June 20, 2021

Supergrass - In It For The Money (1997) ☠

 
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
Style: Britpop
Label Number: CDP 7243 8 55228 2 6
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© 1997 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Supergrass' debut album, I Should Coco, rushed by at such a blinding speed that some listeners didn't notice the melodic complexity of its best songs. On its second album, the cleverly titled In It for the Money, Supergrass brought the songs to the forefront, slowing the tempos considerably and constructing a varied, textured album that makes the band's ambition and skill abundantly clear. From the droning mantra of the opening title track, it's clear that the band has delved deeply into psychedelia, and hints of Magical Mystery Tour are evident throughout the album, from swirling organs and gurgling wah-wahs to punchy horn charts and human beatboxes. In fact, Supergrass has substituted the punky rush of I Should Coco for such sonic details, and while that means the band only occasionally touches upon the breakneck pace of its debut (the hard-driving "Richard III"), it also deepens its joyful exuberance with subtle songs and remarkably accomplished musicianship. There might not be a "Caught by the Fuzz" or "Alright" on In It for the Money, but that's not a problem, since the bright explosion of "Sun Hits the Sky" and the nervy "Tonight" are just as energetic, and the album features introspective numbers like the gorgeous "Late in the Day" and "It's Not Me" that give it substantial weight. And even with all this musical maturity, Supergrass hasn't sacrificed its good-natured humor, as the detailed production and the bizarre closer, "Sometimes I Make You Sad," make abundantly clear. Sometimes, maturity turns out to be everything it's supposed to be.

tags: supergrass, in it for the money, 1997, flac,

Black Moon - Enta Da Stage (1993)

 
*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 14 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
Label Number: NRV 2002-2
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© 1993 Wreck Records
AllMusic Review by Vincent Thomas
Perhaps no other album of the '90s musically exhibits the shift in the hip-hop ethos that occurred in 1993 better than Black Moon's classic gemstone Enta da Stage. Listen to this album and you can hear hip-hop change. Prior to this, many of hip-hop's most confrontational vibes were presented as gifts from bellicose outfits like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and other acts whose music raged. Enta da Stage features enough of that, but it also offered, perhaps even introduced, a brooding vibe. It was a pioneer sound. The group released "Who Got the Props" in the winter of 1992, about a year before the album dropped in November of 1993. It was a song in the same vein of Onyx's "Throw Ya Gunz," a hard track, with rough rhymes and a staple N.Y.C. hook with a chorus of rowdy b-boys shouting in unison. The album featured similar tracks, from "Make Munne" to "Son Get Wrec" to "Buck Em Down" to the opener, "Powaful Impak!" -- all time-capsule tunes that embody early-'90s N.Y.C. hip-hop. The album begins like it was meant to be a Brooklyn version of Bacdafucup. But months prior to the album's release, Black Moon's second single, "How Many MC's...," hit the streets. It was a total departure from the vibe present on "Who Got da Props." DJ Evil Dee and da Beatminerz supplied a subtly horrific track over which Buckshot premiered a more deliberate flow that bespoke controlled menace. There is a story behind this transformation. Buckshot said he, Evil Dee, and the 5Ft Accelerator recorded half of the album -- the "Who Got da Props" half -- in 1992 before he went on tour with Kool G Rap and a young Nasty Nas. During a freestyle cipher, listening to Nas and Kool G Rap led Buckshot to an epiphany that motivated him to switch up his rhyme-style, and da Beatminerz tweaked their production to complement. The "How Many MC's..." half of the album -- songs like "I Gotcha Opin," "Slave," "Shit Iz Real" -- displayed Buckshot's new motif: a raspier tone, a more intricate flow and cadence, and a serious presence that was just as threatening as the temperamental MC on the earlier songs. The rowdy crew hooks gave way to what were more like stripped down musical breaks that often featured a jazz horn sample and nothing else. The production -- which should enter into any discussion of the greatest hip-hop production efforts of all time -- was every bit as radical as what the RZA introduced this same year or the Bomb Squad cooked up in the late '80s. The elements existed before, but never had they been synthesized into a hardcore East Coast outfit with the skill and artistry of Black Moon's Enta da Stage. The release of this album was overshadowed by the landmark Wu-Tang Clan debut and the popular success of Midnight Marauders and Doggystyle. But make no mistake, this is one of the '90s most important hip-hop classics, an album that deserves its own node on the hip-hop timeline.

