Archive for the ‘justin timberlake’ Category
Michael Fakesch was one half of the German IDM duo, Funkstörung, until their demise in 2006. While my exposure to them was admittedly limited, I had enough of an impression in my mind that Dos, Fakesch’s first output since the split, took me completely by surprise. Like the intertwined cover graphics, Fakesch’s second album is a mish-mash of styles with a pronounced pop streak coursing through each measure. Produced in collaboration with the album’s sole vocalist, Taprikk Sweezee (you might remember him from Herbert’s “Something Isn’t Right“) and featuring a slew of instrumentalists (yes, there is a trombone and beatboxist, how did you guess?), the album plays like a Prince album for audiences who remember only Timberlake.
The timing is no mistake: From the acrobatic phrasings and to the reedy-soul timbre of his voice, Taprikk could be JT’s understudy in a pinch. The instrumentalists are also game for some post-millennial synth funk, augmented by Fakesch’s twitchy programming and slathered in fat-lipped bass licks. But approximations of peers and idols is about as far as Dos goes, often blowing through songs without leaving a hooky anchor in audiences’ heads or repeatable lyric to knock around between the ears. The glitchy broken beats often start interesting and end up losing their flavor like a cheap gum ball, their instrumental counterparts hardly able to brighten up the counterintuitive rhythms. It also doesn’t help that Prince-ian white soul singers are increasingly common, which makes it too easy to ignore the arrangements around the aural vanilla milkshake. Maybe pop escapism seemed like a good avenue after splitting with his production partner of 10 years, but Dos doesn’t show off Fakesch’s experienced production skills in the most flattering way. Tres, perhaps, will be a charm.
Michael Fakesch, “Escalate”
Where round one is set to be a decent sized pop song (is it already out?), Scott Storch’s YouTube-only reply merely confirms Timbaland’s belittling. Low budget to a fault, “Built Like That” features Storch doing his best K-Fed raps with never-be Lox. While they get off a few good shots about Danja writing Timbaland’s songs — a point which could easily be true at this point if Tim is anything like Dr. Dre — most falter in the face of any recent Billboard chart. Alleging Timbaland can’t write hits or pick talent would sting more if you ignored all his success with Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado — impossible to do considering that at least JT is still Godzilla on the charts. (And picking on his imprint label’s roster is weak when you can’t even get your own imprint.) Steroids, fattiness and homosexuality are other “charges” Mr. Pasty and his chums mouth off about, trying their damndest to figure out how to look hard in their one luxury sports car and speed boat. The tune has as much trouble beatwise, all bluster and corny Casio with street-sweeping percussion. The cello bounce verses are pretty tasty, I must admit, but orchestral-based instrumentals are feeling less and less fresh as every art-school nerd with an iBook cranks them out every 15 minutes. Despite putting on the big boy pants and hiring his own video crew, Storch’s retribution might as well be gnawing on Timbaland’s ankles in desperation. Winner: Timbaland by simply doing what he does.
01. Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury
Ahh, sweet vindication. After years of well documented label bullshit, Clipse released their magnum opus which nearly lives up to accumulated hype. In many ways, Pusha T and Malice benefitted from the arduous and frustrating build-up between Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath, much as Wilco did from the YFH shuffling. But instead of merely building notoriety with label slight of hand, Clipse spent their time in industry limbo honing their already acute lyrical skills, coaxing the best and most fitting beats from Pharrell and building a devoted following. The resulting album was a lyrical slaughterfest with a pile of merc’ed lyrical targets and sparse beats that still womped. In a year full of disappointing rap records (I maintain that Fishscale is weak coming from Ghostface, More Fish even moreso), Hell Hath No Fury proudly stood at the top of the pack and commanded you fuckers to kiss the rings.
Audio: Clipse, “Momma I’m So Sorry”
02. Scritti Politti, White Bread Black Beer
White Bread Black Beer is another peak in the mountain range of Scritti Politti’s career. Green Gartside’s expert reinvention of his already winning formula gets more out of less without sounding sparse or contrived. The resulting creations are a testament to his abilities as a pop song writer and a persuasive wake up call to those who slept on him the first go-round. White Bread is also a challenge to bands such as Hot Chip and Junior Boys for whom Scritti Politti albums serve as crucial points of influence: Daddy’s back with a new take on an old game; time to step it up!
