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Cake, Gnarls Barkley, Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd, Magnolius, and Pantha Du Prince


Sunday is the new Friday. But not really. We're just really late. Again. Hey, we have jobs too.

Album: St. Elsewhere
Artist: Gnarls Barkley
Label: Downtown/Atlantic
Released: April 24, 2006
Genre: R&B
*Sub-genres Neo-soul, tip-hop
Sounds like: If Cee Lo Green hijacked a Gorillaz album

As some of you might remember from my most recent piece of writing on Stereotoid one of the songs that I hold dearest is Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. Well really thatís only a small piece of the puzzle. The album St. Elsewhere is simply one of the best Iíve ever heard and so, with nothing else really tickling my fancy this week, I thought it appropriate to choose something with which I can rave about for a few paragraphs.

St. Elsewhere stands, in my opinion, as the epitome of neo-soul. When you first hear the album youíre kissed with a delightfully smooth and modern sound. Something that your mind knows is heavily produced, in some cases synthetic, but that your heart believes is pure and natural. Itís really one of the greatest accomplishments of Danger Mouse, who serves as the co-writer and producer for the album. Songs like Crazy, St. Elsewhere, and the cover of Velvet Undergroundís Gone Daddy Gone are absolutely stellar and incredibly welcoming to the listener. Even still they barely scratch the surface and the album is constantly introducing something new with fantastic quality and consistency.

The composition of the album is unique and masterful. Songs like Crazy and Smiley Faces are heavily steeped in soul and it shows through the simplistic drumming, ominous synth, and Cee Lo Greens sensual delivery. Meanwhile tracks like Transformer and Feng Shui are hip-hop nirvana. The lyricism and creative delivery are simply brilliant. Complimented by synth and the occasional loop the hip-hop side of this album can easily stand up to the entirety of some of the other greats in the industry both past and present.

The lyrics of St. Elsewhere are just as striking as the rest of the album. Tracks like Just A Thought, which convey the idea of being stuck between a rock and a hard place and The Boogie Monster, which tells the story of a man who is afraid of his own reflection, are some of the best lyrics to come about in the mainstream music scene of the last 5 years. And of course thereís my personal favorite, Crazy.

All these elements come together to create a truly fantastic album. Itís difficult to pin just who I would recommend this album to but itís equally difficult to pin who I wouldnít recommend it to. Itís one of those albums everyone should sit through at least once if only for the experience.

Personal favorite tracks: Crazy, Feng Shui, and Transformer

TL;DR: One of the best albums of the 21st century. A delightful experience everyone should be exposed to at least once.


Album: Jazz Samba
Artist: Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd
Label: MGM/Verve
Released: 13 February 1962
Genre: Jazz
*Sub-genres Bossa Nova
Sounds like: Remember when you tuned in to the Latin radio channel in The Sims. Yep, thatís pretty much what it is.

Bossa Nova was a short-lived Brazilian jazz style of the early-sixties. It took America by storm, for its vigorous rhythms and smooth love ballads. Jazz Samba was actually the first Bossa Nova album to transcend its Brazilian roots, and seduce Americaís ears for Latin jazz. Following that would be a short-lived period of this new trend, (the whole movement lasted no-less than 5 years). The genre has more or less died out since then, but the style and flavor it brought to Jazz is still felt to this day. Jazz Samba is only one of the timeless classic of this abrupt era.

If thereís one thing I absolutely adore in this world, its drum brushes. Apart from a Moog synthesizer, I have the most intense joy when I hear those brushes hit a snare drum. Jazz Samba is exactly that kind of album. The heavy bass, the smooth saxophone of Getz, and the sharp guitar of Byrd make everything sound perfect on this album. The record is Brazil in a capsule. Part of an ephemeral period, yes, but so freaking fantastic; along side with Getz/Gilberto (That Girl from Ipanema album), itís one of the best, and sensual introduction to this Brazilian branch of jazz. And all of that played by two Americans howís that for familiarity.

