M WARD - TRANSISTOR RADIO

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Album: Transitor Radio
Artist: M Ward
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M Ward is getting a lot of press these days. His latest release, Transistor Radio, is the reason. The album starts with a beautiful instrumental version of You Still Believe in Me (Pet Sounds). The album is a low-fi, sincere record featuring Mr. Ward's flawed falsetto vocals. Of course, everyone will compare it to his last album (Transfiguration of Vincent) and although this album doesn't quite live up to that album, that isn't to say this album isn't great.

Gently strumming his acoustic, M Ward recreate music that would be played on an old radio, or through a hidden treasure you find in your parents record collection. The fuzzed out, low-fi production may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy Sam Beam, Will Oldham are other such artists, give this album a few listens. As with most good music, what doesn't originally grab you slowly unfolds to reveal greatness.

Paul's Song is a standout. Pushed along by a nice steel guitar, the track is upbeat enough to make you tap your foot, but not seem out of place on the album. The album features some of the big names in indie rock (Rachel from the Decemberists, Jim James from My Boring Racket... I mean, My Morning Jacket). The harmonies of Radio Campaign are amazing, and the stripped down sound of I'll Be Yr Bird makes it sound like a demo he recorded at home and forgot he was putting on the album. These unique sounds help make this album what it is; a quality listen that people are shitting on because it isn't his last album.


DINCO - THE BLACK PIRATE KING JAMES

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Album: Singles From The Black Pirate King James
Artist: Dinco
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The man formerly known as Dinco D has dropped the D and is trying to make a go of a solo career. This review is a little different in that I don't actually have the album, I just have 6 mp3's that were emailed to me. But we've said before that we'll review anything, and they're mp3's from a dude who was in one the classic groups of my youth, so I don't mind taking a listen and writing a bit about them.

As you should know if you're reading this, Dinco D was a member of the Long Island supergroup Leaders Of The New School. Busta Rhymes, Charlie Brown, Dinco D, and Cut Monitor Milo did indeed lead the new school as part of a wave of younger artists who emerged during hip hop's fabled golden age. And I love me some golden age, and like many, I can't let go of it, so I love hearing what old school rappers are doing now. So let's find out what Dinco's up to.

If you're a regular reader of the site, you know Dinco made an appearance on the jam Treacherous 3 on Chris Lowe's The Black Life. I said then that it sounded like Dinco had gained weight as his voice had more bass, but it's probably more likely age that's changed his voice. But there's some moments on these new songs that make you remember that you're listening to Dinco D from Leaders Of The new School.

It seems Dinco's re-located to Atlanta and hooked up with some kind of crew. He's being managed by some dude named Mr. Adassa who's apparently emailing all corners of the earth, including Herohill, to try and get the word out about Dinco. What he should be doing is emailing producers. Rise & Fall is apparently produced by Rick Rock, and it's a great song. But the other songs don't hold up as well. In fact the beats for Truck Shit and Up All Night are kind of weak. Spin Facta isn't bad, but Dinco would certainly benefit from some beats that matched the quality of his flow and lyrics. He might also want to limit the appearances of his unknown crew on the mic. There's some dudes called Da Faculty (A New School tie in?) on a couple songs and they're kind of bland. They're close to being on the thug tip, and that's not matching Dinco's steez.

Dinco's still a very good mc, and I could see enjoying a full album of him. But he should follow Masta Ace's lead and get some underground or lesser known but skilled producers on the case and put a solid album out. Unless Busta brings him back on the scene, Dinco's probably not blowing up in the club, so get some buzz going on the underground I'd say.

But the old school dudes need support, so buy Dinco's album if it ever comes out.


SAGE FRANCIS - A HEALTHY DISTRUST

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Album: A Healthy Distrust
Artist: Sage Francis
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Sage Francis probably doesn't like you. I'm not sure he likes many people. Which is funny, because I'm not really sure if I like this album. I'd never been a huge Sage Francis fan, he was always a little too extreme in the white nerd-rap spectrum. Almost more of a spoken word artist. But I was a huge fan of Hope, the album Sage and producer Joe Beats created under the name Non-Prophets. It was a well-produced album that featured Sage taking a simpler approach with his lyrics and showing off a deep appreciation for old school hip hop with many classic references.

But there's no simple approach to the lyrics on A Healthy Distrust, Sage's debut album on Punk label Epitaph. Sage is obviously a bright fellow, and a good writer, so he layers his songs with metaphors on top of metaphors and plenty of concept rhymes. And Sage isn't just being clever for the sake it, he's got plenty to say. He's condemning US politricks (The Buzz Kill, Slow Down Ghandi), shitting on the state of popular music (Dance Monkey), talking about painful relationships (Agony In Her Body, Bridle), and rap-singing an Everlastian lament for Johnny Cash (Jah Didn't Kill Johnny). There's some pretty heady stuff there, and in listening to it a couple times, I found the album gets a little heavy as it goes on. Sage drills you with the seriousness for 15 tracks, and can sound like he's rapping on top of a high horse, which can be hard to take at times.

The production matches Sage's style and is mostly solid. There's no real amazing tracks here, but there's nothing boring either. They are interesting enough to keep your ear and for Sage to get riled up to. Some notable underground producers are featured on this album: Dangermouse, Daddy Kev, Controller 7, and Truro NS native Sixtoo.

So what's my beef with this album? I guess it's mainly that Sage comes off angry and heavyhanded on pretty much every track (except for Jah Didn't Kill Johnny). If I'm feeling angry or depressed, this is a great album to listen to, otherwise it's not really a fun listen. But that doesn't mean it's a bad album and it may grow on me as I've been able to make much more sense out of it after a couple listens. If you like the nerd rap at all, I'd say you have to give this a listen.



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