Killer Mike and El-P are back with the best hip hop album of 2014 thus far. Surprisingly released last Friday, RTJ2 is everything the duo’s first album was and then some. The beats hit harder, the lyrics are broader, and the imagery is even sharper. This time around, though, they’ve added some guests to the mix (most notably Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha and Gangsta Boo) who do an excellent job adding to the album without stealing focus from the guys who brought them there. Seriously, this album is a monster (and did I mention the download is free?). Just turn it on, crank the volume, and rage.
I’ve been lucky enough to see The Flaming Lips in concert twice in the last four months, and both times they closed the show with the version of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” that appears on this album. Each time it was recognizable as “Lucy” but it was slowed way down, the bass was cranked beyond 11, and it included more psychedelic flourishes than you can shake a glow stick at. Accordingly, I knew going in that a reconstruction of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would be really, really weird. Nonetheless, I was wholly unprepared for the experience. These are cover songs in name and lyrics only, and I’d be willing to bet a significant portion of many of the songs could be played for a Beatles’ fanatic before they realized what they were hearing. That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Faithful covers always seem pointless to me, but when a band twists a song to make it their own? That’s what I want to hear.
Grouper is a singer/songwriter project that often gets classified as ambient or drone due to substantial use of effects. Ruins, however, does away with the effects leaving the pure beauty of a woman’s voice and piano accompaniment (and honestly calling this album beautiful is underselling it). The emotion exuded in this album…honestly, I’m having trouble finding the words, so I’ll just say this: Where Run the Jewels 2 makes me want to put my fist through a wall, Ruins repeatedly puts me near tears of joy, yet both will be among my favorite albums of 2014.
An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: www.last.fm/user/cafreema Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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