reviews 2007

Growing PainsGrowing Pains available on iTunes

Mary J. Blige Growing Pains

Mary J. Blige is back with a new album that's getting lots of attention. Growing Pains is the R&B diva's 8th album in a career that has seen six Grammy Awards and 40 million records sold. So how does this effort compare? Jim thinks that Blige may have lost some of her edge — whether that's due to sunnier times or sunnier production isn‘t clear though. She’s known for her honest and emotional performances which often relay tough times. But Jim finds Growing Pains a little too sterile. He gives it a Burn It. Greg admits that he too was worried about how a happier MJB would sound, but he disagrees with Jim's conclusion. As a singer she has no peer, and Greg thinks she's gotten even better. He calls Growing Pains another landmark Blige record and gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 109
8-Bit Diagrams8 Diagrams available on iTunes

Wu-Tang Clan 8 Diagrams

It's been six years since pioneering hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan released an album, but now they're back with a new one called 8 Diagrams. Greg explains that you can‘t underestimate how groundbreaking and influential the group has been. They’re known for their spooky, layered sound, which often includes sci-fi and martial arts film clips, as well as their cryptic lyricism. There's not a whole lot of that on display on 8 Diagrams however. The group's central emcee, Ghostface Killah, appears to have put more effort into his solo album, The Big Doe Rehab. He's only on three of the Wu-Tang tracks, and has openly criticized the album. The one member who is fully invested in Wu-Tang is producer RZA. Both men could have benefited from some collaboration. Greg gives Wu-Tang's album a Burn It, and Ghostface's a Trash It. Jim appreciated the appearance of Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, but he agrees with Greg 100%: Ghostface needs RZA, and RZA needs Ghostface.

JimGreg
Go to episode 106
Exclusive (The Forever Edition)Exclusive available on iTunes

Chris Brown Exclusive

Pop sensation Chris Brown has a new album out this week that both Jim and Greg predict will spawn a number of hit singles. But our two hosts disagree on whether or not Exclusive is worth your money. Jim really enjoyed listening to Brown's take on modern R&B — hints of masculine braggadocio tempered by an old-fashioned sweetness. He gives the record a Buy It. Greg admits that Brown's more mild-mannered approach to the opposite sex is something the genre needs right now, but he insists that talented vocalists like Brown are a dime a dozen. It's the production that makes them stand out, as Usher did with his 2004 Lil John-produced single "Yeah." Greg's certain Brown will mature to a more interesting sound, but for now he gets a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 105
Within These WallsWithin These Walls available on iTunes

Damon and Naomi Within These Walls

Husband and wife duo Damon and Naomi also have a new album out called Within These Walls. The two were founding members of the "slowcore" group Galaxie 500, and fans will hear that same dream-folk, Fairport Convention-inspired sound here. But, Jim and Greg explain that the duo have branched out more on this album by including a brass and string section. Jim, who says that he loves pretty much anything Damon and Naomi have ever done, is impressed by the experimentation. It led to even more beauty and lushness. He gives Within These Walls a Buy It. Greg would also encourage listeners to get the album, but takes issue with some of the other instruments. In particular, he says that this album would get a much more enthusiastic rating with the omission of jazz great Bhob Rainey's soprano sax, which Greg describes as horribly "Kenny G"-like. That said, it gets a Buy It from both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 105
As I AmAs I Am available on iTunes

Alicia Keys As I Am

Alicia Keys has a record out this week that's poised to be #1. Keys has been groomed by Clive Davis in the old school star-making machine, and has become one of the biggest recording artists of this decade. Jim has never been overly impressed by Keys' style which is part polished R&B, part gritty hip hop. But, As I Am is so campy and over the top, that he found himself enjoying the record…even the John Mayer duet. Like a bag of candy, Jim knows it's not good for him, but he gives the record a Buy It. Greg wants to like Keys a lot more; she's obviously got real talent. But, he thinks her lyrics are nothing but a string of clichés. He also wishes she wasn't so bogged down by the over-production. He gives As I Am a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 103
The Black and White AlbumThe Black and White Album available on iTunes

The Hives The Black and White Album

The second album up for review this week is The Black and White Album by Swedish rockers The Hives. The band had a hit in 2000 with "Hate to Say I Told You So," but have yet to really break through to mainstream audiences (despite obvious attempts by their record company). This album is a change of pace for the garage rockers and has more soul than listeners heard previously. They even teamed up with hip hop producer Pharrell Williams for a couple of tracks. The result works for Greg, though he wishes they'd edited down the number of tracks. Jim agrees that the merging of sounds is really successful. They have a credible groove. Both Jim and Greg give The Black and White Album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 103
Long Road Out of EdenLong Road Out of Eden available on iTunes

Eagles Long Road Out of Eden

So consumers are excited about Long Road Out of Eden, but how do Jim and Greg feel? Greg explains that with the exception of mentions of“cell phones”and“SUV's,”this album could just as easily have been made in 1980 as 2007. Don Henley and Glenn Frey are still up to their old tricks, mixing country and rock with a hint of sentimentality. In fact, while their country-rock fusion sound was radical in the 1970s, it's the norm in Nashville today. Greg hears nothing on this record that needs hearing, and recommends fans of the band check out their 1990 greatest hits album. Jim completely agrees; he doesn't want to hear Don Henley preaching about the sorry state of the world, particularly when the band agreed to sell its soul to Wal-Mart. But, more egregious than the terrible lyrics is the sleepy sound. The Eagles managed to be both irritating and boring, so they get a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 102
American Gangster (Acappella)Kingdom Come available on iTunes

Jay Z Kingdom Come

This week Jay Z releases his tenth album, American Gangster. Inspired by the movie of the same name, the current king of hip hop (and possibly of all time), brings another dose of gangsta stories told with his trademark flow. In 2003, the rapper“retired,”and then un-retired. His return album, Kingdom Come, was a major disappointment to Jim and Greg, but Greg for one is pleased with what he's hearing on American Gangster. The stories are nothing new, but Greg loves the way Jay-Z crafts them. He is also returning to the '70s blaxploitation sound that infused one of his best albums, The Blueprint. While the mogul certainly doesn't need any cash, Greg gives this album a Buy It. Jim is less enthused. He loves the production, and was shocked to hear great beats from Sean“Diddy”Combs, but the lyrics are too much of a hurdle for him to get over. He wishes Jay Z's ideas were as complex and nuanced as those in the movie American Gangster and only gives the record a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 102
SinoSino available on iTunes

Café Tacuba Sino

The first album Jim and Greg discuss this week is Sino by Café Tacuba. This is the sixth album from the band widely thought to be the inventors of "Rock En Español." Café Tacuba is known for melding many musical influences, making them truly progressive rockers. In fact, Jim hears a lot of British prog-rock influence in the songs. He found it funny and insightful, but wishes there was more grit in the recording. Despite this, he gives Sino a Buy It. Greg is happy to hear this, as he is a long-standing Tacuba fan. He describes these musicians as true innovators, despite claims that they've gone“too mainstream”on this album. The songs are experimental, without sacrificing pop elements. Greg also gives Sino a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 101
The RedwallsThe Redwalls available on iTunes

The Redwalls The Redwalls

Next up is The Redwalls' self-titled album. The band has a quintessential rock and roll story: Band covers Beatles, Band gets signed to a major, Band tours the world, Band burns out. But, after being dropped by Capitol Records for insufficient sales, they didn't become disillusioned enough to scrap the dream. The Chicago natives packed up to record with Swedish producer Toré Johanssen, who has worked with Franz Ferdinand and The Cardigans. Greg thinks they outdid themselves with this effort. He explains that they stepped it up a notch lyrically, and he loves what Johanssen did with the arrangements. Jim agrees that the sound has been sharpened, and hears a more mature side of the men. Despite the fact that they aren't many years out, they can look back at their teens with some wisdom and humor. That gives The Redwalls a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 101
Blackout (Bonus Track Version)Blackout available on iTunes

Britney Spears Blackout

Another big name album this fall is from Britney Spears, though these days she makes more headlines for her personal problems than for music. But, while everyone is analyzing her abilities as a mother (and live performer), Jim and Greg focus on the music. As they say — they listen so you don't have to. Though, according to Greg, maybe you should. Blackout is Britney's fifth album, but the first that Greg thinks isn‘t half bad. The production is first-rate, and Britney’s voice is almost unrecognizable and inconsequential (that's a good thing). Jive put a lot of money into this project hiring multiple producers and writers for individual tracks. And, on the production side, Greg thinks that was money well spent. He gives Blackout a Try It — but for Jim, it's a clear Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 100
Raising SandRaising Sand available on iTunes

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant Raising Sand

The next segment also focuses on the melding of pop and folk music. Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant has collaborated with bluegrass virtuoso Alison Krauss on a new album called Raising Sand. Fans of Led Zeppelin III won‘t be surprised by Plant’s interest in American roots music; it's closely linked with Celtic folkmusic. But, Jim was surpised by the lack of chemistry between Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Both are phenomenal singer, and both were backed by a phenomenal band, but Jim just found himself getting sleepy. He can only give the album a Burn It. Greg admits that the record is subtle, and doesn't lend itself to all kinds of listening, but he was amazed by the harmonies Plant gives. He also thinks their song choices, which include Allen Toussaint and Gene Clark covers, were perfect. Greg gives Raising Sand a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 100
In RainbowsIn Rainbows available on iTunes

