Wednesday
Dec142011

Shins Announce 'Port of Morrow' for March 2012, Release Album Art.... Meh

REVIEWING THE MUSIC-RELEASE NEWS: The Shins are back. Meh.

By Kenny Herzog

Shins frontman James Mercer's a bit like the indie rock Adam Levine. Assuming by indie rock, we mean bands that actually perform as well commercially as Maroon 5 (and more power to them). He's reasonably attractive, makes music that ladies (and sensitive men) can swoon and has fancied himself something of an adventurous multi-talent in the wake of his primary group's success.

Thing is, that whole Broken Bells project with Danger Mouse didn't leave much of an impression. On anyone. So, back to one's roots we go. After a half-decade layoff since their nearly Billboard-topping Wincing the Night Away, the Shins will release the daftly titled Port of Morrow in March 2012. Meh.

Oh, and the guys have split with longtime label Sub Pop, and will be releasing Morrow jointly via Columbia and Mecer's own imprint (whatever that means), the ridiculously dubbed Aural Apothecary. Double meh. 

Here's a tracklist, and above is the twinly album art. No word on whether future Apothecary releases will come with sea salts and facial tone.

 

Meh-seeming Port of Morrow tracklist:

1. The Rifle's Spiral

2. Simple Song

3. It's Only Life

4. No Way Down

5. September

6. Bait and Switch

7. Fall of '82

8. For A Fool

9. 40 Mark Strasse

10. Port of Morrow

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Meh.

THE SHINS ARE FINE RATING: 5/10

WHEN'S THE NEW SLAYER ALBUM OUT AGAIN?: 666/10

MEH RATING: Meh/10

 

Please friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Have your own rating or comments you'd like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Friday
Dec092011

GloZell's Hilarious Spoof of Adele's "Someone Like You" is Crazy Good 

 

VIDEO REVIEW: Internet sensation and standup comic GloZell Green critiques Adele's Grammy-nominated "Someone Like You" lyrics so we can all understand what the song is really about. All other music critics, hold your heads in shame.

By Robbie Woliver

GloZell thinks Adele is crazy? Well, we think GloZell is crazy...good.


Each time my daughter, Emma, and I hear Adele’s “Someone Like You” on the car radio (which is constant; it is the most ubiquitous song on radio), she lectures me on the meaning of the lyrics and how they irritate her, or “creep me out,” as she would say.  She thinks it’s the ultimate stalker song, but I take it a bit more gently. The other day Emma sent me a video of Internet critic GloZell desconstucting the song. GloZell thinks Adele is rolling in the deep side of insanity. I have met my match. I bow down to GloZell. I could not refute a word she says in this amazing retelling of “Someone Like You.” Girl has rendered me speechless:

And Emma, congratulations, you've proved your case.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: I can’t believe after decades of being me being a serious music critic, it took GloZell four minutes and 17 seconds to show me the light. This is how you critique a song!

 ADELE’S “SOMEONE LIKE YOU” RATING: 10/10

GLOZELL'S “SOMEONE LIKE YOU” CRITIQUE: You Go, Girl/10

STALKER FACTOR: Emma’s Right: 10

"OOOO, SHE CRAZY" RATING: Lord Have M/10

 

 Please friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Have your own rating or comments you'd like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Thursday
Dec012011

Debating Kanye, Adele, Foo Fighters, Skrillex, Bon Iver and the Grammy Noms and Snubs

  
REVIEWING THE NOMINEES: As usual, the annual Grammy candidates included trendy surprises, predictable bores and baffling omissions. We discuss, and mostly mock.

 

By Kenny Herzog and Robbie Woliver
"Wait, I got the most nominations but not album of the year. Shit." (Credit: Island Def Jam)

 

As you may know, REVIEWniverse editors Robbie Woliver and Kenny Herzog occassionally go tit-for-tat about the latest TV shows, movies, albums, true-crime happenings, celebrity blunders and general pop-culture schrapnel. Call it a great debate, call it a he said/he said, call it whatever you like. Just don't call it Shirley. 

Today, we take a look at the much buzzed-about 2012 Grammy nominations, which polarized music fans as they always do, especially in the Twitter-verse. So, we took it upon ourselves to parse through the honored acts, overlooked artists and public response itself, and see if we can't deduce just what to make of this year's annointed crop. 

