Since Danny Brown launched from relative obscurity to stardom with his excellent mixtape XXX, it follows that his sophomore release should see the rapper sand the edges of his sound from his Internet-rap roots. Not so fast. Danny Brown’s Old doesn’t curb the weirdness that made XXX such a delight; it doubles down on it. The same highwire delivery and tight jeans that made 50 Cent balk at signing the dude are still going strong, though the humor of his previous work is turned down in favor of more straightforward storytelling—and as if in a bit for seriousness, Brown even includes “Side A” and “B” interludes to signify the break between the more laid-back first half and molly-addled crazy second half. Of course, Brown has just learned how to incorporate his wit into the songs more—“Wonderbread” is only slightly more horrifying than funny, about the perils of even going out for bread in the Detroit ghetto where he grew up, whereas the mind-bending “Lonely,” which features a sample from obscure French artist Morice Benin, sees Brown claiming his identity brilliantly (“Hipster by heart but I can tell you how the streets feel” he says, subtly reffing his childhood, selling drugs and time in prison without boasting). Brown’s collaborators—from the indie-minded Purity Ring to fellow rapper Schoolboy Q and especially the grime-influenced wunderkind Scruffizer, on the awesome “Dubstep”—aid in making Old a multifaceted affair. Producer Oh No (of Stones Throw duo Gangrene) helps set the stage for some of Old’s most striking tracks, like the Radiohead-ish “Gremlins” and manic “Red 2 Go,” though Brown at least shares the producer’s chair on each song. He offers some turn of phrase or stellar bit of production on every song, keeping you hooked on Old and hitting the replay button even after 19 tracks.
Trying to narrow down my favorite 2012 "What's In My Bag?" videos is a little bit like asking me to choose my favorite children. Each one is special and unique in its own way. But 'tis the season of "Best Of" lists, so here is my attempt at naming the top WIMBs from 2012, listed according to date posted because, really, picking 10 was hard enough.
Peanut Butter Wolf - January 3, 2012
We kicked off 2012 with a monster of a WIMB featuring DJ, producer, Stones Throw founder and Amoeba regular Peanut Butter Wolf, who had so many items he renamed the episode "What's In My Boxes." Missed some of his selections? Check out his full list here.
John Flansburgh - March 5, 2012
The guitarist and co-founder of They Might Be Giants, John Flansburgh, did a "show and tell" at Amoeba Hollywood, selecting reissues by The Zombies, Blossom Dearie, and The Hollies, plus California funk by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Band. After posting the video, we found out that half of John's picks from this Amoeba trip, and other records he'd picked up while on tour, were unfortunately burned in a trailer fire. See John's full list of picks here.
Recorded with longstanding Sonic Youth producer John Agnello, Between The Times and The Tides is a shimmering and melodic tapestry of rock sounds. Ranaldo’s trademark alternate-tuning guitar work is at the forefront; it is amplified by brilliant guitar work from Wilco’s Nels Cline on almost every track. The all-star lineup also includes Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums, Alan Licht on guitar, and John Medeski on keyboards. There are also cameos from former Sonic Youth cohorts, drummer Bob Bert and producer/instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke.
You can also see him later that night at Brick and Mortar.