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Review: Diplo/Santogold – Top Ranking (2008 ) August 3, 2008

Posted by ashiah in Music, Reviews.
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Back when Santogold was just a rising artist with a popular Myspace page, everyone wanted to pigeonhole her as the new M.I.A. This was wrong for several reasons. One, it minimized Santogold’s true potential. And two, M.I.A. was a newbie herself and so the scene didn’t necessarily need “a new one.” But after the success of “Santogold,” a genre-bending punk/ska/hip-hop journey (nothing like M.I.A., by the way), I’m starting to wonder if the comparisons were fueled by the media or by Santogold and Diplo.

“Top Ranking” is clearly just another attempt at recapturing the brilliance of “Piracy Funds Terrorism,” the last Diplo mixtape made with M.I.A. But what’s so blindingly great about “Top Ranking” is it doesn’t even try to hide their motives. Yes, this is “Piracy Funds Terrorism” part two with a different, similar singer, but what’s so bad about that?

“Top Ranking” combs through a long list of artists from various genres — reggae, hip-hop, electro. Diplo brings his trademark unique spin on the tracks and even perfects a couple of Santogold’s original tracks, like “Creator” and “L.E.S. Artistes.” Unfortunately, the album can’t help getting a bit overindulgent in certain interludes that disrupt the flow of the album. There are two to be exact — an ’80s interlude with Devo, The B52s and a reggae interlude with Warrior Queen, Shinehead. But these don’t hinder the album, which quickly recovers from a so-so track with incredible ease.

But the moments that really shine are when Santogold is in the picture, but surprisingly, her presence isn’t as grounded as M.I.A.’s presence was on “Piracy Funds Terrorism.” But alas, here I am trying to compare the two again. But at least I know this isn’t my fault.

Santogold – I’m a Lady (Diplo mix featuring Amanda Blank)

What’s Playing Now May 2, 2008

Posted by ashiah in Music, What's Playing Now.
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Tujiko Noriko – Trust (2008 )
Not wasting a beat, Tujiko Noriko is back again with a new release after last year’s excellent “Solo.” “Trust” is a mixture of both old and new; the album is part remixes and part new songs. The remixes simply sound like re-worked, perfected versions of the originals, while the new songs sound surprisingly over-produced. Noriko’s music has always been sparse, esoteric and unsure of its direction. This Noriko is loud, experimental and content with its weirdness. It’s not as good as “Solo,” but worth a download.

Santogold – Santogold (2008 )
Here comes the next M.I.A! Except she sounds nothing like M.I.A. But hey, they’re both brown! That’s close enough, right? Unlike M.I.A, Santogold takes herself more seriously, and her music is a reflection of that tinge of intellectual maturity. Musically she’s more daring, jumping from punk, to ska, to electronics, to hip hop, she’s definitely not afraid to experiment. Possibly one of the better albums of the year.

Ladytron – Velocifero (2008 )
Sometimes I think Ladytron will never live up to the greatness of “604.” Their last album (I can’t be bothered to look up the name) was an interesting, if not over-produced effort that I enjoyed, but “Velocifero” takes a weird step in the wrong direction. Instead of the clear, super crisp sounds of “The Witching Hour” (Yay, I remember!), the music here sounds muffled and badly rendered. I’m not an audiophile, but this combined with tracks that sound like leftovers from the b-sides of some horrible ’80s band is enough for me to just wash my hands of them. “Black Car” and “Ghosts” are catchy and great, but the rest of the album sounds too rushed.

Tape – Luminarium (2008 )
I’m going to hold my opinion on this one. I’m listing it here to show that I am currently listening to it, but I haven’t let the album sink in fully yet. To be continued.



Aus – Lang (2006)
Aus is quickly becoming one of my favorite musicians. After the release of “Sonorapid,” Aus has become a quiet underground celebrity. Older albums that previously never saw the light of day are tip-toeing to the surface as more and more people discover Aus. I actually think “Lang” is superior to “Sonorapid” in many ways. “Sonorapid” seemed a bit lost in its quiet excellence, preferring its points of brilliance to be more subtle. “Lang,” on the other hand, is cutely in your face with confident beats and a surprising surge of energy. Fyi, he also remixed a track on Tuijko Noriko’s “Trust.”

Animal Collective – Water Curses Ep (2008 )
Although “Strawberry Jam” was just released last year, Animal Collective are charging back with a short EP of four new songs. Very much in the same vein as “Strawberry Jam,” except with less hijinks and more subdued insanity.