Radiohead In Rainbows

While there's a lot of buzz about Radiohead's release experiment for In Rainbows, Jim and Greg believe that the album is actually one of the band's more subtle and modest efforts. It's 10 songs, 42 minutes of beautiful music, all of which feature the band's characteristic electronic elements, guitars and strings, but it's less straight-up rock than fans are used to. And, as Jim pointed out in his review of Thom Yorke's solo album Eraser, the Radiohead frontman has really refined his singing in the past couple of years. The result is almost a soul record according to Greg. It investigates human beings‘ need for love, despite the heartache it can bring. And, Jim adds, like almost all of the band’s releases, it also investigates the good and bad that can come from increased technology. Whatever themes you take from the record, Jim and Greg are confident that you will be happy to own this record — whether you pay for it or not. In Rainbows gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 99
Chrome Dreams IIChrome Dreams II available on iTunes

Neil Young Chrome Dreams II

Fellow rock rebel Neil Young has a new record out called Chrome Dreams II. Chrome Dreams I was a 1977 album that Young decided to scrap, despite the fact that it had some early versions of some of his most famous songs. None of those original songs are on this second effort, but you definitely get the sense that the musician is taking stock. This makes sense considering that it's been only two years since Young suffered a brain aneurysm. As Greg describes, it's a patchwork of different eras made with a bunch of different musicians, and many of the songs can be interpreted as prayers. Greg was surprised to hear such spirituality, but he found the album quite moving. He gives it a Buy It. Jim didn‘t hear as much heaviness on the album. He heard goofball moments as well. Young is looking back at his life, but he’s laughing at himself too, and Jim loves it. He also gives Chrome Dreams II a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 99
Revival

John Fogerty Revival

The final album up for review comes from a fellow classic rock icon: John Fogerty. The Creedence Clearwater Revival leader seems to be coming to terms with his past on his new record, Revival. He's back on Fantasy Records, is performing CCR tunes live for the first time in years, and even has a track on the album called "Creedence Song." In addition, Greg thinks that Fogerty's come closest to reviving his signature CCR sound on this album. He says that the singer is getting back into the groove, but he's not quite there yet. He gives it a Try It. Jim admits that Fogerty is looking back to the past, but it's not a past he wants to hear. His favorite CCR albums were the live ones that hypnotized you with that swampy, groove-filled drone. Jim doesn't hear any of that on Revival, and was further disappointed with the idealized lyrics. He gives the record a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 99
Songs of Mass Destruction (Bonus Track Version)Songs of Mass Destruction available on iTunes

Annie Lennox Songs of Mass Destruction

Songs of Mass Destruction is pop diva Annie Lennox's first album in over four years, but for her die-hard fans, anything she does is well worth the wait. On this effort, she not only tackles life post-divorce, but also the African AIDS crisis. The track "Sing" features 23 singers including Madonna, k.d. lang, and Celine Dion, and was written to raise awareness about the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Both Jim and Greg praise Lennox for this song and her always impressive, soulful voice. But Greg for one wishes she wasn't attracted to such glossy production. For Songs of Mass Destruction, she hired Glen Ballard, the producer who is responsible for some of the most generic,“schlocky”albums ever made by people like Barbra Streisand and Aerosmith. The slickness doesn‘t allow Lennox’s voice to shine, so Greg has to give this album a Try It. Jim agrees Lennox would benefit from a turn with a more authentic producer and grittier band, but he can't deny her voice. He gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 98
Washington Square SerenadeWashington Square Serenade available on iTunes

Steve Earle Washington Square Serenade

The album up for review this week is Washington Square Serenade by veteran roots-rocker Steve Earle. This is Earle's 12th studio album, and was partly inspired by his 7th wife. The singer/songwriter has always combined rock, folk and country with strong political messages, but, now he's adding“happiness”to the mix. As you can hear in many of the album's songs, Earle is very much in love with new wife Allison Moorer, who also appears on the record. Another new person in Earle's life is Dust Brothers producer John King, who has previously crafted albums for Beck and the Beastie Boys. King brought in elements of hip hop and Latin music, and Jim loves the results. It took him longer to get into Washington Square Serenade, than any other Earle album, but with the exception of two bum tracks, he gives it a Try It. Greg is less pleased with the happy Steve Earle. He explains that with the new wife, producer and location, this effort has all the trappings of a“mid-life crisis”recording. Only some of it works for Greg, and he misses the political broadsides of previous albums. Greg also gives Washington Square Serenade a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 97
Shine

Joni Mitchell Shine

The first album up for review is folk legend Joni Mitchell's first release in over nine years. The singer/songwriter famously quit the music biz in 2002 and criticized the record industry, calling it a“cesspool‘”full of“pornographic pigs.”So it’s surprising she's back at all, let alone with a Starbucks deal. For the album Shine, Mitchell has joined Paul McCartney on the Hear Music label, owned by the coffee chain. Jim is shocked by her choice to associate herself with such megalithic corporation, but Greg understands why someone who doesn't get commercial radio play would go this route. The music itself is another story. Jim absolutely“hated”this record. He realizes that dissing Joni Mitchell might get him kicked out of the critic's club, but after seven listens, he found no reason not to Trash It. Greg thinks Joni's harmonics, chords and voicing are as good as ever, but he doesn't find many traces of the great songwriting fans heard with "Big Yellow Taxi." He wished the lyrics had a little more poetry and a little less-finger pointing. That said, according to Greg Joni's always worth hearing, so he gives Shine a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
The Real Thing - Words & Sounds, Vol. 3The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3 available on iTunes

Jill Scott The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3

Next up is another female singer/songwriter, Jill Scott. After her successful 2000 debut Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds, Vol. 1, Scott established herself as one of the most powerful voices in R&B and soul. Now she's back with The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3, which Greg describes as having two stylistic poles, strong and sassy and soft and soul-searching, with a whole lot of“boot-knocking”music in between. Both Jim and Greg are fans of Scott, but wish there was more spunk and more hooks on this record, since they know she is capable of it. The Real Thing is a real Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
Proof of YouthProof of Youth available on iTunes

The Go! Team Proof of Youth

Brighton, England sextet The Go! Team also released an album this month called Proof of Youth. Jim and Greg first became aware of the group after they performed at the Intonation Music Festival in 2005 and released their debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike. This sophomore effort follows the same exuberant formula, pairing cheerleading-style vocals with samples and horns. Greg thinks they borrow much of their aesthetic from Public Enemy, but the key difference is production. While the hip hop group provided great beats and a heavy bottom, the Go! Team album was very hard for Greg to listen to — very tinny, no bottom, and like a second rate Public Enemy recording. He gives it a Trash It. Jim couldn't disagree more. He finds their high-energy performance totally fresh and irresistible. Proof of Youth has been making Jim smile since the first time he listened to it, so he gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
MagicMagic available on iTunes

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Magic

Jim and Greg have been arguing about the merits of this next artist for what seems like a lifetime. And, luckily for us, they aren't tired of it yet. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band are back together for a new record called Magic. The Boss and his band haven‘t always had an easy relationship in their 33-year history, but they decided to take another go at it after 2002’s The Rising, although as Jim explains, the singer/songwriter and the E Street musicians didn‘t spend any actual time together in the studio. And that’s part of the problem for Jim. The effort feels very contrived to him, and he just doesn‘t buy the Springsteen“schtick.”As with most of Springsteen’s songs, the ones on Magic express nostalgia for a golden age that was never that golden. He wishes Bruce had followed suit with his peers, Neil Young and Tom Petty, and expressed political feelings in a bold way. This critic gives Magic a Trash It. Greg thinks Jim completely misunderstood the songs on this record. He prefers not to be“bludgeoned”with ideas, and finds this release to be one of Springsteen's best records in over 25 years. He gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
Echoes, Silence, Patience & GraceEchoes, Silence, Patience & Grace available on iTunes

The Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Another big album this fall is Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace from The Foo Fighters. The group started off as a lark for former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, but now, six albums later, they are one of the most consistently successful commercial rock acts around. And Jim just can‘t understand why. Granted, the age-old formula of quiet verse, loud-chorus, repeat is a proven one, but he calls Grohl one of the worst lyricists in rock. Luckily he’s also good at crafting hooks. Greg agrees that this is the only reason that the Foo Fighters have any appeal — they are catchy and not that complicated. He says there's no reason anyone needs to own more than one Foo Fighters record, and encourages the listener to completely ignore this release. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace gets two Trash Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
White Chalk (Exclusive Edition)White Chalk available on iTunes

