Tag Archives: RZA

Hot Routes: Conference Edition

18 Jan

NFL Playoffs: Conference Week

Even though there’s only two games this week, we didn’t want to go light on the musical offerings.  So instead of hot tracks, you get two hot albums to go with your playoff picks.  Hot cuts from today and yesterday.

 

 

AFC Conference:  Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

The Pick:  Ravens (+9)

The Album:  Foe by Man Without Country

Man Without Country’s album Foe came out a couple of years ago, so they’re not exactly a brand-new discovery.  They are, however, building up some momentum as 2013 begins, and may very well start to follow the same gradual-then-explosive path of cultural ascension that M83 took in 2011-12.  The reference to M83 is not a casual one – MWC’s music shares a lot of sonic similarities with the French artist, and they were also an opening act on several legs of the M83 headlining tour last year.  With Foe, MWC also made one connection to M83 very clear – both groups are capable of making stirring records that find beautiful noise amongst the collisions between pop, rock, and electronic music.

Much of Foe is drenched in synthesizers, and there’s a heady electronic pulse beating throughout the album.  Many songs feature rhythms and hard-edged beats that any dancehall producer would be lucky to have, and it’s clear that MWC understands how to rock a fucking party.  That’s not the only thing they’re able to do, though, and it’s not the most striking thing about Foe.

Underneath all the shiny effects and lazerbeam synths, MWC have the immediate and dynamic sound of a well-honed rock band.  This allows them potential access to the grand-scale soundscapes that powerful bands can hit – the kind of soaring, heady, climactic moments in which the artists create, fill, and destroy entire arenas within your speakers.  In other words, they have the potential to get on some next-level shit.

On Foe, they manage to grab hold of that potential at points, and the results are excellent.  The album closes with “Inflammable Heart” and if that song is any indication of where MWC is going next, they’re going to be the ones headlining world tours sooner rather than later.  It demands to be seen live, preferably coupled with other expansive high points featured on tracks like “Puppets” and “King Complex.”

Foe is not a perfect record, and there are times when the limitations of a young band show through.  There is a lot of room to grow.  But the ceiling is incredibly high, and MWC appears ready to climb.

 

 

 

NFC Divisional: San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons

The Pick:  Falcons (+5)

The Album:  Tical by Method Man

Method Man was one of the most visible members of Wu-Tang from the group’s beginning; even within a hip-hop collective stacked with head-spinning singular talents like Ghostface, Raekwon and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the laid-back, deceptively simple flow of Meth compelled an irresistible interest whenever it appeared against another RZA backdrop.  The Clan knew this as much as anyone – Meth was given one of only two solo tracks on 36 Chambers, and that gesture was underlined by naming the track simply “Method Man.”

It’s not a coincidence that “Method Man” is one of the most enjoyable tracks on that classic album, and that Tical, Meth’s solo debut, is one of the best records to come out of that heady early-Wu period.

There are some clear reasons why Method Man was a critical and fan favorite as soon as the Wu landed.  First, Method Man’s delivery and lyrics seemed uniquely suitable for the grimy and multi-layered production aesthetic of group mastermind the RZA.  The Wu beats were dirty in the best possible sense – the bass hits weren’t clean or shoved to the forefront, but they got down and hit a primal level that few other hip-hop artists could touch.  RZA’s sound had a deceptive, made-in-the-basement feel to it; the lack of polish on the production belied the multi-layered craftsmanship working swiftly just below the surface.

Meth’s flow shared these production qualities and thus ran rampant all over the beats RZA gave him – his raspy voice and delivery put words to the dark, weird, hard, and always entertaining feel of the music, and his just-relaxed-enough lyrical tempo hid a brilliantly deft lyricist who shifted signatures to his whim and crafted undeniable hooks wherever he pleased.

It was often easy to hear the wicked glee in Meth’s lyrics, as though every time he stepped into the booth he was in the midst of one big, enjoyable house party.  On all of Meth’s early collaborations with RZA, most notably Tical, it sounds as if the fun in the vocals booth was infectious – RZA couldn’t help but match the energy with some of the tightest and most darkly enjoyable productions he’s ever laid down.  When two visionary artists can get on the same level like that, classics are made.

 

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