09 March 2011

2010: Flying Lotus, Free Energy

Flying Lotus

Released May 3, 2010 (Warp)

Short Notes: It’s beats. Just beats.

Lin: C
I've never understood the love for J Dilla's "Donuts" -- it's fine and somewhat engaging for what it is, but what it is is a collection of beats. The fans will say that's overly reductive, and maybe it is, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. Cosmogramma is the same thing, but not as engaging. Nothing really has time to stretch out and become more than "just beats;" the longest track is 3:20, making the entirety feel like a rap album made up of only interludes. Creating good beats requires talent and skill, of course, both of which Flying Lotus display throughout the album -- I imagine I'd like him as a producer of rap songs -- but it's not enough to overcome the nature of the album.

Brandon: C

I agree wholeheartedly with Lin’s assessment. I like certain kinds of DJ albums, to be sure--I have a special place in my heart for Madlib, especially his mad romp through the Blue Note back catalogue, Shades of Blue --but this is head music that’s too choppy to just zone out to, and without enough sonic punch to make it rewarding for active listening. I know that a lot of smart folks really like this record, but I’m just not feeling it.

Free Energy
Stuck On Nothing

Released May 4, 2010 (DFA Records)

Short Notes: Either the best power pop record of 2010, or workmanlike in its evocation of the classics

Brandon: A-

This isn’t my pick for best record of the year, but it’s hard to imagine another record that hits my need for that pure pop sound any harder as we move down the list. It also doesn’t hurt that several of these gentlemen got their start in music in Minneapolis, a place for which I have a special pop fondness (see: Mould, Bob and Westerberg, Paul). This is one of the few records on the list I’ve been listening to since it came out, and I enjoyed it as much today in the car as I did last July.

It’s real strength as a power pop record is that, unlike a lot the mid-tempo saccharine stuff modeled on the Raspberries and other (great, but repetitive) 70s throwbacks, the clear point of reference here (especially on the fabulous second track, “Dream City”), as Lin also picked up, is classic T.Rex--but a little faster, with a little more crunch, and without the bluesiness. This means that Stuck on Nothing lacks the sonic variety of its progenitors (there’s no “Lean Woman Blues” here), and that's why it's an A- record. But the propulsive joy of the titular “Free Energy” (one of my top 15 songs of the year) more than makes up for it. Well worth the trouble if you have a bit of a musical sweet tooth.

Lin: B-

I'm still at a loss for anything to say about this album. It's mostly insubstantial -- meaning closer to "light" than "meaningless" but still a bit of both -- and, as such, I can't think of any good way to approach this review. (Sorry.) It's power pop-rock, akin to a Thin Lizzy or Electric Warrior-era T. Rex, but not as good as either. And at times it sounds like modern Scottish pop. The best moments are those that exude something like a cliched youthful exuberance, i.e. "Dream City" and "Bang Pop," the sort of thing that makes you wish you could redo high school with all of your current knowledge. Stuck On Nothing wears on me towards the end for the same reason I can't stand excessively happy people for more than small talk. Worth checking out if it sounds like your cup of tea, but I'll be sticking it in the "mixtape fodder" category.

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