Archive for March, 2012


Smashing Indie Clichés Apart

Photograph by Keziah Suskin

With the multitude of four-piece, all-white, early 20s, skinny jeans-wearing, all-male bands that are currently saturating the Indie market, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for start-up bands to wriggle their way into the public eye. Al Bairre, a Cape Town-based 6-piece outfit, breaks through these stereotypes and, with their catchy complexity, hope to rise above the masses of other Indie bands.

A glance at Al Bairre’s members certainly illustrates that this year-old band isn’t your typical straight edge Indie band – complete with slightly overweight drummer. They comprise of: Nick Preen (guitar, percussion, vocals), Kyle Davis (lead guitar), Tom Kotze (the elusive drummer and, coincidently, my bother) and identical twins Tessa (cello, keys, melodica, percussion, vocals) and Julia Johnson (ukelele, violin, keys, vocals). Member number six currently takes the form of a temporary bass player after Checked Zebra trombonist and bassist, Neil Malan, recently departed the band.

The diversity of gender, instruments, and classically versus self-trained musicians makes this band a fairly unique specimen. “I’d say we are a Symphonic, Indie rock band”, states Preen. “Ja, if we had to classify it into a genre” chimes in Davis. Al Bairre could probably be closest likened to a fuller sounding version of Vampire Weekend. They believe that their combination of complex musicianship mixed with straightforward Indie Rock, which is easy to enjoy and dance along to, is their trump card. “We combine catchy songs that you can jam along to with the complexity of cellos and currently studying music students,” said Davis. “If you don’t know anything about music you can jam to it and appreciate it; and, if you do know something about music then you can also appreciate it.” Preen continues, “We’re a big band with a lot of variety – not just the normal four-piece Indie band.” However, he believes that Al Bairre’s most important differentiating factors are definitely “that we got twins, and we’re just a really good-looking band.”

The way in which the band formed dispels the usual band formation clichés. When I asked them about how they all came together Preen laughs, turns to Davis, and says, “I think that you better handle this one”. After Davis explains about how him and Preen – old friends – have been “jamming since grade 9”, he eventually gets to the juicy bit. “We were in Plett Rage in 2010 and Nick hooked up with both the twins, in the same night.” “Yeeeaah! Yeah I did”, shouts an enthusiastic Preen. “Anyway, we put it down to mistaken identity”, continues Davis. “After that, there was a mix and match where I invited them to come and jam. Initially I didn’t know which one I had invited before, so there was a bit of confusion and we ended up getting them both.”

Photograph by Keziah Suskin

The band’s name came to fruition – as most do – when, on the way to an early gig, Tessa Johnson accidentally ran over a dog called ‘Al Bairre’. Leading Preen to add, “I suppose we’re actually a tribute band.” This dark-humoured misfortune of the band seems to occur often, infiltrating even their first gig. Davis recalls: “We were playing and there was only one multi-plug that the electric drums, all the guitars, and everything was plugged into, and the whole thing was kinda balancing. Then I stepped back onto the plug, while I was dancing, just as the bridge of the song came and everything, except my guitar (which was acoustic), came to a standstill.” After repeatedly trying to kick the plug back in while continuing to play the song – which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Mr. Bean skit – he eventually managed to get the instruments going again. Preen adds that he “spent the rest of the show holding the plug on the ground” trying to keep the electricity flowing through the band’s instruments.

Al Bairre is definitely a band to watch. And, with an impending EP recording session scheduled for early April, they are trying their best to get their music out and circulating the internet. Although they claimed at the end of the interview that “You don’t know us, no one knows us”, Al Bairre is a band that is trying hard to change that, one unique gig at a time.

Al Bairre, from left to right: Kyle Davis, Julia Johnson, Nick Preen, Tessa Johnson, Tom Kotze.

Road Warrior

Van Coke Kartel were once the sleeping giant of the VanFokKingTasties family. With the release of Wie’s Bang, their fourth studio album, they’ve grown into a raging, rock leviathan. Evidence of this was their impressive haul at the recent MK Awards this past Friday where they picked up “Best Live”, “Best Rock” and the coveted “Best Group”. I sat down with lead guitarist, Jedd Kossew, to chat about playing hard, living hard and sweet, old ladies.

