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February 05, 2002 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-05

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 5, 2002
BREAKING RECORDS
REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

BREAKING REcoRDs STAR SYSTEM

E ELS
SOULJACKER
KINETIC RECORDS

* * * * CLASSIC
*** GREAT
FAIR
* * SUB-PAR
* WORTHLESS

T If you missed a week of
BREAKING RECORDS
check the archives at
www.michigandaily. com

! I

By Matthew Weiler
For the Daily
All apologies to the Smashing Pumpkins, but the
Eels' Beautiful Freak is the Mellow Gold of the Prozac
Age. Beck wrote the definitive album about Slacker-
dom, and the Eels made preoccupation with, as opposed
to reaction to, one's suffering and alienation sound just
as anthemic. E, The Eels' often self-tormented lead
singer, has a knack for surrounding his confessional
lyrics in eclectic, symphonic arrangement lush enough
to make Beck jealous. But where Beck is funky and
feckless, E is funky and unflinchingly sardonic. Soul-
jacker continues E's project of combining melancholia,
wry wit and a preternatural obsession with groove.
Eels albums are marked by their prismatic sonic
experimentation. Souljacker is no different: Snorkeling
sounds in "Bus Stop Boxer", the wall of feedback in
"What is this note?" and dueling xylophones in "That's
Not Really Funny." But where 2000's Daisies of the
Galaxy found E and company uncharacteristically
upbeat and sounding surprisingly blithe, Souljacker is
not exactly uplifting, or even novacaine for the soul.
"Fresh Feeling" is the type of song the Eels have mas-
tered over their last two albums. An alluring string loop
threads through hip-hop beats while lyrics about some
sort of droll pastoral are met with only a hint that things
are not as pretty as they sound: "Birds singing a song /
old paint is peeling / this is that fresh / that fresh feelin."
The pat happiness feels ominous, because the darkness
is sure to return. In "Jennifer Eccles" E sounds like the
post-punk Brian Wilson. It is a queasily nostalgic song
about a schoolboy's unrequited love: "Love, kiss, hate or
adore," or so ponders E. "World of Shit" is (yet another)
happy-sad song about a lonely hearted boy from a bro-
ken family ("Daddy was a troubled genius / momma was
a real good egg") looking for a flower in a shit-storm:
"In this world of shit / baby you are it." E's fragile,
raspy vocals, even when affecting a Wilson-esque

melody, convey a brood-ish darkness that is never far
off.
One of the most refreshing, and grating, things about
E is that he insists on looking at the world from an ado-
lescent perspective: "Mom won't take me / Jesus won't
save me / dogface boy" or so complains E on "Dogface
Boy," in his typical mock-serious -fashion. That he sets
these half-assed insights in stunning sonic landscapes
makes the ventures through the school yards and neigh-
borhood curmudgeons of his arrested youth endurable
and, at times, sublime. "Friendly Ghost (Is All I Need),"
set to a startling sonic wash of mellotron and guitar,
nails down the uneasy resolution that all Eels albums
eventually reach: "If you're going to be scared to die /
you better not be scared to live." E has been confronting
the monsters in his anxiety closet for years, that he
neglects to depart much from his usual preoccupations
should not spoil the fact that this is a pretty good, if self-
indulgent, album.
RATING: ***

JAGUAR WRIGHT
DENIALS, DELUSIONS AND
DECISIONS
MCA

By Dustin J. Seibert
Daily Arts Writer

With the so-called "neo-soul"
trend on top in today's music world,
every artist with a headwrap, a "cof-
fee shop" vibe and a penchant for
not conforming to society's stan-
dards is attempting to make their
mark on the music industry. In the
midst of the bourgeoning popularity
of Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and.
India.Arie, newcomer Jaguar Wright
steps up to the plate, and she has to
prove herself as not just another
artist trying to jump on the ship.
Jaguar, however, surpasses her
predecessors on a number of differ-
ent levels. She has a spice about her
that is lost on the other artists. This
woman tells it like it is, and she
doesn't pull her words with concern
of anyone viewing her as less of a
lady. It is as if she says the things
that the others are thinking, but
refuse to place so blatantly in their
lyrics.
In addition, Jaguar can actually

sing better than any of the aforemen-
tioned artists. Her vocal range is
superb, and her voice has enough
soul power to reach Aretha-esque
proportions. None of Badu's whiing
or Macy Gray'sslaying of sheep -
just pure, uncorrupted harmony.
Naysayers should check out her per-
formance on MTV's Jay-Z:
Unplugged - she-absolutely kills it
Beginning her career with The
Roots just like Jill Scott did, Jaguar's
debut album has a heavy influence
from the group and its affiliates.
Brother ?uestlove handles the drums
on half of the album's 12 tracks, and
Hub and Kamal bring their respec-
tive instrumental talents to the cuts:
The incomparable Roots lead

