Diamonds, Candy, Pills, One Million Dollar Bills.
Handsome Boy Modeling School w/ Cat Power - I've Been Thinking - Dan The Automator has been plenty busy lately. And just when it seems like he's ready to slow down, along comes a project that he's contributed even more to - in this case White People the aptly titled new album from handsome Boy Modeling School. White People brings together the talents of the Automator and Prince Paul - two of the best producers out there, and a litany of rappers both famous (De La Soul, The RZA, Pharell Williams), and Undie (El-P, Cage, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien), with Indie Rockers (The Mars Volta, Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, Cat Power, Mike Patton), and a few whatthefucks (John Oates, Chester Bennington, Father Guido Sarducci), for an album of smartly produced beatcentric hip-hop and R&B. It's a hit and miss affair. But "I've been thinking" is a firm contender for Flux's idea of hits from an alternate reality. The song is a suffocating, paranoid love ballad, and Chan shows off a side of herself we've never seen, with a soulful vocal performance that would be instantly familiar to anyone - not just her usual audience. Part of it is the reverb, as her vocals multitrack the inherent innocence of her voice away in places("I've been thinking about the things you made me do too"), and and give it a more playful, childish quality in others. While the song at times seems a bit cliche - the paradoxical litany of the "strong unbuyable woman" coexisting in the same song in which said woman begs for the man she insists cannot buy her - it's pretty clear that Chan knows what she's doing here. It's not a case of an artist taking the easiest path to accessibility, but rather, confronted with an opportunity to sing in front of those low key beats and muted strings, to play with a narrowly defined genre normally out of reach - taking it's cliches and it's rules, and using them as boundaries to define herself while she works in other directions, rather than struggling to break through and make something new. Besides, it's completely hypnotic, and nearly the only thing I've listened to this past weekend.
[Buy White People from Amazon.com!]
Snowden - Kill the Power - Snowden are from Atlanta. You wouldn't know it, what with the large NYC photo on the front of their website. You wouldn't know it from their sound either, which is as zeitgeisty as it gets. And you wouldn't know it from their being on the bill at tomorrows NY-centric Movable Hype show at the Knitting Factory in NY tomorrow night, which you NYers should go to. But they're from Atlanta. And Kill the Power, a track from their demo EP, is meant to let New York City know that in the age of the internet, it's not enough to live near the hip people - because they can hear you from anywhere. "Kill the Power" has all the trademarks of a band that looks back to the late 80's. MBVesque distortion scattered about - but rather than pouring it on thick, the shoegaze influence is just a flourish here, as we see equally heavy references to the likes of the Cure, or Joy Division, or drums that recall the Stone Roses on a less frenetic moment.
[NYers should go see Snowden tomorrow. Everyone should download their Demo EP from the website.]
John has the definitive ODB obit, so I don't think I need to bother.