Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
Listening to see if I want to work up a review of this. This album is rather spectacular pop, poking its head above the waterline so likely, that's a yes. I'm always iffy about reviewing hip-hop: from a cultural standpoint, its the most important music currently being made, but I have a hard time applying the 90%-of-everything-is-crap rule to ferret out the 10% worth noting in that I'm really not a huge hip-hop fan and there is a patina of genius that gets foisted on the big money acts that works differently than it does in indie rock or alt-country or whatever. I think that is a big part of what makes hip-hop so interesting - how the marketing of it is so entrenched in the music itself that the two ends support each other, sometimes blurring the line between them. I don't cotton to the Rolling Stone practice of trying to extract the wisdom of, say Chris Martin of Coldplay just because they sell a bazillion records, but I don't want to wholesale dismiss them either. Except for Coldplay. I feel pretty safe dismissing them.
For instance, 50 Cent is reportedly one of the most popular music artists in the world, that his music is played in Moroccan markets and eastern European neighborhoods, which to me is interesting. The music of 50 Cent, though, to me, is not interesting at all, and from a musical standpoint I don't know what I'd have to say but this stuff is kinda asinine, and that is of no use to anyone. And I don't mean the hoary old dilemma of "he doesn't even make that music." Elvis and Frank Sinatra didn't write songs or music, but to say they aren't the forces behind "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Witchcraft" respectively is ludicrous. I am in full understanding that and artist or group is but the front desk reception area to an entire warehouse devoted to the creation of that music, but the music is theirs nonetheless. 50 Cent is a great celebrity, great personality, but I don't really like the music.
But so far, Tha Carter III is badass outside and above any context in which my self-righteous, elitist honky ass might try to fence it, pulling the mask off the usual hip-hop costume revealing the egotistical, nervous, anxiety-ridden twitchy soul under it, so I'm on it. I'm sure Lil Wayne is relieved.
Nurse With Wound - Huffin' Rag Blues (myspace)
This album by noted avant-garde act Nurse With Wound segues with Lil Wayne rather well: Stephen Stapleton has in many interviews spoken of his affinity with hip-hop production and it would not surprise me if the deep crate diggers of hip-hop are familiar with NWW's grand ambient queasiness. This album is straight up exotica fucked, which seems a little behind the curve unless there is a lounge resurgence of which I am unaware. I used to do a weekly radio show of thrift store lounge music, and here NWW pefectly captures the precision of the sound floating in pristine stillness characteristic of that music - exotica gained its popularity as demonstration of hi-fi's in the 50's, pulling off the Hawaii mania of that era.
Once at a garage sale, I bought an envelope of souvenir photos from someone's 1961 trip to Hawaii, including the menus fro the plane, luau invitations to Don the Beachcomber's, haunting tiny snapshots. I gave them to a friend eons ago to make a website out of it, but we've lost touch and hopefully those photos still exist. I think Blogspot and Flickr slideshows were designed with the idea of wordlessly displaying 40-year old beach pictures. And this album would be a singularly perfect demented accompaniment to it.
Mogwai - Mr. Beast
I've never quite bought the mass-hysteria over Mogwai. I'm a big fan of elegiac stately marched of slowly unfolding simple melodies, but Mogwai always seemed a little too simplistic to me, like they didn't know how to push the music past its structure like Kinski or even Explosions in the Sky do. But I was fishing around for something without words the other night and they effing nail it on the opening track "Auto Rock."
It's Big Flood music. Hanging on that thin mast of piano is a mighty sail taking us all to glory, across 40 nights of floods with all those animals fucking and griping "are we there yet?"in the background, as giant waves of God's wrath splash over the bow like they do on Deadliest Catch. I wish that song was 20 minutes long and they built it up proportionally over the span.