remixes and collabs
With Let it Die’s flagship track “Mushaboom,” Feist managed to exonerate all us Gen-Yers from guilt for wanting a little piece of domesticity (a ’70s soul queen reincarnated as an unassuming Canadian chanteuse can make even home-ownership seems hip). Her unique neo-disco style with an acoustic twinge managed, surprisingly, to last the duration of an album, but such a niche sound was just begging for some playing with. Enter “Open Season,” a collaboration that yields more hits than misses when “Mushaboom” is revamped four times, most notably in its muted blend on track 3, to its sweeter, poppier incarnation over track 11’s gently danceable bass line, recurring, on its final track, as a club-ready blend. “Inside and Out” morphs from a pheromone-infused disco anthem to become a more vocal-heavy guitar torch song; “One Evening,” formerly of a more Donna Summer tradition, opens the album as a solo piano piece. Too often, remixes serve to resurrect mediocre songs that can’t stand on their own. Not so here, where nine collaborations provide more opportunities to listen to the addictive tracks from Feist’s 2003 album without suffering from iPod shuffle monotony.
— Saundra Sorenson
“You know, we’re here to keep it real … ” “While all the niggas ridin’ your coattails/ I’m keeping it real … ” “Cause I’m a real nigga/ So get on up.” Lines like these suffuse Feedback, Jurassic 5’s third studio album, like a mantra. Nearly every 20 bars or so, one member of the L.A. hip-hop quintet seems to step up and reconfirm that, in all ways lyrical, street, underground, and backpack, J5 has been “keeping it real.” It makes the listener wonder if he should be on “fall-off” watch. Indeed, hard times have fallen on the group: DJ Cut Chemist, the sonic heart of Jurassic 5, left to pursue a solo album after sales for 2002’s Power in Numbers failed to impress. Feedback courts pop playability without a full aesthetic compromise a la Black Eyed Peas. Tracks like the Dave Matthews-helmed “Work It Out,” “In The House” and the aptly titled “Radio” all keep it Clear Channel-clean, sacrificing their signature, five-part barbershop barrage of vocals for easy verse-chorus-verse numbers. However, you can’t deny the strength of cuts like “Future Sound” and “You Gotta Understand,” which catch some of the old J5 fire. The former track finds the guys perfectly syncopated as they ride remaining DJ/producer Nu-Mark’s spindly guitar riff, each MC blending into the next to beautiful effect. It’s unfortunate that Feedback had to compromise at all.
— Ian Morton
And the Glass Handed Kites
Mew\’s And the Glass Handed Kites, with its epic outros and complete lack of pauses, is explicitly intended to be played in one sitting. So it\’s no wonder that the album sounds something like a 54-minute song. On tracks like “Chinaberry Tree" and "The Zookeeper\’s Boy," the bands demonstrates its smart, dark sense of melody, as Jonas Bjerre\’s choir-boy voice hops around on chord changes that could make Radiohead shiver. The anthemic "Why Are You Looking Grave?" and "Apocalypso" show off Mew\’s driving guitars and chanting vocals, as both songs lead into high-pitched choruses backed by soaring keys. While they occasionally border on sounding overproduced, their melodies — which are both capricious and beautiful — keep them from falling into the ranks of overproduction that bands like Coldplay have achieved. Overall, the Danish trio knows their influences and harvests a unique sound on their fourth album: Mew is what would happen if Death Cab for Cutie\’s Ben Gibbard studied Gregorian chants and fronted shoegazers Ride. As odd a combo as that may sound, the melodies shine, the guitars rock and the keys are gorgeous. And the Glass Handed Kites might just be the "What more could you ask for?" album of the year.
— Chandler Fredrick