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tags: black moon, enta da stage, enter, the, 1993, flac,

Black Moon - Diggin' In Dah Vaults (1996)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: NRV 20232-2
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© 1996 Wreck Records
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
With its first single, "Who Got the Props," Black Moon earned instant underground status. The cut eventually led to the equally outstanding Enta da Stage, which continued to mine the hazed-out jazzy vibe of "Props" as well as its street-savvy, quintessentially New York vocal style. It took longer than expected, however, for that album to appear. During the recording process, the trio produced a wealth of material that didn't make the album's final cut, and in the wake of the critical praise lavished on the debut as well as the fan demand created by it, Nervous Records decided to round up some of those unreleased tracks and couple them with remixes and previously uncollected single sides for the compilation Diggin' in dah Vaults. It is understandably not as consistent in sound as the group's debut, but Black Moon managed to turn that into an attribute. Specifically, the group split the album almost right down the middle and imbued each side with its own general tone and atmosphere. The first half is markedly unlike the mellow production values of the debut. The updated "Act Like U Want It," for instance, dispenses with the playful bassline and steady beat of the original album in favor of a funky piano figure and chaotic, siren-filled atmosphere. The other remixes go through more or less similar metamorphoses, while the new tracks follow in turn, ranging from the straight-up street corner exercise of "Buckshots Freestyle Joint" to the exuberant afternoon jam "F*ck It Up." The mood then shifts back to the viscous souled-out after-hours sound that characterized Enta Da Stage, as if following the trio through a city day and then on into the urban night, from a sweatier, more in-your-face feel -- all concrete and traffic and metallic sounds and swagger -- in the former half to cool, shadow-filled chill-out tracks in the latter. Both styles suit Black Moon -- and the listener -- just fine.

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tags: black moon, diggin in dah vault, digging, the, 1996, flac,

Black Moon - War Zone (1999)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: P2 50039
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© 1999 Duck Down
AllMusic Review by Keith Farley
Returning with their sophomore record almost six years after their debut, Black Moon recruited Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Cocoa Brovaz, and Da Beatminerz (for production). War Zone has a lush, old-school flavor (especially on the single "Two Turntables and a Mic") and giving one of the tracks ("Evil Dee Is on the Mix") makes War Zone better than the average rap album circa 1999.

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tags: black moon, war zone, 1999, flac,

Black Moon - Total Eclipse (2004)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DDM-CD-2005
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© 2003 Duck Down
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Underground rappers Black Moon needed to make a splash with their six-years-after comeback record, 1999's War Zone, so they made sure the featured roster included some big names: Busta Rhymes, front-loaded on the opener "The Onslaught," and Q-Tip appearing later on "Show Down." Total Eclipse, the trio's third record, finds them settling into a killer groove, ignoring the guest spots (except for close family like Cocoa Brovaz or Starang Wondah) and relying on the power of the rhyme. "Stay Real," "That'z the Way S--- Iz," and "Why We Act This Way" lay out 5Ft and Buckshot's hardcore DIY agenda. The backing tracks, mostly from da Beatminerz, are the perfect complement -- dense, reedy productions on laid-back, street-wise tracks reminiscent of the titles from classic blaxploitation soundtracks.