Audio: Scritti Politti, “Throw”
03. Matmos, The Rose Has Teeth In the Mouth of the Beast
Conceptual eggheads from the start, Matmos stunned me with The Rose Has Teeth, an album that matched its lofty ambitions of honoring influential historical figures with intensely compelling and thought-provoking compositions. Where previous releases proved to be daunting listens for some audiences, The Rose both fittingly represented its conceptual targets and invited its listeners to learn with lush arrangements and supplimentary technology (the liner notes also act as a primer wherein users can read more about its subjects). Few conceptual artists make art albums (these days) this engrossing or pleasurable to hear.
Audio: Matmos, “Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan”
04. Hot Chip, The Warning
With as much love as this album’s singles have received, you would think The Warning as a whole would’ve seen better press. After all, it’s spring-heeled leap forward in song-writing makes the snarky joke with feeble melodies known as Coming On Strong look positively flaccid. The Warning succeeds with warm synth melodies and pristine harmonies chunked up by a jangled emphasis on percussion, even springing for clever lyrics without gobs of irony. Hot Chip is also extraordinary at understanding dance music, which made killer cuts like “Over and Over,” “Boy From School” and “(Just Like We) Breakdown” into prime fodder for an iPod Shuffle’s worth of remixes from likewise excellent producers (with Erol Alkan and Solid Groove at the top of the pack). A perfect fit for techno and rock fans alike, The Warning should not go unheeded.
Audio: Hot Chip, “Arrest Yourself”
05. Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds
Not enough pop stars break away from their primary role in society: to perform and look good doing it. Justin Timberlake is a pop star unwilling to be relegated to talented body status. FutureSex/LoveSounds pushed all involved to out-perform their best work and come up with something fresh, even futuristic (jamming two tunes together? Two become one, motherfucker!). The result was a pop record so unexpected that a fair portion of JT fans still don’t know what to do with it, but love it anyways. Listening to this album is bearing witness to the maturation of a star who happens to make pop music.
Audio: Justin Timberlake, “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows (interlude)”
06. Tim Hecker, Harmonies in Ultraviolet
Topping himself yet again, Tim Hecker birthed Harmonies in Ultraviolet, one of my favorite albums to relax with this year. Gently massaging electrons to course in time, recreating the thaw of winter’s deepest freeze, picking up on the little reassuring noises and reminding listeners that they exist, Hecker makes the extremely detailed sound simple and gorgeous. Even at its most eardrum-rending it puts me at peace, a wonderfully contradictory feeling that assures me of Harmonies’ pronounced brilliance.
Audio: Tim Hecker, “Dungeoneering”
07. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped
Let’s discard the age thing for a minute (even if you haven’t read about it, you’re thinking it) and focus on the reasons Rather Ripped works: Though the album is lyrically streaked with despair and desperate tears, it’s juxtaposed with some of Sonic Youth’s most downright pretty melodies, as if writing tunes matching the lyrics’ pained tone would be too much for human ears, so here it is anyway. Accessible to a point, Rather Ripped has all of the noisy energy and nuance one would expect from SY, slipping in peripheral counter rhythms between anthemic leads and spazzing out when being ear-pleasing gets too burdensome or boring. Kim Gordon also gives the performance of a lifetime, her gravel-shred silk pipes inhabit the narrator’s skin with unusual ease; Thurston Moore is no slouch either, recalling his best vocal motifs without sounding dated or old. No one needs to teach these old dogs new tricks. They wrote the handbook and Rather Ripped is this year’s lesson plan.
Audio: Sonic Youth, “Do You Believe In Rapture?”
08. Califone, Roots and Crowns
Califone continued their streak of fastidiously-crafted fragment folk with Roots and Crowns, an album that found the group at their most concentrated and assured. Each song is caught with its body in some farm house in southern Illinois, roughly around 1949, and its head in the whirring present, dumbfounded. Creaking harmonics with moth-eaten holes plugged with scraps of seemingly arbitrary sound gently coat the ears, speaking volumes of Brian Deck and Tim Rutili’s skillful orchestration. Complimented finely by Rutili’s seasoned vocals (which sweetly serenade as well as the scrape the ground and the notes surrounded it) and his scattershot poetic lyrics, Califone deliver the complete package (and an excellent Psychic TV cover to boot). Those ready for a bit of the roots and not yet ready to aggravate dust allergies should sit a spell and give Roots and Crowns a few good spins.
