I’m On A Boat…

The Lonely Island – Incredibad (Universal Republic; 2/10)incredibad

You know, I really didn’t want to review this record- I’ve been listening it for four months now and didn’t want to denigrate its awesomeness with a review. But there are too many great songs here to deny that it’s one of the best albums of the year- from the SNL Digital Short skit-based jams everyone already knows (the insanely viral Lazy Sunday with Chris Parnell, Dick In A Box with a metro-beared Justin Timberlake, a dirty-ass Natalie Portman on Natalie’s Rap) to the new ones (song of the year nomination goes to the T-Pain assisted I’m On A Boat; the hilarious ode to premature ejaculation Jizz In My Pants; lampooning corporate leadership skills on Like A Boss) and all the guest stars here: Julian Casablancas of The Strokes (Boombox), Norah Jones (Dreamgirl), an uncredited Joanna Newsom on the reggae-spoofing Ras Trent, hyphy Bay Area legend E-40 clowning Carlos Santana‘s foray into the sparkling wine biz with Santana DVX, it’s the funniest album since… since… (don’t say Flight of The Conchords, those dudes are only mildly funny at best). The only weak spot is the Jack Black (Sax Man) song, someone must’ve forgot to tell these guys he’s several years past his prime. Still, it’s one of the best this year, or the year 3022- the year of Space Olympics. 10/10

UGK – UGK 4 Life (Jive; 3/31)4life

Four years ago an album by Houston-based rapper Mike Jones hit the streets- it was all I could listen to for about two months that year, imagine me rolling in a silver Suzuki Forenza bumpin’ that jam all day long. Seriously, I even made Back Then my ringtone. Then, as quickly as it came into my life, it was gone. UGK‘s Bun B spit a verse on one of those songs, I remember thinking “is this the dude who rapped on Jay-Z‘s Big Pimpin back in the day?” Yeah, that’s Underground Kingz– the duo of Bun B and Pimp C. Some of this album was finished after Pimp died in December of ’07, so it’s as if he’s rapping from the grave on some of these tracks. Nevertheless, it lacks the infectiousness of some recent hip-hop favorites (Clipse‘s Hell Hath No Fury is one I can think of). Some of the tracks are bangers, re-calling their 2007 International Player’s Ball (I Choose You); you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting that song two years ago. But, some of the songs are straight clunkers (all that new jack R&B shit is just whack- singers Raheem DeVaughn and Akon kill the momentum with their shmoove shit); but songs featuring West Coast legends Snoop Dogg, E-40 and Too Short are all tight. When it’s hip-hop, it’s a hell of a record, when there’s all those corny R&B hooks, it’s just hurtin’. Pimp C, rest in peace. 7/10

Suckers – Suckers EP (IAMSOUND; 4/14)suckers

First off, four songs at sixteen minutes is too short, and I’d only say that because this is good enough that I want more, at least 40 minutes of it. Second, Suckers make a unique brand of pop-meets-spiritual music in that they share a musical sensibility that’s equal parts Yeasayer and MGMT– so it’s both a gospel-esque sing-along (or shout-along) as well as rhythmic enough to get your head nodding, even danceable at times. Suckers are your urban hippies with synths- when music comes away from the campfire and into a studio full of electronics and midi sounds; the result is sublime- It Gets Your Body Movin’ is one of the best songs I’ve come across this year. 9/10

Magnolia Electric Co. – It’s Made Me Cry (Secretly Canadian; 4/18)magnolia

Jason Molina has a voice that could stop traffic- or melt your heart; depending on what your tastes are, I’d say he’s a somewhat acquired one that puts an arrow in my chest upon every listen. Bordering somewhere around a high nasal register and adenoidal warble, his lofty vocalizations are a cross between Neil Young‘s falsetto and Colin Meloy‘s whine. This four song EP was released specially for Record Store Day, and while it’s classic in its Molina-ness; three of the four songs feature piano rather than guitar, and it’s only six-and-a-half minutes long. It’s basically a stop-gap between 2006’s Fading Trails and next month’s Josephine. “Stop-gap” sounds kind of shitty; in actuality it’s a benefit record for the late Evan Farrell‘s Memorial Fund, Magnolia‘s bass player that died in an Oakland apartment fire in December, 2007. Only 1,000 were pressed, so if you have a copy, consider yourself lucky because I haven’t been able to find one anywhere… 8/10

