January 20, 2022

Fester - Silence (1997)

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Blackened Death Metal
Label Number: LRC 756

© 1994 Lethal Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: fester, silence, 1997, flac,

Decrepit - Acrimonium (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Blackened Death Metal
Label Number: DR003CD

© 1997 Dismal Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: decrepit, acrimonium, 1997, flac,

Justice System - Rooftop Soundcheck (1994) ☠

*First pressing. 
Contains 14 tracks total. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Jazz Rap
Label Number: MCAD-11118
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1994 MCA Records
Another hip-hop band with a jazzy feel, Justice System uses live musicians to create the backing for their raps, including tributes to Afrika Bambaataa and Santana. Unfortunately, the album is a bit overproduced; unlike the group's frenetic live shows, Rooftop Soundcheck lacks the excitement and raw intensity that kindles great jazz-rap.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop section have been disabled. 


tags: justice system, rooftop soundcheck, 1994, flac,

Northstar - Bobby Digital Presents: Northstar (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 0 99923 8352 1;KOC-CD-8395

© 2003 Koch/In The Paint Records
The past few years have been an interesting ride for Wu leader/beat genius RZA. For every moment of brilliance (his score for Kill Bill, Bobby Digital), there have been moments to balance the brilliance out. And while Northstar isn't up on the mantle with some of the aforementioned projects, it certainly proves the case that RZA can certainly rise to the occasion when motivated. A pair of tracks from house producer Armand Van Helden show up here but mesh in seamlessly, no doubt a testament to Van Helden's versatility behind the mixing board. Two non-Wu members (Christ Bearer and Meko) make their debut and present a convincing case that RZA's success isn't necessarily dependent upon other members of the Wu-Tang. And while there are moments where Christ Bearer and Meko's West Coast style shine through, the sparse beats bring the tracks back from sounding too dated (i.e., the entire Death Row catalog from 1996 to the present). That said, Northstar is an impressive debut and serves as a reminder that one of hip-hop's most innovative producers isn't down for the count just yet.

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tags: northstar, bobby digital presents northstar, 2003, flac,

Crown City Rockers - Earthtones (2004) ☠


Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: BR-CCR
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2004 Basement Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: crown city rockers, earthtones, 2004, flac,

Liberetto - Ill-Oet: The Last Element (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DM 073

© 2004 Dim Mak Records
Part of the same Portland underground/alternative hip-hop scene as the duo LifesavasLibretto preaches black consciousness and self-reliance (his father was a Black Panther, and the opening salvo "Slum Funk" details the rapper's youth in the Watts projects and how he came to the comparatively stable confines of suburban Oregon) over a complex mixture of samples and beats that seems to be self-consciously recalling the golden age of thoughtful, proactive hip-hop, from Public Enemy to De La Soul. At his best, Libretto is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as those masters; the single "Volume" is brilliant, a mixture of old-school and strictly modern that's as good a hip-hop single as any that came out in 2004. Ill-Oet: The Last Element is a slightly uneven debut, however, with a few songs that don't reach the same heights as "Volume" and "Slum Funk," thanks to less imaginative production or a more leaden lyrical flow. Still, this is a promising debut that hints at even better to come.

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tags: liberetto, ill oet the last element, 2004, flac,

Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom (2009)

*U.S. standard pressing. 
Contains 14 tracks total. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 88697-46571-2-RE1

© 2009 J Records
Don’t mistake the presence of Jay-Z and Beyoncé on Alicia Keys' fourth album as evidence that the singer/songwriter is burrowing into modern R&B -- take it instead as evidence of the rarefied company Keys keeps, her status as a superstar so solidified that the only cameos possible are R&B/hip-hop elite. Superstars are often given leeway to do anything they want, and so it is on The Element of Freedom, where Keys dials back the outward expansion of As I Am and turns inward, creating a clean, small-scale collection of ballads and Prince-inspired pop. Always apparent on Alicia’s albums, that Prince influence is underscored by how she’s swapped the retro-soul instrumentation of her earliest music for electronics, but she’s retained the warmth, the throwback sensibility and, especially, a sense of reserve, never getting too heated or gauche. This does mean the Prince elements feel more NPG than Revolution, but Keys trademark always has been an easy elegance. On The Element of Freedom, that elegance is so easy it borders on the sleepy, with Keys’ understatement undercutting livelier numbers -- chief among them the bubbly Beyoncé duet “Put It in a Love Song” -- so they play as ballads. This isn’t a complaint so much as a characteristic: her voice may crack on “Love Is My Disease,” but Keys never gets gritty, she remains reserved, never letting her singing or arrangements obscure the melodies or the classy veneer of the entire proceedings. All this determined detachment keeps The Element of Freedom from packing a primal, passionate punch, but there is charm in Alicia’s enveloping, quiet cool: she may never break a sweat, but she knows how to sustain a sultry, not necessarily sexy, mood, and she does so here quite fetchingly.

