the stereo state

everything seems so dark in here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Timbaland "Presents Shock Value"

Timbaland "Presents Shock Value" (2007)

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mp3 / vbr kbps / 98.9mb / sawrip

Label: Interscope Records
Producers: Danjahandz & Timbaland
Projected release date: 3 April 2007
Tracks: 17 (Check: Amazon)


Friday, January 19, 2007

Norah Jones "Not Too Late"

Norah Jones "Not Too Late" (2007)

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mp3 / 320kbps / 53mb

Label: Blue Note
Producer: Lee Alexander
Projected Release Date: 30 January 2007
Tracks: 13 (check: Amazon)

snorah jones records are a few of those records which dont sound like your average radio would play, but they get tonnes of commercial success. why? its easy-listening guaranteed, and that "smooth, sultry" female vocals. thats right - when all else fails, get "smooth, sultry" female vocals. and your record will sell like hotcakes marketed by the mcdonalds corporation. and just as long as you keep it less 'texan', that is - as we've learnt, from the flop 'feels like home'.

this time around, lee alexander fills in the producer's chair, yet again. - so you almost know where exactly the guitars are gonna be panned at and how the piano is gonna be mic'd up even before you hit that play button on your ipod. its almost expected arif mardin (producer, "feels like home", rip) wasnt even the execs' minds again. with the damage arif did on the previous record, this album feels like damage-control. and interestingly enough, the first single (like the "come away with me" record), again does a good job at hiding the most obvious influence throughout both this album and the previous one he did: blatant country blues.

that said, the first single "thinking about you" is penned by Wax Poetic's main man Ilhan Ersahin, and while it's brilliant, i cannot say its anything that is unexpected from a norah jones record. meh, some might call it consistency, i call it being safe. but then again, if ms jones wanted to be different, she wouldve called for teenage popstars collaborations, anyway.

with song titles like "rosie's lullaby", the album just begs to be pigeonholed. we know it: sunday afternoon cafes, single 29 year old girls' dream sex soundtrack, traditional music elitists, part of the cd collection of music graduates (they wont actually play this record, they just own a copy), depressed upper-middle class 30 year olds, math nerds... hmm, that's quite a fan base right there, the label shouldnt worry too much.

we cant blame ms jones for only being able to write bedroom / cafe songs and knowing to use the wurlitzer in only one way. some people are not multi-talented enough like that, but when she does something, you know its good. and you gotta give credit to her that she's actually had a hand in writing some of these songs, this time around. but i really dont know if she's gonna get much new recruits in the nj fan club. hardcore fans will might even say the "come away with me" record is better (and the second album sucks all around) and the grammy people will have to think really hard whether to give out one of those gramophones again to norah. decisions, desicions. if i had to draft a mini-theory from the pattern we see here, it'd be; if you go "new york", your album goes worldwide; and if you mess around in "texas" too much, your album will stay in texas. we know from there where this is heading then.

expect a rejuvenation of the term 'snorah jones' in the media in the coming weeks. here we go.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Incubus "Light Grenades"

Incubus "Light Grenades" (2006)

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mp3 / vbr kbps / 79.4mb / rnsrip thru devilived

Label: Epic/Immortal
Produced by: Brendan O'Brien
Tracks: 13 (check: Amazon)

ahh its been a while since i last heard quality songwriting from this over-compressed post-00s modern rock genre. debuted at #1 on the billboard chart at release, "light grenades" sold 192 000 units. when justin timberlake released his "futuresex/lovesounds" album, it too entered at #1 on the same US chart, but he sold 711 000 units. really, the music industry is a fucked up one, from a marketing point of view. either that or incubus should've gotten timbaland to produce instead of brendan o'brien. oh yes, i am being sarcastic.

i quite enjoy brendan o'brien's production. he sounds like a nu-metal band's dream come true. except all that expired after the release of "crow left of the murder". he certainly has a sound style of his own (i dont care the way he works, or if he's a miracle worker - those things dont show on cd), BUT if u get a producer to produce the same band for the second consecutive time within the time span of 5 years, you're bound to get "crow left of the murder part 2". it sounds to me like 98.5% out of the 192 000 people who went out to buy this incubus record on its first week of release are a fleet of 20 and 30somethings who are already incubus fans circa "morning view" and prior. and to have *that* 'security blanket' for a band might not be the best plan for any major label who would want maximum music industry impact through one cd.