 

“We felt like the underdog last year” admits Kossew referring to the “Best Group” award.  “We wanted to win it last year but we didn’t think we were gonna do it. And this year we kind of got a feeling with the new album, all the talk, all the reviews…we thought, ‘Shit, we could maybe win best group.’”

The award in question is busy taking pride of place on Jedd’s desk. Along side it his laptop is open displaying Google Calendar. The VCK schedule is chock-full. Jedd has only just returned home toCape Townand is already preparing to head out again. He seems to take it in his stride though.

“I think if we’re getting booked every weekend you can’t really complain.”

 

Kossew is sporting a beard that looks nearly a week old. He’s lounging about in a pair of slops slumped in an office chair. It’s strange to see someone known for exuding such energy on stage now taking a far more sedentary approach to life. He is, no doubt, still feeling the effects of celebrating Van Coke’s achievements at the MK Awards. I press him for some after-party anecdotes but he’s very vague. “I kinda passed out at about 3[am]. I’m sure there was other shit that would’ve been funny but I wasn’t really there.”

Being the keen cinephile that he is, perhaps Kossew’s sidestepping the question is a lesson learned from Goodfellas, one of his favourite films. “Never rat out your friends and always keep your mouth shut.”.”

 

Van Coke Kartel started off as a three piece band. They recruited Kossew in 2010 to help beef up their live performances. The decision has proven wise on the part of founding members, Francois Van Coke and Wynand Myburgh. The band picked up the MK “Best Live” award for the second year running. Kossew feels that the award was richly deserved. “The connection we have amongst our okes is great. I think you can sense that when we get on stage. And the musicianship, people like to watch guys who can play. I think we put on a show. When people come to our gigs they leave and think, ‘Jeez, we really watched a performance tonight’.”

 

Jedd started out playing in metal band, Cruel April. He also lined up with reggae band, 7th Son, and melodic rockers tAIT. Playing in Van Coke Kartel has seen him return to his heavier roots. “I feel more at home playing harder. When I think of my favourite bands they’re hard rock bands. Excluding the Beatles, of course [laughs]”.

 

The mention of the Beatles segues into Jedd and me talking about Wrinklestock, an annual show he puts on with his cousin Raph. “We go and play for my grandmother there at the old age home.” The day after our interview Jedd will dust off his acoustic guitar and do some covers for the seniors. He hands me the set-list to peruse. The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan…all the greats are there. He seems to be just as excited for the show as his gran and her friends are. “We do it for her but we do it for ourselves as well.”

 

The whole way through our interview Jedd has his Fender Strat propped in his lap. He noodles his way through scales and licks without ever losing his train of thought. Tearing through monster guitar riffs seem to sharpen his concentration rather than hinder it. Lead guitarists can often be dismissed in interviews unless they are the frontman or chief songwriter. Although he is a consummate musician there’s much more to Jedd Kossew. He is engaging, entertaining and a gentleman. The fact that he can wield his axe like a demon just seems to be an added bonus.

Give Prog-Trance a Chance

BY KYLIE HOLLIDAY

“Trance is my vibe, I don’t like anything better and I refuse to play anything else,” straight from the horses mouth, the horse being the passionate Jaryd Raizon, otherwise known as Phrodo. I did a hilarious, yet informative interview with Jaryd because those who know him are well aware of his “strictly Trance and Progressive” attitude and the people who don’t, should.

Not only is he fast becoming a popular DJ on the Trance and Progressive scene in Cape Town, he is a fourth year Business Science student at UCT, the guy is a machine. He started out in 2009 doing what most start-up DJ‘s do; everything. Back then he went about as ‘Jaryd Raizon’, playing it all; House, Electro, Hip Hop, R’n’B and so on. It was only when he “found [his] sound” that he changed his stage-name. Phrodo is no joke either, he started taking DJ’ing seriously after having learnt a few things at The Soul Candi Institute of Music. His instructors were the well known Mark Valsecchi, or STEREOTYPE, Ryan Murgatroyd and Konstantinos Karatamoglou who together form Crazy White Boy.

