Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sneaky Sound System - Self Titled (2006)

Artist: Sneaky Sound System

Album: Sneaky Sound System

Released: December '06

Label: Whack; Bondi Beach, Australia

Style: Indie, Electro, Dance Punk


  1. I Love It
  2. Thin Disguise
  3. UFO
  4. Pictures
  5. I D E W 2 L U
  6. You Should Have Told Me You Were Gonna Change
  7. Goodbye
  8. Hip Hip Hooray
  9. It's Over
  10. You're Hot
  11. Tease Me
  12. Maybe

To quote the perceptive and inspiring words of Ton Loc, "This cut is on fire." I can't believe I missed this album for over a year, it's the hottest shit I've heard in years. I really can't remember the last time I heard an album and just loved it so much. I've been playing it for months now and it keeps bangin' like the first time I heard it; none of it ever gets old and there's no filler. It's all Grade-A material, and excellently produced I'll add. Every song is meticulously put together for crowd-pushing, hip-jerking, indie-dance-party instigation!

Sneaky Sound System bring some serious hotness to the table for the rest of the loosly-defined, indie-electro genre. Nobody, imo, is making anything as bass-thumping, speaker-knocking, and DJ-friendly as this. The closest thing I'm hearing right now (and I'm strictly talking in terms of extreme sexiness combined with deep, thumping beats) is french electro, like people on Ed Banger Records (Justice, Sebastian, Mr Oizo) or maybe The Knife on their more pop-sensible tracks like Heartbeats, but that was two years ago. Digitalism is exactly who I'd say is closest to Sneaky Sound System in music right now, except they're not quite electro, or not the same kind of electro as Sneaky. But their album consistently comes with big beats and interesting song concepts. Big beats doesn't even begin to describe it, it's just huge. Sneaky Soundsystem doesn't have as big a beat as Digitalism; they're more electro, bordering on disco and funk.

The 00's are going to be remembered as saviors of the electronic scene, which I personally feel (some, not all) pretentious DJs are ruining for everyone. You don't have to have expensive tables and a huge record collection to throw a tight show anymore. And you don't have to play techno just because you're a deejay. Likewise, there's no shame in showing up with a laptop, portable hard-drive and Serato, and using the house tables. The idea is to get people on the floor, by whatever means necessary.

Every show or bar or whatever I've been to where the music was provided by someone with a laptop, whether on stage or not (wuddup Ruby Room, Oakland) there's always extremely good music on the speakers. I saw The Show is the Rainbow with Mindless Self Indulgence in Little Rock a few years back; his entire set is based on the laptop, even down to the visuals he had on a projector. And that show was mad awesome! The dude was totally all over the place, like down in the audience singing and going nuts. All he had to do the whole time was cover the microphone and work the crowd. It was totally fun for everyone, and a great opening act for MSI I'll add.

I almost prefer to go to shows with laptops really. You can walk up to the guy and he's not way too busy to talk to you, and you can see his playlist (if he's cool) and request songs and the dude probably has it and doesn't mind playing it, and if you're especially fortunate - and you have your handy, portable-media stick - you could score some really hot jams to add to your own digital collection.

I won't get too much into detail on meaningful lyrics, because I don't think it's the type of album intended to be thought provoking. It's just hooks, from start to back; "Hip Hip, Hip Hip Hooray / I'm lookin' for love, of the one-night varie-tay"; "Keep me on, don't switch me off"; "Your hot girl"; all that kind of stuff, some of those are the entire chorus, you know? It's great though, I mean you can't beat the simplicity of lyrics sometimes. Look at Soulja Boy's Crank Dat Soul; that shit is so simple, then they put it on a dope beat and everybody bumps it.

I really like this quote from IDEW2LU, "I'd never seen someone that looked like that before. She's like a Dreeeaam. I was totally, totally mesmerized." I mean, that's hot, seriously. This element adds so much more fun to the record. It's super sexy the whole way through. It makes me feel like I'm sexy. I like to feel sexy, personally. I'm sure that if I hadn't been so severely impaired by being born half-man, and half-bike... I would dance a fine jig. The finest, if only it weren't for these cursed, wheel legs!

Anyway, in conclusion: This album is hot like the sun. If you have the means, please get it. You will not regret this decision.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)

Artist: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Album: 100 Days, 100 Nights

Released: October '07

Label: Daptone Records; Brooklyn, NY

Style: Soul, Funk

Buy From: Amazon

1. 100 Days, 100 Nights
2. Nobody's Baby
3. Tell Me
4. Be Easy
5. When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle
6. Let Them Knock
7. Something's Changed
8. Humble Me
9. Keep On Looking
10. Answer Me

Sharon Jones doesn't need the long line of credentials she carries in most reviews to speak for her. One need only drop the needle and let her voice take you back. I'm talkin' way back, to days when Aretha Franklin was commanding solitary-diva status in the world of soul. Today that diva is indubitably Sharon Jones. Raised singing in church in the heart of Funkytown, USA - read:Augusta, Georgia; home of James Brown - she got her start in music singing backups and worked her way into the studio at Desco Records to sing back up for Lee Fields. The producers at Desco were so impressed they cut her first studio recording, Switchblade, that day. She continued to do work for the label, making singles mostly and a brief tour of the UK where local DJs had popularized her singles. And just as it seemed she would make her major breakthrough, Desco records went under. Not, however, before Jones got the chance to meet the men that would rocket their careers into the forefront of modern soul and jazz.