PJ Harvey White Chalk

The final record up for review is from U.K. singer PJ Harvey. White Chalk is the first record Harvey has written using the piano as her instrument, rather than the guitar. And as evidenced by her organ-influenced 1995 masterpiece, To Bring You My Love, when Polly Jean learns a new instrument, wonderful things happen. For this album, the singer appears to be adopting the role of a ghost, telling dark and haunted tales of love and loss. Jim and Greg admit this is an album that takes some getting used to and recommend letting it creep under your skin. They both give big Buy Its to White Chalk.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
Into the Wild (Music from the Motion Picture)Into the Wild available on iTunes

Eddie Vedder Into the Wild

After 17 years fronting Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder has released his first solo album, Into the Wild. The album provides the soundtrack to Sean Penn's new movie based on Jon Krakauer's 1991 book of the same name. It's the story of an existentialist kid who leaves civilization to go live in the wild. Jim and Greg can understand why this kind of story appealed to Vedder, who fled the Chicago suburbs for the West Coast. The songs on this record are very stripped down and showcase Vedder's strong baritone. Both critics love the way the record sounds and love the cover of Indio's "Hard Sun." Where they take issue with Vedder is with the lyricism. It doesn't take long for the pseudo-new-age-quasi-mystical poetry to get old, and therefore, Into the Wild only get two Try Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 95

50 Cent

Curtis Jim and Greg review two of the biggest releases of the year this week starting with Curtis from 50 Cent. This is the third album for the Dr. Dre protégé, who has been very vocal about his violent, drug-filled past. In fact, on this album, he isn't vocal about anything else. Jim is completely disappointed in the rapper's creativity and calls him a“cartoon character.”Greg also hoped for more from the man who many thought would fill the shoes left by the Notorious B.I.G. He finds 50 Cent's delivery deadpan, joyless and obnoxious. One track in particular, "Straight to the Bank," made Greg want to stick needles in his ears. We'd say that warrants a double Trash It.

Go to episode 93
GraduationGraduation available on iTunes

Kanye West Graduation

Another album to be released on the same day as Curtis is Graduation from Kanye West. 50 Cent has publicly challenged West in the sales department, but when it comes to the music, Jim and Greg think there's no contest. The rapper/producer's third album and“dissertation”shows that not only has he grown as a rapper, but also as a producer. Jim calls the album a smorgasbord of sounds and a departure from the traditional Kanye West soul sample formula. He thinks Graduation is musically brilliant, and definitely recommends listeners Buy It. Greg is also impressed with this album. Kanye is an innovator sonically, but also demonstrates a complexity in his lyrics. Where 50 Cent denies he has any weaknesses, Kanye broadcasts them. This is evident in the album's closing track, "Big Brother," which Greg calls one of the best songs Kanye has ever done lyrically. He also gives Graduation a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 93
NaturalNatural available on iTunes

The Mekons Natural

The final album up for review is less high-profile, but no less worth your time according to Jim and Greg. Leeds-born, Chicago-based band The Mekons have a new album out called Natural. Pioneers and survivors of England's punk era, the Mekons have been making music together for thirty years now, and for this effort they gathered in the English countryside to record. You can hear this“natural”approach in the live sound of the record. This also accounts for the album's accessibility despite many of the songs' dark themes. Greg calls Natural one of the band's bleakest albums, but also one of the prettiest. Jim agrees that the record is gorgeous, and not off-putting. If you are new to the Mekons, this is as good a place to start as any. Both critics give Natural a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 93
Under the BlacklightUnder the Blacklight available on iTunes

Rilo Kiley Under the Blacklight

In the final segment of the show, Jim and Greg review Under the Blacklight, the latest release from the Jenny Lewis-fronted pop band Rilo Kiley. After releasing such a successful solo debut, Greg notes that it's almost surprising that Lewis would return to her bandmates. But, she and ex-boyfriend Blake Sennett pen some lovely tracks together in a modern-day Fleetwood Mac style. Greg wishes they had dug deeper into the complications of their romantic history though, and only thinks a few tracks on Under the Blacklight are worth a Burn It. Jim thinks this album is one of the biggest turkeys of the year so far, and doesn't think Fleetwood Mac needs revisiting. He finds the album contrived and overproduced and gives it a hearty Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 91
ChallengersTwin Cinema available on iTunes

The New Pornographers Twin Cinema

The first album up for review this week is by the Canadian indie-pop supergroup The New Pornographers. Band leader A.C. Newman, along with Destroyer's Dan Bejar, Neko Case and a cast of other songwriters and musicians have recorded their fourth album together, Challengers. The album is another collection of melodic, hook-filled songs, but Greg admits that Bejar almost steals the record with his track, "Myriad Harbor," a power-pop meets hip-hop composition. He loves the tongue-in-cheek, carefree attitude of many of the songs, but doesn't think the album is as good as its predecessor, Twin Cinema. Because the energy level is uncharacteristically down for the band, Greg gives this New Pornographers effort a Try It. Jim was glad to hear the band went for something different. They did three albums of pure, effervescent pop, and now they've added orchestrations to the mix. He gives Challengers a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 90
Kala (Bonus Track Version)Arular available on iTunes

M.I.A. Arular

The Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A. also has a new album out this week called Kala. After making a splash with her 2005 album Arular, Mya Arulpragasam impressed fans with her unique vocal style and memorable beats, but she also disappointed many with her live performances. Now she's back with another revolutionary sounding record — a collection of rhythms and sounds from all over the world. Jim was not as wowed by M.I.A. with her debut, and she doesn't quite win him over with this follow-up. He is impressed by Switch's production, but thinks that there are a number of bum tracks, especially the collaboration with Timbaland, and gives it a Try It overall. Greg agrees that the Timbaland track is a miss, but he thinks Kala is an extraordinary record. He describes it as a mind-blowing collage, something completely fresh and new. But, he also thinks that the hooks give Kala a long shelf life. Greg gives the second M.I.A. album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 90
Finding ForeverFinding Forever available on iTunes

Common Finding Forever

Chicago rapper Common has a new album out this week called Finding Forever. This is the former Sound Opinions guest's follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 release Be. Jim explains that this is a big year for Common. In addition to having a successful hat company, he‘ll appear in a number of movies this year. But, it’s music that is Common's priority, and Jim hopes that hip hop fans won't dismiss this effort as another conscious record from a“backpack rapper.”Common was schooled in traditional lyric writing, and he really demonstrates the power of words in these songs. On the Buy It, Try It, Trash It scale, Jim gives Finding Forever a Buy It. Greg also thinks this is a great record, but admits that it will pales in comparison to the groundbreaking Be. But, as Greg explains, more of a good thing is still a good thing. Common and Kanye West have continued their special collaboration which results in an old-fashioned, beginning-to-end album — something that is rare in contemporary hip hop. He also gives the new Common a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 88
Grinderman 2Grinderman available on iTunes

Grinderman Grinderman

Literary punk Nick Cave's new side project Grinderman is a Buried Treasure both Jim and Greg can agree on. The singer/songwriter is joined by Martyn Casey on bass, Jim Sclavunos on drums and Warren Ellis on electric bouzouki, violin and guitars.. The result is a filthy, punk-blues sound that Jim and Greg love. Jim in particular loves how frightening Cave can be and wishes there was more of that dark, dirty spark in rock and roll. Both the sound and the lyrics have a lot of attitude on this album, and Greg appreciates how Cave is thumbing his nose those who perceive him as an erudite professor. Both critics give Grinderman a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 87
Planet Earth

Prince Planet Earth

Lastly, Jim and Greg address Planet Earth, Prince's 24th studio album in nearly 30 years. On July 10th, Prince gave away the album as a free cover mount through the national UK paper The Mail on Sunday, stirring considerable controversy in the record industry. Jim and Greg discuss Prince's long disdain for major labels and his history of alternative marketing. Jim notes the sort of "funk-messianism" that precedes each Prince release. However, Planet Earth doesn't seem to offer much promise. Greg finds a decent jazzy ballad here, a good slow jam there, and complete re-write in "The One U Wanna C," but nothing sounds new in Prince's sound. Jim appreciates the old fashioned funk on tracks like "Chelsea Rodgers," but couldn't get past doozies like "Mr. Goodnight," which comes off as Prince imitating Ronald Isley imitating R. Kelly. The album is too inconsistent, so both hosts give Planet Earth a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 86
It's a Bit ComplicatedIt's A Bit Complicated available on iTunes

Art Brut It's A Bit Complicated

This week is an all out reviews blowout beginning with the sophomore album from British rock act Art Brut. Jim and Greg were both Art Brut fans from the get-go. They saw them at last year's SXSW Festival and invited them on the show. And once the band's debut album Bang Bang Rock and Roll was released in the States, it immediately soared to the top of both critics‘ Best of 2006 lists. So it’s no exaggeration to say that this follow-up has been highly anticipated. On It's A Bit Complicated, the band sticks to their three-minute garage rock formula that, ironically enough, isn't very complicated at all. But, Jim and Greg explain that Eddie Argos and the band have stepped up their game and amped up the hooks. Argos' earnest and self-deprecating lyrics are still there, making his stories completely relatable, especially for fellow rock obsessives like Jim and Greg. It's A Bit Complicated gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Era VulgarisEra Vulgaris available on iTunes

