Tag Archive for 'Georgia'

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #3. Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy

Here's To Taking It Easy

Hej, I am light

#3. Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy

Phosphorescent (Matthew Houck) has made a number of albums, each one embracing lo-fi storytelling and recording. He could go from jaunty country, to Americana ambience, to covering The Beatles, Willie Nelson or Nick Cave. All this practice built up Houck’s skills, and leads directly to Here’s To Taking It Easy. This album approaches many of the same areas as his earlier works, but does so with a growing ease. Where some of his other albums and songs had a ramshackle fragility to them, Here’s To Taking It Easy is full-blooded and shimmering with confidence.

The songs here are quite often road-weary, with a lot of far-off cities, and wishing to be somewhere other than the place you are. Over upbeat soul horns, long slide guitar breaks, barroom piano, Houck sings of travelling, of everywhere starting to look the same, blurred together. “We’ll Be Here Soon” and “Heaven, Sittin’ Down” explore further the struggles of the road: “Oh I wish I was in heaven, sittin’ down / I wish the road we were taking / Wasn’t made for breaking down.”

Naturally, being on the road means leaving someone behind. In “Heaven, Sittin’ Down” he even tries to call her on an “old foreign telephone.” On “Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly),” he is wistful: “Well I wake in the morning and I dress / I hang that charm of gold around my neck / And I haul to her window and I look / And I crawl on inside and wake her up / Singing love me foolishly / Love me foolish-like.” Clearly, a dream, a hopeful wish that carries him through. Will he ever get back to her? There’s lots of doubts about that. The brilliant “The Mermaid Parade” is a story of a man missing a flight to LA, where he could have met up with his love, Amanda. Instead, he’s left in New York, and their “two years of marriage in two short weeks” is but a memory, a gigantic loss over his head. When he ends the song, “God damn it, Amanda, oh God damn it all,” it explains everything.

Whether these subtle and simple stories, fun lyrics like “I Don’t Care If There’s Cursing,” or tapping into gospel, country, or whatever is necessary for the song, Houck’s confidence has kicked Phosphorescent into another level entirely. After his last album, which was entirely covers of Willie Nelson songs–pleasant, but whatever–this turn is stunning. Maybe exploring Willie Nelson pulled something out of Houck, I don’t know. But whatever happened, Here’s To Taking It Easy is as perfect an album I have heard this year.

Phosphorescent “I Don’t Care If There’s Cursing”

Phosphorescent “The Mermaid Parade”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #6. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty

boi stop

I live for today, plan for the future, pack a lunch and haul ass

#6. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty

My countdown, I noticed today, is short on rap. I do listen to it a fair bit, but sometimes I find rap albums are all relatively formulaic. They all do the same things, and can be difficult to distinguish from each other. There are quite a few artists who come at it with intelligence (like, The Roots), skills (Wu-Tang), or creativity (Outkast), but even good albums can sound similar. Big Boi is of course part of Outkast, and yet another Artist Going Solo who made my countdown. What did he do on this album that other rappers could not?

It took me quite a lot of thinking to realize this album. I knew I liked it a lot, and what it came down to was simple. The beats are awesome. Roughly half the song are hot rap beats (like “Daddy Fat Sax”), but the other half display a crazy creativity that is rare in rap. I know that André 3000 gets the credit for a lot of creativity in Outkast, and I won’t deny that, but Big Boi has always been overlooked in this department. (Big Boi is the one trying to collaborate with Kate Bush, for instance.) (Please happen.) Big Boi brings his creativity to a fairly typical hiphop world, showing a mastery that very few have.

I’ll try to go into more detail. A few albums ago, I wrote about how Corinne Bailey Rae scaled back her voice, which ended up enhancing the emotion of her album. A lot of Big Boi’s beats here are skeletal, scaled back, which in the end makes them extremely funky. You don’t have to go big to be big. The music at times is claustrophobic and tight. “You Ain’t No DJ” is tense, riding a percussive electro beat, produced by André 3000. A few other tracks highlight Big Boi’s really fast flow above all (like “Night Night”). Big Boi could have easily put out an album full of great tracks like these.

But he didn’t stop there. He showed off his creativity with songs like “Turns Me On,” where a skittery scat vocal loop slowly develops into one of the lushest beats of the year. “General Patton” combines horns with an opera chorus. Opera! It took me awhile to get into “General Patton,” it’s the most aggressive song on here. But once you hear it, you cannot unhear it. The drama is undeniable, and that opera loop is wild. “Fo Yo Sorrows” has all sorts of stuff you don’t hear on usual rap tracks (and some you do, like George Clinton).

Sir Lucious went through years of label politics to get released. (That’s why the 3 songs with André 3000 rapping on it were left off; fortunately Big Boi leaked 2 of them to the web.) There are times Big Boi can be ridiculous, like the over-the-top title, or the not-funny raunchy skits between songs. But this album is an impressive work by one of the masters of the rap genre.

Big Boi – “General Patton”

Big Boi – “Be Still (feat. Janelle Monáe)”

Big Boi – “Fo Yo Sorrows (feat. George Clinton, Too Short & Sam Chris)”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #19. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer

fuck you!

#19. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

Yea, Cee Lo Green The Soul Machine! I’m sure you’ve all heard “Fuck You” to death, and it’s certainly a great song. But what about the rest of The Lady Killer?

A slightly cliched intro sets up the entire album. This intro is straight out of a James Bond film (not only does Cee Lo announce that he’s licensed to kill, but the music is pure spy movie). The ‘licensed to kill’ theme shows up numerous times on the album, from the surprisingly complex and dark “Bodies” which compares seduction to a crime (“at sunrise the morning paper is read / they found a body in my bed”) to the poppier “Love Gun.” There is also a lot of movie soundtrack riffs throughout the album, you’ll be regularly reminded of an ’80s detective show. But not in a cheesy way. OK, sometimes, in a tiny bit cheesy way. But good soul music can be a tiny bit cheesy if the passion is there. And Cee Lo always brings it, getting into these songs and belting them out.

Cee Lo’s brand of soul music never sounds like he’s mimicking the genre, even on songs like “Satisfied” which begins with horns that wouldn’t be out of place on any Otis Redding song. It is clear that this is what Cee Lo is meant to be doing. His work with Gnarls Barkley or the Goodie Mob has always been solid, but this sound, this is him. He can let loose over groovy soul soundtracks, or even random Band Of Horses covers. He’s the soul machine!

And if I have any criticism here of The Lady Killer, and it’s small, is that a few songs are entirely cruise control. A soul song called “I Want You”? Choruses of “I’m a fool, such a fool, for you” or “hey it’s ok / say that you love me”? These are soul music basics, almost a stereotype of the genre. Cee Lo’s best songs take some pure soul and put new life into it. “Fuck You” is a pretty basic soul story at its core, but Cee Lo’s storytelling and chorus kick it up a notch. “Bright Lights Bigger City” throws a Miami Vice beat into the mix.

Also I want to note that Cee Lo, a few months before The Lady Killer, put out a mixtape called Stray Bullets. It’s a bit more hiphop and funk than The Lady Killer, as Cee Lo raps and sings over samples of Heart, Nick Cave (!) (“Night Train” below samples “Red Right Hand” and is hot), the B-52s and other fun things like that. These two albums make a fantastic collection of songs, and Cee Lo’s stardom was definitely a highlight of 2010.

From The Lady Killer:

Cee Lo Green – “Satisfied”

Cee Lo Green – Bright Lights, Bigger City

From Stray Bullets:

Cee Lo Green – “Night Train (feat. The Goodie Mob)”

- almostaghost