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N.E.R.D. - In Search of… (2001)

 
*This is the Hip-Hop version of the album. 
Contains 12 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: 7243 8 11521 2 6
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© 2001 Virgin
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
N.E.R.D. are nothing if they're not clever, and they brilliantly constructed a back-story to accompany their debut album, In Search Of... As every rock critic in the Western world has said in his review of the album, they originally released the record in Europe, then decided it was crap, withdrew it, re-recorded it with a live band, and then released it worldwide. Now this story is probably true -- as the first album by the band driven by the powerhouse production team the Neptunes (though these are not interchangeable terms, as they went to great lengths to make clear in the promo interviews), there was a lot riding on this record, so it had better be right -- but it certainly helped them get valuable press, elevating this record to a near-event level. So, is In Search Of... worth the hoopla? Well, pretty much. Musically, it's a lively affair, breaking free of the signature approximated-Prince beats, as they borrow heavily from classic soul, breakbeat aesthetics, and postmodern alt-culture, tying it together with live beats. It pretty much deliberately does everything that most modern rap does not do, and it's hard not to embrace it for that very fact. Alas, there are flaws, mainly in the raps, which are hardly as nimble as the music; actually, they're rather clumsy and embarrassing, especially since they attempt to cover "socially relevant" issues (i.e., politicians are equated with strippers). Choruses that croon that "She needs me/Because I'm the sh*t" are hard to stomach, no matter how supple the music is (or how ironic the delivery), but if you can ignore that, In Search Of... does provide genuine musical thrills. Although, be forewarned -- it's easy to overrate this record simply because it deviates from the norm at a time when nobody deviates from the norm or has deviated from the norm in years. With better lyrics and a little less smirking hipsterism, it could have been the record it was intended to be, but as it stands, it's still a pretty terrific listen and one of the most adventurous, intriguing hip-hop albums in a long, long time.

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tags: nerd, in search of, 2001, flac,

NE.R.D. - Fly or Die (2004)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, Pop Rock
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: 7243 5 93334 2 7
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© 2004 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Unlike In Search Of..., originally made primarily on N.E.R.D.'s various machines and then reconfigured with assistance from funk-rock band Spymob, Fly or Die is kept almost entirely in-house. The ridiculous cover, along with first single "She Wants to Move" -- and its accompanying video, including a literal translation of the line "Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride" -- thankfully provide little indication of the album's true makeup. And the moments where the Star Trak hand sign gets flipped to a set of devil horns are mercifully fleeting, though "Backseat Love" is undoubtedly problematic -- it plays Dumberer to "She Wants to Move"'s Dumber. ("Lapdance" was Dumb.) The rest of the album isn't just noteworthy for subject matter that skips through child-parent relationship sketches, ecological reveries, and protest songs; the bright, bold Neptunes glaze that normally coats their chart-aimed singles of all stripes is applied to material that will leave many people baffled. The album sees N.E.R.D. rummaging through parts of their record collection that don't normally bubble to the surface in their production work. Most disarming of all is "Wonderful Place," a seven-minute trip divided into halves. The first shows a chipper Pharrell striding through a sunny meadow, marveling at the natural wonders of the planet in spite of its troubles; with a horn-punched chorus ("My soul's in my smile/Don't frown, just get up get up") and other subtle splashes of Baroque pop elements, it owes equally to Burt Bacharach and the Left Banke. This dissolves into a fading whistle, only to give rise to a dramatic, synthetically orchestral and acoustic-folk tale about a near-fatal family fishing trip. Any parent of the past, present, or near future will be stirred, especially once Pharrell goes falsetto to emphasize the relief of the nearly drowned baby being rescued by his mother. Instead of pausing for effect, the album goosesteps into "Drill Sergeant," yet another two-parter. Half power pop bounce and half tumbling, doomsday pummel, the song pulls no punches with antiwar sentiments that target the government and media, and when a teeth-clenched Pharrell talks about his fear of blowing up, you know he's not talking about fame. Despite the heavy subject matter in a third of the songs, the album nonetheless carries a lighthearted, fun-loving lilt. At face value, Fly or Die is a rather straightforward rock record. To N.E.R.D.'s credit, no one else could've made this particular rock record. Ideas come by the bushel, hooks arrive when least expected, embedded jokes get discovered like Easter eggs. Nobody can tie all of these things together and make them glow quite like this. Apart from a ploy to get some rotation at your local mall's Hot Topic (Good Charlotte's Madden brothers make an appearance), they didn't appear to make this record for anyone but themselves. So while Fly or Die is one of the most creative and ambitious moments of the Neptunes' career, it might also be their least understood.