tags: alicia keys, the element of freedom, 2009, flac,

Laban - Caught By Surprise (1985) ☠

*First pressing. 
Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: Denmark
Language: English
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 32XB-134
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1985-1987 Alfa International
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: laban, caught by surprise, 1985, flac,

Grassrootz - Uncharted Regions (1998) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: None
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1998 Black Flag Productions
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: grassrootz, uncharted regions, 1998, flac,

L.A. Symphony - Composition No. 1 (1999) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: ELD-0005
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1999 Eartube Empire
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: la symphony, composition no 1, 1999, flac,

Janove Ottesen - Francis' Lonely Nights (2004)

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Indie Rock
Label Number: 09463-55218-2-5

© 2004 Virgin
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: janove ottesen, francis lonely nights, 2004, flac,

Johnathan Rice - Trouble Is Real (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Indie Rock
Label Number: 48696-2

© 2005 Reprise Records
Trouble Is Real by Johnathan Rice finds a romantic with a sultry baritone. He's boyishly charming with vibrant enthusiasm, but he's not just another singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar, hungry to make a great first impression. This twentysomething is eager for a cinematic path to guide him through life's constant complexities. His vocal delivery is unforgettable, and vocalists such as Peter GabrielNick Drake, and Ed Harcourt come to mind. Ignore the fact that all six of the songs found on 2004's Extended Player 24:26 EP are featured here. Listening to such EP standouts as "Mid November" and "My Mother's Son" once more won't hurt, thus making Trouble Is Real even heavier in sound and story. "Lady Memphis" is an old-timey foot-stomper with its sepia-toned array of organs and acoustic guitars. Other acoustic-driven tracks such as "Behind the Frontlines," "City on Fire," and "I Wouldn't Miss It for the World" showcase Rice's honest approach to songwriting, and it's quite enjoyable. Even more striking are the moments where he lets himself be a musician and a singer. "So Sweet" and "Salvation Day" thunder with so much feeling, the listener should want to grab for it. Trouble Is Real is a remarkable debut record, and those who fell for Pete Yorn's Musicforthemorningafter and adored the candidness found on Badly Drawn Boy's About a Boy won't be able to contain themselves.

tags: johnathan rice, trouble is real, 2005, flac,

January 19, 2022

Gift of Gab - 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up (2004) ☠


Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: QP 044-2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2004 Quannum Projects
It's long been clear that Gift of Gab has much more to say than he's been afforded on Blackalicious full-lengths. A rapping tongue-twister, he not only sprays syllables but proves surprisingly articulate (and humble), filling Blackalicious releases with songs that cover personal foibles and social issues alike, but relate everything on a global scale. His first solo album, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, is slightly more organic and mellow than Blackalicious material, with sinewy basslines winding themselves around their beats, and atmospheric samples deep in the mix repeating themselves until they reach a near state of nirvana. Gab spends a lot of time preaching, but he never puts himself above the messages he delivers, and often provides additional enlightenment from his own failures; "Rat Race" touches on troubles ranging from quitting smoking to paying his cable bill, while on "Up" an immigrant cabdriver teaches him to disregard American ghettos for a minute to feel fortunate he's a member of the First World. (Fortunately, his cadence is so quick on these tracks there's no time for the melodrama to sink in.) He also indulges in a little nostalgia, spinning tales of Gazelles, Jheri curls, The Great Space Coaster, and Krush Groove on "Welcome Back," and he proves his battle skills on "Real MCs" and "The Writz." The energy possessed by every Blackalicious LP has ebbed a bit with only half the crew in effect, but 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up delivers what every fan wants to hear: more quality material from one of the best underground rappers in the business.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop section have been disabled. 