Having played it all, his decision to stick to Trance and Progressive was an emotionally driven one, “When I’m listening to music, when I’m sitting in my room and I’ve got my headphones on there’s just, like, nothing else. All I want to do is sit there and listen to this music, play this music, make this music. There’s no other music that moves me like Trance and Progressive does, if you listen to the words and if you listen to how the music is actually structured and the way it’s put together it’s just so genius.” Jaryd explains that the ideal trance set tells a story from beginning to end and utilises vocals to carry the story through, “I don’t think you can do that with any other genre because the vocals, especially in commercial music, are just pretty stupid and meaningless. There’s no depth, it’s just shallow ‘what’s up, what’s up, yo bitch’ it’s just stupid!”

Jaryd’s influences are ever changing, but those who have most inspired him have been Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Gareth Emery, Ferry Corsten, Protoculture and the likes. On asking him who Phrodo really is I got a mouthful; “Phrodo is really about trying to grow the Trance and Progressive industry in South Africa, Cape Town in particular. I want people to understand that there’s a difference between psy-trance and prog-trance and that although they might not like psy-trance, prog-trance is actually quite beautiful and uplifting if you give it a chance.”

When he’s making a mix he likes to start it off relatively slow, at 128/9bpm, and bring it to 134/5bpm by the end, “where you’ve started off chilled and now you’re chair-raving, you know? Or like having a jol while you’re driving,” this is the case with his favourite mix so far, ‘Hands to the Synth.’ He highlights key as well as ensuring that the tracks being mixed flow; “they can’t sound s*** when you’re putting them together.” When preparing for a live set, Jaryd makes sure that he includes enough tracks that the commercial crowd can relate to but the focus remains on the underground stuff that he loves, “that the hard-ass trance fans can jam to. It’s a balance.”

On the topic of the ever-growing popularity, and seeming commercialism, of the trance culture he believes that it’s not the music but the scene, “I don’t think that the music itself has become commercialised I think it’s the experience that has, I think there’s a big difference.” The consensus is that being a hipster has become cool, but Jaryd believes that you can tell a true hipster from a wannabe with ease, “people that go with with their lumo stickers and V&A Waterfront-bought scarves around their heads, prancing around like fairies, in their brand-new All-Stars are just the people looking for photos to put on Facebook.”

Phrodo has been short-listed to play as a supporting act for international DJ duo, First State, in April so he’s holding thumbs. Otherwise he can be seen at the Fusion events at The Purple Turtle held in conjunction with Halo, SA Trance Family and Crazy Productions, if you’re that way inclined ‘Like‘ his Facebook page to keep updated!

Stay tuned.

Editors note: In the spirit of full disclosure, the writer and interviewee know each other on a friendship basis.

Secret Chiefs – Dance You’re On Fire

Mainstream radio tends to feed us music that isn’t necessarily good and pretty much sounds the same, however, every now and then there are bands that surprise us by managing to make music that is radio friendly, super catchy and worth listening to. Johannesburg seems to be South Africa’s source of these bands and it makes one wonder what it is that Johannesburg has that Cape Town doesn’t. Cape Town has limited venues for bands to perform and a relatively difficult audience to convince. While Johannesburg has more venues and a bigger crowd of music goers, bands gig for years without ever blowing up. You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to make it in this scene and Dance You’re On Fire is one such band. They have been gigging and paying their dues since 2007. It was only after their change in sound, now more mainstream as opposed to their earlier experimental material, and the release of their single ‘Blockade’, followed by their full length debut album Secret Chiefs that South Africa was forced to take notice.

Their feel good sugary pop rock sound with an indie bite is the kind of music you would blast at full volume in your car on your way to campus to get you amped up for the long day ahead. I remember the first time hearing Boxes of Tigers. I was completely convinced it was Panic At The Disco making an awesome come back after the failure of Pretty Odd, so I turned it up to full volume. The quality of both this band’s music as well as the actual production and mastering of the album exceeds expectations. It is an extremely well-produced album, good enough to be released internationally.  Realising that they were in fact a local band only impressed me more.