 

KENNY HERZOG: I will admit, it's odd that Kanye would get nominated for seven trophies but not Album of the Year. Still, I'm a bit surprised that people are surprised. It's like bemoaning your middle-aged aunt being out of touch with kids these days.

ROBBIE WOLIVER: I'm sure he'll get up to the podium to accept anyway. But the Grammys sure tapped into their inner folkie and dreamy folk rock, didn't they? Their big live show is gonna be Bon Iver, the Civil Wars, the Decemberists and Mumford & Sons? Where are the Katy Perrys?!

KH: Just to be a bit indulgent for a minute, the Bon Iver revelation kind of took me aback. I understand it's on the heels of his Kanye association and subsequent charting relevance, but on a personal level, he and I were sitting in my then-office four years ago at this time, talking and hanging out before he eventually performed acoustic for a podcast. Four years later, he's a multiple Grammy nominee, and I'm sitting at my laptop navel-gazing about his success. I feel congratulatory toward him, yet somehow sad and comparatively unaccomplished. Depressing, no?

RW: Wow, what a name-dropper. Well, I was once mano y mano with Bob Dylan in his dressing room for an hour (OK, one other person was with us)--and Liberace was outside the door. So there.

KH: Yes, because they were already successful. My encounter is uniquely bittersweet because, at that time, I was theoretically extending exposure to a then-unknown artist who has now comically eclipsed me in his pursuits. Opposite of name-dropping. It's like name-sadness.

 

RW: Let's set Bon Iver's delicately plucked "Holocene" aside for a second, but "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons as Record of the Year? WTF? Did Liberace ever win a Grammy? 

 

KH: The list of deserved Grammy snubs far exceeds even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's. And I definitely equate their mutually insitutionalized randomness. I think the danger in NARAS fogies chasing indie-crossover trends is that a lot of what's coming from that culture is boring. It's a no-win, because most of pop radio in 2011 is pretty soulless, glitchy genre mashing. Adele being a notable exception among the nominated.

 

RW: The Grammys has always been more known for its schizophrenia than common sense. But it's that crazy nonsensical mix that makes me like the nominations. Adele is certainly expected and deserved, as is Katy Perry's "Firework," I must admit. And although I don't think they are top-tier award-worthy, it is certainly wonderful to see acts like Bon Iver and Mumford in the mix. And there are weird selections all over the place. Take Dance. "Barbara Streisand" by Duck Sauce? That is not a Grammy-worthy nomination, but Robyn is well-earned.

 

KH: Robyn is well-deserved, although the fawning over uber-trendy flash-in-pan Skrillex is dubious at best. It almost feels like voters either have moles scanning blogs or their college-aged kids are whispering hipness into their ear. It also should be said that, while Bon Iver is great and should be acknowledged, he is not exactly a New Artist. Their definition of that category is still bafflingly self-serving. I also need to ask if all the Foo Fighters love (for a fine record, but one no more distinguished than their best) has anything opportunistically to do with all the Nirvana Nevermind anniversary buzz this year. They're hoping for a "moment" during one of Dave Grohl's speeches, perhaps?

RW: Well, what about Eddie Vedder's nomination for Best Folk Album? And the Best New Artist category has always been baffling. Remember when Shelby Lynne won after, like, a four-decade career? (I love Shelby Lynne by the way, and if she were nominated next year for Best New Artist again, I would be thrilled.) But is the category to watch Best Pop Collaboration, given the inclusion of Tony Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse's duet? Grammys giving her one last goodbye? 

KH: I guess the formula has always been a cynical calculation of timely sentiment, overcorrected belatedness, mainstream complacence and, increasingly, desperate trendiness. But unless Bon Iver sweeps his categories and the night, it'll be hard to imagine anything as astounding as Arcade Fire's coup de ceremony last year. That kind of backfired on the Grammys though, which makes Adele's breakout record the perfect patsy to get things back safely but credibly on track.

RW: The bottom line is that this is Adele's year. There is no bigger music story, or more deserving recording, and we'll all be waiting to see if her throat surgery heals enough for her to perform. Everything else pales in her wake. There are some other great offerings like the Decemberists who are so deserving of wider recognition. And this year's Who is Esperanza Spaulding Award? goes to Americana's Linda Chorney, whom none of my Americana colleagues ever heard of. And for the record, Nicki Minaj won the New York Music Awards' Best New Artist Award a year prior to this Grammy nomination. I'm also sorry Lili Anel's "Every Second In Between" wasn't recognized in Jazz. 

