After a bumpy couple of weeks, things are finally looking up a bit in the world of new music releases. Not that Avril Lavigne and Britney Spears don’t equate to quality listening or anything (just joking, they don’t), but this week we finally have some good shit to talk about. So, let’s get right to it. Here’s your weekly release for the third week of January, 2011.
Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – Teenage and Torture
No, you cynical jerk, we didn’t pick this just because the band has the word “Hookers” in its name.
Okay, fine, we did. But holy shit are we glad we did! You could forgive us for being unfamiliar with Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers prior to seeing their name on a few new album release lists this morning. That video we posted above is an “official” video and it has all of 119 views as we write this. So, they’re hardly household names or anything. But they certainly deserve to be.
Their unique sound is the product of a lead singer raised in a mostly traditional Indian household in New Jersey where western music was banned and playing the guitar was strictly forbidden. So, what you get is likely the greatest rock band featuring a harmonium player in all the land. Covert trips to the library and Princeton Record Exchange did allow some western influences to sneak their way in, though. Like most any kid brought up in the 90′s, Nirvana was a huge influence on Shilpa Ray, and you can hear it her vocals. But the band is far from your typical stuck-in-the-past grunge clone. For one thing, did we mention there’s a friggin’ harmonium? It’s no gimmick though. It works perfectly in the mix and makes for one of the best albums we’ve heard in months. Our recommendation…buy this album. Now.
Kanye West & Jay-Z – “H.A.M.” (single)
Understandably, the expectations for the debut single from the upcoming Kanye West & Jay-Z joint album, Watch the Throne, were ridiculously high. So high, in fact, that it would be nearly impossible for the duo to live up to them. So we’re kind of conflicted when we say that “H.A.M.” was a bit of a letdown. For one thing, it’s hard to put a finger on what the problem is. It’s certainly not the production, which is every bit as epic as you would expect. And Kanye certainly wasn’t let down by the song, as evidenced by a recent Tweet…
Relax, people, he was joking. Did you not see the “LOL” at the end? That’s only the universal signal for “just joking, y’all!” Anyway, “H.A.M.” certainly makes for a nice addition to the rappers’ respective catalogs. It’s not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination. But we’d be lying if we said we aren’t hoping for much better things to come when Watch the Throne drops in March.
The Decemberists – The King is Dead
The Decemberists are known for a lot of things, and brevity isn’t one of them. So the fact that their new album, The King is Dead, clocks in at right around 40 minutes in length amounts to a pretty huge change in direction for the band. Lead singer Colin Meloy’s gigantic vocabulary has always brought a unique feel to the band’s music, but truth be told, they aren’t nearly as original as people would have you believe. They’ve always sounded like a bit of an R.E.M. tribute band. This time around, they’ve gone so far as to feature R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on guitar on a few songs, so nothing’s changed on that front. If anything, they’ve full on embraced their tendency to stray into tribute band territory.
Take the album opener, “Don’t Carry It All,” for example. If it doesn’t sound exactly like Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels” then it doesn’t sound like anything. It’s an amusing choice, considering Petty wrote that song with the intention of writing the “ultimate Neil Young tribute.” So here, you have The Decemberists pretty much copying another person’s copy of another person. The next song, “Calamity Song,” is the same deal, except the object of their affection on that tune is R.E.M.’s “Talk About the Passion.”
Neither are bad songs, mind you, but the fact that The Decemberists are annual critical darlings for doing the same shit Oasis got blasted for throughout their career tells you all you need to know about music critics. With that said, The King is Dead is still a good listen, even if it’s not completely groundbreaking.
Timbaland and Missy Elliott – “Take Ur Clothes Off” (single)
If you’re not excited upon hearing the news that Timbaland and Missy Elliott are back in business, then you’re dead inside. “Take Ur Clothes Off” is the product of www.timbalandthursdays.com, which is kind of like Kanye’s GOOD Friday project except, you know, it happens on Thursdays and features Timbaland instead of Kanye.
As for the song, it’s as excellent as you would expect from a Timbaland and Missy Elliott collaboration. Here’s hoping it’s a sign of more to come from the duo in 2011.