More musical musing

The MedicinePlanet AsiaBy Dave Sachs Fresno, California’s Planet Asia has the prescription for wack hip-hop with “The Medicine.” One half of Cali Agents (the other half being Rasco), the MC’s newest disc caps off his trilogy project (the first two being “The Sickness” and “The Diagnosis”) with confident insightful flows and tight, forceful beats. Dilated Peoples’ Evidence produced every track on the album and does so with symphonic, electronic and disco-style samples that are underscored by resounding drum backbones, lending to the creed that it’s hard for seasoned veterans of the game to fail when they collaborate. Shrewd lyrics and a smooth delivery help too. “The Medicine” is not only for your ears, but for the mind as well, as Asia alludes to curing society’s ailments: “rules of a revolutionary, I believe in totality/whatever’s in the mind can be easily brought to reality/in all actuality, I’m the cream of the earth and father of your Adam tree/and it can all be proven mathematically.” Not to say that there’s no malicious deviance to be had on this record-it’s not all so politically driven. The hottest beat on the LP, “The Medicine,” is backed up by more street-centered lyrics of violence and coming up in the game, with a reference to Planet Asia’s own race and religious persuasion, and his reliable shotgun: “all brand new would be the black Jew, n—-s can’t f–k with my view/how I maneuver through, lickin’ off at your Subaru/then my bark turns pit bulls to Scooby-Doo.” Other standouts tracks include “Over Your Head,” featuring Black Thought (The Roots) and “Stick and Move” featuring Prodigy; as if Planet Asia even needed big-name help on “The Medicine.” The Crane WifeThe DecemberistsBy Stephen R. Hausmann “Indie” no more, The Decemberists’ major label debut (having signed with Capitol last winter) has the quintet forging ahead from 2005’s decent though at times overdone, “Picaresque.” With traditional Decemberists fullness of sound, “The Crane Wife” has Colin Meloy and company venturing away from folk rock and into the complex, lengthy waters of prog-rock. But despite venturing to new places, The Decemberists retain their signature lyrical style. A lullaby about murderous hordes, a tale of forbidden love, and laments on a torturous war-classic all high light the Decemberists sound and can be heard on “The Crane Wife.” The most striking feature of the album however, are the 10 minute and longer epics “The Crane Wife 1 and 2” and “The Island-Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning.” Title matching song length, the latter weaves and bends from acoustic guitar-driven build up to a Yes-like keyboard solo at the climax. “The Crane Wife 1 and 2” and “The Crane Wife 3” make up the “heart” (as Meloy called it in a recent interview) of the album. Based on a Japanese folk tale, the three-part saga (divided between two songs) tells of a crane rescued by a peasant and, well, Meloy wouldn’t approve of spoiling the surprise, but finding out for oneself is anything but a chore. As usual, The Decemberists weave their stories into catchy, joyous melodies and coat them in a lush instrumentation including accordions and an upright bass. One of the most consistent bands today, The Decemberists win another battle in the war against musical boredom with “The Crane Wife.”The InformationBeckBy Casey Palmer Since his breakthrough single “Loser” in the early 90s, Beck has established himself to be an eccentric genre-bender and, at times, outrageously experimental. “The Information” makes little effort to distort those views. The 16-track album, complete with do-it-yourself stickers to customize the album cover, takes the listener on a trippy, transcendental ride. Expectedly, Beck includes voice samples and computer generated sound effects on his seventh disc. The majority of which are based on a backdrop of lively percussion beats, allowing him to keep a steady pulse in which to weave in and out the innovative tone for which he’s known. “Elevator Music” jumps immediately into a quasi hip-hop experimental electronic beat and absurd lyrics-but it’s a comfortable, emotive dive. The tempo continues to move up and down through the tracks of the album, keeping an enjoyable pace. “We Dance Alone” and “Cellphone’s Dead” almost definitively implore you to pop a glow stick into your mouth and start a mini-rave in your room, while “New Round” expresses the loss of a day’s significance: “Lessons of the day/On a blackboard night/Seem to be erased,” Beck sings. Beck raps too-and gets away with it as usual. “Dark Star,” “We Dance Alone,” and “1000BPM” showcase Beck’s unique rhyming technique, which seems unorthodox at first, but it’s nothing new for the man with two turntables and a microphone. So, hey! Even though Beck is a practicing Scientologist we won’t be placing him in that group of Californian sell-outs anytime soon, or ever, as “The Information” informs us.Sam’s TownThe KillersJordan Thorson “Sam’s Town” is desolate. The Killers’ latest disc is evocative of the band everyone used to know, but with a different feel. The poppy, techno-influenced, stadium-rock that made them a household name is more of a whisper on the new LP. The guitar presence is a little heavier, the album cover is Foo Fighters-esque, and apparently they’ve all grown beards. What happened? It’s as if “Hot Fuss” wasn’t a success and they felt their image needed altering-but why mess with success? The Killers’ former hits, “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” made the top of the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom because of their upbeat sound. It was that sound that made them famous, played everywhere from middle school dances to nightclubs. Though most of the lyrics on “Sam’s Town” would still be all too appropriate for middle schoolers (“Reminds me of you and I baby, at one point in time/And just like a river, like a river flowin’, into a waterfall”), the tone just isn’t the dance club material that the public fell in love with before. If “Sam’s Town” portrays a band that wants to be taken more seriously on their second go-around, it’s probably because they do-but their obnoxiousness remains without the entertainment factor. Sorry Mr. Brightside, there won’t be much of a “Hot Fuss” over “Sam’s Town.”