Saturday, October 06, 2007

catch-up: T.I., Ola Podrida, Fujiya & Miyagi

A little housekeeping on this backlog I have...I basically stopped listening to anything but Sky Blue Sky and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga for the last month, so new listening has been slow. There's gonna be a few more updates relatively quick to take care of it, for reasons to be explained in a few weeks, at which time I will hopefully have a much bigger venue. Anyway.

T.I. T.I. Vs. T.I.P. - It's not that bad, really. A sequencing nightmare, T.I. Vs. T.I.P. aspires, in its own sloppy way, to be rap's own Quadrophenia, or something like that. Act I ("T.I.P.") is a bit of a mess: typically catchy songs like "Da Dopeman" can't conceal the fact that T.I.'s bravado is stumbling lyrically for new ways to express itself, resorting more than ever to blunt threats. It also has the only truly insufferable song: "Watch What You Say To Me," which has the double pain of another awful late-period Jay-Z verse and an incredibly annoying, drawled out hook: it sounds like a cough syrup fiend trying to rouse himself out of a stupor long enough to find his gun. But "Act II" is a barnburner, kicking off with "Help Is Coming," a typically immaculate Just Blaze production that finds a massive cathedral organ and exciting drum programming making up the year's biggest sounding rap song (theory: rap is the new Dave Fridmann in terms of booming, epic songs). There's also two unexpectedly decent contributions from presumably played out sources: potentially cheesy dance-crossover "Show It To Me" gets a revved-up Nelly verse. Even more interesting is "Touchdown," an Eminem-produced track that has to be some kind of perverse joke: "Southern boys love that bass," he notes, but there's almost none. It's tinny and snide, and Eminem pulls out his first decent verse in three years. Keenly aware that he's no longer the shocking center of attention, he envisions himself killing people inadvertently, bodies flying like krump dancers off his car as he's trying to drive; he just can't help it. Act III is a bit of an anti-climax, but T.I. remains the finest in pop-oriented rap.

Ola Podrida, Ola Podrida - Instigator David Wingo has done time composing scores for David Gordon Green, and it shows: Ola Podrida's debut has the kind of hazy ambience that begs to be accompanied by flare-smeared frames of woozy languor. Opener "The New Science" is a quiet stunner, its slowly-rising organ and gentle vocals conjuring up heartbreak and reconciliation as vividly as All The Real Girls. It's all a bit downhill from there, or at least just more of the same: song titles like "Pour Me Another" tell pretty much the whole story. Unlike a fellow traveler like M. Ward (or maybe like a Southern Elliott Smith without the anger), Wingo doesn't really have the range to pull off a whole album of this stuff: his songs sound like 11 variations on the same theme (pour me another indeed), avoiding bold chord changes, loud instrumentation (I can hear some trumpets pushed way to the back of "Instead," but they're even quieter than the glockenspiel), or anything rising above the energy level of a drunk late-night singalong. A debut well worth checking out, but if you're not sympathetic, it might sound like a slightly lo-fi version of Starbucks music. Check out that opener and "Photo Booth," though.

Fujiya & Miyagi, Transparent Things - I don't have much to add to my Pitchfork write-up. Without the live goofiness (which helps; it makes the record seem much less austere than it might otherwise come off), F&M prove to be really good at a kind of music I don't listen to much: krautrock without the droning boredom, lush synth passages breaking up the minimalistic rhythms. Another 3-spin record: the grooves don't really open up much on repeat listens, but quite good all the same.


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