Backed by long-time cohorts The Dap-Kings, it's clear to see why people are buzzing about these guys. At a glance you see a bunch of white guys in cheesy blues brothers costumes, but in the words of Bootsy Collins, "You can't fake the funk." All these guys have got style, and not just musically. Their suits are actually pretty nice, I especially like this photo from

Their third release on Brooklyn's diy-funk label, this is for certain the crowning gem in a long line of funky jams forming the heart of what some (wiki) are calling a "revivalist soul and funk movement," but what I just call "makin' em like they used to." I don't know how they do it (that's why they play, and I write), but they've managed to recreate the authentic sound of soul records released over 40 years ago, even down to the production quality. They even limit themselves to instruments and studio equipment available circa 1975 to create a sound that's vintage and polished.

As any good soul album should be, 100 Days, 100 Nights is about love, first and foremost, and then a lot of what comes with it. The album starts with the title track, a seemingly cryptic tale of love lost, set to gypsy beats. It's the break in the middle of the song that gives away the nature of the album to follow. The beat fails as the orchestra builds suspense, "Wait a minute, maybe I need to slow it down a little, take my time." She's addressing the issue that in just one half of her first song she's already given up the climax of the story, and thus we hear the tales of her 100 days, and 100 nights (imo) and in no particular order.

And that's just the song-writing. The music is absolutely fabulous! The Dap-Kings are so on point! with all the funky hooks you could shake a hip at, and they come fully equipped with the horns and strings. I can actually picture Sharon Jones on stage belting and crooning and taking me through the entire emotional spectrum as she tells each story in song. Her power is what holds the bands presence so solidly. There's a lot of people making some really funky music these days, but none of them have her at the microphone. It's a total package with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, which is why I suggest everyone pick up a copy of this album, all their previous albums, and keep an eye out for anything resembling any of that material. This is the kind of music that never goes out of style, and it could use a little proliferation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Adam Tensta - It's a Tensta Thing (2007)

Artist: Adam Tensta

Album: It's a Tensta Thing

Released: September '07

Label: Respect My Hustle Entertainment(RMH Ent) in association with K-Werks; Stockholm, Sweden

Style: Electro, HipHop, 80s-Influenced

Buy From: Amazon

1. It's A Tensta Thing (Prod. Howard Who)
2. Bangin' On The System (Prod. Kajmir)
3. My Cool (Prod. Addeboy vs. Cliff)
4. Walk With Me (Prod. Howard Who)
5. Dopeboy Feat. Eboi (Prod. Howard Who)
6. See U Watchin Feat. Nitti Gritti (Prod. Leslie & Nitti Gritti)
7. Do The Right Thing (Prod. Gifted)
8. They Wanna Know (Prod. Addeboy vs. Cliff)
9. I'm Sayin' Feat. Isay (Prod. Gifted)
10. 80's Baby (Prod. Keione)
11. S.t.o.l.d. Feat. Eboi (Prod. Addeboy vs. Cliff)
12. Incredible Feat. Isay (Prod. Howard Who)
13. Before U Know It (Prod. Leslie)
14. Same Face (Prod. Howard Who)

Swedish MC Adam Tensta is taking the world of Hip Hop by storm with his new breed of Electro-Rap. Hailing from the city of Stockholm, and taking his name from the city's suburbian district Tensta, this 80s child is just what the doctor ordered after a deafening pause from the Swedish HipHop scene. His new album It's a Tensta Thing has seen two singles do very well on Swedish airwaves, but can he sell pop-sensible Americans with his genre-bending new breed of HipHop?

I think he can. His refreshing take on the genre is..well, refreshing. Take the track They Wanna Know for example. He specifically mentions not selling drugs, not banging in gangs, dressing how he wants because that's how he likes it, keeping his personal business private, and respect to his mother. Also, he reps his hood, having the entire video shot in Tensta.

Then lets listen to My Cool for a second. This track is just awesome. It's obviously electro, completely danceable, and the HipHop aspects are rock solid. His verses are tight, the production is tight, and while the entire song is about how cool he is, that coolness is not based on how many bitches he fucked, or how many stacks he made in the dope game, nor - believe it or not - how big the rims on his car may be. He's cool because he dresses fly, his beats are dope, and he struts his shit. Plus, the video is straight out of 1985. I'll spare the details on that and just link to it because the shit is hot, you shouldn't miss it.