tags: gift of gab, 4th dimensional rocketships going up, 2004, flac,

Self Scientific - Change (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: ANG-1002

© 2005 Angeles Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop section have been disabled. 


tags: self scientific, change, 2005, flac,

The Loyalists - Get What You Give (2005) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: None
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2005 Backbone/The Loyalists, Inc.
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop section have been disabled. 


tags: the loyalists, get what you give, 2005, flac,

Louis Eliot & The Embers - Kittow's Moor (2008) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
Label Number: FCCD124
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2009-2010 Fullfill
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: louis elliot and the embers, kittows moor, 2008, flac,

Kasabian - Velociraptor! (2011)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
Label Number: PARADISE69

© 2011 Columbia Records
Kasabian’s big PR problem is they’ve never had a Pulp-like wit about them, and their ability to communicate the human condition has been limited to drug trip visions and fist-pumping hippie lyrics that come off as Shaun Ryder-lite. Plus, an Oasis-esque hunger for arena domination just oozes out of this band, so they’re firmly in the “love ‘em or hate ‘em” category, and never more so than on Velociraptor! Here, they’ve got the audacity to open their album with a gong, which gives way to a Mexican trumpet riff, a funky, spy-movie bassline, and production that screams “mod!” That’s possibly the most convoluted way to go “back to basics,” as the opening “Let's Roll Just Like We Used To” infers, but Kasabian have been a band of post-Brit-pop possibilities from the get go, so bringing in techno, ethnic sounds, and an orchestra is coming home for this impudent crew. The hurdle that must be jumped is that wild ideas sometimes take precedence over great ideas, but everything is shaped into a winner thanks to the group’s undying allegiance to the groove. It icky thumps like White Stripes on the gutsy “Re-Wired” and peaks the meters on the Chemical Brothers-like title track. If the bold lyrics don’t always work, the hooks cover that up just fine, and even as everything and two kitchen sinks are thrown at the listener -- productions shifts and epic constructions abound -- the album is right-sized, laying the whole circus out in 11 tracks and pulling up stakes right before the audience tires of the spectacle. Megaton beats still mix well with high-flying, Gallagher brothers-styled melodies, so anyone who wished “Setting Sun” would have supernova’d into an album will have no problem embracing this one.

tags: kasabian, velociraptor, 2011, flac,

The Kooks - Junk of The Heart (2011)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
Label Number: CDV 3090

© 2011 Virgin
Having watched the likes of Kaiser Chiefs and Hard-Fi crash and burn with their early 2000s changes in direction, fellow mid-noughties indie band the Kooks, perhaps unsurprisingly, only tentatively step outside their usual comfort zone on third effort Junk of the Heart. "Time Above the Earth" smothers Luke Pritchard's distinctive, slurring tones in layers of lush strings to produce the band's first fully orchestral offering, "Taking Pictures of You" is a slightly experimental slice of ambient pop, packed with languid grooves, buzzing synths, and reverb-drenched reverse guitar effects, while "Runaway" has shades of the Police with its cod-reggae beats, subtle synths, and new wave melodies. But with regular producer Tony Hoffer (BeckAir) still on board, the majority of Junk's 12 tracks feature the same kind of inoffensive, acoustic, Brit-pop songs about girls that saw debut Inside In, Inside Out and follow-up Konk top the U.K. charts. The jangly, Dodgy-esque, summery opening title track, the breezy Kinks-esque harmonies of "Eskimo Kiss," and the rousing, singalong chorus of "How'd You Like That" seem destined to sit at the top of commercial radio playlists for months on end, but there's very little to get excited about with the cliched soft rock break-up song "Killing Me," the derivative honky tonk of "Mr. Nice Guy," and the plodding "F*** the World Off," whose lazy rhythms and gentle folk riffs are more "let's sit down and have a cup of tea" than the expletive defiance in its title. It's hard to see where the Kooks fit in among a musical landscape that has altered dramatically during their three-year hiatus, and while their play-it-safe approach may mean they're less likely to suffer the rapid sales decline of their contemporaries, they are now in danger of becoming indie pop's answer to Westlife.

