It's pretty well known how much I love Mayer Hawthorne. I play "Maybe So Maybe No" on repeat still to this day. The thing about Mayer is that he has this Brenton Wood appeal in terms of his musicality. For someone like myself who grew up around Bud Light and Art Laboe, Mayer fit like a comfortable old shoe. However, it would eventually become inevitable that Mayer would have to escape the genre trappings of that early sound and come out with something a bit more modern. For folks wishing to hear more of that classic R&B feel, this album may seem like a departure. However, while it does not continue to attempt to emulate the Art Laboe sound from before, I think it continues along the lines of feel-good R&B that perhaps mainstream radio-play has forgotten.
I didn't listen to as much bleep bloop music as I did last year because ShawnJ's in art school and he was my source of TEH HOT beats for most of 2011. So I mostly stuck to peeps I already knew about. Shigeto being one of said peeps. I love his downtempo electronic music goodness - especially after a few listens of Lineage. That said, I just wish there were more of it to listen to.
I think that Bloc Party has been trying to get back to the popularity level that they were when "Helicopter" was blowing up the radio. Their post-debut albums have not been great and though this one is nearly a return to form it is brought down significantly by Bloc Party's attempt to metal-up the place.
It is not a coincidence that the songs that I really liked on this album were the ones that were longer than a Dilla Donut and that featured vocal performances. I remarked in my review of Thundercat's last album that having vocals on the tracks seemed to focus Thundercat. Well, I think that is also true for Flying Lotus. Still, if you liked his old material, you'll still find plenty to love here as well.
Washed Out's "Within and Without" got promoted heavily by more than a few Independent Rock outlets. It was even on a few top 10 lists this year. I like that Independent Rock, so I picked it up. Then I was confused. It's not really "Rock" at all. It's more akin to mid-tempo Electronic fare from folks like Moby. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if you love Moby you'll probably love this as well because it's basically a Moby record. So ignore the promotion and know that this album is for mid-tempo electronic fiends.
If the Black Keys maintained that "Danger Mouse" sound on Brothers with just a couple of contributions from the man himself and could create a really compelling album, imagine what they could do reunited with aka Mr. Brian Burton? What do you THINK they could do? It's really good - obviously.
Seriously, does anyone do this style of music anymore? Well, yes. Raphael Saadiq does it as does Mayer Hawthorne. These guys are so earnest in their plagerism of classic soul. You can't really call this "Neo-Soul" either. It's just straight up old Soul. It's too new to be classic...but give it some time.
For all the hype and gimmickry of the "concept album" I find that it's difficult to create one that is listenable. Prince Paul's "A Prince Among Thieves" fell back on too many skits rather than simply telling the story through the music itself. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Deltron 3030 is entirely made up of music but it doesn't really tell a single cohesive story. It's more a series of narratives set in the conceptual world of the future. So when The Roots announced that they were working on a concept album, I was skeptical. Would they go the (tired) route of using skits to tell their story? Well, I am pleased to say that there are no skits on this album (unless you count the instrumental suite at the end of the album, but that's more like a coda) and that it is entirely listenable. Making a concept album that is still an album is tough to do, and The Roots have done it.
I got to see Tycho live recently and I was surprised at the amount of live instruments that are used to create the music. I don't normally imagine live instruments when I listen to this sort of music. That's not to say that folks who make instrumental music without live instrumentation can't make good music (I saw Teebs do a killer show and all he did was walk on stage with a sampler) it's just that I can appreciate this style so much more when I see live instruments on a stage. Visually, there's just more to look at. Hell, even Dr. Dre knows that live drums sound better than a drum machine. Even without the benefit of having seen that life performance however, I think that it's obvious on the record itself that these are live instruments and not mere samples. Especially when it comes to the drums.