4 out of 5 stars
Following the success of his 2005 collaboration “The Mouse and The Mask,” which featured MF DOOM, Baltimore-based DJ Danger Mouse has teamed up with another quietly successful member of the rap community, Cee-Lo, and formed the highly addictive pop/neo-soul act Gnarls Barkley.
The duo’s first album, “Saint Elsewhere,” stormed the airwaves with the smooth yet addictive single “Crazy.”
The track re-introduced Cee-Lo’s soulful vocals to a musical scene that is largely unfamiliar with his earlier work alongside the Atlanta-spawned act Goodie Mob.
Danger Mouse successfully backs up Cee-Lo’s high-pitched attack with thumping bass lines and a series of hymnal wails that carry the song’s slick, almost serpentine motion through your ears.
While Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse display their thoughtful, self-involved side on tracks like “Crazy” and “Just A Thought,” they also exhibit the ability to craft freewheeling songs like “Go Go Gadget Gospel” and the sporadically energetic duo of “Gone Daddy Gone” (a surprising cover of the Violent Femmes classic) and “Transformer.”
Gnarls Barkley has taken a page out of The Roots’ playbook and put together an album that shifts effortlessly between catchy pop and poignant soul/R&B.
Good show Gnarls, and don’t worry about the name, we’d rather listen to you than a certain overweight ex-NBA power forward anyway.
Best Tracks: “Crazy,” “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Transformer,” “Just A Thought”
“This Town’s Disaster”
4 out of 5 stars
They say you can’t keep a good man down. The old axiom holds true for Jim Suptic, alumnus of one of emo’s flagship bands, The Get Up Kids.
When the five-piece act disbanded in 2005, fragmenting into other acts like Reggie and The Full Effect and The New Amsterdams, Suptic picked up his six-string and marched into his next project, Blackpool Lights.
Blackpool Lights combines Suptic’s rough vocals with whimsical guitar riffs to create an alternative/indie-rock atmosphere that helps the band step from the shadow of its emo influences.
The energetic, in-your-face sound on tracks like “It’s Never About What It’s About” and “This Town’s Disaster” are reminiscent of Lorene Drive, another band determined to shed genre staples and just play.
While most of the tunes provide an engaging sound with breezy guitars and well-paced but potent drumbeats, Blackpool Lights does divert from this at various points, with the ability to tell a story and rock out.
“Crash Sounds” entices the listener with a thoughtful introductory riff while Suptic turns down the volume on his vocals. It seems like he’s singing through a haze of cigarette smoke and laryngitis throughout the verse. The song then tactfully explodes into a powerful chorus at the 1:20 mark.
“Unlucky,” the final track on the disc, brings the CD back to the rock sounds that power the opening title track, but adds an evolution from melodic verse to sing-along chorus that embeds itself deep in your brain.
Best Tracks: “Crash Sounds,” “It’s Never About What It’s About,” “Unlucky,” “This Town’s Disaster,” “Blue Skies”
3 out of 5 stars
Throughout their careers, OutKast members Big Boi and Andr? 3000 have stayed atop the congested hip-hop world by taking an experimental approach to their music.
It should come as no surprise that on the latest release, “Idlewild,” OutKast has found a new genre to fuse with its particular brand of hip-hop.
By taking blues elements from the setting of its new movie and combining them with its unique recipe for catchy music, OutKast has concocted a heaping 25-song disc that should appease most listeners’ musical appetites.
The songs on “Idlewild” are divided into three sections.
There are two series of solo tracks, as well as eight songs recorded under the name OutKast.
Andr? shows the film’s jazz influence on tracks like “When I Look In Your Eyes” and “Idlewild Blue (Don’t Chu Worry ‘Bout Me).”
He also makes good use of the blues on tracks like “Dyin’ To Live” and “Mutron Angel,” where he combines gospel elements and keyboards to pour in a heavy dose of emotion.
Big Boi again disappoints on this album. Just as “Speakerboxxx” paled in comparison to Andr?’s “The Love Below,” his tracks on “Idlewild” are at best unremarkable. To my ears, it’s a poor emulation of Dr. Dre’s early work.
The OutKast tracks are solid, but only two of the songs really grabbed my attention.
“Hollywood Divorce” has an interesting premise; Big Boi claims the song was written to quell rumors that the band was breaking up.
“PJ & Rooster” bounces around behind Andr?’s impressive vocal range. Its catchy jive sound makes even the most flatfooted listener want to get up and dance.
Best Tracks: “PJ & Rooster,” “Idlewild Blue,” “Dyin’ To Live”
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