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Archive for September, 2010

Like, yes!

September 30th, 2010 No comments

shad coverSomeone call the cops! Shad was robbed!

Admittedly I really like Shad. I made that clear when his last album came out. It may be cliched for a white guy who occasionally listens to independent music (re: mostly) to say he likes “conscious” rap music, but the fact that Shad’s music tends towards the cerebral is one big part of why I love that album. The same goes for Shad’s new record as well.

TSOL is a terrific progression from The Old Prince and it shows that Shad’s paying attention. He knows that music he’s been making for the last five years stands alone and he’s not venturing too far out of the arena he’s already occupying; instead he’s he’s tweaking the show only slightly while he waits for the audience to realize what he’s doing and file into the building.

The central theme to the album seems to be equal parts love and respect and a question of what and who defines those characteristics. Shad strikes a much more positive stance than on his previous album, the equally wonderful breakthrough The Old Prince. On that record he was much more down-trodden, even on the more excitable tracks like the attention-grabbing anti-bling “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home.” Despite the humourous bent of the song it was still at its heart about Shad not being able to make a living through his music, a theme revisited on other songs. “Out Of Love Pt. 2″ carried through a thread lamenting loneliness and the perceived negative impact it has had on Shad’s music.

But things have changed. Here he sounds downright ebullient, joyous, even. He’s still referencing bible verses, mentions his love of napping several times, and throws everything including the kitchen sink into his arrangements. But he seems like he’s enjoying the process more than ever.

A testament to that fact is the predominance of upbeat tracks on TSOL. Where “The Old Prince Lives At Home” was one of the only really upbeat, “banging” (I can’t believe I just wrote that) tracks on The Old Prince, TSOL boasts a few numbers that are downright rocking. Chief among them is the most rocking number and my personal favourite track, “We, Myself, And I,” one of the last songs on the record. Not only is it a highly bombastic track from a musical standpoint, it’s also lyrically ambitious (maybe even audacious?); after opening with a callback to his last record (“I don’t normally like to start verses with ‘I’ but…”) Shad offers three verses, each distinctly centering around analytical musings about himself, where he and his music fit in the world, and the current state of the world at large. The wordplay, the giant hooks, and his lyrical deftness is as impressive as ever on this track and its hard not to get swept up in his instructional chorus.

He’s also taking an inspirational stance here in more ways than one. Yes, he opens the record by referencing the bible; yes, he exclaims at one point that, “Staying true to Jesus (pronounced “Hay-zeus”) is harder than fake boobs.” But he also looks to his family for inspiration. He once again samples recordings of his parents at various points on the album and the gorgeous “A Good Name” is a tribute to his ancestry that has literally brought tears to my eyes. Shad traces his lineage to his family’s ancestral home in Africa and the larger-than-life figure his full first name is taken from while also offering his father the “mad props” he now realizes are well deserved for raising a family right despite the trials and tribulations of life.

As if Shad needed to differentiate himself any more, he also offers up one of the most respectful rap songs ever written about the women in his life. He offers thanks to his sisters, cousins, aunts, his mother, and every other woman in his life that is a “clever broad with goals like Federov.” And he means it.

All along the way the songs are jam-packed with live instruments, deft scratching, and a huge, full sound miles away from spare arrangements on old songs like “I Heard You Had A Voice Like An Angel.” Tracks like “Yaa, I Get It” (the closest he gets to cynicism and proof that even the most positive person can have their weak moments) and “We, Myself, and I” sound like organized chaos with sound coming from all directions at all times. Several tracks, most noticeably “Rose Garden,” feature well-integrated samples that, in some cases, provide or augment the hook.

Inspirational without being cloying or heavy-handed, clever without having to wink at the audience to let them in on the joke, personal without being self-obsessed (*cough* Kanye *cough*), honest without being a martyr, and unique without having to rely on bizarreness, TSOL is the rap album of 2010. You’ve outdone yourself, Shad. That Polaris should’ve been yours; hopefully you can still get your own place one of these days.

Get TSOL and other rad Shad works from iTunes.
Physical release and other merch (including an awesome “I want a Claire Huxtable” shirt) from Shad’s online store.

New release Tuesday: Andy “Cute As A Button” Shauf

September 28th, 2010 No comments

One of the least-celebrated yet quietly-achieving local acts Regina has to offer, unyielding tunesmith Andy Shauf is releasing a new EP today. EP may be a bit of an understatement, though; Waiting For The Sun To Leave is actually eight full songs. Definitely a touch on the long side for an EP but a happy development as far as I’m concerned.

