The last four albums in my top 11 of 2008 are getting short-changed. I have had too much on my plate this week. Suffice it to say that these albums are just as strong as the others. I just have less to say about them right now.
Earth “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull”
In 2005, Dylan Carlson’s Earth returned from a seven year hiatus with “Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method,” a sharp departure from the genre-defining droning doom that had built the band’s reputation. Gone were the walls of distortion, and in their stead was a stripped down sound. Where before they had evoked nothing short of a glacier’s slow, unstoppable mass, here the songs brought to mind the oppressive heat of the Deep South, all slow moving rivers and tangled weeds. It’s dark and heavy, but cleaner and, in my opinion, far better.
Earth’s latest album continues the trend that “Hex” started, pulling yet further away from the monstrous power of the older Earth. In the past, guitars had stretched like thunderheads, all dark and booming and massive, but now they ring out Morricone-like and stringy, but still slowed as if passing through the honey in the album’s title. The suffocating heaviness of Earth’s past has given way to a much more interesting focus on melody and structure, and it’s all built on a strong base of drums and organs, the guitars finally sharing the spotlight. This to me is Earth’s finest record, and the first one that has really made an impact on me.
The Cool Kids “The Bake Sale”
I first heard the Cool Kids on their “Black Mags” single, released several months before this ten-song EP. I was caught up by the sound of minimalist hip-hop with screwed-up samples and beats backing up these two guys rapping about their Dynos. When the album finally came out, they followed through on the promise of their single by giving us ten songs of fun-loving retro hip-hop that doesn’t sound like a nostalgia act. Instead of trying to perfectly emulate the sound of an earlier era they pay tribute by rapping in the spirit of the time. Their songs are about being fly and not much else, but each statement of their own greatness is tempered by their self-deprecating humor.
The duo’s voices are quiet, like they were recording their parts at night and trying to not offend the neighbors, and the lines are delivered with a carefree sort of laziness that keeps the album better suited for hanging and playing Madden with your friends than wildin’ out. The music is generally minimal. Traditional 808 beats – many with the screwed up sound of “Black Mags” – form the bulk of the accompaniment, with occasional burps of squelchy bass and stabs of samples appearing from time to time. This isn’t groundbreaking music by any stretch, but it puts a smile on my face like few hip-hop records have recently.