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tags: nerd, fly or die, 2004, flac,

June 19, 2021

Pharrell Williams - In My Mind (2006)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: B0007380-02
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© 2006 Star Trak Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
The idea of an all-Pharrell album is natural and unnatural in roughly equal measure. Half of the extremely successful Neptunes production team, as well as a collaborator who has been deployed for countless guest verses and vocal hooks, Pharrell has been a regular presence on radio stations and video programs for several years. As of late 2005, however, there was only one single -- the summer 2003 smash "Frontin'" -- the man could call his own. You'd think he would've been on his second or third solo album by the time the decent In My Mind was released in July 2006, but Pharrell has always considered himself a producer/songwriter first, a background figure who isn't a singer -- and, for that matter, he's not much more than a competent MC. If he weren't so crafty at his primary calling, he'd be relying almost exclusively on his charm and sex appeal. Perhaps this partly explains why In My Mind took so long to materialize. In interviews, Pharrell seemed more exhausted than excited and indicated that the album was too much of a compromised process. While the album never sounds as if less than 100 percent was put into it, a large chunk of the material is second rate compared to his past highlights ("Frontin'" included), and it's no help that the tracks tapped as singles are some of the weakest moments (as was the case with the first version of the first N.E.R.D. album). Produced entirely by Pharrell, with guest appearances from several of the high-profile artists (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Nelly, Slim Thug, Clipse's Pusha T) whose careers have been boosted by the Neptunes, the album is divided in half between R&B and rap, at least if you go by Pharrell's singing-to-rapping ratio. Those who have been wanting to hear more of Pharrell's softer side will be pleased with the direction the album takes during the latter half, where his usual cocky demeanor is tempered by some loverman vulnerability. Just the fact that the album contains over an hour of Pharrell will be enough to attract scores of his fans, and it's not like any part of it is flat-out poor, but it's a shame it didn't turn out better. [The album has three different covers. The content does not vary.]

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tags: pharrell williams, in my mind, 2006, flac,

Talib Kweli - The Beautiful Struggle (2004) ☠

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: B0003437-02
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2004 Rawkus Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Something's not right when a high compliment -- one laid down on wax, no less! -- from a giant like Jay-Z doesn't set off a major sales spike. Such is the case with Talib Kweli, a phenomenal MC who has only flirted with mainstream acceptance, despite being admired by a host of harder-edged platinum artists. Rather than try to ride out that slow if steady momentum and see where it takes him, Kweli takes the power into his own hands and grabs for the brass ring. The Beautiful Struggle is far from a 180 for him, but it's just out of character enough to be awkward. Whether he's attempting to bridge the underground to the mainstream or simply pull away from the former, the results aren't wholly convincing. Not only is Kweli attempting to alter the way in which he's perceived through his own verses; he's also been keeping some unlikely company -- a (superior) prealbum mixtape featured guest spots from Fabolous, Styles P, and G-Unit addition Shawn Penn. More than once on this album, Kweli's as anxious to lose his backpacking image as a fourth grader at 3 p.m. On the title track, he declares, "They call me the political rapper even after I tell 'em I don't f*ck with politics, I don't even follow it." He stands no chance of losing that tag when a line like "the motherf*cking Democrats is acting like Republicans" is contained within the same verse. Plus, he always has and always will excel at depicting facets of interpersonal politics. As much as The Beautiful Struggle is likely to catch longtime fans off-guard and leave mainstream followers indifferent, Kweli's unexpected moves appear to have more to do with trying new things -- and possibly thwarting preconceived notions -- than desperation. Still, there's no denying that it misses a little more than it hits.

