Pre-Screening: Lil' Wayne's Rebirth

Album: Rebirth
Artist: Lil' Wayne
Label: Cash Money/Universal/Young Money
Rating: 3.0

When artists achieve a great amount of success, some like to start experimenting with their style and formula, even if for just a short time. Their peers' and audience's praise have given them confidence in their abilities, so why not? However, unfortunately, this can also be met with criticism when their apparent "genius" strays too far form its roots, and into uncharted, unfamiliar territory. This is where we stand with Lil' Wayne's Rebirth. Pushed back ten months from its original release date in 2009, the project was slated to be Wayne's popular foray into the rock genre. As one might have guessed, there's a reason his record execs were nervous about the public hearing this.

Fundamentally, Rebirth has more problems than positives-- by a long shot. Surprisingly, enlisting a never-was like Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz to help may end up being the least of them. At its core, the project fails from the start. Lil' Wayne, the rapper, is supposed to be able to turn himself into Lil' Wayne, the rock frontman? The issues with that concept are numerous. Wayne can't sing without the help of auto-tune, as exemplified on tracks like "Paradice." Even with that assistance, it's still barely tolerable, as his drawl-filled delivery gets blurred and buried by an undying barrage of over-the-top guitar solos.

The cliches are endless. Yes, we know that Lil' Wayne lives his life as a rock star in the most classic sense-- sex, drugs, money and alcohol being the main themes of his existence-- and that's fine. In the context of a hip-hop album, not only does it work, but works well, since the message is delivered over superior sampling and production. But here, the message is seemingly on repeat as Wayne rarely raps, and belittles his lyrical abilities to simple rhymes and the same few sound bites about love and sex. There's even an entire song ("Ground Zero") just about being really high. Either he just assembled his most random thoughts and threw them up onto the canvas that became this album, or this is Wayne's perception on rock. Regardless, the semblance of order and believability is continually challenged as he attempts everything from the sunny beach pop of "Get A Life" to "Da Da Da"'s mention of a "funky monkey," to the "hurrah" gang cheers on "One Way Trip." Equal parts poorly executed and ill advised, the overwhelming majority of Rebirth warrants no more than a few seconds of listening to understand its purely ridiculous presentation.

All that being said, the album does contain a couple tolerable moments and one would be amiss to deny their presence. "On Fire," in comparison to everything that surrounds it, is surprisingly honest and locked-in. Wayne tells us it's about sex upfront, and throughout its mashed up elements of 1980s pop and mainstream rock, it remains true to that ideal. The other favorable outcome could be the appearance of Young Money up-and-comer Shanell, who, oddly enough can sing extremely well. The problem is that she plays second-fiddle to Lil' Wayne (as anyone else would on this album) throughout her numerous appearances--most notably "Runnin"-- and anytime she does get the chance to sing, her voice is adorned with some sloppy nu metal backdrop. If you take anything good away from Rebirth, perhaps she's it.

Maybe Rebirth was doomed to fail from the start. Or perhaps every successful artist needs an effort such as this one (even The Beatles had one dud in them) to get themselves refocused on what made them great in the first place. The fact of the matter is that Rebirth ends not only being bad, but downright putrid. Based on the positive reaction to recent mixtape No Ceilings, it' s not as if Wayne has lost it. He just needed to see that he couldn't make a good rock album, to know for sure that it was true. Any other artist, and maybe this would be blasted even further, or (more likely) it never gets recorded in the first place. But now that it's all over, let's just agree that it was an unparalleled failure, and move on. Tha Carter IV can't come soon enough.

Best Track: "On Fire"

[Previously on Animal Noises: New Lil' Wayne Video, "On Fire"]


Matt's Track of the Week: "Make You Mine"

Song: Make You Mine
Artist: Breakbot
Album: Ed Banger Preview Promo 2010
Rating: 9.0

Ed Banger's all-star roster of DJs and computer-savvy musicians is a virtual who's who of important players in the French house music scene. Breakbot; one of the label's least acclaimed, but most promising artists is no exception.

Sounding like what would happen if Discovery-era Daft Punk and Justice had a child, Breakbot brings us the funk and technical skill that we have come to expect from Frenchmen with turntables and audio production software, while adding a little flair of his own. His most recent single, "Make You Mine", specifically stays true to this, and delivers on all fronts of catchiness, creativity, and danceability. His first official Ed Banger EP, Baby I'm Yours is officially being released on Valentine's Day. Until then, enjoy the track below.

