Wax Tailor: Hope & Sorrow

Mark Szakonyi

So it is reluctance tempered only by relief, that what was once lost or hidden in trip-hop is now found in France.

Wax Tailor

Hope & Sorrow

Label: Decon
US Release Date: 2007-04-03
UK Release Date: 2007-04-03

It’s been hard for trip-hop/turntabalist junkies lately. Our old, and often most popular, dealers who fed us thick beats laced with trumpet bursts and soul samples have since faded into the alleys or are peddling something entirely different. DJ Shadow argues that mainstream hip-hop is worth saving on The Outsider and loses some of his original brilliance in the process. RJD2 goes pop on The Third Hand and succeeds in making something sound so familiar yet so bland. Portishead is back but with no album yet, and Tricky only occasionally appears on remixes. So it is reluctance tempered only by relief, that what was once lost or hidden in trip-hop is now found in France.

Wax Tailor, a.k.a. JC Le Saoût, has taken the corner. His sophomore release, Hope & Sorrow, has the gravity that one sees on Shadow's Endtroducing or Portishead’s debut. With the playfulness of the Avalanches, this second outing maintains the sample-based quirkiness that Le Saoût introduced on his previous effort, Tales of the Forgotten Melodies, but evolves to a work of true originality. The mood is set quickly and confidently with the opener “Once Upon a Past”, with its chanting reverberating over a Portishead-like thumping mixed with the nu-jazz wickedness of Herbaliser. Modern R&B standout Sharon Jones gets a backing fit for Shirley Bassey on “The Way We Live” that constantly pulls back and forth to give Jones’s most soulful cries just enough time to keep it moving forward. Female contributors, such as spoken-word queen Ursula Rucker and French songstress Charlotte Savary, make a good showing, but nothing as bright as the Voice’s. Like a viper coiling back for just the right slither, the female rapper takes a flute-laden instrumental and turns it into a menacing dance.

It’s not as gimmicky as the Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatrist”, although “The Tune” also uses circa-1950s spoken word samples to similar effect. The clever interplay of narration is cute, but the real hook is the haunting snippet of Buddy Holly’s “There Goes My Baby”. Jazz samples over students of the T.R.I.B.E. ASM and Marina keep it crisp on “Positively Inclined" so the instrumentals are accentuated, not pushed to the background. As this and Copywrite’s work with RJD2 has shown, the MC’s role as promoter -- not showboater -- is hip-hop at is best. A Busta Rhymes sample phases to the Others' forgettable spiel on “House of Wax”. The loss is quickly compensated with the creaky piano tinkling on "Beyond Words” that recalls some of the forgotten soul drops on DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing. The case could be made that Wax Tailor’s newest is more a pastiche of innovators’ past work than an original work. Somehow, he has been able to lift the best elements of trip-hop pioneers and created a darkly cinematic update of a day past or simply across the ocean. So be it. Wax Tailor is no Johnny Hallyday.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.