I’ve been enjoying the new school of rappers throwing down lyrics on top of indie-rock tunes. From Chiddy Bang to Drake to Hoodie Allen (and, ok, the WTF Childish Gambino), they’re popping up everywhere. I love it.
G-Eazy is a rapper in that style. He has two singles kickin’ about the interwebz: The Tennis-sampling “Waspy” and “Good for Great Remix” of Matt and Kim’s track off Sidewalks, which I raved over a couple weeks ago.
“Waspy” is more of a production job than “Good for Great,” as G-Eazy (who produces his own beats) chops up “Marathon” by Tennis and puts a heavy beat behind it. It’s still recognizable as “Marathon,” which is cool, but the production leaves enough space for the rapping without the song seeming cluttered. The lyrics present a romance between a “punk kid” and a rich “WASPy girl.” The breezy Tennis track evokes an air of Ivy League privilege, making it a perfect fit for the lyrics.
G-Eazy’s rhymes are solid, and his flow is just ragged enough to be interesting. It’s not too erratic, but it keeps attention.
“Good for Great Remix” scrubs most of the vocals from the track and drops G-Eazy’s lyrics in. There is some extra rhythmic production, but it mostly beefs up what was already there. I love Matt and Kim, so I like the remix, even though the lyrics aren’t my favorite. It’s your standard “fuck school, go live life” set, which isn’t my favorite rhetoric (woo grad school!).
G-Eazy has some solid production skills, but I could stand to see his lyrics move above the standard rap motifs. Right now his production talent far surpasses his lyric choices (but not his rapping ability; the boy can rap).
If you’ve heard a Matt and Kim album before, this review won’t help you much: I’m about to gush about Matt and Kim, just like you did to all your friends the first time you heard about them.
But seriously, there’s so much to gush about. If you’ve never heard a Matt and Kim album, you absolutely must fix that oversight (as I did with Sidewalks). If the ubiquitous “Daylight” from Grand turned you off, I exhort you to give M+K another chance. And that one chance, if I were making the decisions, would be “Where You’re Coming From.”
“Where You’re Coming From” is everything that’s wonderful about this band. The melodic riff is a series of staccato jabs from a keyboard. The drums pound with a euphoric, jaunty rhythm that complements the separated riff. Matt jumps in with a memorable vocal line in his quirky vocal style. Kim sings some backups in the chorus to make the song even more epic. The song keeps building until it seems it can’t hold any more tension, when it simply explodes into a dance-rock frenzy. You will be hollering “Where You’re Coming From” as you dance in wild circles; if not, you might be dead.
“Silver Tiles” has a similar feel, as the bombastic toms crush through the mix unapologetically. The chorus, honed over years of Matt and Kim playing it live, is the very definition of anthemic. “Ice Melts” employs a marching band, as if their sound wasn’t huge and gleefully messy enough already. “Cameras” drops with a swagger (and, again, that marching band!) that makes me want to strut down the street with it as my personal theme music.
The only place where Matt and Kim go wrong is when they abandon their idiosyncrasies for more normal songwriting tactics, as they do on “AM/FM Sound” and “Good for Great.” Neither tune is bad, but they don’t live up to the promise of most M+K songs. They don’t have the ecstatic spark that sets Matt and Kim apart from every other synth/drums duo out there.
“Red Paint” and “Wires,” though? Totally redeeming of the errors. They overcompensate almost, as both could not be written by anyone else. They’d probably be thrown out as weird demos by Hot Chip, but they work perfectly as Matt and Kim tunes because of their jarring bizarreness. Standouts, even.
This album already made my top ten of the year, because its exuberant take on indie rock made me smile more than any other release this year (although Tokyo Police Club and OK Go came close). Matt and Kim aren’t super technically proficient, but they are magnificent at making dance-punk-pop-whatever. Love it, love it, love it.
Independent Clauses has always been a strange beast. I never intended it to be a music blog; I wanted it to be the starting point of a Pitchfork-style website or a Paste-style magazine. So when we did things differently, my thoughts ran thus: “Who cares? We weren’t trying to be like them anyway.” That’s why we would run best-of lists in February, eschew posting MP3s and publish very long articles.
But as people go, so do dreams. Just like mortality isn’t such a terrible bag if you’re ready for it, neither is the death of dreams. Independent Clauses is never going to be the size of Pitchfork, Paste or even Delusions of Adequacy (whom I have worked for and dearly love). And that’s perfectly okay.
To that end, it’s starting to look more and more like an MP3 blog over here, as I am accepting what Independent Clauses has become and embracing it. I’m considering getting some extra hosting for 2011 and throwing down d/ls to applicable tunes on posts. I’m also going to redesign this site as an mp3 blog, then not touch the aesthetics till 2012. I’m also going to start using the first person pronoun instead of the third person. It’s just me here now.
Also, I will cover more Pitchfork-level indie music than I have previously. Independent Clauses used to focus exclusively on undiscovered music, and I will still devote much of my time there. One does not throw the baby out with the bathwater, after all; there will just be more Frightened Rabbit and The Mountain Goats in the bath.
As part of the transition, I will be posting two best-of lists this year: one overall best of, and one of releases Independent Clauses reviewed this year. In the future, I will post one list. Without further adieu, here’s the overall top ten best releases this year.
1. Sever Your Roots – The Felix Culpa. I called this “the post-hardcore masterpiece” in January, and I’ll stick by that. It’s near-perfect.
2. Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons. Total world dominance: I was in the dentist’s office the other day, and “The Cave” was playing.
3. The Winter of Mixed Drinks – Frightened Rabbit. “Not Miserable” gives me shivers every time, and it’s incredibly rare to give me shivers once. I love every song on this album.
4. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire. Music world dominance: headlining Madison Square Garden, nominated for album of the year, taking number one on the Billboard Charts. Even if I didn’t like this album it would be in my top ten. It’s a pretty great album, though, even if it does have a few too many ripoffs of The National on it.
5. This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem. Indie world dominance: James Murphy prophesied his title and then backed it up with tracks that made it so. Easily my favorite LCD album, and “You Wanted a Hit” is vying for “favorite LCD song” status.
6. The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens. The man can do whatever he wants and still turn out pure gold. This is easily the most mind-blowing release of the year: it’s hard for me to listen to in heavy rotation because it’s so complex.
7. The Wild Hunt – The Tallest Man on Earth. Do you have to die to be re-incarnated? Because Bob Dylan’s found his second coming already. Don’t go electric, Kristian Matsson! Don’t do it!
8. Sidewalks – Matt and Kim. THIS ALBUM DESERVES ALL CAPS! IT IS THAT ENTHUSIASTIC AND WONDERFUL! I DARE YOU TO NOT BE HAPPY WHILE LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM!
9. The Monitor – Titus Andronicus. Straight-up best guitar riffs of the year are in this album. This album rocks so hard that it’s hard to believe that it’s kind of about the Civil War.
10. Of the Blue Colour of the Sky – OK GO. I just really enjoyed this album. They’ve perfected their strain of exuberant pop, and I like it.
Honorable Mentions: Champ – Tokyo Police Club, High Violet – The National, Weathervanes – Freelance Whales.