There's a really telling and earnest interview with Drake at GQ where he discloses, amongst many other things, that favorite record of his is his new one, Take Care, and that his second favorite record is soldout 2009 favorite So Far Gone, which, it could be argued, is a "mix tape"--if, by "mix tape" we mean that a couple of songs are Drake rapping over beats that weren't created for him and that he didn't pay for them. Otherwise, though, give it to him: So Far Gone counts as an album, 100%, even breeding two now-classic Drake hits, "Successful" (my personal favorite Drake cut ever) and "Best I Ever Had". So let's give it to him: his best (of 3) mixtapes also counts as one of his most successful albums, infinitely better than his technical "debut", Thank Me Later.
Kanye West and Jay-Z's WATCH THE THRONE tour. An amazing double bill for a record that, at absolute best, is pretty ok. At a time when America is floundering, begging and pleading for an easier, cheaper way, our two best rappers, musicians who have transcended genre and race, have released an album that is, at essence, about how much money they have. And, at times, it's very good. "N****s In Paris", "Otis" and "New Day", specifically, are pretty brilliant. Too much of the record, though, is pure bank account masturbation from rappers that are, and have always been, better.
Live, though, it's a different story. The Throne, as they call themselves, are a force to be reckoned with. Hova and Yeezy know each other inside and out, backwards and forwards, and it shows. They move from joint songs to individual jams with a fluid motion (other than at the end, and we'll get to that), and they play to each other's strengths: Jay-Z is the stayed, stoic elder statesman, and Kanye is the potential loose cannon, emotional game of Jenga that he always is. While Hova worked through his ample back catalog of hits: "Hard Knock Life", "Big Pimpin", every other song you would know, Yeezy played it a bit rougher, only throwing down one song from his formative first record("Jesus Walks"),and choosing instead to focus on later songs. "Stronger" was powerful, as was "Flashing Lights", but it was the ...Twisted Fantasy tunes, like "Monster" and "Power" that came out the best, no doubt because that record was, ultimately, the most Yeezy record other than 808s, which was, probably by his standards, a commercial flop. By all accounts, though, two songs stood out: "Runaway", complete with a Kanye rant on love and loss, and "So Appalled", the accidental encore. It's one of the things everyone's missing: there was another encore, one other than the three versions (THREE) of "N****s In Paris". It was amazing and off-the-cuff, something not expected for a live show that's built on pre-decided intros and outros and transitions. All of it was beautiful, but it was the punch of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" followed by the aforementioned super-powerful "Runaway" that made me cry as though I'd never been touched.
The amazing, shimmering shoegaze-pop (which isn't the right genre at all, hold tight) of Her Vanished Grace is really rare. It's easy to slap "shoegaze" on it because it operates in that genre, uses all the right tricks and pedals, but at the end of the day it's hummable, it's upbeat, it's less about grey and more about that sort of blue light Didion talks about in the intro to her newest memoir. They have a vide from the title track off of their latest record--you'll see what I mean.
Her Vanished Grace joins Noveller (looping work reminiscent of a extroverted Grouper) and Field Mouse (who played the soldout launch party last year) at Union Hall in Brooklyn on Nov 9 for this year's inaugural Rage Against The Dying Of The Light. I'm DJing. We'll all be warm and shine. Tickets for that are very, very cheap and they ensure these winter-only bashes keep happening...I'd love to see you, but most importantly I'd love for you to see these artists make the magic that is their music.
Chelsea Wolfe is haunting, mysterious and a little dangerous, and has a voice that can vacillate between a whisper and a growl on a dime. The percussion in this song, too, is so perfect that it's at times not even noticeable until you realize it's what's pulling you along, through Wolfe's waves and into her absolutely blackness. "Mer" is minor-key magic, and if you're in NY you can see Chelsea Wolfe for free, with me DJing, at Le Poisson Rouge on Saturday. RSVP here.