Showing posts with label aesop rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aesop rock. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

resonators 2019 - episode #022 - 'labor days' by aesop rock (VIDEO)

And this kicks all amounts of ass too - yay!

Next up, I think I'm about ready for Swans, so stay tuned!

resonators 2019 - episode #022 - 'labor days' by aesop rock

So one observation I've made about Resonators this year is that I've wound up covering a lot of acts I would otherwise review on a regular basis, and this has led to a few notable observations for me. For one, it's a sign that underground hip-hop, despite its numerous flirtations with the mainstream, has maintained considerable longevity - and more to the point, most of the acts have been able to ride their careers into their second or even third decade of success while still maintaining a consistent or even fresh audience. Hell, in some cases the sound is consistent and timeless enough that to a predominantly older demo who gets into a more thorny, lyrical style, so long as the quality is consistent they'll stick around. And when you consider it's often not with major label support or "icon" status to build the huge cult following, that's extremely impressive.

And today we're going to be talking about one of the most respected names in this scene and one who has actually made a few of my year-end lists: New York MC Aesop Rock. Known for his phenomenal vocabulary and eclectic sense of storytelling, he got his start with university friend and producer in his own right Blockhead, and in the late 90s he self-financed a limited project Music For Earthworms, primarily promoted online through his own website and, avenues for underground hip-hop that were in their infancy of being tapped. And after a quick EP, he won over enough traction to get signed to predominantly electronic music label Mush Records for 2000's album Float, which featured production both from him and Blockhead and a few notable guest stars, like Vast Aire of Cannibal Ox and Slug of Atmosphere. And yet I'm not discussing that project specifically, mostly because you can tell Aesop Rock was still refining his style, with his manic-depressive nasal delivery and content that still reflected some rough edges - still really damn good album, especially given its melodic focus and how damn quotable he's always been, but the hooks weren't all the way there, the vocal layering could feel a bit slapdash, and there's an overwritten sense of anxious panic that really can't sustain its hour-plus runtime, even if it did match the sharp criticisms of the system that left an entire class of people struggling to stay alive at the bottom; smart enough to know it, but seeing no easy way out. And thus when I discovered in 2001 he had a nervous breakdown... well, sad to say it didn't surprise me.

But regardless, he had also signed to El-P's label Def Jux, and on his next album he was looking to expand upon many of the themes he had introduced on Float, which would become to many his breakthrough: so yeah, it's here, today we're going to be talking about Aesop Rock's 2002 album Labor Days, and this is Resonators!

Friday, January 25, 2019

video review: 'malibu ken' by aesop rock & tobacco

Man, I kind of expected this would be a lot of fun, but it really did connect in a great way. Not quite better than The Impossible Kid, but still worth a lot of listens regardless.

Next up... yeah, Backstreet's back, folks, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

album review: 'malibu ken' by aesop rock & tobacco

Ooh, I've been looking forward to this one.

And yes, this review might be later than you'd otherwise expect, but for Aesop Rock I wanted to give myself the space and time to fully digest this. As a rapper I'll freely admit I got into Aesop late and it took me a while to fully absorb his dense production and even more dense and layered rhymes and content, but The Impossible Kid took two big steps towards accessibility in 2016 and it wound up being one of my favourite hip-hop albums of that year, and one that I return to regularly to this day. And what I really admired was the change in tone - many of his projects could have a heavyset grimness that could be hard to process if you weren't in the right mindset, and yet for as creative of a wordsmith as Aesop was, I really liked the steps towards a more varied tone, if not precisely a lighter one.

And that takes us to Tobacco - signed to indie label Anticon, he's a psychedelic-funk electronic producer and frontman of the critically acclaimed band Black Moth Super Rainbow. Now they've worked with Aesop Rock before over ten yeas ago - Aesop even brought a verse to a breakout single 'Dirt' - but here they've teamed up for a full collaborative album that looked to bring a very different, borderline silly tone to bear. And I'll admit that Aesop was looking to bring a bit more levity to bear, this could be a really fun album, so what did we get with Malibu Ken?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

the top 50 best songs of 2016

I've gone on record that this list in particular is always the hardest to make. Refining a list of songs that I've covered on albums I've reviewed over the course of the year - which numbers in the thousands of songs - down to a select six hundred or so, then down to a subset of just under 200... and then the final fifty. Suffice to say, there's always a lot to cover.