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tags: talib kweli, the beautiful struggle, 2004, flac,

Buddha Monk - The Prophecy (1999)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 0037752ERE
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© 1999 Edel America Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: buddha monk, the prophecy, 1999, flac,

Cappadonna - The Pillage (1998)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: EK 67947
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© 1998 Razor Sharp/Epic Street
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
By the time Cappadonna released his solo debut album, The Pillage, in the spring of 1998, the Wu-Tang sound as masterminded by the RZA had become familiar. That's not to say that it was played out, however. The RZA's skeletal, menacing production is bracing even after it's become familiar, which is to Cappadonna's benefit, since The Pillage doesn't really expand the Wu sound any further. With producer cohorts Goldfinghaz and Tru Master, the RZA has re-created his signature sound; while it sounds terrific, it nevertheless will be a little frustrating, since not only does it lack the thrill of the new, but the album isn't as focused as such previous RZA/Wu masterpieces as Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and the Genius' Liquid Swords, which both found individual voices within RZA's sound. Cappadonna, in contrast, is a foot soldier, capable of turning out great songs ("The Pillage," "Splish Splash," "Dart Throwing"), but also capable of just going through the motions. Consequently, The Pillage packs more punch than the average late-'90s hip-hop record, but it doesn't reach the dazzling standards of past Wu classics.

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tags: cappadonna, the pillage, 1998, flac,

U-God - Golden Arms Redemption (1999)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: WUI001CD
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© 1999 Wu-Tang Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
The eighth of nine core Wu-Tang members to get his own solo joint (leaving only Masta Killa out in the cold), U-God doesn't have the personality appeal of Wu-Tang's well-known names Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, or even Ghostface Killah. He also doesn't have the rapping skills, though given the wealth of talent spread all over Wu-Tang, being the fourth or fifth best rapper in the crew is hardly the slam it may seem. His attempt at a trademark track, "Enter U-God," leads off Golden Arms Redemption, and gets the full production treatment from the RZA. While the beats mine territory farther below terra firma than has ever been heard from RZA, U-God shows off his solid rhymes. If there's a problem here though, it's his utter lack of emotion. In fact, when Method Man, Inspectah Deck, and Leatha Face make welcome guest appearances on "Rumble," the leap in energy is immediately recognizable. U-God's entry in the Wu-Tang solo canon isn't one of the best, but compared to much of the hip-hop being produced in the late '90s, it's a welcome addition.

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tags: u god, u-god, golden arms redemption, 1999, flac,

GP Wu - Don't Go Against The Grain (1997) ⚓

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: MCAD-11587
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© 1997 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by David M. Childers
Yet another offshoot of the wildly successful Wu-Tang Clan, the four members of GP Wu (Rubberbands, June Luva, Down Low Recka, and Pop the Brown Hornet) do a good job of replicating the Wu-Tang sound, but fail to live up to the somewhat lofty standards the rap conglomerate has established. Don't Go Against the Grain is a very consistent effort, overflowing with the style that is so distinct to hardcore East Coast rap. Consistency, however, is not necessarily genius. While the album is not completely forgettable, it fails to be particularly memorable either.

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tags: gp wu, dont go against the grain, 1997, flac,

Iron Maiden - Fear of The Dark (1992)

 
*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 12 tracks total.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: EK 48993
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© 1992 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
While 1992's Fear of the Dark was definitely more of a return to form for Iron Maiden, it still wasn't quite on par with their exceptional work from the '80s. Easily an improvement over 1990's lackluster No Prayer for the Dying (both musically and sonically), the album debuted on the U.K. charts at number one. The opening "Be Quick or Be Dead" proved Maiden could easily hold their own with younger thrash metal bands, "From Here to Eternity" contained lyrics that seem better fitted for Mötley Crüe, while the expected epic album-closing title track would become a concert staple (all three tracks were released as U.K. singles). While Maiden records of the past would contain an album's worth of first-rate material, Fear of the Dark is again weighed down with too many drab compositions -- "Childhood's End," "Chains of Misery," "Judas Be My Guide," and more. The serene "Wasting Love" proves to be one of Maiden's better ballads of the '90s, while the rockers "Fear Is the Key" and "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" are also standouts. Fear of the Dark would be singer Bruce Dickinson's final studio album with the band (until their late-'90s reunion), as he publicly voiced that he felt the band had run its course.