While DYOF’s sound is commercial they have found a perfect balance between popular culture and indie that makes for catchy tunes but never losing its credibility as a ‘radicore’ band. ‘Secret Chiefs’ ranges from bubbly tracks like Boxes of Tigers and Little Wars which prove perfect for dancing around like a kid who’s had too much candy (when nobody’s looking of course), to more chilled songs like Michelle.  My personal favourites on the album would be Blockade and Michelle.  Blockade’s attitude filled leads make it stand out from the rest of the album while the mellowness of Michelle compliments the indie pop nature of the rest of the album.

The band is in the process of working on a follow up to Secret Chiefs hopefully to be released in 2012. They may sound a lot like Panic At The Disco but I don’t think we need to worry too much about them pulling a ‘Pretty Odd’ stunt. I can’t see them isolating themselves in a cabin in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, writing music while under the influence of opium related drugs. This is an album definitely worth adding to your collection.

A Group to be Watched

Cape Town based band, The First Descent (formerly known under the name of BlueSkyFriday), was established in early 2008 as a Power Rock band. As with many bands, however, members and influences change over time. It is through these changes that The First Descent has been moulded into the band it is today. The band is made up of members: Evan Strauss, Adrian Fowler, Bruce McDougall and Michael Pole, all of whom share a strong bond not only as musicians, but as people too.

After collaborating for only three years, the band has already managed to compile two EPs. Their first EP was recorded in 2009 with Clive Shonfeld and Adam Bilton of DonDouglasMusic. Their most recent EP was recorded earlier this year with Alan Simmonds of Soundsurgeon Studios which consists of four tracks: “Tattooed Hearts”, “The Runaway”, “Take My Hand” and “We Will Sail Away”.

As an up-and-coming band, their EP blew me away. It came as no surprise when, after listening to the tracks myself, I learned that the track “Tattooed Hearts” has made its way into the ReverbNation Cape Town Rock Chart, featuring at number 9. With a sound similar to that of Creed and The Doors, their music evokes feelings of reminiscence as the lyrics take you on a journey which leads to the stories that many of us have shared.

“Take my Hand” tells a heart-felt story of the memories of past relationships that one cannot escape. The melodic introduction to the song gives it a perfect ballad-like feel which pairs perfectly with Strauss’s pleasing vocals. It is a wonder why this track has not yet been placed on the charts.

“Tattooed Hearts” takes a different approach as the lyrics touch on one’s dreams and how it is easy to give up on them. The lyrics “I pray that you don’t make this mistake” enforce the message that we cannot let our dreams fall away as our dreams are “what keeps us awake”. The true magic of the song comes out towards the end when everything dies down for a few seconds and all you can hear is the sweet melody of Pole on the guitar, accompanied by Fowler quietly on the drums.

“The Runaway” would most likely sit very well with those who are Creed fans as their influence is significantly heard in this song. Strauss’s vocals shine in this song as he belts out every note perfectly, especially in the last minute of the track.

The Track, “We Will Sail Away” ends off the EP with something unique as it ties in with the idea that in everyone’s life there comes a time when one needs to look inside oneself and descend to regions within, that have never been discovered before.

The First Decent has the talent to show us that there are so many things left for us to experience in our journey of life and their passion for music shines through their work. They are a promising group of musicians and I look forward to what they have in store for us in the future.

Misread Mumford?

BY KYLIE HOLLIDAY

MISTER & MISREAD

Mister & Misread – Photo by Metoikos Cadmus

Mister & Misread is a Somerset-West based band who arrived on the scene mid-June last year with the release of a video of their cover of Mumford and SonsWhite Blank Page.

The then-duo’s acoustic version brings in a beautifully soulful element that the original version does not possess. The pair transform this folk song into somewhat of a bluesy, easy-listening rock melody that is well worth a listen.