Moving on, my favorite song from the whole album is Dopeboy, featuring Eboi. Again we see the hot 80s electro influences, tight flows, and a straying away from traditional gangsta rap themes. The song, though it calls out many times "Do I look like I sell drugs?!" is actually about how Tensta and his boys, in fact, do not sell drugs, and apparently look like they do because they get stopped by security all the time, despite the fact that the real dopeboys are all over the clubs everywhere making bank every saturday night. I think the song is really about profiling, when you get down to it.

There's tons of other hot tracks, though the album doesn't entirely subscribe to the Electro/HipHop hybrid theory - no L-Park pun intended. Bangin' on the System is one track that I think is pretty bland, alongside Walk with Me. While other tracks stray in a good way; I'm Sayin', featuring Isay, is an essential track for this album, showing Tensta's lighter side with a little soul.

Another point I feel is worth mentioning is Europe's love of the 80s. Many 80s children are now growing up into aspiring musicians and repping their 80s roots, Calvin Harris, namely. Being an 80s kid myself, I can totally appreciate this sentiment. I sport my 80s birthday proudly all the time (85 in da hizzee wut wut) and it's pretty rad when people making hot music do it too. I don't see why we don't hear more of it here in the states, considering most of what everyone loves about the 80s was made here (Charles in Charge, MTV, Atari, etc). I think perhaps it's because those of us born in the 80s here in the US are just starting to try to figure out how we're going to try to stay afloat in fascist america; finding time to record a hit album is a little tough. Though, truthfully, I'm not sure how much easier Europe's 80s babies have got it.

The song I'm referring to on Tensta's album is called 80s Baby, and while on the surface it appears to be about him being born in the 80s and reping that, there's a darker underside to the song, as throughout the entire album. The fact is, Tensta is a ghetto of Stockholm, not so much a suburb like we think of suburbs here in the states: nice houses that all look the same in perfect rows ending in culdesacs. While 80s babies in America were waking up to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every saturday morning, Tensta talks about waking up to drug raids. The album makes you want to dance on most songs, giving it an air of neutrality to the problems of society, as dancing is thought by most to be an escape from the pressures of life. Tensta won't let us forget those problems, however; he forces us to remain aware of them, and not by glamorizing them but by addressing the lives they affect, specifically the little kids he mentions consistently throughout the album.

In closing, this album is totally hot, politically aware, and pretty much everything I wish American Hip Hop was moving towards today - minus the boring tracks. Watch the videos, listen to the tracks in my Box widget, maybe even buy it and decide for yourself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ruccus Roboticus - Playing with Scratches

Artist: Ruckus Roboticus

Album: Playing with Scratches

Released: Locally in Ohio on Nov. 10th, 2007; Worldwide on Jan. 8th, 2008

Label: Grease Records

Style: Including, but not limited to, mashups of hip-hop and children's music

Buy From: Amazon, Rucus' Online Store

01. Overture
02. The Birth of Ruckus
03. Baby's First Scratch
04. When I Grow Up
05. Never Play With Scratches
06. How To Handle Grown Ups
07. Intermission (Flee To The Playroom)
08. Here We Go
09. A Child's Introduction to Drums
10. Everlasting Ghettoblasting Gobstopper
11. Taking Turns (Feat. Skratchmatik)
12. Bedtime For Sleepyhead
13. Face The Music
14. The Rebirth of Ruckus
15. (Untitled)

Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, DJ Ruckus Roboticus is mashing up funky, sample-based, hiphop with the likes of Girl Talk and Kid Koala. Drawing primarily from old children's records, this album "tell(s) a semi-autobiographic story, about the birth of a kid, who learns to scratch on his See-N-Say toy, and who has to deal with growing up and facing pressures from the grown-up world."[1]

We begin the album with the needle dropping on track one, the Overture, setting the stage for us with samples of children talking over some funky beats. Moving on to The Birth of Rucus, Roboticus keeps the vibe up while getting us prepared already for the plethora of vintage hiphop and children's samples to come , covering everything from the act of mating to the point of conception, and his subsequent birth.

The real fun begins on Baby's First Scratch. Using a presumably-modified See-N-Say we hear reenactments of baby Ruckus' first electronic explorations, although I doubt baby's real first scratches ever sounded this good! And with this, the album really kicks off. The stage is set, the audience knows what it's in for and obviously hasn't turned off the stereo yet, so Roboticus ages himself a few years for When I Grow Up to give us a taste of his young aspirations of being a superstar drumming idol.