einzinger did say in an interview that the album sounds like 13 different bands playing 13 different songs. he must be kiddin. i hope he is. they might dress up differently, or be high on different social drugs when they were recording different tracks on this album - BUT the tracks don't sound different from each other - well nothing you'd unexpect from post-morning view incubus anyway. to top that up, they sound like they're from the same writing/recording session as "crow left of the murder", albeit a few more drum filterings, layered vocal harmonies and a few einzinger's attempt at making the guitar not sound like a guitar - nothing out of the ordinary.

a really different incubus would be: einzinger on a midi guitar, jose on the roland td-20 and possibly on the occasional akai mpc, brandon referencing anything but nature and planets in his songwriting, the bassist playing double-bass and dj kilmore sacked. it would sound horrible, i'm sure. but it seems like the only other way to get rid of this current brendan o'brien sound.

though, whatever this current direction is caused by, as a live-incubus fan, these materials will definitely work on stage. anyone who has been to an incubus concert will know that most of their more melodic, atmospheric numbers rarely work, live. the rockin brandon-screaming-on-top-of-his-lungs ones, however, do. anyone who has been to an incubus concert will also know that the mosh pit *always* rock harder than the band members. "certain shade of green" and "pardon me" will ALWAYS be expected in that sweaty and body-crushing space that is the area in front of the stage. ahhh yes, i could almost hear my poor eardrums pop at 150db. good memories last forever.

this is not one of incubus classics. "crow left of the murder" was incubus' attempt at making themselves sound different (and they did) and now it is apparent to us that when incubus *tries* to be *different* for the second time, you get 2 similar products.

get brendan o'brien and his fancy home studio out of the way and work with trent reznor or something. that said, if anyone needs me, i will be in that mosh pit at the next incubus concert.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Husky Rescue "Country Falls"

Husky Rescue "Country Falls" (2005)

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mp3 / vbr kbps / 74.1mb / serrip

Label: Catskills Records
Producer: Marko Nyberg
Tracks: 12 (check: Amazon)

i dont think ive ever heard of a record like this. and i really mean it when i say this.

right from the opening track, the country (?!!) influence is put upfront, as if to say "yes, this is country!" in a manner that's everything but discreet. nothing new and relatively expected for those people who actually know husky rescue's story - when i first heard of the album, even before i press play, all i know about it, is that it's being pigeon-holed as folk/electronica. and 'folk-electronica' to me (right up until i heard this very record, that is) has been pretty much predictable, regardless of how avant-garde it attempts to be.

i am not a fan of country music (including its associated variants and/or blends) but producer and multi-instrumentalist extravaganza marko nyberg managed to make it almost listenable for people like me. evil - for making me enjoy it's country influences, yet effective - because i find myself wanting to hear more and more sounds, out of curiosity of how the record progresses throughout, as each track evolves into the next one. pure evil.

earlier tracks on this album tantalise you with the smooth vocal whimpers of reeta-leena korhola and emma salokoski, coupled with cliche atmospheric pads and pseudo-retro synth presets (these seems to be the only elements that qualified the record to have its 'electronica' stamp). the rest of the instrumentations, although how synthetic one might argue they actually are, are rather organic - a trait that the record struggles to maintain, but nonetheless passable enough to carry a credible sense of audio-traditionalism - the 'era before protools'.

while the rest of the current industry look up so highly upon the abovementioned near-extinct era, this record at the same time managed to bring out the oh-so-ignorant cut-and-pastiness beautifully. just enough to keep the post-modernists out there happy, while stroking their chins. brilliant: target both of the industry extremes.

in the present time where chillout / lofi is predominantly (pseudo) jazz, i could almost understand nyberg's need to do his own evolutionary part for his love of this genre, with something distinctive, if not 'distinctively him'. beautifully architected music landscapes complete with ready-for-arthouse-movies ambient sounds, subtly-evolving chord progressions, smart blends of electronic and acoustic drums, deep obviously-blues guitar influences; are all arguably rare characteristics in this style. of course, we wont include wagon christ or stereolab's (impressive) catalogue. that'd just be blasphemy.