Queens of the Stone Age Era Vulgaris

Era Vulgaris is the fifth album from rockers Queens of the Stone Age. Ever since Josh Homme left the stoner rock group Kyuss in 1995, he's been celebrating and satirizing heavy metal as the lead singer of this band. He's often joined by a revolving door of musical guests, which this time around includes Trent Reznor and Julian Casablancas. Jim thinks that Homme and the band have done a great job of bringing brains, melody and psychedelia back to heavy metal. But, he hasn't loved the last two records. He worries that Homme is beginning to phone it in and only gives Era Vulgaris a Burn It. Greg has always been struck by how sensual Queens' music sounds. They embrace using sexy rhythms when most heavy metal acts abandon them, creating a completely unique sound. He calls Era Vulgaris a terrific record and recommends listeners Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Time on Earth (Deluxe Edition)Time On Earth available on iTunes

Crowded House Time On Earth

Next up is the first Crowded House album in 14 years. The New Zealand/Australian pop band had two big hits in 1986-87 with "Don‘t Dream It’s Over" and "Something So Strong." The group disbanded a few years later, and then in 2005, drummer Paul Hester committed suicide. Jim and Greg discuss how much Hester's death looms over the new album called Time On Earth. In fact, this album was supposed to be a solo album from the group's front man and chief songwriter Neil Finn, but the lead singer was so moved by the death of his friend that he wanted the record to be identified as Crowded House. But, Greg questions how much Crowded House contributed as a unit. He describes the drums as completely buried and the bass playing as placid. Greg wonders if he missed the memo asking for a new Crowded House record, and gives the "mediocre adult pop sound" a Trash It. Jim doesn‘t really get Finn’s songwriting, describing it as too“fussy.”He had a really hard time not tuning out while listening to Time On Earth, and also gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
T.I. vs. T.I.P. (Instrumental)T.I. vs. T.I.P. available on iTunes

T.I. T.I. vs. T.I.P.

One of these new releases that is sure to be a big summer hit is T.I. vs. T.I.P. Rapper T.I., born Clifford Harris, was the top selling hip hop artist of 2006, so you're sure to hear some of his new singles on the radio. But, the question is whether or not the album is worth your money. After displaying his acting chops in ATL and the forthcoming American Gangster, it's not surprising that his new set of songs would take a dramatic turn. T.I. vs. T.I.P. is a concept album that pits the rapper's former thug self against his current mogul self. Jim finds this concept interesting, but a failed opportunity. He welcomes rappers who want to do something different, but T.I. uses the same old hip hop clichés that were discussed on the hip hop panel a few weeks ago. He doesn‘t hear a big difference between T.I.’s two personas, and while he enjoys some of the production elements, he has to give the album a Trash It. Greg agrees that the album is largely a failed experiment, and thinks the idea of alternate identities is a played out one in hip hop. He thinks T.I. is an interesting person and wishes he showed that more. Greg also instructs listeners to Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Excellent Italian GreyhoundExcellent Italian Greyhound available on iTunes

Shellac Excellent Italian Greyhound

Up next is another band that knows how to make its fans wait. Chicago-based indie punk group Shellac has a new album called Excellent Italian Greyhound, and it's only been a mere seven years since the last one. Guitarist and singer Steve Albini is best known as the utilitarian recordist who has captured the sounds of everyone from Nirvana to the garage band next door. He's joined by drummer Todd Trainer and bassist Bob Weston for a sound that is as real as you're ever going to hear in a recorded work. There are no fancy tricks here, just a minimalist approach. And with what Greg describes as a“tongue placed very firmly in cheek,”the band makes powerful punk music with a sense of humor. However both Greg and Jim admit that not all of the tracks are winners, and therefore Excellent Italian Greyhound gets two Try Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Bonus Track Version)Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga available on iTunes

Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

The final album up for review is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga from Spoon. That's right: five Ga's. The title gives us a tip to the band's attitude. As Greg notes, it seems like they're“intentionally screwing with us.”Taking a cue from Wire and The Talking Heads, Spoon has always specialized in a minimalist sound that is heavy on the rhythms and keyboards, and easy on the frills. That sound continues on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but Jim was pleasantly surprised to hear the band striking out by including a Stax/Motown sound. He's really excited about this album and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It. Greg agrees, adding that it's how the band uses different elements that makes the sound so special. Nothing lingers for too long, and nothing lacks that all important groove. He also gives Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Zeitgeist

The Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist

After formerly announcing their reunion in May, The Smashing Pumpkins have finally started touring and have produced an album to be released next week. Zeitgeist is the band's first record since they ended their alternative reign in 2000, but this time only half of the original members are back. Pumpkins' impresario Billy Corgan is joined by long-time collaborator Jimmy Chamberlin, as well as two other musicians standing in for James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzky. In true Corgan fashion, the band is already making news. In a marketing scheme that perhaps doesn‘t fit their alternative sensibilities, they’ve struck a deal with three major music retailers. Target, Best Buy and iTunes are all getting a different bonus track along with the regular version of the album. That means that fans purchasing Zeitgeist at an independent music store will only get the LP sans bonus tracks. This has angered some, but Jim and Greg actually don‘t think this plan is so egregious. In the past Corgan has offered his album for free on the internet and has given many free concerts. And in an age where it’s difficult to get people to actually purchase CDs in stores at all, who can blame a band for adding incentives. The real question is whether or not Zeitgeist is worth purchasing at all. Jim explains how we're in an era of alternative nostalgia, and Corgan certainly seems interested in reclaiming the good ol' days of the 1990s when the Pumpkins were on top and were making music that sounded like nothing else. The problem is that now this music sounds like almost everything else. With angsty rock bands like My Chemical Romance and AFI on the scene, the Pumpkins aren't really offering anything unique. Both Jim and Greg find this reunion recording to be merely an imitation of a great Smashing Pumpkins album, and wish that the music lived up to its title. They give Zeitgeist two Burn Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 83
My DecemberMy December available on iTunes

Kelly Clarkson My December

On June 14, Live Nation, or the concert promoters formerly known as Clear Channel canceled American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson's first nationwide arena tour due to“lackluster ticket sales.”This event, combined with the firing of her manager and the anticipation of the release of her third album My December has made for a dramatic couple of weeks for the singer. Clive Davis, the music mogul responsible for signing a ton of hit acts ranging from Whitney Houston to Barry Manilow to the Notorious B.I.G., has been overseeing the careers of Clarkson and all the Idol products thus far. But, much to the chagrin of Davis and her label RCA, Clarkson took My December as an opportunity to do her own songwriting and drift away from the guaranteed success of hit-makers like "Since You've Been Gone" scribe Max Martin. Jim and Greg commentate ringside for the blow by blow between America's first pop princess and the pop recording legend. Listening to the album, Greg cannot understand the controversy surrounding the album's pop potential, finding it reminiscent of a post-Dave Coulier Alanis Morrisette. Jim, on the other hand, thanks Clive Davis for trying to spare us the torment of this record. He thinks Clarkson is“at the level of a sub-par Midwestern bar band.”Greg gives it a Burn It, and Jim gives it a triple Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 82
Icky Thump

The White Stripes Icky Thump

Jim and Greg spend the last leg of the show discussing the new album from Detroit natives Meg and Jack White. Icky Thump is The White Stripes‘ sixth studio effort in nearly ten years. Jim and Greg trace the duo’s trajectory from their 1999 self-titled debut, to most recently, their 2005 commercial success and sonic departure, Get Behind Me Satan. Icky Thump continues this development, demonstrating how one of the biggest rock acts in the world are truly junk collectors. You hear them flirting with mariachi and flamenco music, referencing Scottish folk songs, and even covering traditional pop singer Patti Page. The album shows exactly how well-listened Jack White truly is. Greg calls Meg White,“terrific,”standing behind the oft-discredited drummer. He doesn't think Icky Thump is a beginning-to-end perfect album, but believes it's the band's best work to date. He gives it a Buy It. Jim goes even further calling this release“a masterpiece.”That gives the White Stripes latest a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 82
Memory Almost FullMemory Almost Full available on iTunes

Paul McCartney Memory Almost Full

Sir Paul McCartney released a new album this week called Memory Almost Full. This is the former Beatle's 21st solo album, but only his first for the new Starbucks' Hear Music record label. Jim explains that McCartney perfectly timed this release with the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the 65th birthday of the man who wrote "When I'm Sixty-Four." Jim explains that there are such extremes in McCartney's work, but one strain that has been in his songs since he was 18 is his nostalgia for lost youth. Almost every song on Memory Almost Full is about yearning for a simpler time, or reminiscing about his own legacy. Jim thinks there are a few lousy songs on the album, but for the most part it's an inspiring late-career turn. Greg agrees. He explains that McCartney could fall out of bed and write a good song, but for the first time in years, he is emotionally invested in the material. He even responds to his recent divorce from Heather Mills in a really generous and poignant way. Greg doesn't think the album is a masterpiece, and calls "See Your Sunshine," a“maudlin piece of tripe.”But, he thinks Memory Almost Full is one of McCartney's best albums in two decades. Both Jim and Greg give this coffee house fare two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 80
DylanesqueDylanesque available on iTunes

