I was really excited for Firewater’s latest album, especially after I heard that he ran off to travel the world again to record it much like he did when creating his amazing 2008 album “The Golden Hour”. However, I’ve given it several listens now and I gotta say I’m rather disappointed. Musically it’s much like the world-punk style of “The Golden Hour” which normally would be grand but for some reason on “International Orange” most of Tod A.’s wonderful pathos is missing.
The lyrics themselves are definitely part of the problem. Most of “International Orange” is full of generic sounding calls to revolution rather than the angry heart-baring shouts to sky, personal laments, and biting wit that made prior Firewater albums so gripping. There is no song like “This is My Life” on the album with it’s sorrow-filled punch in the heart that somehow amazingly also feels like celebration:
I’ve never cared for authority
I’ve never felt part of the majority
Well I lost my home
And I lost my wife
This is no joke
Yeah, this is my life
This is my life
In contrast, here are the lyrics to “Up from the Underground”
Well you can shut us up
But you can’t shut us down
Cause we are coming up
From the underground
You can chop down the tree
But you can’t kill the seed
A few molotov cocktails are all that we need
You can lock us up
But you can’t lock us down
This PopMatters review by John M. Tryneski really says it best:
“These songs lack any specificity of insight about the current moment or, failing that, any sort of timeless relatability that could transcend the day’s events. Instead we’re just left with boilerplate laments about hard times and vague warnings aimed at a generic ‘them’ from an equally unspecific ‘us’.”
There are a few fun songs on the album — “The Monkey Song” and “Strange Life” — but yeah it’s mostly disappointing… but hey every artist has a meh album or two or three and Tod A has quite an amazing back catalog which still rocks strong years later. And judging by Firewater’s prior concerts I’m sure the live show (Independent Sept 29th) will still kick ass. I personally can’t wait to boogie to “The Monkey Song”.
I want to like Spoek Mathambo’s latest album, I really do. Upon watching the Father Creeper Album Trailer I conceptually really like where he is taking his music. I also liked his last album in a “damn this is good and should be good as his music matures more” kinda way. It’s obvious that Spoek was trying to push in more directions musically which is good as the last was rather one jarring electro rap note (a good jarring electro rap note but still). However, the new album never gels nor rises above meh. I’ve listened to the album 2-3 times now and while there are a couple tracks that stand out for the most part it’s a muddy mess of sounds that never finds it’s groove. Also there is too much emo-ish indie guitar which frankly doesn’t work with Spoek’s monotone singing style.
As I like to do sometimes, I took a gander at various site reviews for the album and most seemed to give it a decent review though I sensed that most of them gave the album a point or two because they wanted to like it. Pitchfork, which I don’t always agree with gave one of the more honest reviews which I feel is frankly pretty spot on (Pitchfork Review of Father Creeper).
I primarily use this blog to shout about great music, but not all music is great and sometimes a band I love truly disappoints — often unsurprisingly on their sophomore release. Die Antwoord is one of those bands.
Their first album was a raw we don’t care about you head bashing punk spiked rave rap. It wasn’t a masterpiece but it was certainly original and brilliant in places in the very least for it’s shear audacity. The beats that infused the album were rave to be sure but they felt more like raw backdrops for Ninja & Yo-Landi’s madness.
Their new album “Ten$ion” is more rave than rap. Here the rave takes center stage with a number of songs (“Fatty Boom Boom”, “DJ Hi-Tek Rulez”, etc etc ) dedicated to the beats rather than the raps. And the songs which are more focused on Ninja & Yo-Landi’s raps sound like generic 90s techno remixes. Unfortunately, when DJ Hi-Tek’s beats are placed in the limelight as they are on this album it all sounds stale and the dull beats dull the cutting madness of Ninja &Yo-Landi.
There are still a few good tracks on this album like “Fok Julle Naaiers” and “I Fink U Freeky” (which is still a rave-tastic song but it’s so over the top that the 90s rave irony collapses it’s quantum wave state and somehow becomes good again). Sadly the highlights are marred by everything else.
Interestingly, Die Antwoord ditched Interscope prior to this album because Interscope was pressing them to turn their sound more generic. Makes me wonder if it would have been a better album.
Die Antwoord — Ten$ion
I’ve been thinking of getting myself a pair of on ear headphones for a while. Typically I use earbuds; namely, the trusty JVC Marshmallows which are hands down the best under $20 pair of earbuds you can buy. The sound quality of the JVCs are more like $50+ earbuds and they are more sturdy than any earbuds I’ve ever owned — have yet have a pair break on me, even when stepped on and sent through the wash.
As much as I like my JVCs they don’t quite have the bass response required for some of the music I listen too. This of course lead to the search for a pair of real headphones.
My requirements for headphones:
- as close to $100 as possible.
- mic/volume control
- nice design
- good quality sound
- closed speaker (I don’t like my music leaking out nor outside sounds leaking in)
Obviously this is pretty much everyone’s list. The market is glutted with ~$100 headphones that are either ugly or have piss poor sound or are flimsy or all of the above. Humorously when I stopped at Best Buy one of the display headphones of another brand I had been looking at was broken.
After, researching online I came across two really good reviews for the Sol Republic Tracks on XLR8R and Engadget. Sol Republic are new guys on the market. A bit more searching and I came up several good reviews for these. This was basically good enough for me so I stopped researching, went to Best Buy, and picked a pair up in glorious red.
My Experience Thus Far:
- I’m in love with the design. Simple and minimal. Though I may have gone for a bit less gloss on the sides — counterpoint: the gloss is so pronounced I could use us it as a mirror if I ever choose to start wearing lipstick or eye liner.
- Note, I like the red/black and white/black versions, but if you are the type that wants to customize and is willing to pay for it, Colorware offers a plethora of options to customize your Sol Republic Tracks.
- Feels sturdy and well really well built.
- Damn good sound quality especially with more bass heavy music.
- Acoustic music is a bit overblown by the bass but in my experience other headphones are worse at this (I’m looking at you SkullCandy). And at least the mids are still there unlike the crap overpriced Beats by Dr Dre. Typically, just setting the iPhone’s EQ to acoustic solves the problem for me on the Tracks.
- Pretty comfortable though ears feel a bit crushed after a few hours of use, which might not be as big of an issue for people with smaller heads than mine, nor is it an issue for people who don’t sit with headphones on for hours on end like me. This is a pretty normal problem with most on-ear style so I’m not too annoyed about it. Also, I can shift them forward slightly on my ears which alleviates most of it.
- Microphone works pretty well except in noisy environments where it craps out. A lot of headphone mics are crap no matter what the environment so this works for me.
To sum it all up I’m really happy with them and and think my $100 was quite well spent. I’ve been quite enjoying going through my music and re-experiencing it though these. Also, if you are in the market for new earbuds check out the Sol Republic Amps as they have gotten good reviews too — though I still love my JVCs.