KH: Ugh. The Decemberists. I HATE the Decemberists. And I think they're pretty widely recognized. Even as far back as a few years ago, when they were heavily dropped in a Friday Night Lights episode. I did, however, meet a girl I once dated at a show of theirs someone dragged me to, so there's that. And she was a bit older, so it was something of a May-Decemberists romance, eh? Anyhow, I don't really have anyone I feel was egregiously omitted, to be honest. If I do, they'd either make me look delusional or like someone who simply has poor taste in music. I suppose I can agree that Adele may as well sweep up. Maybe I'm feeling safe too, but it beats a gloating Kanye or nerd revolt when one of their indie-rock heroes triumphs. 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Stay tuned for our post-Grammys shakedown after it airs on Feb. 12, 2012. There's a lot of 2s in that date.

OVERALL NOMINATIONS RATING: 6.5/10

AT LEAST THERE'S SOME REAL PEOPLE TO ROOT FOR RATING: 7/10

REALIZING HOW ARBITRARY THE PROCESS IS/WINNERS ARE ANYWAY RATING: Sighing Exhale/10


Please friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Have your own rating or comments you'd like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Wednesday
Nov302011

Lili Anel's Starmaking CD 'Every Second in Between' is a Gem 

ALBUM REVIEW: Lili Anel's timeless Every Second in Between (Wall-I Records) was first reviewed by us months ago, but it's holiday season, so it's time to repost/update this review so you know exactly what to buy for your music-loving friends. 

By Robbie Woliver

Add this to your holiday gift-giving list, now!

 

Lili Anel has been making incredible music for years, but with Every Second In Between she has a recording that finally lands her on the Big-Time map. This is her breakthrough, a brilliant amalgam of jazz and pop vocals, songwriting and production. THis review first ran when the record was released, but a lot has happened since, like Lili winning three top-level New York Music Awards (Best Female Jazz Album, Best Female Jazz Vocalist and Best Female Singer/Songwriter).

Anel, a New York singer-songwriter now Philadelphia-based, grew up in Spanish Harlem soaking up the musical roots of her Cuban and African-American heritage. Professionally, she grew up in the same Greenwich Village singer-songwriter circle as Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin and Lucinda Williams. But unlike those singers who each had a distinct style that was easy to capitalize on, Anel’s approach was more complex and difficult to pinpoint. One set of ears would compare her to Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman; another Phoebe Snow. One listener would say Nina Simone; another, Roberta Flack. There were comparisons to Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and even Pat Benatar. And you know what? They were all correct. But they were all wrong as well. Comparing her to all those greats proved a disservice. She was a fusion of them all, meaning simply, LIli Anel is an original—there is no comparison.

With Every Second, Anel’s fifth recording, the singer-songwriter has secured herself a place as a jazz-pop artist to be reckoned with on the national scene.

Let’s start with that incomparable voice. Alto-deep, and as smooth as honey, her rich timbre is what makes her so distinctive and drives the deep emotion of her songs (she wrote all but one on this album). Her persuasive, percussive guitar playing is the perfect companion to a vocal that sways and slides through very expressive lyrics and jazz-tinged melodies. Her superb vocalese is all about shadows, notes and phrasing standing outside and flitting between.

Looking fierce, sounding gorgeous, Lili Anel has everything going for her.

Much kudos for the success of this recording goes to Grammy-winning Glenn Barratt, who was smart enough to pull back the bells and whistles and allow the spotlight to shine on Anel’s main strength—her voice. The CD starts with a rousing “I Don’t Need You This Way,” with its themes of love, loss and empowerment, which permeate the album. The song displays such self-control and self-possession. While Anel can wail with the best (and she does on this and other tracks), she shows as much command over her vocal as she does over the situation she’s singing about.

“One More Night” is a gorgeous bluesy-jazz ballad, showcasing Anel’s stellar voice. The track is just killer. And again Barrett’s golden touch is evident through the top-level musicality on this song—so clean, so complex, so perfect. The instrumentation is spot-on, with the soulful organ adding just the right amount of groove.

The centerpiece of the CD, “Supposed to Be,” could (and should) be a No. 1 pop hit. A stunningly elegant and lilting Latin-tinged ballad, she sings without anger or regret: “I am who I am despite your plan for me.” It is the cornerstone of this album. The tell-tale line, “It’s life it’s death and every second in between,” says it all: She covers all the nooks and corners of relationships, with every moment of the song—all her songs—filled with character.

