Josh Davis (DJ Shadow) has long been credited as the godfather of experimental instrumental hip-hop, starting with his groundbreaking classic debut Entroducing…. I have always admired and mainly enjoyed his music, but I have never been as big of fan as some people. His new album, The Outsider, takes out of instrumental aspect and centers itself with common hip-hop. That is not to say that the entire album is a bunch of radio friendly rap, as that is not Davis’ style. He weaves dozens of genres together to create gems of songs. One of my favorites off of the new album is ‘Erase You’, which features the relatively unknown Chris James. The continuous drum loop and dark keys create a very dark atmosphere, with James having vocals that are reminiscent to Thom Yorke or Chris Martin. The song is seven minutes long, and it maintains the chilling feel the entire way through as James’ vocals prove themselves to be a perfect fit for Davis’ production on this song in particular. ‘Seein’ Thangs’ features the entertaining David Banner, and while the genre isn’t my particular cup of tea, the song has a very nice beat and seems to be one of the strongest and most straightforward tracks on the album. While The Outsider has some clear faulty songs, I plan on giving it much more time before reaching a final opinion because Davis’ past two albums were extreme growers as well.
Boy Kill Boy are just another recent band that are jumping on the synth bandwagon. The Killers were one of the first to set the trend and bands like Boy Kill Boy continue to make it cool to like Duran Duran (well, their early material) and match up synths with guitars. Their debut, Civilian, has all the right hooks for a commercial success and are more tolerable than The Killers, though they don’t quite have enough yet to reach the universal love of hipsters AND the mainstream that bands such as Interpol and Franz Ferdinand have pulled off. Still though, most of the tracks on the album are pretty fun, particulary ‘On My Own’, ‘Six Minutes’, and ‘Civil Sin’.
Sure, it may be unoriginal to name your bands after a Smiths song, but names can only go so far. Though some were disappointed that The Ordinary Boys took a more ska route in their sophomore Brassbound, and few fun songs came out of it. ‘Rudy’s In Love’ delivers a simple ska structure with silly but desperate lyrics, while ‘Thanks To The Girl’ recalls the catchiness of their debut Over the Counter Culture while telling the tale of a man choosing a girl over his best friends. Nothing particulary new here either, but the band remains relatively solid in hopes they will revert back to the sound of their first album.
The Cardigans have quietly been releasing several great albums over the past twelve years, with last year’s Super Extra Gravity being great, despite little press recognition. ‘I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer’ was actually one of my favorite tracks from last year, and the music video that goes along with it is cool as well. The Swedish band have certainly made their mark when it comes to consistency.