Minute Music Reviews

LL Cool J ? The DEFinition
Genre: Hip-hop
Release Date: August 31, 2004

I?ll admit I never liked old school LL Cool J, but considering that his ?Mama said knock you out? days were back when my parents wouldn?t let me watch MTV, I went into this album with an open mind. However, my initial experience with the first single released was when I saw LL perform it live on the Today Show, and I couldn?t help but wonder if Def Jam paid people to come out and bob their heads to this atrocity of a song. ?Headsprung? is one of the vilest sounds I?ve ever heard, and even putting ?Timbaland? on the track couldn?t save it. The rest of The DEFinition is just as bad, if not worse. The guests who appear on a few of the tracks are unimpressive, and the beats are so bland that I?m considering changing my opinion of Def Jam. This album is such a failure because it completely lacks the elements of successful hip-hop: Sage Francis is good because he is lyrically gifted. Nelly is good because he can create one hell of a hook. The members of N.E.R.D. are famous for their outstanding production and catchy beats. LL Cool J fails in all of these criteria. Someone ought to tell him that repeating a dumb phrase over and over again does not automatically make it a hook. This album reminds me of a really funny South Park episode ? the one where the characters of South Park learn how to poop out of their mouths. Prior to this album?s release, I assumed such a thing was impossible. Worst album I?ve heard this year, period.

Tears for Fears ? Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
Genre: Pop
Release Date: September 14, 2004

Surely that?s a typo. Tears for Fears? This must be an album of B-sides or peel sessions, maybe a greatest hits compilation? No, no, my friends, the new Tears for Fears. I didn?t even know that this band was still around, but this new album is proof that they?re not going away again soon. There is something strange about this album. It?s not quite the ?80s pop I expected. They are more developed and mature, experimenting with their sound in ways you might not expect. There are eruptive bursts of harmony, folk interludes, electronics, mellow tracks, and tracks you might want to dance to. You can almost hear the decades fading in and out of these songs. The intelligence in this album is obvious and impressive, and I guarantee no band will match this comeback anytime soon. If this album is a sign of what to expect from Tears for Fears, then I anxiously await more music (and a tour!). If it?s meant to be a final sendoff, I can?t think of a better ending. And, you know, who doesn?t love a happy ending?

The Fiery Furnaces ? Blueberry Boat
Genre: Avant-garde
Release Date: July 13, 2004

I hesitate to label this album as ?interesting? because that?s the general response people give when they don?t like something, but interesting might be the only word for it. It?s nice to hear a group doing something that no one else is doing, even if you have to give it a few listens before it finally grows on you. Eleanor, the female vocalist in The Fiery Furnaces, has a very pleasant voice which nicely complements some of the intentionally flat melodies. The instrumentation is intriguing ? there?s more piano and organ than there is guitar, and often the drums are no more complex than a metronome beat. Somehow this all comes together to form an album I want to keep playing, if only to study it. There?s so much going on in every song that each new listen is different. If I had to complain about anything, I?d say the eight- to ten-minute songs are a little too long, but I?d say that about almost any band. ?Paw Paw Tree? is the best track on this album, so maybe it?s a good place to start if you are hesitant. The Fiery Furnaces are playing at Modern Formations in Pittsburgh on Thursday, so that would be a good time to go out to a show and see what this group is all about.