Perennial PopMatters favorite Talib Kweli returns 18 May in a new Reflection Eternal release with his cohort Hi-Tek. Kweli’s patented smooth and clever flow and rhymes are fine form on this collaboration with UK soul singer Estelle.
5/10 - Kansas City, MO - Midland Theatre
5/11 - Tulsa, OK - Cain’s
5/12 - Houston, TX - Warehouse
5/13 - Dallas, TX - Granada Theatre
5/15 - Boulder, CO - Fox Theatre
5/16 - Denver, CO - Bluebird
5/19 - Los Angeles, CA - House of Blues
5/20 - Anaheim, CA - The Grove
5/21 - Phoenix, AZ - The Clubhouse
5/22 - Tucson, AZ - DV8
5/23 - Ventura, CA - Ventura Theatre
5/24 - San Francisco, CA - Fillmore
5/25 - San Diego, CA - House of Blues
5/26 - Santa Cruz, CA - Catalyst Nightclub
5/28 - Portland, OR - Aladdin Theatre
5/29 - Seattle, WA - ShowBox at the Market
A little less than a year ago, PopMatters columnist Rob Horning eloquently revisited “the listening conditions of (his) 11-year-old self” in a piece that celebrated the simple pleasures of playing records. While the surge in vinyl interest has these days surfaced in more mainstream media trend pieces than we can count, it’s reassuring that people are buying and enjoying music—and are even frequenting their neighborhood’s independent record stores.
Director John Lyle doesn’t attempt to hide his authentic appreciation for LPs in a 90-minute “musicmentary” he calls To Have & To Hold: A Film About Vinyl Records. Lyle’s film is still in the production stage, but its interviews with musicians, collectors, label chieftains (such as Bruce Lundvall of Blue Note), and more will likely prove to be an enriching experience—like dropping the needle on your all-time favorite record.
That the TeenBeat label is commemorating its 26th anniversary is definitely something worth celebrating: So, even if it has been left behind by 1990s indie peers like Matador and Merge in terms of cultural relevance and marketplace success, TeenBeat continues to deliver quirky pop and a total artistic experience on a DIY budget. In honor of the label’s more than a quarter century in existence, its signature act Unrest is playing a series of East Coast shows this July, supported by on the bills by various combinations of TeenBeat’s best-known cult favorites like Versus and the Rondelles. Plus, TeenBeat honcho Mark Robinson is back with yet another post-Unrest project, Cotton Candy, which released an album earlier this year. Go to the TeenBeat anniversary site for the details on who’s playing when. For a sampling of all the superfast strumming you’re in store for on the mini-tour, check out the YouTube video below of a vintage Unrest performance from 1993.
In 2009, Eminem—a poor, scrawny, trailer dwelling kid from the outskirts of Detroit with a liquid flow and acute sense of humor—alienated just about everyone with Relapse, an album that abrasively belied the everyman appeal he oozed on older records. He was a strange, secluded sadist, hundreds of millions of dollars removed from the menial jobs he rapped about on “Rock Bottom”, and new, overbearing tracks like the cereal-rapist narrative “Stay Wide Awake” hinted at a dubious relationship with reality.
Then, something clicked. Eminem dropped the pretenses and decided to simply rap his ass off. He delivered the best verses on Alchemist’s Chemical Warfare, 50 Cent’s Before I Self Destruct, and Lil Wayne’s Rebirth. He made three very serviceable MCs look positively sophomoric on Drake’s “Forever.” He out-freestyled Mos Def and Black Thought. (Think about that. Mos Def and Black Thought.) He upstaged a glowingly thoughtful B.o.B. on “Airplanes (Part II)”. This past Tuesday, he released the astonishing “Despicable”, his take on Drake’s “Over” and Lloyd Banks’ “Beamer Benz or Bentley”, attacking those instrumentals with heady, syllable-twisting glee: “Keep blogging, while I’m mind boggling / Flow’s so wet, I’ll take this beat tobogganing.”
Em’s recent run has been historic, comparable to the exhilarating string of cameos Andre 3000 dropped in 2007. While it remains to be seen if this jolt of energy will translate into a gripping album, “Not Afraid” reveals great intentions. It’s the first single from Recovery, as well as a bracing departure from the shock-jock tiredness of past washouts like “We Made You” and “Just Lose It”. There are no Jennifer Aniston or Blake Fielder disses here. Instead, we get three candid, fervent verses: “I promise to focus solely on handling my responsibilities as a father / So I solemnly swear to treat this roof like my daughters / And raise it.”
“Not Afraid” isn’t altogether great. The beat is waver thin, the hook maudlin, and rhymes about “gazing up at the stars” are rarely welcome. But, for Eminem, the track is also a welcome entrance into foreign territory. It’s refreshing. It’s positive. We need more of it.
Any project featuring one of the world’s most famous opera singers reinterpreting the songs of Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, and the Mars Volta must rate pretty high on any WTF scale, right? But that’s just what Renée Fleming is doing on Dark Hope, which could be pretty compelling whether you’re interested in the vocal pyrotechnics or the possibility of a stylistic trainwreck. If the song samples in the promo video are any indication, it sounds like today’s art rock hits might make for tomorrow’s easy listening, as Fleming puts the diva in emo on numbers by Death Cab for Cutie and Muse. And maybe we don’t need another version of “Hallelujah” even if it’s performed by the best singer alive, something that Fleming herself seems to appreciate in the video. But as the promo attests, one thing you have to give Fleming credit for is taking this somewhat absurd idea seriously. Dark Hope will be released on June 8, while Fleming’s cover of Muse’s “Endlessly” is already available at iTunes.