Thursday, December 8, 2005
TALIB KWELI | Right About Now… | Koch Records
After a disappointing triumvirate of Beautiful material in 2004, the last thing Talib Kweli needs is yet another mixtape. But Right About Now seems to signal a fresh start, and for the most part, it marks a huge step up from his previous two lukewarm mixtape/scrap efforts. Right off the bat, the energy is different: the production stays on point, and Kweli comes off equally inspired. It’s good music, simply put, with a diverse-but-familiar set of collaborators: “Fly That Knot” further explores Kweli’s partnering with MF Doom, while “Drugs, Basketball and Rap” lends the spotlight to independent rappers Planet Asia and Phil the Agony.
The title reflects Kweli’s desire to share his current music, bucking any potential bootleggers (and avoiding a repeat of Struggle’s disastrous leakage) and bypassing the lag-time of a proper release. It’s a nice thought to think we’re privy to flows fresh out of Kweli’s mouth—except for the fact that one of these “new” tracks was already put out on the last mixtape! Yep, “Supreme Supreme,” Kweli’s re-teaming with Mos Def, is nothing new. Perhaps this mix is meant to tide us over, but if anyone knows the potential harm of over-output, it should be Kweli. With Right About Now, it’s so far, so good—here’s hoping for more quality, not just quantity. (BS)
JOHN LENNON | Walls and Bridges | Apple/Capitol
Your heroes lose their luster when you age a bit and when their music ages as well. This reissue is heartbreaking, as it clearly illustrates an artist in severe decline.
The greatest icon of the ‘60s was more or less out of tunes and ideas when this was recorded. Overly mannered and slick and sounding for all the world like the Saturday Night Live Band of that era was his greatest influence (snazzy percussion, psuedo soul sax), the former Beatle augmented this situation by presenting his band with unfathomable songs.
Let history record that “Goin’ Down on Love” and “Steel and Glass” are reprises of “I Found Out” and “How Do You Sleep” and that the only real hit here, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” is hooked by Klaus Voorman’s terrific bassline as well as the selling point of its time, Elton John’s harmonies. This isn’t worth your time—let your memories live and let this one pass. (JA)
AMERICAN ANALOG SET | Set Free | Arts & Crafts
Not as hazy or shimmering as most dream pop, American Analog Set surfs a clean, insistent thrum that infects your consciousness much like those burbling brook tapes. The Dallas quintet’s sixth album, Set Free, hews close to the model of previous efforts: pulsing guitar, toasty warm melodies and a somnambulant rhythm that’s not so much loping as restrained.
The music’s light touch and airy ambience allows it to sidle easily in and out of awareness, like a musical Zelig disappearing into the fringe of your attention. At times, it’s so innocuous you almost yearn for a rock to disturb the placid surface. While it can be limited in its moods, the album exudes such a pleasant vibe, it’s difficult not to be drawn in, particularly on tracks such as the breezy, folk-pop-ish opener “Born on the Cusp,” the acoustic guitar-driven, Flaming Lips-ish “She’s Half,” and bossa nova-flavored instrumental “(Theme from) Everything Ends.” One of the album’s highlights is its nod to slowcore predecessors Codeine, a cover of “Jr.”
While not designed for all climates and moods, American Analog Set forges music of subtle, unassuming beauty. (CP)