Lead vocalist, Kristyn Röhm or Misread, has a sincerity in her voice that is uncommon thus creating a dynamic and powerful tone, which maintains the perfectly suited understated quality of this soulful rendition. Her genuineness leads the listener into believing every word bringing in a great depth that makes the song easy to relate to; a quality that has become increasingly important in the music industry.

Guitarist, Nick Frost, adds a fullness to the song right throughout with his tentative manipulation of his guitar strings, whereas the Mumford and Sons original contains this fullness and intensity only through the assistance of a full band. Nick’s harmonising further intensifies the emotionally heavy lyrics. This is by no means intended to suggest that the Mister and Misread version is any better or worse than the Mumford and Sons original, or vice versa, but simply to remark on how the two differ.

There is a downfall to this release; although the sound quality of the video is good, it could be better. The video of this performance can be found on YouTube by typing in “Mumford and Sons, White Blank Page (cover) nikon d7000” or going to Etienne van Rensburg’s channel.

The band has since expanded to include three more Misters: Phil Joubert on bass guitar, Jono Otero on guitar and Fourie Pretorius on drums. Mister & Misread falls under the management of Sovereign Express who have managed the Parlotones, WONDERBoom, Jon Savage and the likes to great success, one can only hope that Mister & Misread achieves the same kind of success.

Since the addition of the new members, Mister & Misread has recorded and released to Soundcloud two original tracks; Silver Linings and The Best Is Yet To Come. The band has, through these few releases, proven their talent with a style classified as ‘easy-listening, dust-rock and dark-pop’ and the most original, catchy lyrics that make one wonder just how they conjured them up. They are a group who claim to have something for everyone, something new to offer and have yet to fail to deliver. I look forward to there being an album to buy, hopefully in the very near future!

The band can be seen live at Bohemia in Stellenbosch on every other Sunday and at various venues around Cape Town, to keep up to date with their gigs “Like” their Facebook page, you won’t be disappointed.

This band is a must see!

When William Fitzsimmons decided to release an album full of electronic remixes to his melancholic and outright depressing songs, many Grey’s anatomy viewers choked on their popcorn.  Illinois based singer and songwriter, William Fitzsimmons, has released three albums since his debut in 2005.  The first two albums, which were self produced and recorded in his home in Pittsburgh, became widely used in American TV dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, Teen Wolf, One Tree Hill, and other tear jerkers.  It’s no wonder TV producers jumped at the opportunity to layer Fitzsimmons whispering voice over montages of broken relationships and unsuccessful surgeries.  His voice floats above the gentle hum of an acoustic guitar, singing lines such as, “And I won’t measure love from the tears that drip from your face” (Funeral Dress).  When William Fitzsimmons begins to sing, heartbreak, loss, and pain literally begin to drip from the speakers.
Adding grinding synthesizers, dirty bass, and the upbeat ring of electronica to a William Fitzsimmons’ song is like adding a V8 to a horse and buggy.  Some diehard fans might rather listen to Skrillex hum a lullaby then watch DJ Pink Ganter sink his teeth into the vulnerable flesh of Fitzsimmons’ whispering melodies.  However, by daring to inject a little life into Fitzsimmons’ gloomy ballads, the album stumbles upon an unlikely discovery.
The original version of “So This is Goodbye”, depicts a young man coping with the grief of seeing his ex-lover in the arms of another man.  Many of the lyrics suggest that the narrator cannot move on past the grieving stage: “And I cried myself to sleep, and you thought I was happy.  I was lonely and had nowhere to go.”  The fast flutter of the rhythm section contrasted against the sweeping guitar accentuates the narrator’s restlessness, making the listener feel tense and uneasy.  DJ Pink Ganter’s remix captures the feelings of jealousy and heartbreak by keeping the guitar’s mournful cries, but adds in the heavy thump of an electronic bass that works the listener into a contemplative trance.  The song doesn’t loose any of its tender emotion, but DJ Pink Ganter pumps it full of crunchy distortion, giving it some grit and guts.  It’s no longer a whiny singer obsessed with jealousy and loss, but a song of steady movement and slow progression towards emotional balance.
Undeniably, the album may push the boundaries of re-imagination too far, such as the album’s final track, a cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”.  Whether the cover is a joke or an actual attempt at exposing emotional undertones of the pop sensation, no one can deny that the lyrics, “the taste of her cherry chap-stick” roll of Fitzsimmons’ tongue with a palpable awkwardness.  Although a few of the songs on “Derivatives” may stretch the capacity of Fitzsimmons’ woeful voice, the success of the album lies in its daring attempt to expand musical boundaries, and to reveal subtle hints of hope within Fitzsimmons’ music.