Bob Dylan & Bryan Ferry Dylanesque

First up is Dylanesque, Bryan Ferry's new collection of Bob Dylan covers. Ferry is one of rock's quintessential cover artists, having brought his own spin to songs like "Jealous Guy" and "Like a Hurricane." In fact, Dylanesque is the former Roxy Music front man's fifth covers album. But, this time around, Jim and Greg don't think that Ferry fares as well. Greg explains that he isn‘t really taking the songs anywhere new, though he appreciates how Ferry has keyed into the strengths of Dylan’s melodies. He gives it a Burn It. Jim was also disappointed in Dylanesque, but thinks that fans of Ferry should definitely Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 79
TwelveTwelve available on iTunes

Patti Smith Twelve

Patti Smith is another artist who is known for her ability to do a great cover song. Early on in her career she did successful rendition of songs like Van Morrison's "Gloria" and Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night." Now she has a collection of cover songs called Twelve. Jim thinks there are many“interesting”covers on this album, but interesting doesn't necessarily mean good. Patti Smith is still a vital artist though, so Jim recommends listeners Burn It just to sample her versions of famous songs. Greg is also a big Patti Smith fan, so it pains him to say that most of the songs on Twelve are poor and predictable. He shocks Jim and Sound Opinions H.Q. with a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 79
A Tribute to Joni MitchellA Tribute to Joni Mitchell available on iTunes

Joni Mitchell & Elvis Costello & James Taylor & Sufjan Stevens & Prince & Caetano Veloso A Tribute to Joni Mitchell

The last album up for review is A Tribute to Joni Mitchell. On this album, tracks penned by the famous songwriter are performed by Prince, Sufjan Stevens, James Taylor and Elvis Costello among them. Greg explains that Joni Mitchell is a difficult artist to cover, and with the exception of singers like Caetano Veloso, many of the artists on this tribute just simply aren't good enough to tackle her work. Jim agrees, noting that all of the artists on the album are on the Nonesuch roster. He predicts that the record would have been stronger if more obscure performers were chosen. Therefore A Tribute to Joni Mitchell gets two Burn Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 79
Double UpDouble Up available on iTunes

R. Kelly Double Up

One man that is always in the news is music star R. Kelly. The self-proclaimed "Pied Piper of R&B" has a new album out called Double Up. The Chicago native has sold more than 40 million albums in his career, but that's not the only reason he's making headlines. As Jim and a team of his colleagues first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Kelly engaged in a number of sexual relationships with underage women (according to lawsuits those girls filed against him), and he is under indictment for making child pornography after allegedly videotaping one of these encounters. (He is still awaiting trial but has always maintained his innocence.) These charges have not affected Kelly's sales or his prolific rate of recording, and Jim notes that he finds it difficult to listen to the lyrics on Double Up while Kelly talks so cavalierly about sex and makes light of the criminal case. To Jim it's just not art — it's a disturbing look into a troubled psyche. Greg agrees that it can be difficult to separate the man from the music, and this has been a challenge throughout pop music. Musically though, Double Up feels a little played out to Greg. He describes R. Kelly as a masterful producer, but doesn‘t think the sounds on this album are as strong as those on his earlier efforts. In terms of the lyrical content, a lot of Kelly’s fans find humor in some of his freaky, over-the-top professions of lust. But, this time around, Greg hears much more of a mean spirit in his voice. He describes it as one of the worst R. Kelly records and gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 78
New MoonNew Moon available on iTunes

Elliott Smith New Moon

Elliott Smith passed away in 2003 due to an apparent suicide, though, that is still not official. Before his death he recorded five solo albums and performed with the band Heatmiser. He had an intense fan base that hasn't diminished in his death. In 2004 his family and friends released From a Basement on the Hill. Now they've released New Moon, a two-CD collection of songs Smith recorded for the Kill Rock Stars label between 1994 and 1997. Greg explains that this collection really helps you hear his growth as a songwriter. He doesn't agree with notions that these are lo-fi, basement recordings. Rather, the recording is well done and the songwriting top-notch. He gives it a Buy It. Jim agrees saying that Smith would've been proud to release everything on New Moon, and he likes it better than From a Basement. He also gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 78
So Real: Songs from Jeff BuckleySo Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley available on iTunes

Jeff Buckley So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley

Next up is So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley. Before Jeff Buckley's death he only recorded one full length album and one EP, but in the decade following he grew as a cult figure and fans were treated to a flood of posthumous releases. This one is pretty generic to Jim and Greg. Jim describes So Real as nothing but sticking a hand into the pocket of a worshipful audience. Greg agrees, furthering that there should be a rule put into place forbidding anyone who has released one album from releasing a greatest hits album-whether they are dead or alive. Both critics give the Buckley album a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 78
Family TreeFive Leaves Left available on iTunes

Nick Drake Five Leaves Left

Finally, comes Family Tree, a compilation album of home recordings by the late British singer/songwriter Nick Drake. The songs were recorded before the release of Drake's first album Five Leaves Left, and Greg thinks there are a lot of gems here. He would not recommend new listeners start out with the album, but thinks that Drake fans will get a lot out of Family Tree. He gives it a Buy It. Jim agrees the album allows you to hear another side of Drake that is less depressed and morose and sample some interesting covers by people like Bert Jansch and Bob Dylan. But, as a major Nick Drake fan, Jim was disappointed and doesn‘t think this release holds up as a proper album that the musician himself would’ve released in his lifetime. He can only give it a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 78
Snakes & ArrowsSnakes and Arrows available on iTunes

Rush Snakes and Arrows

After much prodding, Jim finally convinced Greg to slate Rush's new album Snakes and Arrows as the record review for this week. And listeners who enjoy a good session of Kot vs. DeRogatis won't be disappointed. Sound Opinions fan know that Jim has a soft spot for the classic progressive rock band, and this week he declares drummer and chief songwriter Neil Peart the greatest drummer living today. He even compares watching Peart drum to what he imagines it would be like to watch God create the Grand Canyon. The question now is whether or not the band, which had its heyday in the 1970s, is still relevant. Jim argues that they are, and gives the album a Buy It. Greg thinks all the classic Rush elements are on the album, including the massive drumming and Geddy Lee's high pitched vocals, but it's Peart's overly-philosophical lyrics he takes issue with. Greg wonders where the passion is, and can only give Snakes and Arrows a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 77
American Doll PosseAmerican Doll Posse available on iTunes

Tori Amos American Doll Posse

It's been six years since singer/songwriter Tori Amos released a new album. American Doll Posse is the follow-up to 2001's Strange Little Girls, and looking at both back to back it becomes clear: Ms. Amos likes to play dress up. But, this time around she takes the concept even further. American Doll Posse is a collection of songs from the vantage points of five different characters. As Jim and Greg explain, this is Tori's way of exploring what it means to be a woman in a largely patriarchal culture. Both critics love the result. Greg wishes Tori had dialed the concept back a bit, but loves how she added an earthiness and edginess that was often missing from her former fairy tales. He gives it a Buy It. Jim notes that Tori has appeared to reclaim her glam rock roots as well as her“M.I.L.F.”status. He finds the music empowering and complex and thinks American Doll Posse is the best record she's made since Little Earthquakes. This album gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 76
Sky Blue SkySky Blue Sky available on iTunes

Wilco Sky Blue Sky

After much anticipation, Sky Blue Sky, the new album by Wilco, has finally been released. As always band members Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt are on board, and this time they're also joined by Glenn Kotche, Nels Cline, Mike Jorgensen and Pat Sansone. While their last album, A Ghost Is Born, was fairly experimental, this release is more of a return to form. In fact, Greg describes the record as kind of a“one-trick pony,”but it's a trick he really enjoys. Because the record has been streaming at Wilco's website, many fans have already formed their opinions and are not over the moon about Sky Blue Sky. But the music is so quiet, so intimate that Greg urges listeners to let it sink in more. One might expect musical acrobatics from a guitar wizard like Cline and a master percussionist like Kotche, but their performance is intentionally subtle in order to serve the song. Greg gives Sky Blue Sky and its message of consolation a Buy It. Jim also came to this conclusion, but much later in his listening experience. It took 12 times through for this critic to overcome his expectations of a ferocious, rocking record. But, as he explains, if any artist has earned the right to ask us to listen to something 12 times, it's Jeff Tweedy. Jim notes that this album is representative of a specific time and space for Tweedy and company, one that was very introspective. He wishes that Tweedy had responded more to what's happening in the world around us, and admits that at times, some of the songs can border on tedious. But, because Tweedy is as important an artist as someone like Bob Dylan or Neil Young, Jim thinks it's worth going on any journey the musician invites you on. He also gives the new Wilco a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 76
Let It DieThe Reminder available on iTunes