This review is somewhat really short, but to be honest I canít say much more about Jazz Samba. It is a wonderful, sensual trip into Latin Jazz; my Latin (French) blood canít help but connect with this rhythm. If anything, it makes me wish I could go back in time and live this special period in Jazz history. Where drummers banged straws on their knees to produce the most refined and subtle percussion. And smooth-talking singers made the most beautiful love songs.

Personal favorite tracks: Desafinado, Samba Dees Days , Samba De Una Nota

TL;DR: Brazilian Jazz charging barricades like a raging rhino. In that case, the barricades would be America.


Album: Black Noise
Artist: Pantha Du Prince
Label: Rough Trade
Released: February 8, 2010
Genre: Techno
*Sub-genres Minimal techno
Sounds like: If you walked in the VIP lounge of the Afterlife Club in Mass Effect 2.

You have to hand it to the Germans when it comes to electronic music. They are veterans in that field, producing innovative and challenging records since the days of Neu! and Kraftwerk. Fortunately, a new breed has come; Pantha Du Prince has been hanging around the minimal techno scene for quite a while now. Black Noise is in fact, his 3rd album under the pseudonym, (with his earlier work dating back to 2002 as GlŁhen 4). Itís quite hard to popularized eccentric melodies like his in this day and age; with a market quasi-saturated by Trance and EDM (Electronic Dance Music), especially in America. But, Black Noise is still an incredible record, regardless.

The album takes from dark ambient, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), and Musique ConcrŤte (concrete or real music) all of its tempos. Itís a very original mix Ė one that I havenít heard in a while, (considering Boards of Canada have been on a relatively short hiatus as of late.). And with that, itís able to distinguish itself from the others. All the songs have similar patterns, (much like Trance, actually), the tracks crescendo by the three quarter time-mark. Itís not terribly innovative, but considering the genre, conservatism is the best way to deal with minimalism. The songs are mostly based on repetition, as well as recorded samples, vocals, and the good old synthesizer.

Even based on repetition, Black Noise is incredibly groovy and uplifting. It kind of reminds me of the PixelJunk Eden soundtrack in a way. Minimalism is probably the greatest thing ever when it comes to electronic music. Itís able to separate layers, and accentuate the bleeps and bloops. By that I mean, the tracks have a lot more substance rhythmically, and itís a lot easier on the ears. But, donít be fooled by its ambient roots, Pantha Du Princeís third LP is groovy as hell.

Thereís a weird organic feel to Black Noise. German artists are able to giving much more ďhumanityĒ to electronic music. Itís definitely hard to describe, but you can totally hear it when you listen to the album. Black Noise might sound like an utterly robotic dance album at first, but its subtlety can only derive from a human mind. Pantha Du Prince is pretty goddamn neat; this is probably his most achieved album, yet. 2010 sure has been grateful to this Teutonic prince of minimal techno.

Personal favorite tracks: Satellite Sniper, Behind the Stars , Bohemian Forest , Lay in a Shimmer ,

TL;DR: For what is essentially a dark ambient/idm/Musique ConcrŤte album, it is incredibly rhythmic and groovy. Probably the best techno you will hear in a long time.


Album: Mary Musth
Artist: Magnolius
Released: 2010
Genre: Rap/Hip Hop, Instrumental Hip Hop
Sounds like: Daedalus, Amon Tobin, Aesop Rock, The Beastie Boys

You know, I love the internet. Without it, I literally wouldnít know half the things I know, wouldnít have met half of the awesome people Iím now friends with, wouldnít have played 80% of the games Iíve played, and would have never in my life have discovered this little indie rap group called Magnolius.

I swear the spontaneousness of me coming across these two is astronomical; they had followed on Tumblr, and with how cluttered my dashboard can get, missing notes and things is easily done. But I saw them, took an interest to the name, and hopped on over to their blog, to which I read a post about how they were glad that they had the chance to perform with De La Soul on stage. This prompted me to hit their Bandcamp, and low and behold, the final barrier; a self release free album.

Already, itís taken the slot of one of the best free things Iíve downloaded in the last few months.