By Duncan Lowe

Continue reading

White Interrupted

Jack is back, and this time he’s flying solo. His single, Love Interruption released January 30th 2012, was put out to promote his upcoming album, ‘Blunberbuss’- out April 23rd.
The man who was named one of the greatest guitarists of all time, who helmed The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, has finally stepped out of his comfort zone and is making a record under his own name.

Love interruption is a lot darker and more burdened than any of his previous works. While listening to Icky Thump, or Seven Nation Army one can hear a restless mind coming to play, thoughts that have been thrown together to make the senseless but intoxicating and incredible songs. You can imagine White ‘jamming’ in a garage, putting his emotion into a chord, whipping the guitar just to clear his head. Whilst his previous projects were a lot more ‘fun’, Love Interruption is a lot more sullen, graphic and violent. Unlike his previous works, it seems that a lot more thought and time went into creating this song. However, this does not necessarily mean the song is remotely close to his best works.

The song explores the acidic and astringent expectations of love, that almost makes the listener feel assaulted as he utters a vast variety of vile phrases -“stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around”, “murder my own mother”, “split my mouth wide open, and cover my ears”, Leave me dying on the ground.”- that paint images of a brutal molestation rather than a relationship, and has no resemblance to the stereotypical ideals of what love and its themes are.

Giving an opinion on this piece is…complicated. The intensity of the song is in the lyrics and repetitive chorus. Musically, however, White’s normal trademark of ‘riffing’, that crates an almost hollow or broken idea to his music, is absent. The strange combination of electric guitar, keyboard and saxophone once again underlines the abnormal rarity of the song. White’s chant “I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me”, is embedded in the listeners memory as if to warn them not to let this happen to them either.

For months, White has underlined the importance of this single; everything about this release is dedicated to tell the world that this is Jack White being serious – he’s even releasing the album on vinyl – this is his return and he is bigger and better than ever. But to the ‘average’ White fan it is an uncomfortable change, the song has brilliance, but White is better suited riffing with both his lyrics and his guitar.
After an unusually long silence from White, his ‘grand return’ is rather disappointing. He isn’t back with a bang or another rambling subjugation but a song about the bitterness of love that leaves us thinking – is that it??

As said in Almost Famous, “Rock ‘n roll is a lifestyle, a way of thinking… it’s a voice that says here I am and fuck you if you cant understand me”. This is who White is. He is unapologetic, and creates what he wants when he wants. And regardless of what any critic says he will continue making music for himself and his fans, whether it’s disappointing or not. Love Interruption isn’t the White we know or maybe even love, but for this generation it is still a darn good piece of music. Give it a listen and decide for yourself…

This year marks the 45th anniversary of The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album was a commercial and critical flop upon its release but has gone on to be hailed as one of rock’s most important albums. Why was this so and what relevance does this album have to the South African rock scene in 2012?

 

In 1967 The Velvet Underground teamed up with German chanteuse, Nico, and released their eponymous, debut album. At the helm producing was New York City art scene doyen, Andy Warhol. The album was as varied as it was bold. The band did their take on love songs like “There She Goes Again” but also hit upon drugs and sadomasochism. “Sunday Morning”, the album’s opening track is a sweet, lilting number that clocks in at a radio-friendly 2:54. The closing track, by contrast, is an all out assault on every pop sensibility hitherto known to man and runs nearly eight minutes long. Perfect bookends to an album full of songs that are diametrically opposed yet none seem out of place. Each track works because of its sheer authenticity. The Velvet Underground were a band very much of their time but the brazen execution of their songs was light years ahead. 