tags: iron maiden, fear of the dark, 1992, flac

Skargo - Anarchic (2013)

 
Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Blackgaze
Label Number: FR32
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© 2013 Fienser Records
Review by Kim Kelly for Pitchfork.com
The anarchist black metal movement forms a small but fascinating pocket in the extreme metal scene. The Vancouver duo Skagos' Anarchic is a sprawling, four-part composition that fills a double LP with a blend of graceful, shoegazey post-rock and blasts of raw-throated, left-leaning black metal.

The so-called “red & black metal” or “anarchist black metal” movement forms a small but fascinating pocket in the extreme metal scene, one that stretches around the globe but seems to have burrowed in deepest in North America’s hills and hollers. Kentucky-turned-Minnesota one-man outfit Panopticon is perhaps the best-known proponent of combining left-leaning ideology with black metal fury, but Vancouverites Skagos are hot on his heels. They’ve even worked together on a 2010 split LP, but while Panopticon’s recent output sees Austin Lunn dealing with earthy topics like the Appalachian coal mining industry and its devastating effect upon his family’s home, Skagos prefer to wax ecological and wane mystical. They sing about destruction, elemental anguish, and man’s infinite insignificance amidst the heaving rage of a dying planet.

It’s not exactly Kropotkin, but then again, the atmospheric black metal duo does not currently claim a particular political affiliation (though their interest in the works of anarcho-primitivist Fredy Perlmea are well-documented). The album title is likely due more to the members’ past endeavors (bassist/vocalist Ray Hawes has done time in black/crust anarchists Iskra and nature-worshippers Fauna) and their obvious reverence for the natural world than their present inclusion in this green circle. Satan is not welcome here-- there is no room for fairy tales in Skagos’ world, and their decision to distance themselves from the trappings of traditional black metal ideology is made apparent in their music.

Anarchic is a sprawling composition, split into four movements and spread across a double LP. The first side is split almost evenly between graceful, shoegazey post-rock and blasts of black metal, and feels warm, organic, and careful. It begins with soft dreamy vocals, solo and in chorus, while lonesome notes occasionally ring out and tension builds until the track explodes into furious blastbeats and raw-throated howls.

The album’s only real misstep comes around 25 minutes in, when a lengthy spoken word piece takes center stage and segues into regrettably mewled half-chant that, as heartfelt as it undoubtedly is, comes across as amateurish and half-baked. Side B picks back up with a single drum, beating a muted tattoo amidst ambient noise before more lackadaisical shoegaze wanders in. The black metal section is a welcome distraction, and shows the band at the top of their game; their atmospheric inclinations are all well and good, but Skagos are most effective when they’re pouring their demons out into razor-edged riffs and snarling condemnations. The tempo soon slows to a true Norwegian crawl, and the vocals drip with muddy viscosity, layered to filthy perfection. Doomy, menacing, and finely in tune with the apocalyptic visions they preach, this section is the album’s best, and the following near-acoustic passage, with its punchy little drum fills and shimmery notes, falls slightly flat in its wake. The rest of the song (there are still seven minutes left at this point) alternates between dark and light, and finishes on the same near-silent acoustic note we met at the journey’s beginning.