Audio: Califone, “The Eye You Lost In The Crusades”
09. Henrik Schwarz, DJ-Kicks
Because this is from the DJ-Kicks series rather than, say, Fabric, Henrik Schwarz and other artists who’ve contributed a mix have been able to reveal their tastes in a safe and often stunning manner. This volume is no different. Like Gilles Peterson with a greater appreciation for native sounds and no real need for acid jazz, Schwarz cherry-picks forgotten and underappreciated slabs from what must be a vast collection. Starting out by deforming Moondog’s “Bird’s Lament” and dancing it around with iO and D’Angelo, Schwarz keeps piling on stranger and more delightful tunes. And as with most DJ-Kicks mixes, Schwarz works a handful of his own tunes into the grooves of obscurities, most notably his reductive and seductive remix of Coldcut and Robert Owen’s soul-rousing “Walk a Mile In My Shoes.” As unpredictable as it is awe-inspiring, Henrik Schwarz’s DJ-Kicks is easily among the most ambitious and enjoyable mixes of 2006.
Audio: Coldcut & Robert Owens, “Walk a Mile In My Shoes” (Henrik Schwarz remix)
10. DJ Drama & Lil’ Wayne, Dedication 2: Gangsta Grillz
Though the distinction of being one of the few popular rappers to actually, you know, throw down has kind of gone to Lil’ Wayne’s head and made him say all kinds of crazy stuff. At the same time, it’s easy to argue that as his noggin’ grows bigger, so does the quality of his work — tapes like Dedication 2 and albums like Tha Carter II prove it. Even when he sounds like he might be slipping into a vicodin/’dro coma Weezy spits wrecking crew lines, so when he’s at his most alert (especially his freestyle on the “Show Me What You Got” beat, Jesus) it’s like a walking, talking, white-slinging firing squad. Although Jay-Z’s too tired from all the lamping he’s quietly doing by the pool, it would be spectacular seeing Louisiana’s Finest square off with the Old Reliable Guard. Instead, Lil’ Wayne’s just going to further extend his legacy and keep putting out barn-burners like this one.
Audio: DJ Drama & Lil’ Wayne, “Dedication 2″
11. Booka Shade, Movements
12. OOIOO, Taiga
13. NOMO, Nu Tones
14. Boris, Pink
15. Junior Boys, So This is Goodbye
16. Crowdpleaser & St. Plomb, Mindtrip
17. Islands, Return to the Sea
18. T.I., King
19. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
20. Oakley Hall, Second Guessing
This list is a bit different from the one I submitted to Idolator’s Jackin’ Pop Poll thanks to some extremely well-timed Christmas presents post-poll. When the results come out (whenever that happens) you’ll see the differences. Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this year, commented on my blog, linked to my blog (special thanks to my pals at Pound for Pound, Another Night On Earth, Idolator and Not Rock On) or helped me in any way with my writing. It means a lot. See you in 2007.
01. Justin Timberlake ft. T.I., “My Love”
As ubiquitous as it is exceptional, “My Love” is a mighty response to skeptics wondering where sexy went in the first place. Timbaland, Danja and Timberlake recaptured the energy crackling in “Cry Me a River” and spun the tone dial from heartbreak to hearts swelling with passion. Its lustrous synths roughly creep up and down the scale like a jagged chill navigating a spine. Free spaces are stuffed with blushing bass tones. Deep, tumbling tom fills bound down a flight of stairs and dig up throat noise nuggets and fingers snapping along the way. Fully aware of his capabilities, JT’s falsetto is delicate but in control; and when he’s ready to belt, Justin’s engaging harmonies cause widespread swoons, ones not even T.I.’s dubious lines cannot interrupt. I’m still as lovestruck with “My Love” as when it first bowled me over, which seems to be a lot to ask from a pop tune these days.
02. Audion, “Mouth to Mouth”
For me, Matthew Dear and his Audion project are hit and miss in 2006. His Fabric mix was so techy and spare that it was easy to forget I was listening to a mix and not just assorted office noise or the copy machine on an ink binge. His remix of NOMO’s “Nu Tones” has the same M.O. , differing so greatly from the original that it might have been assembled exclusively with samples of him smacking his own ass with a vinyl copy of New Tones. He’s also had a few great releases, like his split with Ellen Allien and of course, “Mouth to Mouth.” Minimal only in premise, this 13 minute monster trapped listeners in a cheap pinball machine and rattled their teeth; or perhaps it’s the new soundtrack to the The Scrambler with the brakes ripped off. Dear’s construction is mildly infuriating and wholly fascinating, using interchangable patterns that never deliver all the elements at once. When each fizzy seizure bubbles up something is missing, only to pop up a few bars later to keep you hoping. Some might argue Villalobos’ “Fizheuer Zieheuer” is the superior minimal track on the year, but applause for being audacious aside, “Mouth to Mouth” is 1/3rd of the length and three times more powerful on the dancefloor.
