Tuesday, May 3, 2011
This new release day is characterized not so much by quantity as it is quality, as it marks the American release of two of the best albums I've heard so far this year.
The first is the latest solo album by Super Furry Animals' front man Gruff Rhys. I've been talking up this rekkid for some time, as it was released in Europe back in February and has been in heavy rotation at my workplace for several months. As of today, Rhys' Hotel Shampoo is finally readily available in American stores. I could use this fact as a launching pad for a rant about the idiocy of the industry. But that'll have to wait, as I'm too filled with love today to go into that now.
As I intimated in my best of the first quarter of 2011 post, Hotel Shampoo represents a bit of a foray into mellow, MOR, Euro-pop for Gruff, but the psychedelic underpinnings of the Super Furries are definitely present, as are Gruff's masterful turns of phrase (both lyrical and melodic), and his great gifts for harmony and near perfect pastoral psych-pop arrangement. I give it my highest recommendation.
The second is the Beastie Boys' massively entertaining return to form Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Following middling response to 2004's somewhat lackluster To the Five Boroughs and 2007's instrumental The Mix-Up, the Beasties began working on and hyping this project a few years back, and had been planning to have it ready some time ago, only to have everything delayed by MCA's (Adam Yauch) cancer diagnosis. The good news is that Yauch's cancer is currently in remission and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is easily their best work in over a decade.
High energy, occasionally high camp; fusing hip-hop, funk, punk and more in that seamless way that is so delicious when the Beasties are on their game, this rekkid plays like an amalgam of their best prior work (it could almost be called Check Your Head Part Two), yet has a singular quality all its own. On the whole, one of the most impressive things about it for me is how cohesive it is. While playing about with different musical styles, every part of it feels like a natural part of the whole. Aiding in the creation of this unity are the outstanding production and mixing of the rekkid, including some of the most adventurous and consistently exciting use of reverb and echo effects this side of Lee "Scratch" Perry. (Prime examples of this can be found on the enormous "Nonstop Disco Powerpack" and, naturally, the dub reggae dominated "Don't Play No Game that I Can't Win" featuring guest vox by Santigold).
The Beastie Boys are indeed back and as good as ever. To my mind Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is their best since 1994's Ill Communication. Now if someone could somehow convince them to put out a rekkid more often than once every ice age...