Listen to "Supposed to Be" here:

"Supposed to Be" by Lili Anel

“Nina Simone’s” “That’s All I Want From You” is a simple ballad, expressing hope for what a relationship could be. The song is so pretty, and the piano accompaniment is heartfelt. A first-class performance, showing how dynamic artists like Simone and Anel can display such vocal restraint when needed. Another magnificent performance.

“So Far Away,” written with her identical twin sister Barbara (a terrific singer on her own) has another nice Latin groove, with Anel reaching deep to some of those low-notes most other artists wouldn’t/couldn't even attempt. And then to prove what a pro she is, she soars heavenly high. She never shows off; she doesn’t need to. She just sings.

“Can’t Fall Out of Love,” is the realist side of Anel. While she won’t take crap in a relationship, it’s still hard to leave someone she loves. It’s this kind of honesty, both lyrically and vocally that makes Anel a standout.
In “Much to My Surprise” Anel gets a bit country at its start, digging back to those folk roots of hers. But it soon gets funky and proves that Anel has strong R&B and rock chops as well. “George Bailey’s Lament” is almost in narrative form, where Anel nimbly plays with song structure. It’s here where the best example of those vocal comparisons occur—in this one song you hear everyone from Armatrading, Mitchell, Chapman, Simone, and Flack, and you shake your head thinking, wow, this is one vocalist reminiscent of all those iconic, individual voices, resulting in a unique sound of her own.

“Won’t You Stay” is one of those dazzling tracks that you can leave on "repeat" all day, and never tire of it. This is a classic—a striking, very coverable song that can anchor movies, TV shows and your iPod. Her voice just flies skyward on this one. The kiss-off “Voyager,” is a poignant goodbye song, typical of Anel's theme of strength lying within, and not necessarily with another. A particular sweet sadness envelopes this one.

You don’t want to hear the closer “Goodbye.” You just don’t want this CD to end. Just start it over again, and again. And then make sure you visit her equally good catalogue on iTunes, Amazon, MySpace or her own website.

Every Second In Between is pure genius. Lili Anel, after years of making fantastic music, has finally grabbed the gold ring with this, the best jazz album of the year, and a real contender for pop’s overall best of the year.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: A Grammy-worthy album for any mood, by one of the most distinctive contemporary artists around.

EVERY SECOND IN BETWEEN RATING: 9.5/10

HOLIDAY GIFT POTENTIAL FOR YOUR FRIENDS RATING: iTunes/10

 

Please friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Have your own rating or comments you'd like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

 

Wednesday
Nov302011

'Billboard' and Everyone Else Need to Stop Announcing When Music "Drops"

MUSIC-SEMANTICS REVIEW: Traditional and indie music-media alike need to stop overusing one specific bit of industry slang.

By Kenny Herzog

The only thing Stanley Hudson routinely drops is his crossword pencil. (Credit: YouTube)

 

Yesterday evening, Billboard.com was among the many entertainment sites embedding The Office's latest viral video. Namely, fictional salesman Stanley Hudson's (Leslie David Baker) parodic R&B track, "2 Be Simple." The song and clip themselves are, like their parent sitcom of late, silly and not very funny. But Billboard's headline, which boasted that, "Stanley from The Office Drops" his new single, may have finally signaled a nadir for one of contemporary music-journalism's most overly abused bits of jargon.

Chances are, the headline scribe opted for "Drops" with tongue in cheek, given the ensuing video's sending up of R&B tropes. But the term's still lost its ironic cache in the wake of countless white-bred magazines and blogs awkwardly, earnestly appropriating its usage while reporting album-release news on vanilla indie rock, teen-pop and even adult-contempo. 

So let's all show a little appreciation for the language, even and especially in its modern varations (shorthanded offspring are its future, after all), and respect the proper time and situation for declaring that music drops. And in return, here's the S-Hud video in question, in case that's your thing.

 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: To invoke generally accurate, self-appointed cultural arbiter Bill Maher: New Rule—No more referring to albums by country stars, indie rockers, pubescent pop stars or comedic TV personas as about to "drop."

STANLEY HUDSON'S DEBUT "SINGLE" RATING: 4/10

THE NEUTERING OF PERFECTLY GOOD POP-CULTURAL SLANG RATING: 2/10

NEUTERING RATING: 9/10

 

Please friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Have your own rating or comments you'd like to share? Please do so in the comments below.