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Album Picks: Frank Ocean, Blanche Blanche Blanche, Jeff the Brotherhood, Plus Albums Out Today

Posted by Billy Gil, July 17, 2012 04:18pm | Post a Comment
Album Picks:

Frank Ocean Channel OrangeFrank Ocean’s music touches such a raw nerve because it’s the rare album that fully appeals on a here-and-now pop level while referencing classic pop — in this case, pop and soul maestros like Stevie Wonder and Elton John — and offering something else entirely. This something else is that human, overexposed, heart-and-mind-on-sleeve content that firmly roots Channel Orange in the social network era. I was late to the game; the first time I heard “Thinkin Bout You” was the day before Ocean very publicly came out of the closet. That happenstance was strange for me — the thing that first struck me about the song, aside from its obvious craft, the kind of instantly memorable hit that combines a suave, easy to follow melody and arrangement with dagger-in-the-heart lyrics, was an indescribable “third” quality beyond music and lyrics that I usually find with my favorite music, whether it’s The Smashing Pumpkins, The Beatles or, perhaps more relatedly, morose ’90s/'00s R&B hits like PM Dawn’s “Die Without You,” Fabolous & Tamia’s “So Into You,” Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor” and so on. It’s that sort of feeling that hits you immediately and reminds you of all the stupid unrequited crushes, moments of indirection, and fleeting feelings of serenity in youth. That Ocean possibly wrote the song about his own unrequited same-sex love made sense to me, since that’s pretty much what the song reminded me of. But beyond any personal affiliation with the song, the ability to communicate such universal but difficult to pin down feelings so instantly is quite rare, and so thus should be treasured in the way rave reviews have been pouring in for Channel Orange. Indeed, I think “Thinkin Bout You” is the best song anyone will release this year, and Channel Orange likely will be the album of the year. Beyond that opening instant classic, Channel Orange brims with power. Take the lush Marvin Gaye-meets-How to Dress Well-meets-Kanye West depiction of new parenthood in “Sierra Leone,” its lyrics offering a welcome balance of vagueness and detail devoid of judgment, communicating feelings of joy and trepidation. He celebrates and also exposes the lives of privileged black youth in a seemingly realistic way, beyond the bling-style fantasies of much of hip-hop, in songs like “Sweet Life” and the brilliant “Super Rich Kids,” which sounds like a hip-hop “Benny and the Jets” playing over an episode of the similarly revelatory reality show “Baldwin Hills.” He creates an sprawling, Kanye-style centerpiece with “Pyramids,” an epic track buoyed by raunchy synth riffs that turn glittering in the song’s sweetly disintegrating second half. And he continues to explore his evolving sexuality on a trio of closing ballads, in which he sounds as comfortable and natural singing about love between men, and between men and women. Though that doesn’t at all overshadow the rest of the album, which has more merits in spades to stand on its own, it can’t be ignored, either, as a huge moment for hip-hop — for all music — as a knocking down of barriers in music, sexuality and male image through some of the most dazzling, yet thoughtful pop music being made today.


 
 
OK, enough about how great Frank Ocean is. Here’s another artist who could probably actually use another person talking about them: Blanche Blanche Blanche, from Vermont’s Zach Phillips and Sarah Smith. Their Wink With Both Eyes has been out a little while, but Pitchfork’s recent review prompted me to check it out and boy, I’m smitten. Super lo-fi antics, similar in sound to an Ariel Pink but with the playfulness of a Unicorns and the cool girl vocals of a Broadcast. They remind me quite a bit, too, of The Fiery Furnaces at their best, especially when Phillips jumps in for some vocals alongside Smith, although it’s more in restless spirit than sound. Anyway, if you like any of the aforementioned, by hook or by crook, you have to get this album. I saw one copy on the floor at Amoeba Hollywood; not sure about the other two stores, but you can also order it from us here. Really just mind-bending, haunting stuff, probably will be one of my favorites of this year. Apparently Phillips has a bunch of other projects too, like Bruce Hart, Horse Boys, GDC and Jordan Piper Philips, which I’ll now have to check out after listening to this album constantly.


