Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reviews:: Grand Analog - Metropolis Is Burning

Not too long ago, mentioning "hip hop" and "live instruments" in the same sentence was kind of like using "baseball" and "steroids" together in the late 90's - it was a bit of a taboo. But these days hip hop has changed a bit, and just like steroids in baseball, (yes, I know you saw this coming) everyone is doing it. This move towards mainstream hip hop embracing live sounds, and even gravitating somewhat towards the indie rock scene, has been going on for a while, but things have already changed a great deal since Grand Analog came on the scene in 2006.

So it seems appropriate that GA, the hip hop band/collective helmed by Odario Williams, has evolved their sounds since their last release. I was a big fan of their '07 release, Calligraffitti, but right from the first paragraph of that review, I was classifying it as experimental. And with good reason, I mean the name suggests as much, and upon reflection, the songs, despite many being really rather catchy, maintained a rather eclectic, yet serious, tone (something like Touch Your Toes being an exception). This time out, it seems that Odario & Co. are content to just make music they enjoy, and not feel like they have to justify the inclusion of guitars and such in their sound.

At least that's my take on their new album, Metropolis Is Burning, and that shift seems apparent from the get-go, with chunky guitar riffs and sweet horn sounds taking the lead on "be yourself" anthem I Play My Kazoo. Not sure if it says more about me, or hip hop in general, that the kazoo solo outro doesn't seem as novel as it once would have. Whereas the reggae sounds on Calligraffitti seemed to have been mixed down into a number of other influences, they are out in front on the feel good city-escape endorsing Take It Slow (Spaces & Places), and the radio-ready song (well, if your radio station starts & ends with "C" and has a "B" in the middle) is better for it I would say.

The radio-friendly vibes continue on the bouncy I'm On Fire, which features guest vocals from Maiko Watson (ex-...ahem...Sugar Jones) and a scene-stealing guest verse from Winnipeg MC Len Bowen. I'm a big fan of this jam, really catchy stuff, good use of the female vocals on the hook. I'm afraid the same cannot be said of Stir Crazy, which also features vocals from Maiko, but feels like something is missing - not even the Nice & Smooth homage in Odario's opening verse can get it over the hump for me. However, the K-Solo homage found on the raucous Her Daddy (Don't Like Me) is certainly welcome, and had me hooked before the harmonica outro reeled me in for good.

Electric City features the always-solid Shad, and that alone pretty much guarantees my approval, but it also happens to be a pretty great song. The latter half of the album feels a little subdued, as it's dominated by more bottom-heavy, hip hop oriented tracks like Not Enough Mondays/Crunch and Videogames (which incidentally, isn't the best title if one were worried about being perceived as a nerdy/intellectual, not that Odario cares about that, purely an observation on my part). Everyday Always and Brothers Gotta Eat bring the reggae vibes back again, and the shifty Light So Bright unfortunately doesn't sample Corey Hart, but it does feature a cameo from Edmonton's new Poet Laureate.

So the verdict on Metropolis Is Burning? It's certainly a solid album, with a number of songs that stand out as singles (well, they would if Canada's hip hop industry wasn't so barren), and it strikes me as an album that would appeal to a wide-range of musical tastes. For me, I think the first GA album hit with a bit more impact, but really, what act can't you say that about? If you're new to Grand Analog, get this album and play it loud the rest of the summer. Or better still, check the dates below and catch Odario & Co on tour with Toronto electro outfit Lioness in Various Canadian cities over the next month.

MP3:: Grand Analog - Electric City f. Shad

Jul 23: The Montreal House - Peterborough, ON
Jul 24: The Ford Plant - Brantford, ON
Jul 25: Toronto Day Show @ Dundas Square - Toronto, ON
Jul 25: Club Absinthe - Hamilton, ON
Aug  2: Cutting Edge Music Festival - Kitchener, ON
Aug  6: Media Club - Vancouver, BC
Aug  7: Habitat - Kelowna, BC
Aug  9: Shambhala Music Fest - Salmo, BC
Aug 11: Henotic Resto Lounge - Lethbridge, AB
Aug 12: The Hi Fi - Calgary, AB
Aug 13: Pawn Shop - Edmonton, AB
Aug 14: Amigo’s - Saskatoon, SK
Aug 15: The Pyramid - Winnipeg, MB

VIDEO:: Grand Analog - Her Daddy (Don't Like Me)

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Posted at 12:00 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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