Eminem’s Relapse feels redundant
Aftermath, Interscope, Shady, Web
Alright we get it, rehab is a joke.
That’s the message pounded into your head over and over again during Relapse, the first album from controversial tongue-flapping rapper Eminem in four years.
Mixing fast-paced tracks with ridiculous dialogue-driven skits has worked at times for Marshall Mathers in the past (look at the solid work in 2004’s Encore for an example) but this time it takes away from the serious nature of the album. Sure, Eminem has always been skilled at lacing together dire political messages with bits of humour, however, it just doesn’t seem to work this time. Is it possible that the 36-year-old has lost his touch?
Relapse’s repetitive nature extends beyond simply making a mockery of alcoholism recovery. Of course what would an Eminem album be without a song dedicated entirely to his mother? Alright we get it, your mom was a terrible role model and your father wasn’t around, it’s probably time to get over it. Eminem even seems to be aware of his lack of creativity with a verse in “My Mom” that says “I know you’re probably tired of hearing about my mom.” Yes we most certainly are.
All of this is not to say that Relapse is totally flawed. Eminem seems to be in his element when relating to the violent nature of today’s society. “Bagpipes from Baghdad” is by far the most appealing track as it offers a unique sound combined with an acute political viewpoint. The problem is these intelligent tracks are few in far between; instead Eminem constantly strays to take shots at everyone from Sarah Palin to Kim Kardashian. Again, this is nothing new.
Relapse comes across as a statement by Eminem that he is here to stay and can get away with doing and saying whatever he wants. After soaring to No.1 on the UK charts as the fastest-selling album this year, maybe he has a point.
— Jeremy Nolais
Heaven and Hell
The Devil You Know
Before dreamy vampire Edward Cullen of Twilight fame there was Lestat, the vampire bad boy of Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. In Rice’s chronicles Lestat becomes a rock star and if he were to release a CD today it would probably sound something like Heaven and Hell’s debut album The Devil You Know.
Made up of Black Sabbath alumni Ronnie James Dio, Tommy Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice, Heaven and Hell holds an energy that wouldn’t be expected from it’s quartet of aging rockers. Ten heavy metal-influenced tracks have great instrumentals to go along with Dio’s demon-like vocals.
Must-listen tracks include “Atom and Evil” and “Eating the Cannibals,” clever names if I do say so myself.
Whether you are a Black Sabbath fan seeking out some familiar sound or a metal fan who likes to hear lyrics instead of guttural howling, the old guys of Heaven and Hell still have what it takes to rock.
— Kelsey Hipkin
21st Century Breakdown
This 18-song, 70-minute monster of an album from the always-amped trio that is Green Day may very well go down as the biggest hit-and-miss disc of 2009.
Each compelling moment on 21st Century Breakdown is quickly contrasted by what I would classify as a “classic Green Day” moment. The band does create some tracks that seem totally original — which is quite an accomplishment seeing as how this is the group’s eighth album — but instead of pushing these boundaries further they quickly fall back into juvenile rock-outs and crappy lyrics.
The album is broken down into three distinct acts titled “Heroes and Cons,” “Charlatans and Saints” and finally “Horseshoes and Handgrenades.” While the opening and closing acts do present some noteworthy themes and arrangements, the second act veers dramatically off-course, turning instead to stupid serenades and songs about teenage love lost. The only track of the six in “Charlatans and Saints” worth noting is “Restless Heart Syndrome. Because of the drivel that comes before it this closer to Act 2 actually comes across as the strongest song of the bunch.
Lead singer and guitarist Billy Joel Armstrong attempted to create a similar formula to the one used to win a Grammy in 2004 with American Idiot; combine a few memorable and heartfelt tracks with an abundance of monotony and pass it off as a generation-defining album. Like American Idiot, the more time you spend listening to and dissecting each track on 21st Century Breakdown the more you come to realize that the ideas put forth have all been said before and barely run surface deep.
For those who have followed Green Day since the year I was born (1987) this album will seem satisfactory, but nothing more. For those of us who find Green Day uninspiring and Armstrong’s constant superiority complex annoying there is little to enjoy on this one.
Secret City Records
Suffer from insomnia? Looking for a sure way to get that cranky baby to sleep? Need a new soundtrack for the commune? If you answered “yes” to any of the above than the CD Wooden Arms by Patrick Watson is the album for you.
Watson’s folksy lyrics have a John Mayer, Jack Johnson kind of ring to them, however, not even that can save this album. There are lots of classical music elements, which are different but leave you asking why classical on an indie/folk album? Almost all of the tracks have an incredibly long intro that make you want to switch to the next song before even giving the current one a chance.
The only saving graces of the 11-track album are songs “Big Bird in a Small Cage” and “Where the Wild Things Are”.
So unless you are looking to catch-up on some zzz’s or are seriously into the granola, maybe leave this one alone for the time being.
— Kelsey Hipkin
There are a few singers in the current pop music lineup whose voice make you weep. Notably Jón Por (Jónsi) Birgisson of Sígur Ros, Antony of Antony & the Johnsons (check out their cover of “Knockin’ On Heavens Door” on the I’m Not There soundtrack) and now, lead singer of Lhasa de Sela.
From the opening notes of the starting track on her self-titled album, you are instantly captivated by the haunting sound coming from her vocal cords that weaves in and around the carefully crafted melodies. Lhasa is the talented singer’s third album and comes six years after her last offering The Living Road.
The singer utilizes the talents of harpist Sarah Page, violinist/guitarist Freddie Koella and other to create beautiful harmonies. The work feels like the production of a one-man (or would that be one-woman) show as Lhasa sings, arranges, writes and produces the entire album.
While a feeling of melancholy is a word you can use to describe some of the songs, the mood picks up on the more bluesy tracks, creating a feeling that moves in your soul and settles in your feet.
— Selina Renfrow