Mini Record Reviews 9/30/12

Shields by Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear find themselves in an interesting situation. Fans that fell in love with the band on the album Yellow House saw the band change into the popier form of itself on Veckatimest. After a series of solo projects and a soundtrack (Blue Valentine), the band are back with its first full length in three years, and what may be their strangest record yet. Strange in the sense that it’s hard to see what direction they are going in here, as the album comes off as a hybrid of its last two records, leaning more to the side of Veckatimest. The best example of this comes in the form of the first two tracks to drop from this album, “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again.” “Ute” is very much Yellow House-ish with the experimentation that made the Bears a fun band to listen to. “Yet Again” may be my favorite single released thus far this year; the tone of the track is dark and slightly brooding. The instrumentation is never overwhelming or experimental, but simplicity very much aids the track. While being a confusing listen, it’s still enjoyable. I won’t call it the worst in their discography; here’s to hoping that the next album is a bit more focused.

Essential Tracks: “Sleeping Ute” “Yet Again” “A Simple Answer” “Sun in My Eyes”

Album Rating: Stream It or Digitally Download It (Legally of Course)

Listening Co-efficient: Passive Listen

Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 by Lupe Fiasco

When Lasers dropped last year, the pile of controversy that came with it was enormous. Lupe claimed that the label wanted him to do something a little more mainstream, and what we ended up with was high shine with a consciousness. Tracks like “The Show Goes On…” and “Words I Never Said” became staples. Fans cried foul, but everything was okay until the release of the Friend of the People: I Fight Evil mixtape where he basically did the same thing he did on Lasers only without the label intervention. Now, in 2012, He’s back with the most convoluted album title in rap history. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Lupe’s message, and the themes of this record are a lot more developed than Killer Mike’s, but the samples here are so sugary that I’m getting cavities.  “ITAL” makes me think of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” with its repetitive horn sample, while “Heart Donor” is not a phrase I would be saying to any woman I had a remote interest in, especially as it’s wrapped up in that much keyboard. Don’t get me wrong, Lupe Fiasco is one of my favorite hip-hop/rap artists of all time, but these last few albums and mixtapes are making that message he puts forth disingenuous.

Essential Tracks: “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free” “How Dare You” “Battle Scars”

Album Rating: Borrow From a Friend

Listening Co-efficient:  Passive Listen

I will preempt this review by saying that Mumford & Sons are an outstanding band…and please don’t hate me. In 2010, Mumford made its way to America via the record, Sigh No More. It was filled with a refreshing set of bluegrassy folk tunes that gave the genre a slap in the face. Between then and now, the band road tested a bunch of tunes, added a banjo, and gave the world Babel. You’ll find a lot of the same stuff that you would on Sigh No More only with a banjo added. That doesn’t make this album a train wreck, but I expected more from the band here. Especially considering that everybody in the band is a multi-instrumentalist. However, you won’t find a bad song on this album, and if this review is sounding strange, well, that’s because you can only fault a band so much for not trying something new. The self-titled opening track rocks pretty hard in that old M& S’s fashion. Marcus Mumford sounds at the end of his tether, vocally, and the band are playing a song for the end of the world (let’s hope not). “Broken Crown” shows a possible new direction for the Sons as they embrace a little electricity. In reality, this is a fantastic record, I just expected more. I’ll listen to it five to ten more times before the year is out… after all this is just an opinion.

Essential Tracks: All of ’em.

Album Rating: Stream It or Digitally Download It

Listening Co-efficient: Passive Listen

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