homie"). Granted, it is difficult to hang with the likes of a superior wordsmith, such as Lamar, but Cudi could have given us a bit more substance.

One of the albums best moments comes from the lead single, "Just What I Am", which is reminiscent of various Cudi throwbacks of quirky stoner jams. King Chip delivers a solid sixteen, and the hazed party beat helps masks Cudi's deficiencies on the mic. Juxtapose this against "Unfuckwitable," and listeners can understand why the album is such a bumpy experience. A grimy beat with amateur guitar playing collides with the deliberately un-melodic singing. Cudi's got passion, but when he's calling out "Woahhhhhh!", he's terribly tone deaf, and I can't push play fast enough.

"Young Lady" is cut from the same cloth as "Erase Me," but achieves the "rock 'n' rap" feel Cudi is known for. To those who cannot stand the wailing (me), it will infuriate. This distribution is followed fairly evenly throughout the rest of the record: "Red Eye" is a melodic gem, "Solo Dolo Part II" is a love/hate affair, and the hook on "Girls" should have never happened--actually the entire song could have been cut. Too $hort is damn near 50--definitely too old for all that; however, there are solid features from Lamar, A$AP Rocky, the RZA, and King Chip which makes for a strong guest list that oftentimes masks Cudi's deficiencies. 

Though Indicud isn't the best we've received from Kid Cudi, it definitely shows that he's trying to cultivate and hone is sound. We have to reward him for his boldness because there are since great moments on the album. Though this wasn't a personal favorite, I can appreciate the fact that Cudi was trying to create an original, fresh, and unique album without the creative constraints of a label.

Bookmark and Share


Review - Phoenix's "Bankrupt!" - Bourgeois!

For those of you longing to hear Phoenix's signature style after their extended absence, you will not be disappointed with "Bankrupt." While not as consistent as "Wolfgang Amadeus" (maybe their most consistent CD) or "United," this album has some good stuff. For example, you can easily listen to Bourgeois - the best song on the CD in my opinion - 50 times the first time you hear it and not get tired it. It's quintessential Phoenix. Nevertheless, I found myself having to chase the catchy hooks a little more this time around. It's a somewhat noisy outing with songs that contain some very interesting melodies and sounds, but they are often interspersed with other things that are not so interesting. For instance, at least two songs on the album - Entertainment and Trying to be Cool - are fantastic in the first 2/3s, but have finishes that don’t measure up to the rest of the song.The Real Thing is strong, with its addictive drum beat, evocative of Prince circa "When Doves Fly.” There is a strange Asian influence with these songs. I say strange because it's not true music from the Orient, but rather those cliched sounds we heard on 80's songs like The Vapors "Turning Japanese." And that's what it is - a reference to those type of pop songs.

Anyway, when you get to 1:13 in The Real Thing or 1:53 on Entertainment my qualms with an otherwise excellent CD will quickly disappear from your memory. This album gets a definite thumbs up from AGT.

Background: Phoenix is a French alternative rock band from Versailles, France, consisting of Thomas Mars (vocals), Deck d’Arcy (bass), Laurent Brancowitz (guitars) and Christian Mazzalai (guitars). In this author’s opinion, their best songs of all time are (not in order): 1) If I Ever Feel Better (I literally listened to this song for a year straight every time I got in my car), 2) Too Young, 3) Consolation Prizes, 4) Rally, 5) Lisztomania, 6) 1901, 7) Everything is Everything.

Bookmark and Share


Toro Y Moi's New Album "Anything In Return" Review


"Anything in Return" by Toro Y Moi is good, it's really good. This album mixes in a bit of an R&B vibe, not as much as the Hodgy Beats remix of its track "So Many Details" which we covered here before at AllGoodThings but it still adds some soul into the mix. It's not too far removed from the 80s synth pop sound of chillwave which he pioneered but somehow it makes these tracks poppier than his previous work. That's not necessarily a bad thing because it also makes everything catchy and accessible.

It's not something you will ever hear playing in the club but it's still something you'll be playing everywhere else and something you'll be playing on repeat. As I've mentioned before, I appreciate the rare opportunity these days when I can enjoy an album as a whole instead of just a couple singles buried in filler and "Anything in Return" is enjoyable from beginning to end. So if you would like to hear what I'm talking about for yourselves then it officially releases January 22, 2013 via 
carpark records but you can freely stream it right now via pitchfork, right here.

P.S. The first track, “Harm in Change,” is really good.

Bookmark and Share


Method Man/Freddie Gibbs/Streetlife - Built For This Review

From the soundtrack for the upcoming kung fu flick
The Man with the Iron Fists comes this funky new track by Streetlife, Freddie Gibbs and Method Man. I know what you're thinking "a member of the Wu Tang Clan collaborating on an Asian themed project?" It's unprecedented, yes, but hear me out. They're really good at it.

"Built For This" combines the sounds of both eastern and western live instrumentals with the gritty lyrics these artists are known for, turning it into another great tune that just makes you want to pull your arms in and start bobbing your head.

The video splices in clips of the movie along with clips of Method, Gibbs & Street doing what they do best. So check it out and if you like what you see/hear then be sure to watch out for other tracks from the official soundtrack being produced by fellow Wu Tang alumni the RZA, as well as the movie itself being released to theaters on November 2, 2012.

Bookmark and Share

Site logo