Skagos don’t mind being slapped with the “Cascadian black metal” tag-- given that they’re genuinely based in the Northwest, one can see why-- and their black metal moments do show similarities to the cyclical, rough-edged melodic style of Ash Borer, Alda, or even Wolves in the Throne Room, but it’s unfair to paint them with the same wide brush. With Anarchic, they've crafted an impressive, varied, and unique piece of work, one that’s not without its flaws, but that offers a bounty of rewards along its way.

tags: skagos, anarchic, 2013, flac

Skagos - Ást (2009)

 
Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Blackgaze
Label Number: NHRCD013
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© 2009 NHR Records
Reviewed by "Sargon the Terrible" for Metal Crypt.com
This is an NHR release of an album originally put out in 2009 on cassette, so you know this is some kvlt shit right here. Skagos are a Canadian band who play very 'nature' oriented BM, without verging into Cascadian territory at all. They proudly claim that they never use any electronic instruments, so there are no keys on this, just real guitars and drums, which creates a warm sound that fits nicely with the nature/pagan themes of the lyrics. If I am reminded of any one band, it would be Woods of Ypres on their Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth album. This is Black Metal, but the vocals are sparse and there is a moody, summery feel to the music. The arrangements are a bit baggy, as the fourteen-minute epic "The Drums Pound Every Night in a Glorious Celebration of Life" has some great parts, but it meanders a lot and ultimately seems long just for the sake of being obtuse. The guitar sound on this is smooth and rather feeble, with little bite, and this hurts the album and makes it sound weaker and less important. I really like a lot of the melodies here, but they largely are not tied together to make actual songs with identity as such. So this is violently anticommercial, which I like, but it is also unfocused and lacking in real drama or tension.

tags: skagos, ast, 2009, flac

Common Sense (Common) Can I Borrow a Dollar? (1992)

 
*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 88561-1084-2
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© 1992 Relativity Records
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
A former Source magazine "Unsigned Hype" winner, Common Sense almost single-handedly put Chicago hip-hop on the map in the early '90s with his excellent debut, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, which displayed a truly unique sound that, nevertheless, situated the rapper somewhere between the ground staked out by A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr. Can I Borrow a Dollar? features the fabulous, oddly muted production of 2 Pc. Drk Productions (Immenslope and Twilite Tone). They opt for a spare, minimalist production that prominently features understated keyboard loops over simple drum tracks, occasionally augmented by saxophone or flute for an overall jazzy, laid-back feel. The production perfectly complements Common Sense's hiccuping/singsongy vocal style and involved rhymes. His lyrics are packed with allusions and references to pop and street culture nearly as eclectic as those of the Beastie Boys. Though sometimes lighthearted to the point of aimlessness and occasionally veering into harder-hitting (vaguely misogynistic) sentiments, Can I Borrow a Dollar? acted, for the most part, as an antidote to the exaggeratedly hardcore rhymes of a lot of early-'90s hip-hop. Stand-out tracks such as "Charms Alarm," "Take It EZ," and the only outside production, the Beatnuts' characteristically bell-driven "Heidi Hoe," are calls to arms to all hangers-on and fakers in the hip-hop community. This is one of the most underrated hip-hop debuts of the '90s.

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tags: common, can i borrow a dollar, 1992, flac,

Common - Resurrection (1998 Reissue) ☠

 
*Reissued in 1998 by Relativity Records 
without the name "Common Sense" on the cover. 
Contains 16 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: REL 489900 2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994-1998 Relativity Records
Review by Allmusic.com
Common's sophomore release established a level of quality from the MC that carried through to his innovative work of the 2000s and 2010s. Spare, relaxed, jazz-laden grooves create a context for this Chicago rhyme-master to do what he does best, and in very few places on Resurrection do the verses leave listeners wanting. Narratives, metaphors, puns, and dazzling verbal wordplay are on offer throughout. "I Used to Love H.E.R.," for example, uses a first-person romance narrative to detail the history of hip-hop, resulting in an extended metaphor that's sophisticated, clever, and delivers a moral message. Common outs himself as an MC with a conscience on tunes like "Nuthin' to Do," which critiques the poor state of many of Chicago's neighborhoods. Thanks in part to his intelligent, agile style and scintillating street poetry -- and to the album's spare, groovy tracks that owe nothing to trends of the moment -- Resurrection still sounds smart decades after its release.