Feist The Reminder

Feist has the first album up for review this week. Leslie Feist has performed with Broken Social Scene and Peaches, and broke out as a solo artist with her 2004 album Let It Die. The Reminder marks the Canadian's move to Paris, and is another collection of romantic, intimate cabaret songs. Jim compares Feist's music to that of Nina Simone and Sade, but notes that it is a pale comparison. He“isn't buying”her easy-listening act, and wishes she‘d do something half as dynamic as what she does with Peaches and BSS. Jim doesn’t hesitate to give this former Sound Opinions guest a full-out Trash It. Greg is a little more kind, but wishes that the bedroom singer had actually emerged from her bedroom to make this record. He thinks her voice sounds terrific as always, but wasn't won over by most of the songwriting. He gives The Reminder a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
MirroredMirrored available on iTunes

Battles Mirrored

Up next is Mirrored by the math rock outfit Battles. The New York quartet has been getting a lot of attention by indie rock fans for their unique take on instrumental music. In fact, the band won't even describe their music as instrumental, but rather music without any lyrics. Jim and Greg both love the combination of electronica and 1970s prog rock. Greg even compares their unique melodies and compositions to that of space age pop musician Esquivel. Both critics note how this cerebral brand of music can usually be kind of cold and off-putting, but, Battles has put a human touch to it. Therefore Mirrored gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
Favourite Worst NightmareWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not available on iTunes

The Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

The Arctic Monkeys is one of the biggest success stories of recent years. The English group's debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was the fastest selling album in U.K. history. Their U.S. sales were not as strong, but people were still anxious to hear what the group would do for its sophomore act. In fact, they face the same scrutiny that hot debut bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes had to overcome. Neither Jim nor Greg think that their new album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, will be any more successful stateside than the last, but both urge listeners to give it a listen. Greg compares lead singer and chief songwriter Alex Turner to some of the best British wits including Ray Davies and Damon Albarn, and likens his songs to short stories. Jim agrees, calling Turner an astute social critic. The Arctic Monkeys may not be the phenomenon it once was, but Favourite Worst Nightmare gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
We'll Never Turn BackWe'll Never Turn Back available on iTunes

Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back

Mavis Staples' new album, We'll Never Turn Back, is up next. Inspired by current racial violence and tension, the Staples Singers vocalist was joined by Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner, and members of The Freedom Singers to make an update of the civil rights music of the 1960s. This is a perfect fit for Mavis. Her father, Pops Staples, steered their family toward freedom songs, and eventually the Staples Singers became Martin Luther King, Jr.'s favorite group. The result is something that pays respect to the past, but is very relevant in the present. Jim gives the credit to Mavis. He thinks she is completely underrated and calls her a“national treasure.”He wishes that Mavis and the band were doing more shows in support of the album and gives it a Buy It. Greg goes even further by naming We'll Never Turn Back the best album of 2007 — and it's only May! He commands listeners to Buy It for themselves and everyone they know.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
I'll Sleep When You're Dead

El-P I'll Sleep When You're Dead

Rapper and producer El-P's new album is I‘ll Sleep When You’re Dead. This is the second solo release for the Brooklyn artist, who made his dent as the founder of hip hop group Company Flow and indie label Definitive Jux. El-P prides himself on making hip hop that is in keeping with the genre's roots: two turntables and a microphone. But, rather than rely on beats and soul samples, El-P's collages are futuristic, and according to Greg,“skuzzy.”So much so, that he compares the rapper to Trent Reznor, who also makes an appearance on the record. As Jim explains, the dark, complicated soundscapes match the verses, which talk about violence and paranoia in the post-9/11 world. The songs are political, but not preachy, and Jim recommends them to anyone who is a fan of hip hop, or just a fan of interesting music. Greg praises El-P for being a classicist who can also look to the future. There's nothing stale or nostalgic here, but Greg warns that I‘ll Sleep When I’m Dead could be a little too challenging for some people's ears. With that small advisory, El-P gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
Volta (Deluxe Version)Volta available on iTunes

Björk Volta

Finally, we get to Björk. The reigning Icelandic music queen just released her sixth studio album, Volta. After abandoning her trademark electronic beats for vocals with Medulla, Björk has returned to form and enlisted the help of beat-makers like Timbaland. She is also joined by Antony of Antony and the Johnsons and Malian kora player Toumani Diabate. While listeners hear two of the more upbeat tracks, including the Timbaland produced "Earth Intruders," the rest of the album is more of a mixed bag — a fact that is frustrating to Greg. To him there were great moments, but also abysmal ones. He realizes that Björk is being intentionally political and provocative, but the album as a whole is just too incoherent for her message to be heard. Greg can only give Volta a Burn It rating. Jim can't even agree that Björk is being provocative. To him, the singer is just trying to make us think, "Boy, isn't she weird?" He found himself hating this record, describing it as cold, pretentious and dreadful. Jim not only gives Volta a Trash It rating, but would like to give away the copy he currently has.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
The Best Damn ThingThe Best Damn Thing available on iTunes

Avril Lavigne The Best Damn Thing

Avril Lavigne has the #1 album in the country this week. The Best Damn Thing is the third album for the 22-year old Canadian, and her first recording as a married lady. With this release, Avril is in a quandary common to in pop music today: how do you transition from young pop phenom to mature recording artist? Upon first glance, it appears her response is to color her music with adult words (albeit benign ones like "damn"). But, after seeing another former child singer, Christina Aguilera, bump and grind in her live show, Jim found a new respect for Avril. He would much rather purchase her pop punk songs of empowerment for his 10-year-old daughter than anything by Aguilera or her opening acts, The Pussycat Dolls and Danity Kane, and so gives Avril a Buy It for his daughter. Greg agrees that Avril is a better option for young people, but doesn‘t see any improvement on this album from her previous two.“It’s disposable,”he explains, thus giving The Best Damn Thing a Trash It rating, even for his daughters.

JimGreg
Go to episode 74
Cassadaga (Remastered)Cassadaga available on iTunes

Bright Eyes Cassadaga

Up next Jim and Greg review Conor Oberst's latest Bright Eyes album, Cassadaga. The Nebraska artist is only 27 years old, but has been making music for almost half his life. His last two Bright Eyes albums, which were released by Saddle Creek Records on the same day, sold a combined 642,000 copies — a major feat for an artist who gets no commercial radio or MTV play and who won't play at Live Nation venues. Jim jokes that many people have branded Oberst "the new Bob Dylan," a terrible cliché in rock criticism. If that's the case, this is Bright Eyes' Basement Tapes album. Oberst's lyrics are entirely too earnest and "emo" for Jim, but he really enjoys the beautiful, well-constructed melodies on Cassadaga. Therefore, he gives the album a Burn It. Greg agrees that Oberst can be a“drama queen”at times, but notes that the singer did bring down the vocal ticks and histrionics a notch on this collection of songs. He seems more at ease on these songs and agrees with Jim's Basement Tapes analogy. But, for Greg, the lyrics have not improved and are as clich'ed and overwrought as ever. He can only give it a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 73
Year ZeroYear Zero available on iTunes

Nine Inch Nails Year Zero

Trent Reznor's new Nine Inch Nails release is making news not just for its music, but for its marketing campaign. Rather than do the standard set of interviews and appearances, Reznor launched an interactive internet scavenger hunt to explain the album's story and gain interest. The story behind Year Zero began to unfold when fans discovered that highlighted letters on a NIN concert t-shirt spelled out“I am trying to believe.”Add a .com to that, and they were led to their first clue. A series of other clues were then revealed via a network of web sites, MP3 files, videos, phone lines, and even USB drives found in concert bathrooms. Jim and Greg discuss how savvy and 21st century Reznor's guerilla marketing tactics are. While some members of the music industry mourn the death of the CD, Reznor responds by giving the consumer much more than a hard disc of music. It's the modern equivalent to the kind of interactive package and experience fans would get with the great concept albums of the previous rock era. The critics are also impressed with the album itself, which Jim explains is essentially about the end of the world. He calls Reznor a sonic architect for his ability to create amazing soundscapes with just his lap top. And, Greg notes that Reznor's voice is more expressive than it's been on previous albums. Therefore, the album and the entire experience of Year Zero get two Buy Its from both Jim and Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 72
Because of the TimesBecause of the Times available on iTunes

Kings of Leon Because of the Times

Southern rockers Kings of Leon have a new album out called Because of the Times. The members of the Nashville quartet were just in their teens when they first got signed to a major label, and now they're on to their third album. Jim comes right out of the gate with his opinion. He explains,“I loathe this album with a bile I reserve for very special occasions.”He thought the band was fairly harmless when they were just a hipper take on The Black Crowes. But, after receiving much hype from their label and being brought on large scale tours by Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam and U2, they've added an echo-drenched, reverb-laden arena rock sound that even U2's The Edge has moved on from. Because he finds the album retro, sexist and stupid, Jim gives it a Trash It rating. Hearing Jim's review of the record makes Greg like it even more. He describes Kings of Leon as sloppy Southern rock to the core, and really likes their guitar sound. It's retro, but unapologetically so for Greg. He gives Because of the Times a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 72
Back to BlackBack to Black available on iTunes