03. Clipse, “Mr. Me Too”
Minimalism seems to be doing pretty well in music right now, especially if folks like Pharrell who love going overboard want to scale it back. Electric fence crackle motifs and space-aged toms might not have the goofy club-readiness of “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” but this is for Clipse, not Snoop (although that sassy tambourine section is ripe for the ass-shaking). Pusha T and Malice want to know what “the fuck y’all been doin’” while they’ve been lying low, then relay their conquests with the utmost confidence and steely demeanor, all without cracking from their hyper literate flow. Even Pharrell’s clever-for-a-14-year-old rhymes can’t fuck up a track this massive. More on Clipse when it comes time to discuss albums.
04. Basement Jaxx, “Hush Boy” (Les Visiteurs remix)
Just when you thought the Jaxx boys would find a new sound to call their own, they played it safe, and “Hush Boy” is no different. Flush with horns, divalicious vocals and a bouncing beat, it’s typical, but still pretty enjoyable. Whoever the fuck Les Visiteurs are, they saw a lot more in “Hush Boy.” Stripped to its vocals, Visiteurs furnish the tune with dirty synths and more banging percussion to put the stomp on other electro tracks it’s being mixed to and from. The peaked out synth spasm bridge would make Justice proud and ready to put a copy in their crates (just a guess). This is a public outcry for Les Visiteurs to deliver more remixes and some tracks pronto!
05. Zero 7 ft. Jose Gonzales, “Futures” (Rub ‘N Tug remix)
Those Rub ‘N Tug fellas, they sure know how to make the most of what they have. Aside from Jose Gonzales’ stellar vocal performance, “Futures” colors in the lines Zero 7 has followed since their debut. The first three minutes of the remix set the foundation, folding the tune’s elements into a hazy but motivated form. When they finally yank away the built up instrumental and leave Gonzales’ pastoral intonation hanging in the air, you just know it’s about to pop off. Never exactly reaching banger status, this jazzed up remix makes excellent use of the original (something many remixers tend to avoid) and pumps more life into it than found on the entirety of The Garden.
06. Cassie, “Me & U”
I’m still fairly happy with how I described this plucky jam earlier this year, so in the interest of time and space-saving, I’m going to refer you there.
07. The Klaxons, “Magick” (Simian Mobile Disco remix)
Love or hate the new rave scene, the chemistry between The Klaxons and Simian Mobile Disco unleashed the best from both camps. During the latter’s remix of the former’s “Magick,” pitched up coos, cavernous vocals and a shitload of aggressive synth work create musical fission seldom seen without some self-destructive mistake dragging the tune down. No mistakes to be found here, just a face-melter of a track ready for the Armageddon or another tablet of E. Summer of Love part three coming at you soon if this partnership keeps up.
08. Project Pat, “What Money Do”
So Three 6 Mafia and co. are about the last folks I’d expect to do RZA beats in 2006, but “What Money Do” makes me a believer. Mr. Fresh Outta Jail, aka Project Pat gets one of the crew’s best beats since “Stay Fly” and solidly rocks it. Beneath his brass-balled call to toss money in haters’ faces (as well an equally smug self-comparison to Dr. Ruth) are tidal waves of harp strums, sky-scraping orchestral samples and a trembling soul moan Bobby Digital might sneak into his lab when no one’s looking. I can’t think of a better track to celebrate one’s independence than “What Money Do,” so keep it around in case you get nabbed or maybe bogged down by the job/class.
09. Trentemøller, “Always Something Better” (Trentemøller remix)
Though Trentemøller is no Arthur Russell (nor does he sound like ‘em, relax), the man knows that one’s work isn’t finished if you can think of more changes to make. So keeping with the title, Trentemøller further submerges the track into deep techno territory, unsheathing twinkling glitches and antagonizing synths looking for dancefloor conflict/contact. Better than The Last Resort and most of its tacked on singles, “Always Something Better” is easily my favorite Trentemøller output to date.
10. Coldcut ft. Robert Owens, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”
A humble reminder that we’re all human, Coldcut and Robert Owens make this fresh take on a classic soulful enough that listeners might actually take pause. Henrik Schwarz’s remix is also pretty top knotch if you’re into spare African rhythms.