Weekly Top 10: Los Angeles-Area Artists

Inspired by my first trip to Los Angeles this past December, this week's playlist covers mostly current artists from the area. It's incredible that a region which spawned the likes of The Eagles and The Beach Boys (they're not on here-- I don't count them as existing in the last 20 years, even if their Wikipedia pages do) is rarely talked about for indie artists. These days, most of the acts coming out of L.A. are mainstream, or just fail to play the type of music we talk about here. But I digress. Check out this week's top 10 below.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Weekly Top 10: Out-Of-Genre Covers]

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New Yeasayer, "O.N.E"

As the release date for Yeasayer's latest effort, Odd Blood, draws nearer, there will probably be news galore around the interwebs. Consider this day one. To get fans even more anxious about the release, the band has let out another single-- this time in the form of "O.N.E" One (pun intended?) of the peppier tracks on Odd Blood, it mixes goofy 1980s pop with your typical indie-electronic conventions of today. The results are infectious, even amidst the less-than-chipper message being conveyed, that of our narrator being over someone. The single is out via Secretly Canadian on March 23, but you can head over to the band's website and check it out for yourself today. Odd Blood, on the other hand, will be released February 9.

John's Track of the Week: Holly Miranda's "Forest Green Oh Forest Green"

Song: Forest Green Oh Forest Green
Artist: Holly Miranda
Album: The Magician's Private Library
Rating: 8.0

Simple and sweet on the surface, at first, Holly Miranda appears to be nothing more than your average female singer-songwriter. But just ten seconds into "Forest Green Oh Forest Green," that image is completely shattered, and instead replaced by the 1960s pop vibe, and trumpet in the background. As the track continues, the soloing grows to an apex, along with the song's energy as a whole. It's exciting, and all-consuming. For those who were unfamiliar with Holly Miranda to that point, the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening track to her solo debut is everything you could ask for.

"Forest Green Oh Forest Green" ends up being one of a myriad of reasons why Miranda's album, The Magician's Private Library, is one of February's most anticipated albums. Kanye West hyped her up almost a year ago. The New York Times is doing a piece about her (according to her Twitter). And, of course, the album was also produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek. Throw in contributions by Sitek, Kyp Malone and other members of TVOTR, along with members of Antibalas as well, and you know you're in for quite the sonic treat. Check it out below, and be on the lookout for Miranda's album, The Magician's Private Library, out February 23rd via XL.


New Caribou, "Odessa"

Three years since his last album, Caribou's Dan Snaith had seemingly disappeared amidst the sensational noise of the music scene. However, it appears that silence is over. Swim, which is out April 20 via Merge, is his latest work, and based on the first track, "Odessa," it figures to be quite the experience. The track bounces between synths and psychedelic noise. It's dance pop, mixed with organic elements to form an odd, yet enjoyable juxtaposition that creates a personality hard to find in a good portion of electronic music. But somehow it manages to get the job done-- very well, in fact. You can check it out for yourself for the price of an email address if you head over to his website.

[Previously on Animal Noises: John's Track of the Week: "Lord Leopard"]

Tuesday's Releases (1/26): Now Streaming

Animal Noises is back for another week of new releases. As one might have guessed, we're starting to pick up a bit (and by we're, I more accurately mean that releases are picking up a bit-- respect the royal we). Check out what streams are going on this week over at Spinner, and if there are any others sitting around, we'll try to add as soon as possible, or perhaps just let us know in the comments. Either way, it's a good opportunity for everyone to preview some new music. As always, credit for the original idea goes out to LargeHeartedBoy.


Music Video Monday: Beach House's "Silver Soul"

Track: Silver Soul
Artist: Beach House
Album: Teen Dream
Year: 2010

Noted not so much for flash, but rather it's stark and simple, yet slightly unnerving presentation, Beach House's "Silver Soul" is this week's featured video. Directed by the band's own Victoria Legrand, it explores a perpetual sense of motion, without purpose or direction. The hula-hoop, in this case, continues to spin with no regard for the world around it. Though dismal, the arena of smoke and people painted silver do indeed exist, regardless of how much they might lack any semblance of excitement.

So is this a statement of hopelessness, or insecurities? Can't really tell, to be honest. Perhaps it's even more existential than that. Or maybe it's just silver girls hula-hooping amidst smoke and creepiness. One can never tell from the outside looking in, and this may go double for "Silver Soul." Still, check it-- one of the ten videos which accompany Teen Dream's physical release tomorrow via Sub Pop-- out below.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Pre-Screening: Beach House's Teen Dream]


Pre-Screening: Beach House's Teen Dream

Album: Teen Dream
Artist: Beach House
Label: Sub Pop
Rating: 9.0

It doesn't take one long to realize how truly special Beach House's Teen Dream is. Be it in the scope of their career, as an ambassador to a new decade of music or as the result of 2009's status as the landmark year for indie rock, Teen Dream's appeal stretches far and wide. Blending styles, and capturing a theme like few have done recently, the album is a testament to where the band, as well the genre have come over the past few years. Pulsing with moving, heartfelt sounds, its adaptation of the group's signature dream pop to the post-Veckatimest and Merriweather Post Pavillion music scene is executed with impeccable, mesmerizing efficiency. How fitting almost one year to the day of MPP's official 2009 release.