tags: the kooks, junk of the heart, 2011, flac,

Pigeon John - Sings The Blues! (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: None

© 2005 Basement Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop section have been disabled. 


tags: pigeon john, sings the blues, 2005, flac,

Pigeon John - Pigeon John Is Dating Your Sister (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: None

© 2003 Basement Records
Run-D.M.C. had their gold chains and Adidas. Flavor Flav had his clock, Tupac had his "Thug Life" tattoo and Pigeon John has his fedora?! A rapper's style icon can say much about his performance and this L.A. rapper wears his heart on his head. As you'd expect, Pigeon John doesn't come out blazing on his debut album. Nor does he get particularly deep. He is the everyman, tripping over his "Highschool Reunion" and sweating over his girl problems. "Emily" is a pure emo lesson about getting a girl pregnant and feeling bad for cutting out on her, a lighter-weight version of "Sorry Miss Jackson." It's probably the most serious song on this collection of songs that, while not flippant, are certainly lighthearted. Even PJ's vocal delivery makes him sound like the sort of buddy you could have long talks with over a beer. A talented yet sensitive character who shows the slightest hint of an island accent, making him sound both extra musical and extra accessible. So when he raps, "Every word I write seals my fate/Losing every single one of my friends to date," on "Life Goes On" it's hard to believe he's serious. In fact, the lesson told by guest Abstract Rude pretty much certifies that the song is a fable rather than an autobiography. DJ Rhettmatic of the Beat Junkies offers up the two strongest beats on the album, with PJ himself producing a majority of the remainder. But his Average Joe stance matches his casual rhythms. John's biggest obstacle is himself. But isn't it that way with most of us. No wonder it's easy to relate.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop section have been disabled. 


tags: pigeon john, is dating your sister, 2002, flac,

Pigeon John - Pigeon John & The Summertime Pool Party (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: QP066-2

© 2006 Quannum Projects
Pigeon John has been known for his positive and sometimes humorous rapping, long before he signed with underground hip-hop beacon Quannum in 2005, a move that apparently didn't alter his style in the least. On Pigeon John...and the Summertime Pool Party, his first album with the label (and fourth overall), he and longtime collaborators DJ Rhettmatic and Great Jason still produce much of it, and there are the requisite guest stars that any hip-hop record needs. RJD2 shows off his stuff on "The Last Sunshine," which also features rhymes by J-Live, and Brother Ali adds vocals on "One for The...," but John himself is the same old easygoing rapper he's always been. This makes sense; his persona is based around the fact that he's "just a regular guy" and isn't into the money or privileged life of a rock star, something that he conveys with his many references to Taco Bell, the mall, and his own lack of "credibility." That he's not ashamed to take a crack at himself is refreshing, and as he goes from the goofy skits to the "background" comments of "get off the stage dude, you suck" after his attempts to pick up a girl in "Moneyback Guarantee" -- which, despite its BNL-esque corniness, is actually pretty funny ("You get your money back for free girl if you ain't feeling me," John promises to a potential date) -- you can't help but kind of like him. The thing is, he's almost too likable; the album's almost too corny, too self-effacing, too jokey, and it's hard to take him seriously in any sense of the word. It doesn't help that the production is generally guitar-based and melodic, sounding more like radio-friendly pop music than anything else. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- John's whole premise is that he can be enjoyed by everyone -- but after the umpteenth acoustic breakdown, things began to seem a little tired and even cheesy (a problem that is not fixed by the closer, "Growin' Old," which sounds uncomfortably similar to Vitamin C's "Graduation [Friends Forever]"). It's not that Pigeon John...and the Summertime Pool Party is all silliness: there are some more contemplative songs ("Weight of the World," "As We Know It") as well, but they almost seem out of place in the rest of the "we had some fun, that's what it's all about" (to quote "Scene 4") album. It's true that John hasn't changed: he's sticking to his positivity, staying true to what he believes in, and doing what he loves, and that's something to be respected, even if it means corny, super-feel-good, summery rhymes. You've got to admire someone who offers to buy his girlfriend the latest Jordaches, but it doesn't mean you've got to want to get a pair yourself.

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tags: pigeon john, and the summer time pool party, 2006, flac,