His full-length effort, re-recorded last year for a Hopeless Records subsidiary, was a masterful work that belies his young years. You can see it in the video above; Shauf is an effortless performer, unleashing a song with ease in any setting. He may challenge Jonathan Richman for quietest playing but his voice is assured and his guitar work is sharp and flawless.

He recently got a quick write-up in some fancy New York magazine’s blog that I can’t remember. He’s touring the United States of America. This is his third release for an American label. And yet Andy Shauf can’t buy a headline here at home. There may only be one of him (as opposed to the much-inked masses in Rah Rah and Library Voices, whose collective membership could fill a trio of dragon boats, I’m sure) but his accomplishments and accolades are comparable to any other Saskatchewan musicians.

digital: iTunes seems to be the major carrier
For woefully infrequent tweeting action you can follow Andy on the Twitter machine here. His website has occasional updates if you’re into that sort of thing.

Come and set with me awhile (as long as you aren’t an investment banker)

September 23rd, 2010 No comments

luedecke hands on fireIt’s a weird thing to hear Old Man Luedecke mad.

The banjo-pickin’ east coaster has such a gentle and unassuming air about him, both in person and on record, that to hear him so starkly call out war mongers and greedy capitalists in a song is a little bit jarring. Of course, Luedecke’s idea of strong language goes something like, “Woe betide the doer of the deed,” so it’s not like you’ll have to cover the ears of small children or anything.

We haven’t written extensively about Luedecke but I think I’ve sung his praises some. His songs have an easy way about them, a generally cheerful, upbeat frenzy of banjo picking and even-tempered bass. Nothing has really changed on his new album, My Hands Are on Fire and Other Love Songs; he still lives in a world where daughters are sent to fetch water from nearby rivers, men pine wistfully for ladies, rodeo men ride home to their women-folk, and (presumably) people still play the banjo.

But on “Woe Betide The Doer Of The Deed” he’s taking an uncharacteristically real-world, political bent. “The gravy train has thinned out in the rain of Wall Street washing down the drain,” he opens, “and when you made off I hope you got paid off, that your money tastes of blood and your hands are stained.” You might wonder if Luedecke got snowed by the market crash, so fierce is his venom: “May your white collar choke you,” he sings, “while the fires of hell stoke you. May your children ever live in shame.” It’s a moment that stands out simply because of its contrast to the rest of the material presented here. It spares no prisoners, going on to condemn the U.S. war in Iraq as the result of shameful entitlement.

I have to admit, it comes from an unexpected source. Folk music has always proved fertile ground for protest songs but coming from the guy that wrote “At The Airport”? Even if it seems like an odd fit, however, Luedecke does a brilliant job with the song. In an age where Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst performing a song critical of George W. Bush on Leno is as close as we come to protest singers this is a welcome addition to the genre.

The rest of the album is quite good too, by the way. You should check it out.

You fan find the record through Black Hen Music here:
~ CD
~ Zunior
~ iTunes

The funk soul brother works it out or, How to Swear Properly

September 2nd, 2010 No comments

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Internets lately, then I’m sorry that you haven’t been able to hear Cee-Lo Green’s caustic, catchy kiss-off song, plainly titled “Fuck You.”

According to Wikipedia, “Fuck You!” was a viral hit. It registered over two million plays on youtube in less than a week.┬áThere’s no barometer for stuff like this, but I think we can safely consider that “a hit.”

To make a song that is easily the jam of the summer that cannot, by its very nature, be played on commercial radio or television because the chorus is made up of what society deems one of the most taboo four letter words you can say takes a huge set of balls. Thankfully, Cee-Lo appears to have dem nutz to spare.

I always love it when people I’ve put in certain categories defy expectations. Watching Cee-Lo step into the role of weirdness required by Gnarls Barkley was interesting, and watching him subvert pop music with a straight-up paen to swearing is pretty sweet, too.

Everybody takes it to be a joke, but I think “Fuck You” is the real deal. There are elements of Motown, funk, soul, R&B, hell, even some gospel! All that’s missing is maybe a few handclaps. Imagine if Al Green had been a little less preacher, a little more oh no you didn’t! It’s the male’s answer to Blu Cantrell’s “Hit Em Up Style” except way, way better. It is sweet revenge for anybody who was ever thrown over for somebody richer, prettier, younger, smarter, whateverer.

There’s nothing more cathartic than swearing when the situation absolutely calls for it. For what it’s worth, this reporter swears like a sailor on shore leave and operates on the friendly advice of one Mark Twain: When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.

There’s a new video for the song featuring girls in matching dresses crooning his catchy chorus, an animated segment, three different “younger versions” of Cee-Lo, a retro diner and choreographed dancing.

Let’s see you tackle this one, Glee!

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