But I have to say, this year felt easier than others. I'd say part of it is that I'm getting a better handle on my organization going into these lists, but that would assume I've got some inkling of what I'm doing here. I think the larger factor is that the truly amazing songs that monopolized my year - the top 35 or so - they fell into place remarkably quickly, and that made ironing out the details easier than I expected. Maybe it was because it was easier for me to get passionate about some of these tracks than before, because if you ventured away from the mainstream Hot 100, there was a lot of great music in 2016. Away from the charts there was great metal, rock, synthpop, hip-hop, and especially country, which had one of its best years in recent memory, and fair warning, there's going to be a lot of it on this list.

As always, the songs had to appear on any one of the albums I reviewed - singles or deep cuts, all are possible, so no more wasting time, we have a lot to get through! So let's start off crazy with...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2016 (VIDEO)

Well, this video was a ton of fun to make. Took me less time than I expected too, but it's always one of my favourites every year.

Next up... look, I've never had any interest in Blink-182, so I kind of want to cover the Weval record or Blood Orange... but we are coming up to my third year anniversary, and you all should remember what that means, so stay tuned!

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2016

There will be a lot of headlines that suggest that 2016 has not been a good year for music - and if you follow the mainstream between the losses of several legends and a haphazard set of releases that slide between underwhelming and disappointing, that's easy to believe.

Of course, that view is not really reflective of reality, because if you look away from the Billboard Hot 100 - which I would advise, it's been a rough six months there - there is quality here. I think the big issue comes in that there have been fewer than normal outright smashes and instant classics as there were at the midyear of 2015, which was really frontloaded with incredible records. 2016 has been more scattershot, with a lot of great records that don't quite rise to the level of immediate classics, and also a fair bit more diverse. Country and folk, for one, have been a great year across subgenres, underground hip-hop has been pretty solid, and there's some great R&B, metal, and rock music that I've liked a fair bit. And that's before you get the genre-bending stuff that sticks the landing incredibly well, and I'd argue we've seen a lot of that thus far.

What this means is that it's been excruciating trying to narrow this down to my usual top twelve, in that the top half was very straightforward but the bottom half is a lot harder to cut. So while I almost chose to open things up to a top fifteen albums of the mid year, I figured I might as well stick with tradition and keep it at twelve, which meant some painful cuts - some of which I think will surprise you. So without further ado, let's start with...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

video review: 'the impossible kid' by aesop rock

Well, this took entirely too long to finish, but I'm glad I finally did. Lot to dissect here, I must say.

Next up... hmm, not sure yet. Do I want to cover Radiohead yet, or should I handle Vektor and Keith Urban... decisions, decisions, but regardless, stay tuned!

album review: 'the impossible kid' by aesop rock

So when I covered Kevin Morby last week, I mentioned that much of the wordplay I tend to prefer is intricate and layered, or at least trying a little harder than bog standard metaphor trying and failing for universality. And with rare exception, if you take a look at my favourite albums of any given year, that focus on lyricism has led to certain records landing on the list that push the gauntlet lyrically but might not quite be as innovative in their sound - or if they are, it's in subtle ways that serves and compliments the writing.

But that's not saying I don't have my limit on the other extreme, the songs that weave such tangled webs of words that clawing forth any specific meaning is a twisted nightmare in and of itself, and that's not even counting the writers who focus more on impressionist poetry over direct meaning. To me, this material draws a lot of curiosity, but the bizarre thing is that they can be a little emotionally distancing - when you get so focused on untangling what is said, you can lose the heart of it all.

And that was my biggest fear before I started delving into Aesop Rock, the veteran MC who is known for having the biggest vocabulary in hip-hop and with a considerable discography and reportedly impenetrable albums. Not only was I concerned about verbosity and so many words adding up to less than expected, but that I would lose the emotional core in the music. Fortunately, as with so much hype on the internet, this didn't happen, and it's been a hugely rewarding experience revisitng Aesop Rock's discography in full, complete with all of the eccentric production choices, oddball lyrical knots, and records that might all run long, but often have a strong enough emotional core to hold my attention. And here's the thing: sure, the music is going to require some work to decode, but no more so than Joanna Newsom or Uncommon Nasa or any other singer-songwriter with an eye for detail, and unlike a rap act like Shabazz Palaces who can get lost in their own impenetrability, Aesop Rock's songs tend to have a point that will crystallize if you dig into them. 

So yeah, I was definitely curious to check out his newest solo release, four years after the critically acclaimed - for good reason - Skelethon, which I'd place in my upper tier of Aesop Rock records just below Labor Days and maybe a smidge above Float. And considering his production has only gotten more layered and complex and buzz was suggesting this might be one of Aesop Rock's most specific and direct releases to date - which is a good thing, as sometimes even he can slip into the lyrical rabbit hole - I was genuinely thrilled to dig into this. So what did we get?