 
jeff the brotherhoodReleased today was Jeff the Brotherhood’s Hypnotic Nights. The band’s anthemic rock ‘n’ roll resonates so well because their synth-tinged, nerdy fuzz rock never really went out of style, it just sort of disappeared for a while, as Weezer aimed for Beverly Hills and bands like Grandaddy dropped off entirely. Thanks to bands like MGMT and Jeff the Brotherhood, fist-pumpers for the rest of us are alive and well, like Hypnotic Nights’ irrepressible “Sixpack,” whose lyrics “I wanna cool out/and get wasted” sound like nerds finally coming of age and buying booze for the first time while listening to too much Cars and Black Sabbath (is there such a thing?). With The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach producing, real-life brothers Jake and Jamin Orral are surprisingly adept at changing things up, too, like the classic lo-fi indie rock vibes of the awesomely titled “Mystic Portal II,” which starts out with a Guided By Voices/Built to Spill style entry before launching into a beautifully melodic power ballad that ends in guitar-sitar loveliness. And songs like “Staring at the Wall” call out their psychedelia roots with heavy flanged guitars. Sorry if you peaked in high school; the A/V club kids always end up having more fun down the line.

 

Also Out Today:

 
Animal KingdomAnimal KingdomThe Looking Away
 
Animal Kingdom produce some of the sweetest, sleekest Britpop you’ll hear on The Looking Away, balancing pop smarts and expert balladry in songs like “The Wave.” Fans of Coldplay, Of Monsters and Men, and Sigur Ros, take note.
 





 
Baroness Yellow and GreenBaroness
Yellow & Green
 
Though Yellow & Green is metal band Baroness’ most accessible release yet, they haven’t lost any of the drive that have made them a favorite of diehard metal fans and indie music fans alike. Yellow & Green is melodic enough to be on rock radio — just check out the wave-like melodies and guitarwork on “March to the Sea,” complete with country-esque riffery floating below the din. But it’s also plenty tough, as John Baizley’s vocals rarely leave the low jaw-singing range and guitars, while lovely when they relent, as on the driving hard rock of “Little Things,” they rarely do.
 

 
can unlimited editionCan
Unlimited Edition and Flow Motion
 
Reissues of Can albums — Unlimited Edition collected previously unreleased Can tracks, while Flow Motion is their eighth studio album, featuring the jam “I Want More.”
 







The Dark Knight RisesThe Dark Knight Rises Soundtrack
 
Music composed by Hans Zimmer.
 








 
MatisyahuMatisyahu
Spark Seeker
 
Matisyahu’s Spark Seeker reintroduces the performer not as the Hasidic Jewish rap poster boy but as he should be heard — a pop artist who informs his music with elements of roots reggae, hip-hop and Judaism. Songs like “Sunshine” and “I Believe in Love” are positive to the core, espousing the importance of joy, love and spirituality over buoyant reggae backbeats that will land these songs everywhere from pop radio to religious retreats.



 
john mausJohn
MausA Collection Of Rarities & Previously Unreleased Material

It’s just as the title says, with 16 tracks composed by the cerebral yet goofy John Maus over the past decade or so. Key track “Bennington” boasts a raunchy synth groove and lyrics like “I miss those funky eyes.”
 

 





milo greeneMilo GreeneMilo Greene
 
Milo Greene is a set of beautifully crafted songs that make the most of the band’s five-person set-up, taking cues from the Fleet Foxes as each musician contributes to the band’s folky soundscapes and lush harmonies. Check out the band’s live streaming performance at Amoeba (and Amoeba.com) tonight at 7 p.m. and read my interview with them here.
 



 
nas life is goodNas
Life is Good
 
One of the greatest MCs of all time returns with his 10th studio album, with production by Salaam Remi and No I.D., and appearances by Rick Ross, Mary J. Blige and the late Amy Winehouse.
 

 





smashing pumpkins pisces iscariotSmashing PumpkinsPisces Iscariot (Reissue)
 
So excited about this one, maybe even more so than the recent Gish and Siamese Dream reissues. Fans have long known Pisces Iscariot, the Pumpkins’ 1994 B-sides album, to be as strong as anything in their catalog. So great to have it on vinyl, and in a deluxe edition with additional tracks such as their dynamite cover of Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue,” early new wave jam “My Dahlia” and an awesome live version of non-album psych-punk jam “Slunk.”
 


 
The Very BestThe Very BestMTMTMK
 
The second album from duo The Very Best is a genre-hopping world music mashup of ideas, incorporating afropop, reggae, hip-hop and house music.
 