Cryptacize – Mythomania (Asthmatic Kitty; 4/21)cryptacize

Mythomania is the outdated terminology for “pathological lying”; but there’s an earnestness in Nedelle Torisi‘s voice and something ancient in there as well. Ex-Deerhoof guitarist Chris Cohen‘s subtle studio wizardry (as well as singing lead on two tracks) is a perfect complement to their kitschy psychedelia. I’m drawing comparisons to a stripped-down Stereolab here; it reveals the wonder of a world we forgot (or never experienced)- the late 1950’s post-Sputnik sparseness of their sound is pleasureable in that it sounds simultaneously like something I’ve heard before and like nothing I’ve ever heard. It’s a musical conundrum that falls midway between a joke and high art; the riddle is how does this record sound so complex when it’s really so simple? I think that’s its instant appeal, however- it begs repeated listens, showing this listener more and more upon the next play and the next. 8/10

Diamond Watch Wrists – Ice Capped At Both Ends (Warp; 4/28)ice_capped

Hella drummer Zach Hill and the ever-prolific Prefuse 73 (aka Guillermo Scott Herren, whose latest record was just reviewed in the post here) unite for a genre-bending offering of the WTF variety, equal parts prog-rock mess and incoherent folk-via-hip-hop; exactly what you’d expect if you’ve ever delved into Hill‘s take on spazz-core kit skills (he’s the best in the game; if you say Don Caballero‘s Damon Che, you’re not only wrong but an idiot- everyone knows he’s a total megalomaniacal dick and he edits his own Wikipedia page entries). Uh, anyway- Prefuse‘s glitchy take on music combined with Zach‘s crazy rad drumming is one of the year’s most head-scratching collaborations, and it works to some avail. That’s the good part; the bad is that some of the almost 38 minute album drags along at times, periodically being rescued by Hill‘s beats (which P73 occasionally gives the “screwed & chopped” treatment to, slowing it down like it was sipping that Purple Drank). Battles’ Tyondai Braxton shows up on a track, but that’s about it for the highlights. 6/10

The Wooden Birds – Magnolia (Barsuk; 5/12)wooden-birds

Heartfelt, emotionally overwrought folk-rock; I usually love this shit (Iron & Wine and Bon Iver are immediately called to mind) but this is the main dude from The American Analog Set– and while I like their older stuff (they influenced one of my favorites, fellow Austinites Explosions in The Sky and got them their first record deal) they’ve veered towards a safer route as of late. This record follows that same “plays-it-safe” route as well; its songs are all four-minutes-or-less, adhering to that rootsy Americana formula AmAnSet frontman Andrew Kenny‘s been delving more into, and away from the seven-plus minute sadcore jams his real band used to play. Do we really need another album like this? 4/10

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote; 5/26)phoenix

God, I wanted to hate this so bad. I knew what it was (electro-synth pop/rock), knew who made it (the French) and have read so much hype on this band before the album was even out that I was rolling my eyes every time I saw their damn name. Phoenix Phoenix Phoenix Phoenix Phoenix Phoenix every-fucking-where. You know something, It’s not half bad. Songs like 1901, Lisztomania andthe album’s closer Armistice are a few of this year’s better tracks, and they’re all on one record. It’s like that damned MGMT‘s Oracular Spectacular– initially I hated its freaking guts, but it kept polluting my mindscape until one day I let my guard down and BAM! I got it. And I get this- it’s supposed to be fun, dancy keyboards-and-guitars pop for the iPod generation. That’s exactly what it is. Can’t fight that… 8/10