 

Why then did the album not take off right away? There were many distribution issues. The album was banned in many stores and on radio. It has been said that The Velvet Underground & Nico only sold 10,000 copies but everyone who bought one went on to form a band. The true impact of the album was only realised later. Its maverick spirit of individualism spoke to the disenfranchised masses. If that’s not rock n’ roll what is? Their influence helped give rise to glam, new wave, indie and punk rock. As the popularity of these genres grew so did that of The Velvet Underground, even though they had disbanded by this point.

 

So what can the South African rock scene learn from The Velvet Underground & Nico? South Africa could be the last bastion of artistic expression in rock music. I understand the practicality of compromising artistic integrity for commercial success. We all have to eat. I understand the temptation in America and Europe where it could mean the difference between selling millions of albums and selling 100,000 albums. The market in South Africa, however, is so small that selling 20,000 albums is considered doing well. Add to that the rock genre takes a backseat to things like kwaito and Afrikaans country music. Why pander to radio stations and prevailing tastes to sell maybe 10,000 units and still be working a day job? It near as makes no difference to stick to your guns and sell 1,000 copies and leave a legacy like The Velvet Underground & Nico. I think artists and fans alike should ask themselves the question: Would I rather have cookie-cutter rock music or something genuine, albeit unpopular, that could give birth to a fresh, new scene. Don’t we all deserve better?

Eminem – Recovery

Whenever anyone thinks of hip-hop music, one name immediately springs to mind – Eminem. Eminem is the best-selling hip-hop artist of our time, and some may say he rightly deserves it, while others may strongly disagree. Eminem’s latest album, Recovery, is just that: a recovery from the big mess he got himself into with his two previous albums before it, Relapse (2009) and Relapse: Refill (2009). Those two albums rightfully had similar names because, to put it nicely, they both sucked. Recovery, a year later, once again reminded us why Eminem is the biggest hip-hop artist in the world: the man is a musical genius.

Recovery seeps with qualities of Eminem that fans know and love. The songs on this album bring in the ‘diary’ aspects of Eminem that is present in his first three albums, The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show. By the end of Recovery, it’s as if the listener and the artist are once again personally connected; the listener is Eminem’s confidante. He is brutally honest, with lyrics such as, “The last two albums didn’t count. Encore I was on drugs; Relapse, I was flushing ‘em out” (Talkin’ to Myself). This feeling of knowing private details about Eminem’s life is a very important aspect of his music and is one of the reasons he is so successful. This aspect unfortunately lacked in both of the Relapse albums.

The “silliness” of songs such as Just Lose it and Without Me have returned with a vengeance in Recovery. The songs On Fire and W.T.P. reflect this. These serve as a break in the album from the more serious songs about topics like his drug addiction and the death of his friend and D-12 band mate, DeShaun Dupree Holton (otherwise known as Proof). A specialty of Eminem, that this album lacks, is the vulgar rapping about fellow celebrities, which is present in songs such as Ass Like That and We Made You. Although this tactic worked for him and pleased his fans in earlier albums, the absence of it shows a maturity in Eminem’s music that was not present in any of his previous albums. The fact that the album is still a success without this tactic is worth noting, because it proves that it’s not his only talent.

Eminem collaborates with Pink, Lil’ Wayne, and Rihanna in Recovery. Three of today’s biggest musicians collaborating with him indicates that he is still respected in the music world despite his embarrassing previous albums. Love the Way You Lie, the album’s debut single featuring Rihanna, reached number 1 in 2010, which was a great comeback for Eminem. The rest of the album definitely does not disappoint either.

Recovery could be classified as one of Eminem’s best albums. He deals with personal content such as the price of fame, mourning the death of his close friend and dealing with his drug addiction. The album still has usual crazy stunts but the real gem of the album comes from the harsh emotion and profundity of most of the songs. The album is filled with his usual punch lines and metaphors, and reminds us why Eminem is hailed as one of the best rappers around.