Amy Winehouse Back to Black

This first album up for review this week is of Back to Black, the second album by British import Amy Winehouse. The singer/songwriter was one of the most buzzed about acts at this year's SXSW Festival, and her off-stage antics are getting her a flurry of attention in the British press. Jim and Greg, however, aren't sure the phenomenon will translate overseas. Winehouse prides herself on being influenced by jazz and the R&B and soul singers of the 1960s. But, both critics find her music to be a retro parody more than an authentic homage. In fact, Jim outright hates this album and gives his Trash It rating right up front. Greg didn‘t dislike the album as much as he thought he would, but was still unimpressed by Winehouse’s pale imitation of artists like Donnie Hathaway and Nina Simone. He also gives Back to Black a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 71
Shock Value (Instrumental Version)Shock Value available on iTunes

Timbaland Shock Value

Superstar producer Timbaland also has a new solo album called Timbaland Presents: Shock Value. Timbaland, otherwise known as Tim Mosley, has produced massive hits for pop and hip hop stars like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. But, in addition to having a knack for making commercially successful tunes, Timbaland is also one of the most inventive, innovative and avant-garde producers of all time. This fact makes it all the more difficult for Jim and Greg to give their ratings of this album. Jim thinks the first half of the album is worth checking out for some solid production. But, he wishes Timbaland hadn‘t been so base and clichéd in his lyrics. He also questions the creativity involved in the album’s all-star collaborations. He gives Shock Value a Burn It. Greg can't even be that kind. He is completely disappointed by this album and is forced to give it a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 71
New Magnetic WonderNew Magnetic Wonder available on iTunes

Apples in Stereo New Magnetic Wonder

The longest lasting of all the Elephant 6 acts is Apples in Stereo. After five years, the group has released a new album called New Magnetic Wonder. Since that last release, Robert Schneider and band mate Hilarie Sidney have divorced, but they remain collaborators. The two Bills of Olivia Tremor Control and Jeff Mangum also join in the effort. The new kid in town is Elijah Wood, aka Frodo. Wood, an ardent music fan, approached Schneider saying he wanted to finance the recording and release the album on his new label. Jim thinks the result is the best album of Apples in Stereo career. Greg agrees, making New Magnetic Wonder a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 70
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even SankWe Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank available on iTunes

Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

This show is an all-reviews blowout starting with the new release from Washington state indie rockers Modest Mouse. We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank is one of the most highly anticipated records of the season. Modest Mouse's underground fan base has emerged into the mainstream in the past few years, despite lead singer and chief songwriter Isaac Brock's status as a rather polarizing figure. Jim recommends fans check out Alan Goldsher's profile of Brock, Modest Mouse: A Pretty Good Read. Now, the band is joined by former Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr. James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins, also provides backing vocals on a number of tracks. Greg thinks that Isaac Brock is doing what he does best on this album: combining quirky vocals and rhythms with a traditional pop sensibility. He describes it as a very well-crafted record that isn't over-thought or overproduced and gives We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank a Buy It. Jim was also impressed, describing the album as“brilliant.”He thinks Brock deals in gloom and doom better than his peers and urges everyone to Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
SecuritySecurity available on iTunes

Antibalas Security

Antibalas, formerly Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, also has a new album out entitled Security. The Brooklyn-based band, who often plays in the same musical circles as TV on the Radio, modeled itself after Fela Kuti's Africa 70 band. Greg describes them as a true musical collective, and really enjoyed the fiery, polyrhythmic first half of the record. He thinks the second half is a little too subdued, and too controlled however, and can only give Security a Burn It. Jim blames that level of control and“sterility”on producer John McEntire, of Tortoise. He calls Security the coolest album that McIntyre has produced to date, but wishes it was a little more accessible, and a little less“skronky.”He also gives it a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
Living With the LivingLiving With the Living available on iTunes

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Living With the Living

Next up is a review of Living With the Living by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. This is the band's fifth album, but first to be released by Touch and Go Records. Greg thinks Leo is full of energy and enthusiasm, but explains that the singer/songwriter wears his musical influences on his sleeve. It's not difficult to hear the reference points of The Clash, The Kinks and The Jam. Jim agrees, and explains that where the music falls short is when it goes the reggae route. He doesn't think Leo and the band are very good at that style, but adds that The Clash weren't that great at it either. Neither Jim nor Greg can recommend Living With the Living as a whole, but both critics say that Leo and the band give a great live show. The album gets two Burn Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
Drums and Guns (Bonus Track Version)Drums and Guns available on iTunes

Low Drums and Guns

Drums and Guns is the new album from Low, the Duluth, MN "slowcore" band comprised of married couple Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker and Matt Livingston. The band recorded this album with producer Dave Fridmann, and the result is a bit of a departure. Jim notes that they've gone in a more electronic direction, but thinks that the traditional Low sound emerges after a few listens. He appreciates their experimentation, but because of a few misses, he must give the record a Burn It. Greg was also put-off by the electronic elements at first. But, like his fellow critic, he grew to appreciate and understand the album more after additional listens. Greg thinks the band did a great job of juxtaposing the noisy sound with the evocative lyrics. He gives Drums and Guns a Buy It, but warns listeners to proceed with caution.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
Pocket SymphonyPocket Symphony available on iTunes

Air Pocket Symphony

The French electronic duo Air gets the next review. Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin got notice stateside with albums like Moon Safari and appearances on the Virgin Suicides soundtrack. Now they are back with their fourth album, Pocket Symphony, which was produced by Nigel Godrich. Jarvis Cocker of Pulp also makes an appearance. Greg thinks this release is more challenging than previous Air albums. He thinks the duo owes a great deal to Phillip Glass, but wishes they had introduced more of their light, pop touches. For Greg, the men of Air are better as producers than as frontmen. He gives it a Trash It. Jim calls Greg's analysis“cracked,”and thinks the combination of ambient and pop is just perfect. He gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
Sound of SilverSound of Silver available on iTunes

LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver

The final review of the show is of LCD Soundsystem's second release, Sound of Silver. LCD Soundsystem is helmed by James Murphy, the DFA producer many credit with defining the New York club sound. His merging of disco and rock with the debut LCD release was hugely successful among critics and music fans. Now Murphy and co. are back with a second release that veers more towards the disco than the rock. Fans of the first release might be disappointed initially; this album doesn't suck you in as fast. But, both Jim and Greg urge listeners to give it more than one try. Some of the songs are less accessible, but music fans (and frustrated critics) will appreciate the many inside jokes and reference points. Sound of Silver gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
Neon Bible

The Arcade Fire Neon Bible

The Arcade Fire returns this week with Neon Bible, one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year so far. The Montreal band is one of indie rock's biggest success stories in recent years, having sold over half a million copies of their debut album, Funeral. In fact, they're the number one selling artists in the history of North Carolina indie label, Merge Records. The band is known for their epic sound, amazing live performances, and dramatic, dark themes. Funeral's songs were written about the deaths of nine friends and family members. So, it's hard to imagine they could get any darker with this release. But, with Neon Bible, frontman Win Butler expanded his themes to cover religion, war, and the state of his native country. For Jim, this took some getting used to, but after a few listens he grew to really enjoy it — well, half of it. He counts six rhythmic tracks worth listening to, but names five songs that just sink the whole album. Therefore he gives it a Burn It. Greg agrees that this record does not do the band justice. He doesn't think the songwriting is strong enough, but highly recommends listeners see the Arcade Fire live. He also gives Neon Bible a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 66
The WeirdnessThe Weirdness available on iTunes

The Stooges The Weirdness

Despite any personal issues that band members might have had, Ron Ashteon explains that he was excited at Iggy's invite to start things up again so many years later. They enlisted the help of Chicago-based recordist Steve Albini and made The Weirdness. Greg states right away that this album isn‘t in the same category as the band’s first three. He thinks it's a solid effort, however. Greg was impressed by the rhythm section of Scott Asheton and Mike Watt of The Minutemen, but missed the strong songwriting and melodies of songs like "I Wanna Be Your Dog." He counts Iggy Pop as the wild card, and doesn‘t think he’s up to par. He gives The Weirdness a Burn It. Jim's reaction to the album was just a bit more negative. He calls it a“disaster”and an“embarrassment,”and doubts Greg will ever listen to it again. He thinks Ron Asheton is doing as fine a job as ever, but was offended by the stupidity of Iggy Pop's lyrics, which push racial and sexual hot buttons. Jim wants to remind Iggy that as a man about to turn 60, he can no longer sing about living fast and dying young. Jim gives The Stooges' reunion effort a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 66
Jill Cuniff

Jill Cunniff City Beach

The next review is of City Beach, the solo album from former Luscious Jackson front woman Jill Cunniff. Jim has always thought that Luscious Jackson was an underrated group, so he's glad to have Cunniff back, as well as a new greatest hits album. City Beach, produced by Daniel Lanois, met his expectations. He thinks it's a sultry record, perfect for a summer day in New York City, and gives it a Buy It. Greg was totally disappointed in Cunniff. He was also a Luscious Jackson fan, but finds this album sleepy, and not at all ambitious or creative. He gives City Beach a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 66
Ce available on iTunes