Teen Dream is, for all intents and purposes, sonically stunning. Failing to exist simply in the dream pop realm as they may have chosen in the past, Beach House follows the lead of their once-existential brethren, and personal pals Grizzly Bear, in adapting a chamber pop vibe to carry the finished product. However, though no track will show to have the commercial viability that a "Two Weeks" might have had, it doesn't take away from what the collection accomplishes. Using the haunting choruses and steady melodies most associated with chamber pop, Beach House weaves a long and winding road through love, desire and the eventual coping with what is meant to be. As each song completes itself, the full picture also becomes clearer, a quality that only serves to enhance its ultimate ability to relate with listeners real emotions, past or present.

In segments, Teen Dream is divided three-fold. These three parts serve to create the dream, in all its honest, raw emotions, and the actions associated with them. The onset, featuring tracks like the lazy, tropical "Silver Soul" and first single "Norway" attempt to get the point across in the simplest musical means possible. Though providing some details toward the issue at hand, the songs are relaxed and easy-going enough to hide the underlying wants and desires harbored within. This is where the middle portion comes in. Where the earlier tracks were a bit more ethereal, these songs become much more accessible and straightforward. "Used To Be," "Lover Of Mine" and "Better Times" act as three slightly different approaches to the same problem-- a lost love. While the first acts as a lamenting, yet glowing requiem, the second expands upon these emotions with bursting emotional overtones. Originally coming off like 80s pop, its overall presentation explores the largest depths and heights of the album's emotional breadth. What's more, "Better Times" comes off as sympathetic pop, conveying its point effectively, yet still effectively, even with as little instrumental or vocal change as possible.

The final part of this raw, unmanufactured Teen Dream that is so effectively maintained throughout is the coping stage, which takes a very real and unabashedly honest front seat here, come the album's completion. "Real Love" plays with the theme unlike any other track, nervous and uneasy, but not terrified of the outcome it faces. It's reflective and lonely, while desperate in others. Its honesty is, at this point, undeniably youthful-- naive not by choice, but by default. From there, "Take Care" concludes all thought processes as the gradual progression to the end. It's both a figurative and literal awakening, and an acceptance of what has become of love in this case. The closure, just like the emotions which precede it here, are as real as they come.

With Teen Dream, Beach House arrives at center stage of a new decade of interesting, experimental indie music. There are few rules, besides making something which sounds original to a listening public increasingly immune to work which only comes off as "experimental" in theory, yet not in practice. With the example set forth by Grizzly Bear and others in 2009 in mind however, it appears that Beach House has adapted quickly, and put themselves on the map for similar, genre-bending success. After witnessing the stark beauty of this album only once, it's evident that there's just no other option. Beach House, your entry for best album of 2010 has been received.

Best Track: "Norway" (via Pitchfork)

[Previously on Animal Noises: New Beach House, "Norway"]


Weekly Top 10: Out-Of-Genre Covers

Everybody does covers. Be it for an album, or just a live set, every artist has a few songs which aren't there own, that they love to play. However, what takes real talent is executing an out-of-genre cover. That is, a cover of a song or artist completely unlike the music you play. Example-- an alternative band playing a hip-hop song with their own spin. Those who perfect this art are the best of the best, and to them, we dedicate this collection. Check out the out-of-genre covers collection below, and enjoy.

[Previously on Animal Nosies: Weekly Top 10: Canadian Bands]

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John's Track of the Week: Local Natives' "Camera Talk"

Song: Camera Talk
Artist: Local Natives
Album: Gorilla Manor
Rating: 7.0

Given the increasing popularity of catchy indie pop in the mainstream listening spectrum, it's only a matter of time before Los Angeles' Local Natives blow up. To get ahead of the curve, we'll be discussing single "Camera Talk," in anticipation of their debut album, Gorilla Manor's U.S. release on February 16th. Yes, the album did come out in the U.K. in 2009, but since we're in the U.S., it will be included in our 2010 release coverage, and potentially beyond.

