Friday, August 21, 2009

Talking It Out...

Rarely has an album title been more on-the-mark than Speech Therapy, the debut record from UK MC Speech Debelle. With an honesty that is virtually unheard in rap music, Debelle lays it all out there for listeners. We're talking The Bell Jar level honesty (though without the suicidal feelings) and at times the confessional nature of the lyrics can feel like a little too much. Debelle even recognizes this when she notes on the title-track that "this is my speech therapy / this isn't rap."

But I was thinking recently about how self-revelatory we as a society have become on reality television, blogs and social-networking sites; and re-listening to Speech Therapy before writing this entry I now realize that Debelle is just doing what we're all doing, only in a more artful way.
When she addresses her ex-lover leaving on "Go Then, Bye" she immediately echoes the abandonment issues buried in that song in the more forthright "Daddy's Little Girl" which rails against the father who walked out on her family when she was younger. It's a one-two punch to the guts and the mixture of pain and strength, hope and sadness is bracing. No wonder then that Speech Therapy is nominated for the Mercury Prize [the UK's version of the Polaris, though since it came first, the Polaris is actually Canada's version of the Mercury...]

Released on the ever-outstanding Big Dada imprint (home to Roots Manuva, Ty, etc.) the album is finally making its way across the Atlantic and was officially released to North American audiences on Tuesday the 18th of August.
As unusual as her lyrical honesty is, Debelle's record also benefits from some unusual production and beats making it a rewarding listen for those who have tired of the cookie-cutter hip-hop being made in North America. For evidence, check out one of my favourite cuts from the album, "Better Days" featuring Micachu:

And don't forget to check out Debelle's Myspace page and website.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Smooches to Frenchkiss

A little over a month ago we received Hospice, the debut record by Brooklyn band The Antlers. The cover art immediately caught my eye and first and subsequent listens definitely caught my ear. "Bear" for one has been on heavy rotation when I take my beagles on their nightly gambol (we don't say 'walk' in front of them or else they go apeshit and start barking up a storm).

Hospice arrived directly from the band, but it's getting re-released to the wider audience it deserves via Frenchkiss Records. The remastered version is available now digitally, but will be released on CD and vinyl on August 18 (MY BIRTHDAY! Thank you Frenchkiss!!). If you still base your music-purchasing (or -downloading) decisions on what Pitchfork thinks, you'll be pleased as punch to hear that it was awarded Best New Music. I'm just surprised to note that there's been more overlap between me and the kids these days...

The music that The Antlers make vacillates between delicate and chaotic, sometimes within the confines of a single song. Hospice begins with the ominous "Prologue," which is followed by Peter Silberman's wispy whisperings on "Kettering." As weightless as that track is, the band's tribute to Sylvia Plath that follows is a heavy piece of work replete with horns and mighty percussion. The Antlers demonstrate repeatedly that they know how to build within the context of a song (most clock in at over 5 minutes) and have arranged those songs for their maximal effect as an album. Best New Music indeed.

On a somewhat-related/somewhat-tangential note, Frenchkiss Records has been on a pretty solid little roll lately: Sean Bones' Rings, Passion Pit's Manners and Cut Off Your Hands' You & I have all come out recently and have all been worth a listen. Speaking of listening, check out the Frenchkiss audio player where you can hear the above-mentioned artists as well as a new track from the upcoming Dodos record.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...