Caetano Veloso

Legendary Brazilian composer Caetano Veloso has a new album out this week called . Veloso first emerged as a member of the Tropicália movement in Brazil in the 1960s. Now he's back with his 40th album, but is proving to be as experimental as ever. is Veloso's version of a rock album; He is backed by musicians three generations his junior, and his son is the album's co-producer. While neither Jim nor Greg speak Portuguese, both critics are impressed with the lyrics' translations. Jim, however, does not think this is a success from beginning to end. Greg, on the other hand, doesn't think Veloso has ever sounded better. He finds the artist to be improving with age. Therefore, gets a split vote of Burn It and Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 65
Writer's BlockWriter's Block available on iTunes

Peter Bjorn and John Writer's Block

Next the critics give their opinions on Writer's Block, the third album from Swedish pop group Peter Bjorn and John. The trio has gotten a lot of great reviews and even some mainstream buzz due to the inclusion of their song, "Young Folks," on Grey's Anatomy. (Unfortunately the biggest Grey's breakout thus far has been The Fray).“Young Folks”features former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman, but it's the whistle and the bass line that are the real stars for Jim and Greg. Both Jim and Greg love the pop songs on this record, which are full of eclectic touches and catchy hooks, and give it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 65
West (Bonus Track Version)West available on iTunes

Lucinda Williams West

It may not be fair, but Lucinda Williams gets to follow the Ramones. Her new album, West, was released last week. This is Williams‘ eighth album in a 28-year career that has established her as one of music’s premiere singer/songwriters. Williams grew up steeped in literature and poetry as well as rock, country and folk music, and that background has really affected her sound. This album is in the same vein, but takes a somewhat different turn with producer Hal Wilner. Jim loves what Wilner contributes to the album. It feels like you are right there with Lucinda, who is“venting her spleen.”But, Jim has to wonder if everything is OK in the Williams household. The album is just too dark, and too oppressive. He gives it a Burn It. Greg agrees that people should hide their razor blades while listening to this album, but notes that Wilner is really effective at setting a mood and putting William's voice in the forefront. He just wishes that she varied the musical palette more on West. He'd like to hear more songs like the fiery "Come On." It's another Burn It for Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 64
Infinity On High (Deluxe Edition)Infinity on High available on iTunes

Fall Out Boy Infinity on High

Next up Jim and Greg review Fall Out Boy's fourth album, Infinity on High. The pop punk quartet from the Chicago suburbs sold 3 million copies of its last album, and 15-year-old girls everywhere have been anxiously awaiting the follow-up. Teenagers aren‘t the only Fall Out Boy fans out there. The band’s boss, Def Jam head Jay-Z, has also been championing them and arranged a larger-than-life debut. Jim also counts himself as a fan. He thinks Fall Out Boy is a smart, fun, exuberant band full of the punk spirit of bands like The Ramones. He admits that the lyrics are nothing profound, but gives the album a Buy It for its huge attitude and timeless pop songs. Greg admires how Fall Out Boy conducts itself as a band and thinks lead singer Patrick Stump has an impressive voice. However, he doesn't think they do a good enough job of differentiating themselves from other pop punk bands like the All-American Rejects and Sum 41. He wishes they did more with new producers like Babyface. This critic finds Infinity on High a little too generic and can only give the album a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 63
Not Too LateNot Too Late available on iTunes

Norah Jones Not Too Late

Norah Jones' album Not Too Late is the first up for review this week. At age 27, Jones has already sold millions of albums and won eight Grammy awards, and this latest release is likely to be as successful. Greg predicts it will go to #1. While the bulk of music consumers sure love Norah Jones, Jim and Greg are not sure why she isn't a smaller-scale artist. Both find her voice lovely and her songwriting fine, but neither are wowed by the album as a whole. Jim in particular wishes Jones infused more energy into songs, many of which are pretty political. Because you're certain to hear some of Not Too Late, in a shopping mall/coffee shop/waiting room near you, both critics only recommend you Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 62
Some Loud ThunderSome Loud Thunder available on iTunes

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Some Loud Thunder

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah also recently released a new album. Some Loud Thunder is the follow-up to their highly successful self-released and self-titled debut. The band has again released the album on their own and is selling it on their website. This time, however, they got help from producer Dave Fridmann, who is responsible for the studio sound of the Flaming Lips. In fact, Jim explains that Fridmann serves as the Brian Eno to the band's Talking Heads, despite protests from fans who shy away from that comparison. Greg agrees that he definitely hears David Byrne's influence on lead singer Alec Ounsworth. And for the most part, that influence agrees with the critics. There are a number of solid songs on Some Loud Thunder. Some are even poppy and danceable. But, the remainder of the album is just plain difficult to listen to. For that reason Jim and Greg can only give a Burn It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 62
Freedom's RoadFreedom's Road available on iTunes

John Mellencamp Freedom's Road

Next up is a discussion of the latest album by Americana rocker John Mellencamp. Anyone who has seen a Chevrolet commercial in the past few months can probably recognize his new single, "Our Country." Previously, the singer/songwriter has criticized artists for“selling-out,”but it seems the challenge of selling records today has prompted a change of heart. Whether or not they agree with Mellencamp's decision to go the commercial route is moot when it comes to Jim and Greg's review of the album. Freedom's Road is Mellencamp's 21st album, and Jim and Greg both find it pretty generic, and at times, even cheesy. Greg wishes his lyrics had the detail and sense of time and place that they once did. And Jim wishes the singer took more of a stand on the social and political woes he describes in the songs. Both critics give the album a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 61
Wincing the Night AwayWincing the Night Away available on iTunes

The Shins Wincing the Night Away

Our Rock Doctors patient and tons of fans have been anxiously awaiting The Shins' third album, Wincing the Night Away. The band got notice after its first two albums received critical praise and industry buzz. Natalie Portman's character in Garden State even proclaimed that their music would“change your life.”Now the Albuquerque band attempts to change more lives with their new Sub Pop release. Jim admits that he previously found the Shins' brand of "power-pop" more wimpy than powerful. But he thinks the band has added more depth and more kick to their sound without sacrificing their light, jangly sound or poetic lyrics. He gives the album a hearty Buy It. Greg agrees. He appreciates that despite the band's increased success and increased budget, the sound remains modest. He predicts fans will need to give Wincing the Night Away a few listens before really“getting it,”but also gives the album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 61
The Good, the Bad & the QueenThe Good, the Bad and the Queen available on iTunes

The Good, the Bad and the Queen The Good, the Bad and the Queen

The final album up for review this week is by The Good, the Bad and the Queen. The band is a“supergroup”of sorts, formed by former Blur frontman Damon Albarn. Like with his project Gorillaz, Albarn is joined by a number of big name musicians and producers including The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong, pioneer and Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen and DJ Danger Mouse. Fans are anxiously awaiting a potential Blur reunion, but for now they have this group's self-titled debut. Jim, for one, is sated. He thinks Albarn is one of the greatest creative forces working today and finds the album to be a really effective, sustained mood piece. He gives The Good, the Bad and the Queen a Buy It. Greg, on the other hand, was completely bored by the record. He didn't hear any all-star talent from the all-star lineup and gives a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 61
Hip Hop Is Dead (Bonus Track Version)Illmatic available on iTunes

Nas Illmatic

Rapper Nas had the number one album last week entitled Hip Hop is Dead. While Jim and Greg don‘t agree with that sentiment, there wasn’t much about the album that would prove otherwise. In fact, Jim muses that this record is "hip hop on life support." Nas first broke out with his album Illmatic when he was only 20 years old. He has only come close to topping that debut with singles like "Ether" that played on his rivalry with fellow New York rapper Jay-Z. Now, after what must have been epic peace accords, Nas has been signed to Jay-Z's Def Jam label. His new boss even appears on the track "Black Republicans." Both rappers have tremendous deft and flow, but Jay-Z has always been able to remain popular with songs of very little substance. Nas, by contrast, is better when he is using language to say something, not make party music. Both critics found Hip Hop is Dead empty, boring, and at times, a little schticky, and subsequently, it gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 58
The Sweet EscapeThe Sweet Escape available on iTunes

Gwen Stefani The Sweet Escape

Next up is a review of the second solo disc from Gwen Stefani. The No Doubt frontwoman's first attempt at solo success, Love.Angel.Music.Baby, sold over 3 million copies in 2004. Jim and Greg are certain that The Sweet Escape will also chart well, but they're not sure why. Jim describes this record as a“truly dreadful, dreadful, dreadful, despicable, abysmally bad album”that he “hates with the core of his being.” His main complaint is that he wishes Gwen would act her age. Mrs. Gavin Rossdale is now a mother, and he's certain she should have something more interesting to sing about than boys and Orange County. Greg agrees that this album is a snooze, but even wishes Stefani played more of a Lolita role; at least that would be interesting. He expected another fun, frothy pop record, but instead he is completely bored by most of the beats on this record, many courtesy of big names like The Neptunes and Swizz Beatz. Despite its nod to The Sound of Music, The Sweet Escape gets two big Trash Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 58