I finally wrangled some more of my musical content from 2009. Here are four of my Metromix reviews involving the smoothest rappers alive, a guitar army, and a dark dance-pop upstart. Some knocked it out of the park. Who fouled out?
Dinosaur Jr., Farm
After turning the synth-dominated ’80s back onto the guitar and inspiring everyone from Nirvana to My Bloody Valentine, peerless power trio Dinosaur Jr. fractured in the late ‘90s as guitarist J. Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow—who founded lo-fi champs Sebadoh in 1987—and drummer Murph succumbed to interpersonal drama. While crushing ’80s efforts like “You’re Living All Over Me” and “Bug” redefined rock’s sound, the band’s phenomenal, mostly-Mascis ’90s releases such as “Green Mind,” “Where You Been” and “Without a Sound” crossed over and even charted. But Dinosaur Jr. were thought to be extinct (sorry, couldn’t resist) until 2007, when Mascis, Barlow and Murph buried the axe, reunited and released “Beyond.” MORE @ METROMIX
Built to Spill, There Is No Enemy
For ax nuts and others mesmerized by distorted guitar epics and crystalline arpeggios, Boise’s Built to Spill have been a guilty pleasure ever since popping up in 1993 with “Ultimate Alternative Wavers.” Spearheaded by vocalist and guitar god Doug Martsch, grounded by drummer Scott Plouf and rounded out by a hardy crew of six-string virtuosos (including Jim Roth, Brett Nelson and Caustic Resin architect/original BTS member Brett Netson), Built to Spill have merged Smiths pop, Crazy Horse crunch and clever lyricism into a decorated career. From the flawless “Perfect From Now On” to the crossover croon of “You in Reverse” and onward to this measured, middle-aged entry, this guitar army has outlived its indie peers just fine. MORE @ METROMIX
Rakim, The Seventh Seal
As part of golden age of hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, William Michael Griffin Jr. laid down some of the sharpest, most mellifluous raps ever. A true poet, he married labyrinthine lyricism to B.’s machine gun beatcraft on foundational classics like “Paid in Full” and “Follow the Leader.” Since then, he’s ventured out only sporadically, but “The Seventh Seal” says he’s back to stay. And that just made hip-hop’s day.
MORE @ METROMIX
Gift of Gab, Escape 2 Mars
As the tongue-twisting rhymer for Blackalicious, Gift of Gab has delivered some of the most rapid-fire, cerebral and spiritual lyrics in hip-hop. Known to his folks as Timothy Parker, Gab jumped off as part of the Northern California–based all-star crew known as Solesides, which also included DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker, as well as Gab’s Blackalicious comrade, Chief Xcel. Solesides eventually morphed into Quannum, while Gab and Xcel released some of hip-hop’s most rewarding music, including the 2000 classic, “Nia.” Since then, he’s been on a roll with Xcel, as well as the Mighty Underdogs and solo. We have liftoff. MORE @ METROMIX
The Bravery, Stir the Blood
As part of New York’s New Wave revival, the Bravery quickly made a splash in the mid-’00s with addled dance-pop addicts looking to turn the time machine back to the 1980s. The quintet’s self-titled 2005 debut won plaudits from mainstreamers and indies alike, while their more ambitious 2007 sophomore effort, “The Sun and the Moon,” was a clumsy but worthy attempt to burst out of the synths-and-angst straitjacket. The end result of that progress is this mostly dark effort, which nevertheless shines as brightly as the group’s auspicious debut. MORE @ METROMIX