vocalist Black Thought is featured
on "Ain't Nobody Playin"' and "I
Don't Know." He doesn't add to or
take away anything from the album
as a whole, though he delivers nicely
as always. Fellow "neo-soul" artist
Bilal makes an unimpressive guest
appearance on "I Can't Wait," a cut
that's reminiscent of an old Chaka
Khan'song. "Same Shit, Different
Day" is a testament to the bull pad-
dies over a nice melody, and "Self
Love" is a delightfully mellow track
that calls for a bit of personal inde-
pendence.
This is an innovative album in the
respect that Jaguar may be the only
female artist to release a raw record
and not have it be hip-hop, while
also keeping the element of the
music itself at a high quality. This
woman is not some hip-hop whore,
nor is she an R&B priss writing
lyrics to appeal to the mainstream.
She may never see the Billboard Top
10 charts, and she may never
become as popular as her contempo-
raries. But she came leaps and
bounds ahead of most of these artists
with her debut, and in the end, the
truth lies in the tracks themselves.

CORNELIUS
POINT
MATADOR RECORDS

POINT by CORNELIUS

RATING:* * * *

I

By Gina Pensiero
Daily Arts Writer

There's something about Japanese pop. It's either bril-
liant or really completely annoying.
This is certainly true of innovative Japanese artist
Cornelius' (a.k.a. Keigo Oyamada) new album Point,
which is a long-awaited follow up to his 1998 debut Fan-
tasma. However, Cornelius is more enjoyable than both-
ersome, most of the time.
Cornelius uses everything in the album, from voice to
guitar to vocal tweaks, as rhythm, which is an original
technique for a piece of work that is basically reaching to
be considered smart pop. The sound is layered and con-
tains much technological texture.
This is not to say that Cornelius doesn't do his fair
share of surging into sweet harmonies in addition to his
rhythmic approach, as illustrated on tracks like "Smoke"
and "Drop." Other pretty hip tracks include exotic-
sounding "Bird Watching At Inner Forest" and the stac-
cato "Fly."
Really annoying tracks include the ear-grating "Bug,"
the this-computerized-riff-has-gone-on-WAY-too-long
"Another View Point" and scratchy, screechy and gener-
ally displeasing "I Hate Hate."
Tracks that should be really annoying but are somehow
pulled off because Cornelius are "just that cool" and for

ONESIDEZERO
IS THIS ROOM GETTING SMALLER
WARNER BROTHERS
By Sonya Sutherland
Daily Arts Writer
It's easy enough to bash every boyband and
teenage pop diva that corporate America markets to
American youth. About as easy as it is to overlook
each brand of rock that corporate mainstream has
stickered, packaged, and put on the shelf. But out of
the rap-rock, jock-rock, nu metal, hard-core, punk
and whatever else is a profitable market at the time,
a new sound always manages to surface. Welcome to
the age of emo and a record that deserves all the
trite praise that its publicity pack boasts.
LA's onesidezero's first offering, Is This Room
Getting Smaller is a pleasant return to the concept
album - a record that presents itself as parts of a
whole. Rather than providing the usual three chord
combinations and random collection of could-be
radio hits that seem to be so dominate in the rock
world of today, Is This Room Getting Smaller is a
complex, acoustic-based musical journey that
explores a wide spectrum of guitar riffs instead of
rehashing the same old hard core hooks. Onesideze-

ro describe
themselves as
"melodic hard
rock." Suc-
c e s s f ull I y
encompassing
melody with
the appropri-
ate distortion,
the musical
arrangement
supports Rad-
ford's array of
emotions in a
surprisingly
forceful manner. Devoid of any incomprehensible
lyrics or hoarse screaming, Radford coveys his inner
turmoil with not only his ability to carry a tune but
a dynamic range that furthers the strength of this
record.
Radford's vocal prowess, backed by what truly can
be considered a successfully guitar-based album,
makes Is this Room Getting Smaller a strong con-
tender for the album which will bring emo even fur-
ther into the mainstream and is well worth the
money or time spent finding it on the net.
RATING: **

0
0
a

that matter, on Matador, are the audiophile's dream.
Reference songs like "Point of View Point" and
"Brazil," which sounds like a rip-off of Radiohead's "Fit-
ter Happier" Fred-speak voice, except with pitch control.
When it comes down to it, if you're a fan of indie,
Japanese things, Matador, pseudonyms, texture or any of
these in combination, you'll probably dig Point. Well,
most of it, at least.
RATING : * *

L a

41

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