Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Top Albums of the Year, pt. 2

December 30, 2011

Here’s part two:

10: Common Grackle – The Great Repression. Absolutely unhinged western swing/rockabilly. I listened to this for a couple weeks straight when I first heard it.

9: Hoodie Allen – Leap Year. The indie-rock-appropriating beats float the cleverest lyrics I’ve heard all year. “Soul on Fire” and “James Franco” blow my mind.

8: Braids – Native Speaker. The most mesmerizing album I listened to all year. Raphaelle Standell-Preston can make even curse words sound beautiful and delicate.

7: Typhoon – A New Kind of House. Strings! Horns! Choirs! Acoustic guitars! Melodies! Emoting! I saw them in a huge church!

6: Brine Webb – O You, Stone Changeling. Morose, beautiful, touching. “Too Small to Pray For” and “rrose hips” are excellent.

5: Generationals – Actor-Caster. The best indie-pop songs of the year, hands down.

4: Laura Stephenson and the Cans – Sit Resist. There’s not a single bad tune on this album, you can sing along to almost all of them, and they pull off the “multiple genres but overarching mood” thing perfectly. 

3: Jenny and Tyler – Faint Not. Their cute pop turned into churning folk-rock overnight, and the effect is hair-raising and goosebump-inducing. There were few moments as dramatic as the full-band entry in “Song for You” this year; Faint Not was the only album that made me write the sentence “I forget to breathe.”

2: The Collection – The Collection EP. The melodies and instrumentation seem effortlessly perfect on this folk album. David Wimbish’s lyrics and deft and quick, delivered in a vastly adaptable voice that seals the deal. “Stones” is just a wonder.

1: Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. This album just blows my mind. It is beautiful, haunting, terrifying, elevating, artsy, powerful, surreal and hyperreal (you can hear him clicking the keys) at the same time.

In celebration, a video from Hoodie Allen

October 27, 2011

Do you guys have a job where your boss asks you find and present a music video do describe the cinematographic concept of even weighting? Apparently I do, and so Archer Black’s brand-new video was broadcast to 25 otherwise unsuspecting students today. In honor of the greatest teaching job ever, here’s another music video.

Hoodie Allen‘s Leap Year is an excellent mixtape, and “James Franco” is the cream of the crop when it comes to Allen’s hyper-kinetic, name-droppin’, indie-rock-appropriating rap. The video is appropriately hectic, cramming what I’m convinced is every interesting thing in Hollywood into one video. Except one thing:

"She like pity parties, I like witty banter"

September 16, 2011

Hoodie Allen‘s first mixtape Pep Rally was incredible because RJ Ferguson perfectly appropriated indie-rock as beats, giving Allen an unimpeachable framework. Allen coulda rapped the phone book, and I would have loved it.

Allen’s second mixtape Leap Year is incredible because Hoodie Allen is an excellent rapper. I mentioned in my previous review that he wins the namecheck award, but in Leap Year he uses his extensive pop culture knowledge to make witty jokes and provide social commentary.

Allen’s past writing songs for their own wit’s sake, and now he’s enjoying the fact that his wit can take him places. This newfound maturity is definitely related to the fact that Leap Year comes from his first year of making a living off music. Allen lives in his skin here instead of trying to appropriate a (hopefully) future self.

Not to say that RJ Ferguson drops the ball: RJF (as Allen so monikers him in the acknowledgments) is even better at his craft here. Pep Rally played the “Yeah, but do you know THIS song?” game, while Leap Year is (appropriately) over it. The smooth yet perky beats here are clearly from something, but I have no idea what. The beats float the rhymes very pleasantly and don’t distract, which is awesome.

This is best shown in standouts “James Franco” and “#WhiteGirlProblems.” The former, easily the funniest of the tracks here, uses a sample of (get this) “Clap Your Hands,” the second track off Black Eyed Peas’ 1998 debut album Behind the Front. Talk about deep cuts – that thing wasn’t even a single. “James Franco” is a party anthem, as well as an update on Hoodie’s last year; it includes a hilarious name-check to a music video that people “didn’t believe” — including me. The beat’s got movement, Hoodie’s flow is strong, the wordplay is fun and clever, and the whole thing comes off perfectly.

“#WhiteGirlProblems” morphs Eliza Doolittle into a hook singer, just like Marina and the Diamonds from Pep Rally‘s “You Are Not A Robot.” He takes on exactly what the title says, culminating in a great list of people who have white girl problems – and I don’t want to ruin the punchline. Seriously. Listen to it.

Also not to be missed: “Soul on Fire,” “You’re Welcome” and the single “Dreams Up.”

There’s still room to grow for Hoodie. His slower, more serious songs (“Push You Away,” “Moon Bounce”) fall short of the brilliance he displays as a hyperactive cultural commentator. While the songs aren’t bad, they currently feel out of character for him — and thus stick out oddly on the album. But there’s a huge jump from his last mixtape to this in maturity, so it’s reasonable to assume that some time will hammer out this issue.

Hoodie Allen’s Leap Year is a fantastic mixtape. The density of the lyrics will keep listeners coming back for more, and the excellent beats will keep them pleased while spinning it repeatedly. What else can you ask for in a mixtape? Hoodie kills it. Pick it up free here.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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