Using a formula that has worked so well for so may other acts over the past few years, Local Natives present "Camera Talk" as a poppy, playful excursion into the throws of young love or lust. With bright string inserts, a bright and jovial keyboard part and a fairly sunny overall disposition, the track bursts with energy and hope. Think Ra Ra Riot meets fun. or The Format. Vocalist Taylor Rice is a dead ringer for Nate Ruess, yet still stands out on his own-- obviously and unabashedly enjoying what he's singing about, and hoping his audience does too. Local Natives fail to do anything all that complicated here, but instead, inspire emotion-- in this case happiness and hopefulness-- in listeners, which can be just as effective.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Coachella Announces 2010 Line-Up]


Coachella Announces 2010 Line-Up

Just as we did last year, we're happy to report the lineup for 2010's Coachella Festival. It's probably better than last year, depending on your vantage point. Among the most notable acts (according to this blog, not the festival) per day:


So there it is. An epic collection of artists this year, really. I'm excited, as I'm sure you are too. To Indio, California we go.

Tuesday's Releases (1/19): Now Streaming

As 2010's releases start to pick up a bit, so will this section. For this week, there will be a combination of streams-- some from last week's collection, while others are from this week's batch of new albums. However, for the listener, the results are equally positive I'm sure. Check it out below, courtesy of Spinner unless otherwise noted. And as always, credit for the original idea goes out to LargeHeartedBoy.


Pre-Screening: Spoon's Transference

Album: Transference
Artist: Spoon
Label: Merge
Rating: 8.5

Nearly three years after breakout album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon have returned with their seventh full-length studio effort, Transference. As some may have figured, a lot's changed in that time span. The band has reached stunning mainstream commercial success, both in sales and promotions, becoming a fixture on movies and shows geared toward 20-somethings the world over. And yet, with that achievement in mind, Spoon's changes do nothing if not make them more endearing to their already loyal fan base, while still appealing to new listeners. Energetic, enterprising and just as nonchalant as ever, Transference still represents a higher level of musical achievement than the band has ever encountered-- not an easy feat, but impressive just the same.

From the opening notes of the record's intro "Before Destruction," it's evident that Transference is a much different type of collection than its predecessor. Everything is raw, distant and increasingly rock-oriented. Putting aside their previous pop sensibilities, frontman Britt Daniel refocuses Spoon's honest, witty delivery to a musical background that is equal parts experimental and rock 'n' roll-influenced. Instead of a rigid, boxed in song structure where the surrounding noise can build and develop, songs like "I Saw the Light" and "Nobody Gets Me But You" let loose and flourish in promoting a functionally haphazard approach the likes of which we've never seen from the band. Electronic beats and sounds burst in from underneath stretches of guitar and piano soloing, as Daniel lets his voice simply contribute as another instrument, instead of functioning as the crux of each track.

The singles on the album, though definite highlights, are not the type of songs that seem to stand apart from the effort as a whole. "Written In Reverse" and "Got Nuffin" (which was featured on an EP of the same name last summer) stand out, yes, but are overall a microcosm of Transference's purpose. Possessing driving melodies, and honing in on Daniel's icy, cool delivery, the songs lurk in the shadows, except when breaking for the surprising solos that pepper the entire effort. In fact, "Written In Reverse" almost appears downright raucous, as it grinds to a tune seemingly influenced by The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan. Angsty and offbeat, the song represents the less deliberate nature of the album, and shows a distinct departure from the group's comfort zone-- a fact that can be both admired and appreciated in its execution throughout the effort.

Even tracks that come off more as ballads conduct themselves in a way that fails to disrupt the album's energetic flow, but instead, reinforces it. The traditional "Goodnight Laura" is piano driven, and subdued in comparison to the songs around it, but also largely reflective of the album's darker mood. Same goes for "Out Go the Lights," which mixes a pleasant vocal presentation with its active instrumental section. Even in his more sentimental moments, Daniel's bothers give off an air off either vindictiveness, or invulnerability. Though always viewed as confident, Daniel seems to be completely unflappable now, and that sort of positive energy flows freely as a real boon to the album's outlook.

Change is always difficult for both listeners and artists alike, hence why few artists truly attempt to revolutionize their sound much from record to record. Spoon hasn't scrapped their sound on Transference, but they have redefined the public's perceptions, and maybe their own concepts of themselves as well. We can no longer see Spoon as a straightforward bastion of infinite popular appeal for indie rock. Rather, the band has used this album to try something inherently new, while maintaining the parts of who they were that allowed so many to be drawn to them in the first place. From this angle, it's a job well done after what could possibly be the best release of the band's career.

Best Track: "Got Nuffin"