As the title track begins, it's obvious we're dealing with a full-grown, healthy, well-adjusted robot, doing as every good robot should and warning human kind of iminent danger. That is, the very real danger of..playing with scratches! Here's where the Kid Koala references really start hitting home for me. It's obvious this DJ has a lot of raw talent and tons of great ideas, not to mention a genuinely eclectic taste for beat progression, sample placement and funky flow in his songs.

How to Handle Grownups doesn't do much to advance the story of Roboticus, but it is a great concept for a song. And well executed, continuing on the theme of children's records and hiphop samples, scratched to perfection. The record endures like this in excellent taste, though as it continues we hear an increasing ammount of funk and drums taking the forefront of the album, with the scratching and samples taking the backburner momentarily. Until Everlasting Ghettoblasting Gobstopper. At this point the album takes a turn for the BOOM! The track starts off seemingly harmless, with a light xylophone and some drums, pretty catchy no doubt. Then it drops, an entirely unique track halfway through. Here we see Roboticus' aspirations to make big beats for hiphop artists coming into play...sort of =) It's not quite studio clean (obviously, given the vinyl samples), and it's a little crashy for the hippedy hop -towards the end, more notably- but the influence is definately present imo.

Then on the next track it's back to the kids, funk and scratching with a refreshing take on the situation by guest Skratchmatic, appropriately titled Taking Turns. All good things must end, however. Bedtime for Sleepyhead begins the wind down after a wild adventure into the robot playground. And if you shook the sleepy out of your eyses after that one get ready for round two, because Face the Music is sure to put you down for the night. Your last hope is the final track, The Rebirth of Ruckus, which is pretty mellow, but still revives the funky beat of the album, followed by a 3 minute Outro of a sound we're probably all too familiar with: a needle idling over the blank center of a record, though this is edited a little so if you forget to turn off the album by the middle of this 3-minute track you'll get to hear at least a little bit of manipulation, and the album ends with a closing sample.

Well done, I say. Very well done indeed. I'm expecting this to make my Year-End '08 list for sure. Before we close, here's some links to related content.

Impose Magazine Interview
Roboticus' Website
Roboticus' MurdockSpace

Hustle! Reggae Disco: Kingston, London, New York

Artist: Various

Album: Hustle! Reggae Disco, Kingston London New York

Label: Soul Jazz Records

Released: 2002 (2xVinyl) / Jan. 2003 (CD)

Style: Reggae, Dub, Disco

Buy From: Soul Jazz, Amazon,


1. Blood Sisters - Ring My Bell (Anita Ward)
2. Derrick Laro & Trinity - Don't Stop Till You Get Enough (Michael Jackson)
3. Latisha - I'm Every Woman (Chaka Khan)
4. Black Harmony - Don't Let it Go to Your Head (Jean Carn)
5. Family Choice - Reggae Beat Goes On (The Whispers)
6. Xanadu & Sweet Lady - Rappers Delight (Sugarhill Gang)
7. Carol Cool - Upside Down (Diana Ross)
8. One Blood - Be Thankful for What You Got (William De Vaughn)

This is a fantastic collection of songs. It's all covers of popular American disco/hip hop from the late 70s and early 80s, done by artists in the UK and Jamaica. All of them were released originally as 12" singles (Track 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) around the same time the originals were still topping the charts. Track 5 was released on Union records, and track 7 on Hawkeye records; both went under in the 80s. All these are very rare tracks you could have easily heard on the dance floor in Kingston, London, New York (hence the name) or any other nightclub with a savvy DJ in the early 80s, but you'd probably have a little trouble tracking down a vinyl copy these days. The fact that Soul Jazz has acquired the rights for all of them to compile this album merits them a big Thank You! from me and reggae fans the world over.

So, what all that means is that here we have a bona-fide, vintage, reggae-dub album essentially from 1979, compiled and released in 2002. And the music really shows it too; slow reggae/dub beats, echoes, layered vocals, and all the little reggae 'pow' noises (you know, like in Serge Gainsbourg's Mauvaises Nouvelles Des Etoiles.) Plus the opening to 'Upside Down' sounds like it's straight out of an NES game. You couldn't ask for a better combination of funky, reggae jams with catchy lyrics that you probably already know anyway.

I've only been sitting on this for a few months now and already it's turned into an instant classic. I keep it readily available for the time when I'm done trying to sift through all the stuff I download each day for gems, the time when I just want to hear something familiar that I already know and love. This album, in the short time I've had it, has already achieved that status and I listen to it often, then find myself humming and even singing out loud throughout my day (Reggae beat goes onnnn..just like my love, everlastiiiing) only to get home and turn it on again to get another taste. Needless to say, this little jammer has carved out a permanent home on my iPod's hard disk. If you're into reggae, despite whether you like the original tracks or not, this comes highly recommended.

Oh and for the record, Soul Jazz released an EP for this album in 2002.

Click here for my HubPages review on this album. Includes videos via YouTube, shopping options from eBay and Amazon, and lots more!