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tags: common, resurrection, 1994, 1998, reissue, flac,

Common - One Day It'll All Make Sense (1997)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 88561-1535-2
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© 1997 Relativity Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
With his previous records (released under the name Common Sense), Common demonstrated that he was one of the few Midwestern rappers to have a unique vision, but One Day It'll All Make Sense is where his talents come into focus. Blending hip-hop with jazz is a '90s cliché, but Common relies on bebop rhythms and street poetry, resulting in an album that has a loose, organic flow. The grooves have deep roots and the rhymes have humor, heart, and intelligence -- few of contemporaries could achieve the emotional impact of "Retrospect for Life" or the gospel-tinged "G.O.D. (Gaining One's Definition)." And that extra layer of emotional involvement gives One Day It'll All Make Sense a weight and spirituality that makes the record special. Certainly few of his peers have made an album as musically and lyrically rich as this, and it's about time others follow his lead.

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tags: common, one day itll make sense, 1997, flac,

Common - Like Water For Chocolate (2000) ☠

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 088 113 114-2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Common spent the '90s carrying the Native Tongues torch through an era dominated by gangsta rap, earning a sizable underground following. Positive-minded alternative rap came back into vogue by the new millennium, and Common managed to land with major label MCA for 2000's Like Water for Chocolate. The album established him as a leading figure of alternative rap's second generation, not just because of the best promotion he'd ever had, but also because it was his great musical leap forward, building on the strides of One Day It'll All Make Sense. There's production work by the Roots' ?uestlove, neo-soul auteur D'Angelo, the Soulquarians, and DJ Premier. But the vast majority of the album was handled by Slum Village's Jay Dee, and his thick, mellow, soul- and jazz-inflected sonics make Like Water for Chocolate one of the richest-sounding albums of the new underground movement. Common isn't always a master technician on the mic, but it hardly matters when the music serves his deeply spiritual vision and smooth-flowing raps so effectively. The singles "The Light" and "The 6th Sense" are quintessential Common, uplifting and thoughtful, and helped bring him a whole new audience. They're well complemented by the slinky, jazzy funk and lush neo-soul ballads that make up the record. Not everything is sweetness and utopia, either; Common sends up his own progressive image on "A Film Called (Pimp)," which features a hilarious guest appearance by MC Lyte, and spins a gripping first-person tale of revenge on the streets on "Payback Is a Grandmother" (though the tougher "Dooinit" feels a bit forced). The album could have been trimmed a bit to keep its momentum going, but on the whole, Like Water for Chocolate is a major statement from an artist whose true importance was just coming into focus.

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Common - Electric Circus (2002) ☠

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 088 113 114-2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2002 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Sam Samuelson
Firmly out of the underground by the time Electric Circus came out in late 2002, Common takes the vision to the next level, employing high-profile producers ?uestlove, Dilla (Jay Dee), and the Neptunes. It's no surprise that the ?uestlove tracks push the most unclaimed territory. The Roots' Phrenology record, which appeared concurrent with Electric Circus, also flips the script on preconceived notions of beats and rhymes. Frequently the new sound on both records is pushed into a strange, sometimes aggressive, blunted rock/soul hybrid that still pulls the line for able-bodied MCs. Then there's also the Neptunes' tracks here, which are perfectly suited for MTV and urban radio. The Mary J. Blige duet, "Come Close," is a slow-paced dialogue between Common and Blige that borders on typical, but will still find a great number of fans. "Electric Wire Hustler Flower" is the true centerpiece of the record, though -- another ?uestlove jam, the song is tough but sensitive enough to maintain the layers of rhythm, rhyme, and abstraction. Electric Circus does suffer from that which ails many contemporary hip-hop albums -- too many guests (including a strange appearance by Laetitia Sadier [Stereolab]) and a generally lengthy program drag this one down a tad. Nonetheless, Electric Circus is a brave and ruthless statement wrapped in sincerity.

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tags: common, electric circus, 2002, flac,