dont get me wrong, jazz tendencies are still present in this record, but after listening to this record once over, you get a feeling of eclecticism in the album as a whole - but not for long. the tracks caress you slowly and by the second disc repeat, that very feeling starts to go away. as if subliminally brainwashing you to caress the tracks back (if you havent already) and that this record has always been familiar sounding - and it's slowly coming back to you like remembering a distant childhood memory.

nyberg's linear sequencing style makes his record addictive, unlike most modern chillout productions where ironically, minimalism is sometimes too overbearing. i think this style contributed to the cinematic mood that's present here, probably feeding mr. nyberg's perverse secret deep love for film music. making filmscoring-styled music work on a cd record is risky business: i mean, how would you create music for a mood of a particular picture, *without* actually having pictures, and still relay its original intended mood? if you ask me, the subjectivity of instrumental cd music has to be mr nyberg's biggest advocate here.

husky rescue's tracks in this album shine best with reeta-leena's performance. female vocalists always give that certain edge in chillout records. male ones? unless you're cleveland watkiss or jose gonzales, forget about it. though, vocals dont seem to get marko's utmost attention here, but this could be intended to preserve the 'lofi'-ness of this record. that said - to me, modern producers tend to have this 'biasness' towards either the instrumentations or the vocals, and it really shows - where in most cases if they are adventurous with their instrument tracking, chances are they wont be with vocals. i dont know if thats a good thing or not in modern music productions today.

this record redefined my perspective on the phrase 'cross-genre' in its contemporary sense and somehow triggered a love i never had for e-bows. weird. the production is addictive, regardless whether you think this album works or not.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mos Def "Tru3 Magic"

Mos Def "Tru3 Magic" (2006)
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mp3 / vbr kbps / h3xrip

Label: Geffen Records
Projected release date: 19 December 2006
Producers: The Neptunes, Kanye West, Rich Harrison & RJD2
Tracks: 14 (check: Amazon)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings "Naturally"

Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings "Naturally" (2005)
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rs / 192kbps / 54.9mb / slsk

Label: Daptone
Producer: Bosco Mann
Tracks: 10 (check: Amazon)

woah. funk revival 101 plus 1! forget david holmes and his pseudo (but addictive!) 60s spy-jazz riffs. this is a producer who's such in a denial that he's in the 2000s, he even dresses up like in the 50s. bosco mann knows pioneering funk and soul records. hell, he LIVES it. with an impressive cv of catalogues of this kind, i'm surprised he doesnt get contracted for retro movie remakes that we get an abundant of these days.

the dap kings are full of riff-hooks that would make any heist movie starring george clooney suddenly seem so full of credibility and true stylisations. sorry mr holmes, your filmscoring in oceans12 was brilliant, but bosco mann is such a better liar about his age when it comes to his productions. and he doesnt loop breakbeats either. respect.

of course, sharon jones's amazing heavily-motown-styled vocals and the dap kings' brilliant era-manipulation musicability adds to the effectiveness of this record, but still - who would think of NOT recording the piano with stereo mic-ing these days?! i dont think you could even get mono pianos in even software samplers anymore! bosco mann is crazy. the only things missing from this record are vinyl warps and crackles.

hard-panned melodic instruments (really!), near-mono non-confrontational drums, intentionally lack of bottom-end throughout - all contribute to this very dated sound on the record (and that's a good thing). i particularly like the non-over compressed of ms jones's vocals and the reverb treatment she's getting. the whole band apparently, is magic live. and on this record the producer just makes it scream exactly that. actually, the more i think about it, the more i feel that this record is a 180° flip of what modern music production is these days. and that's just a beautiful breath of fresh air. as much as i try to keep reminding myself while listening, that these tracks were recorded in only the last few years, i couldn't. i seriously could not.

the pattern i see these days with records like this is that, it's far much easier to make a record 'timeless' today - something that all producers (should) strife for. just make it somewhat (retro) dated, and today's ears will consider it 'timeless'. contradictory, i know, having 'dated' and 'timeless' in the same description, but music post-2000 is fucked up anyway.

from my (rather narrow) personal musical experience and exposure, the only other retro-remake of this magnitude worth mentioning is 4 hero's "les fleur" record. even that one sounds too modern for it's own good now after listening to "naturally". and this is 4 hero we're talking about here. their 60s-70s-80s funk soul record production knowledge is pristine. or so i've i thought.

