Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

VNV Nation - Judgement, Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero

There are a host of reasons I decided to put both of these in the same post. One, I didn’t feel like making two seperate posts on essentially the same topic. Two, they’re both albums that came out last week, and which I bought on iTunes shortly thereafter. So this is the first time I can recall that I’ve posted about something less than a month late. I generally like to chew on things for a while before writing about them, ever since I gave Need for Speed: Underground a glowing review, then started to hate it because of the cheating rubberband AI. But there’s a point where I stop digesting information and forming opinions, and just start getting lazy.

Thematically, there are some similarities: Year Zero is a post-apocalyptic concept album, and in typical VNV fashion, Judgement is something I can only describe as pre-apocalyptic - “You probably won’t listen, but stop acting like morons or we’re all hosed. It’d be pretty cool if you did, though.”, that sort of thing. It’s what they do.

The other commonality between the two is that they’re both from bands that I’ve liked for a while, but had disappointing albums last time around. I thought Matter + Form was basically the “Chrome” single with a one or two decent B-sides and half an hour of electro-pop filler. With-a Teeth-a wasn’t necessarily bad, in fact listening to it I didn’t think it was any worse than the other NIN albums that I’d enjoyed. I just couldn’t get into it, and at the time I thought I just didn’t like Nine Inch Nails anymore.

Happily, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Year Zero has a harder, more cacophanous edge than most of Trent Reznor’s old material - some things on The Fragile come close - but more than anything the sound of it is best described as The Downward Spiral before it got shoved into the blender. It’s good solid industrial music, without the gunk getting in the way. It’s like listening to a bunch of assholes pushing every button in the Home Depot power tools aisle, but at least they’re coordinated and the acoustics in the room are nice.

Judgement bogs down in some kind of whiny hypno-trace filler on two tracks in the middle, and it’s unfortunately short. Beyond that, it’s their best album in years. The good songs on here, and out of ten tracks that’s about six of them, are easily on par with anything I’ve heard from them before. Aside from the afforementioned lull, the songs are typically VNV preachy without being so much so that I fast forward. They have a tendency sometimes to take the schitck too far, but when they keep it in check and the music is as solid as it is here, I’ve got no complaints.

Macromantics - Moments in Movement

I get into music for the weirdest reasons. I actually started listening to Thievery Corporation because of a guy’s dorm room door, freshmen year at UMBC. He had a bunch of band stickers and posters taped to the outside of the door, and since I liked some of the other ones he had up, I figured I’d give Thievery Corporation a shot. Turns out they rule.

In a no less bizarre story,  I was watching one of the EVE Online Goonfleet videos on YouTube (here), and really liked the background music - the song I’m referring to starts about a minute in. Liked it so much, actually, that I finally broke down and bought something off of iTunes.

Macromantics (AKA Romy Hoffman) is, in a nutshell, everything Lady Sovereign was supposed to be. A young, talented, female MC from a (in this case, former, as she’s Australian) member of the British Empire. But Lady Sovereign fell into the trap of girl MCs. Namely, harping about how much money it’s going to cost for you to see her boobs (see also Foxy Brown, who’s appearance on “Ain’t no Nigga” is the only bad part of Reasonable Doubt), or feeling some deep-set need to prove that she can be just as foul-mouthed and vulgar as any male rapper while acting like a tremendous skank, or just plain being terrible. Macromantics avoids that business, and is just plain good, regardless of gender or nationality.

It certainly helps her case that whoever produced this album is a goddamned genius. If you haven’t already, watch the YouTube video above - the beat on that song (”Locksmith”) is just retarded awesome. I’m a sucker for a good beat, which is part of why I love Dan the Automater and the RZA, and outside of those two, the production on this is as good as any I’ve heard.

As an MC, she’s not perfect (”Eerily Spookily” kind of sucks), but there’s no denying that overall she’s really, really, good. I like her voice and delivery, and while her lyrics aren’t in the same league as my benchmark artists, Del the Funky Homosapien and Talib Kweli, she does rhyme “laconic” with “hyperbolic”, which is pretty sweet.

If you’re into rap/hip-hop, give Macromantics a shot. If nothing else, if she does become the Next Big Thing, you can say you liked it before it was cool? As luck would have it, Macromantics are playing the Ottobar in Baltimore, on March 26th. Becki and I already have tickets.