Oscar Nomination Predictions 2011

Posted by Amoebite, January 24, 2011 10:17am | Post a Comment
Well, it's finally Awards Season, and three of our most fervent Oscar fans have major opinions about who will be nominated, who should be nominated, and who desperately needs a hair cut before the big day! Read on for Oscar Nomination Predictions from Amoeba employees and admitted Oscar nerds Sally, Brad and Jackie.anne hathaway james franco

Sally: Like last year, this year's hosts are somewhat controversial: Anne Hathaway and James Franco. What do you two think -- how will they do? I am not sure what to think, but I am guessing there will be some musical numbers involved! It'll be interesting for sure, and I'm all for the Academy skewing young. After his Golden Globes hosting/razzing, I am sure the Academy is breathing a sigh of relief they didn't pick Ricky Gervais!

Brad: I love both James Franco and Anne Hathaway so I am pretty excited. It sure is much different then the years of Steve Martin or Billy Crystal. It was very common for them to have 2 or 3 hosts in the 50's & 70's. I am excited they are going back to that format. There really is nobody like Bob Hope or Billy Crystal that can really do what they did, and Franco and Hathaway are not comics so it will be interesting, but they are funny. It will be interesting to see how they play off each other and how it all works out. I do love Ricky Gervais but he was a bit too mean for an awards show. It is ok to make fun of Tom Cruise but you shouldn't make fun of Johnny Depp & Angelina Jolie. But everything he said [while hosting the Golden Globes] was basically true! It was a bit ridiculous to have The Tourist nominated as best comedy! I am hoping for a Freaks and oscarsGeeks reunion on stage at the Oscars. I would love to see Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, & Busy Phillips all on stage!
 
Jackie: I’m a fan of the two-host arrangement, and prefer they be of the opposite sex. Did you know last year’s ceremony was supposed to be Tina Fey with Steve Martin? Anne Hathaway & James Franco—I feel they’re respected actors who don’t take themselves too seriously. I don’t expect them to improvise, so the Oscar show writers better have some great stuff.

Sally: Tina Fey would be such a great hostess for the show. Maybe they will get her to do it eventually. What 10 films do you guys think will be nominated for Best Picture for sure? I am guessing Black Swan, Social Network, King's Speech, The Kids Are Alright, The Fighter, Inception, Toy Story 3, maybe Somewhere? What else am I forgetting?

Brad: Yes, I think all the Golden Globe nominated dramas will get an Oscar nomination for Best black swan movie posterPicture for sure. Those would be Social Network, Black Swan, King's Speech, Inception, & The Fighter. And I think those would probably be the 5 if there were still only 5. Although I can't imagine they wouldn't nominate True Grit. That would probably take the spot of The Fighter if there were only 5. So I think 3 of the last 5 will be True Grit, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, for sure. The others I am not so sure about. I would like to see Blue Valentine and Winter's Bone included in the 10. But I am betting it will be The Town & 127 Hours, unless Rabbit Hole and Ghost Writer somehow sneak in there!
 
Jackie: Here are my predictions:
(1)Animal Kingdom    
(2)Another Year    
(3)Barney’s Version            
(4)Black Swan      
(5)The Fighter      
(6)Inception      
(7)The King’s Speech      
(8)The Social Network    
(9)Toy Story 3    
(10)True Grit 

Another Year or Barney’s Version could be replaced by any of these: The Town, Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right, Rabbit Hole, or The Way Back.

Sally: Now that we've had a year of having 10 films nominated for Best Picture, what do you guys think about it? Is it a move for the better?
blue valentine
 
Brad: I think it is a move for the better. I loved that movies like District 9 & Serious Man got to be in the Best Picture race last year. It is interesting that there is no movie like The Blindside that will probably be in the 10 -- no movie for everyone to complain about! Unless something like The Tourist or Burlesque sneaks in there. But that won't happen. I think it probably helps with the ratings and it might help some smaller movies get some more exposure. It would be great for Blue Valentine or Rabbit Hole and Winter's Bone or Animal Kingdom to get in to the group of 10 and get some more exposure.
 
Jackie: I am still a fan of the ten-nominee system. It’s a boost for all--film box office & telecast ratings.  I say, keep it going!