The first thing youíll notice about Magnolius is how energetic they present themselves. Magnolius is bursting with whatever they do, from the music to their downright assaults on the lyrical front. The energy presented from this dynamic duo of rappers is something to be envied, and can almost be charted on levels of The Beastie Boys.

This amazing amount of energy is easily complemented by how simple yet energetic the underlying beats can be. Instrumental in nature, these beats sometime feature the use of sampling, and probably did in the studio, but the thing is that almost each and every one of these sounds could be reproduced live with a full ensemble. The style of the beats often borders on the line crossing between Amon Tobin and Daedalus, but thatís not to say that the music canít achieve levels of energy that rival that of what Mindless Self Indulgence does with their sounds. Itís all put together really well, and does a nice job of meshing together different styles, and making something thatís unique to them.

Of course, as I said, Magnolius presents a literal lyrical assault at times, throwing rhymes at listeners so fast and fluid-like that itís hard to know exactly when the rapper on hand is taking a breath. There is a nice balance between furious rapping and long, enjoyable instrumental experiences in some of the songs though. Often, after youíve gone through said lyrical attack, youíll be treated to just the beats I described above. Itís almost jazzy in the nature and style of the positioning of lyrical madness and genius instrumentalism.

Magnolius has ultimately crafted an album that makes you want to go out and see this group live. Obviously, both Shan Vincent de Paul and Derek DaCosta are extremely talented individuals whoíve crafted a style that fits the ďweíre so much better liveĒ persona almost perfectly. It took only one listen through for me to get completely hooked on Magnolius, and to create something that makes me want to go out of my way to buy tickets to see them in the flesh is a feat in itself.

Only a few rap artists can claim that that they could do it with one album, and Magnolius is now one of them.

Personal favorite tracks: Tusk, King For Hire

TL;DR: Itís energetic, itís furious, itís free. What are you waiting for?

You can download Mary Musth here, for free, off of the Magnolius Bandcamp page.


Album: Showroom of Compassion
Artist: Cake
Label: Upbeat Records
Released: January 11th, 2011
Genre: Alternative Rock
Sounds like: Early 90s. Fun. Return to greatness. CAKE!!!

It's been a long time since we've heard from our good friends Cake. Seven long years, its been seven long years since the last time we had a new Cake album in our hands, but the wait is over and we now have Showroom of Compassion in our dirty little mitts. And you know what? The wait was worth it, because their new album is pretty great, as are most Cake albums. So lets get down to the details on this solar powered record. Oh, by the way, they recorded the whole album using solar power 'cause they're hippies.

This album opens pretty strong with the first two tracks being some of the best on the album, we start things off with the song Federal Funding and right from the beginning of the track you know you're in for a good album. Right after Federal Funding is my favorite track on the entire album, Long Time. The song isn't about how its been a long time since they were relevant but I like to pretend it is when I listen to it, I always have been a bit of a sucker for great returns to greatness.

The rest of the album is just as strong in my opinion. From start to finish I really enjoyed every track on this album, of course I liked some more than others but thats to be expected. One thing I truly appreciated about this album was the return of the Cake instrumental sections (previously seen in Italian Leather Sofa) this time we get an amazing instrumental song entitled, Teenage Pregnancy. Then you have fun almost anthem like songs such as Sick of You. Meaningful but hilarious songs like Italian Guy. The pseudo ballads Cake is famous for, Got To Move. This album really has everything a Cake fan could really want.

John McCrea had said in interviews that this album would be a lot different than previous Cake albums which worried a lot of people. John was half right, this album is different but I would hardly call it ďvery differentĒ. They did use reverb for the first time along with using an acoustic piano for the first time on a Cake album. Those things along with other minor evolutions does create a bit different sounding album than Cake fans may be used to but this is still a Cake album at it's core, which means that its a great piece of music that will entertain you throughout the rest of the year.

Personal favorite tracks: Long Time (couldn't find a studio version), Mustache Man, Sick Of You

TL;DR: Cake is back.

- Crackity Jones
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About Stereotoidone of us since 7:53 PM on 03.05.2010