mr bosco mann has done it again. he may not be jack-of-all-trades (it's something that's somewhat of an insult to a producer these days, if you're NOT a jack-of-all-trades. weird.) but at least he's a master of one. and a very skillful master at that. if i was him, i'd keep doing what i'm doin, and just wait til the next 1960s funk soul trend to make a comeback in 2012. if not, to hell with it. my name is bosco mann, and i make fucking cool music, bitch.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Clipse "Hell Hath No Fury"

Clipse "Hell Hath No Fury" (2006)
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Label: Re-up Gang / Star Trak
Projected release date: 28 November 2006
Producer: The Neptunes
Tracks: 12 (check: Amazon)

clipse hates jive. jive dont give a shit. "hell hath no fury" is now finally gettin dropped. the retail leak is here. and clipse is back. now that's outta the way lets talk about the album. clipse are good / crap lyrically etc etc (boring). you can google for an actual clipse review, coz i'm not gonna do that here. i'm goin straight to the productions on this one.

unless you've been following hiphop only through bbc news this year, you will know that this is one of the most anticipated all-neptunes-produced album in the industry in the past few days. ever since the hiphop-changing clipse/theneptunes track "grindin" a few years back, the birth and evolution of clipse and the neptunes have been on constant watch by the who's who as well as nobodies of hiphop today.

the thing about the neptunes that you have to understand first is that they have their good and bad days (albeit their production fees are relatively constant, regardless). and the subjectivity of this matter is what is driving the industry - in this case, in the direction of the neptunes, fortunately for them.

"hell hath no fury" sees the usual charmingly egoistic neptunes, with a few new mood twists (and directions?). now, the last recent work of this proportion is pharrell williams' "in my mind" record. personally, that felt to me like it's the attempt of neptunes (pharrell?) approaching near commercialism without actually having to collaborate with the more radio-friendly britney and justin - thus probably lessen the need for the productions to be commercial-compromised (too much). that said, "hell hath no fury" throws away that concept in its entirety. no easy listening here, boys and girls. not like jay-z's new one. not like snoop's new one. i get a feeling this has almost been expected in this record. "lord willin'" was not that, why should this be it. good logic.

with weird, yet signature grooves of the neptunes, like no effort at all the neptunes puts forward their darkest, most-experimental (as if the neptunes don't get 'experimental' on daily basis) hiphop beats. these are the collection of instrumentals not for the faint hearted - reserved only for within the radius of neptunes' fans, music production appreciators and beats connoisseurs, making the neptunes today indeed, the producers' producers - but nothing more. though, this very credibility, as proven throughout the years, is sufficient enough for the neptunes duo to (continue to) dictate an impressive high-end production fee charge. but then again, it's never about the money. of course.

all the necessary unquantised hi-hats, dark synth melodies and of course cheesy preset patches (bagpipe? and pseudo saxophone?! and near-generalMidi samples?!!) are present on this record, this time with more-than-the-usual-dosage of percussions come into play - an attempt that the neptunes would have to take the effort to do, but timbaland does in his sleep, but i digress.

if you look for it, you could almost hear the pre "in my mind" sounds, as well as never-heard-before neptunes in there (maybe even may never be heard again outside the clipse scope). i say this because you almost get this sense of the neptunes always seem to be using clipse records as a nuclear testing ground for their other production techniques and methods. clipse dont care, the neptunes have their own army of diehard fans.

to many producers, hiphop or outside hiphop (duran duran, dj teebee, rjd2 all are known to have mentioned their respect for that neptunes sound in various interviews), this record, like "in my mind" will surely be on their shelf along with their other music production 101 manuals of what to do, as well as what NOT to do, in the case of some tracks on this record.

i find myself having trouble classifying the productions this record as either a neptunes classic or the neptunes' bad day at the office (which i'm sure mr williams and mr hugo will choose to be oblivious to because they know how good they are - the very charm that makes that neptunes sound). nonetheless, clipse fan will love clipse, neptunes fans will love neptunes - it's the rest of the crowd that should worry the people at jive records.

as a producer, after listening to "hell hath no fury" i still cant decide if the neptunes are mad, or geniuses, or mad geniuses.