11. T.I. “Why You Wanna”
12. The Infadels, “Girl That Speaks No Words” (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke remix)
13. Islands, “Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby”
14. Digitalism, “Jupiter Room” (Erol Alkin edit)
15. Martin Buttrich, “Cloudy Bay”
16. Ricardo Villalobos, “Fizheuer Zieheuer”
17. Hot Chip, “Over and Over”
18. Guns N Bombs, “Crossover Appeal”
19. Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t No Other Man”
20. The Teenagers, “Homecoming”
Look how neatly he fits!
Anyone who’s thought, “Gee, pop stars should release more disstracks,” few as we might be, behold “Give It To Me” — the purported first single from Timbaland’s upcoming solo release. Tim’s had no trouble filling Magoo’s tiny voice/big shoes, (though he might be found elsewhere on the record, TBA) cashing in some chart-topping karma from Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. Their verses (and hook, in Nelly’s case) are brazen, success-flauting taunts at detractors and rivals. Furtado sounds more like Gwen Stefani in timbre and tact (+ out of tune) than ever before, even flaunting her status as Mean Girl, no, a Rich Girl, her days as a happy bird long since slammed in a Phantom door. JT, of course, is no stranger to stuffing songs with ill will; this is the first time we hear him pop (chart?) opponents in the jaw with his triumph. Although it’s unclear who he’s gunning for, I suspect he’s aiming at Janet Jackson when he mentions “let me clear the air” and “we missed you on the charts last / damn, that’s right, you wasn’t there.” Unclever critics also get skewered: “if sexy never left then why’s everybody on my shit / don’t hate on me because you didn’t come up with it.” The man has a point. Timbaland has always been an excellent braggart so diss wasn’t as much a reach for him. Here he bites a little deeper and throws his producing crown in Scott Storch’s: “I’m a real producer and you just a piano man” and “niggas talking greedy / I’m the one that give them they chance.” Perhaps Tim pushed JT and Nelly for aggressive barbs like these to match his needed hardass, “I’m behind the boards and up front in respect, I fart better songs than you” persona. I guess when heavy bobby & whitney talk makes pop radio tick you can’t just be awesome anymore.
Timbaland bust out the door so fast with this single, firearms ablaze, that it sounds unfinished and unrehearsed, leading me to believe this wasn’t meant for our ears just yet. Thick, bang on the floor drums provide a quaking foundation, a likewise dizzy interplay of synth puffs fills the air, and the stability of the track is questionable. Rhythmically, “Give It To Me” is an escalator shunning its track and bucking its passengers — too many beats for some phrases, not enough for others. Tim chops verses up (chopped & screwed sort of chopped) a bit to fit his unwieldy pattern, which keeps it an unpredictable, sometimes uncomfortable listen. I have a hard time believing Timbaland, with the quality control he exercises, would be satisfied with a theoretically interesting (kooky rhythms, pop stars chatting shit etc.) and musically mediocre track, let alone as the first shot fired from his solo record. Retooled and with a dollop of polish (or not, if we’re going for a lo-fi hip-hop kind of feel) this could work its way onto pop radio. Because if something this jaw-droppingly gawky can make a splash, Tim can empty the proverbial pool. With that much oil on his arms he’ll still be shiny too. What a fun, sexy time for you.
“My Love” is a fantastic song. Emotional, dynamic and dense, it’s full of peaked out synth blooms and outlandish percussion rolls — to say nothing of the crisp falsetto JT uses to serenade his chosen ladyfriend. But that’s not news to you.
The DFA don’t really care about all that, or so it seems. Plucking Timberlake from his Timbaland-crafted thrown, James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy provide the contrary setting: a cavernous instrumental strikingly familiar to anyone who has heard their extended remixes. Splashes of ride cymbal, digital hand claps and tambourine replace the towering guhdunkadunk toms. An undercurrent of thoughtless funk bass and twinkling Rhodes piano slowly bubbles around Justin, leaving him sounding positively tiny, almost lonely instead of jubilant. The tune’s pacing is also rather front-loaded, with the DFA opting to play through the original length of the song, fucking around for a couple minutes then briefly reprising the last bits of Justin’s vocals. With T.I. completely absent from the tune and a lack of compelling new elements during the DFA facetime (except increasingly insistent synth chatter), the last four minutes of the song are one giant watch-check.
Burnt out, perhaps? Busy collaborating with corporate sponsors (not hating, just saying)? Simply not caring? They had a chance to recast one of the year’s best singles as one of the year’s best dance singles — that is, unless they didn’t much care for the tune to begin with. Either way, the DFA’s languid, routine indie funk remix neuters another otherwise excellent song and bores the dancefloor.