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neumu
Monday, November 20, 2017 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
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Akrobatik
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Balance
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I've always thought a great MC should give you those chills. You know the ones. Like the first time you heard Chuck D eloquently hollering on "Miuzi Weighs a Ton." Or when "Scenario" first hit the radio and a kid from Long Island named Busta Rhymes was roaring like a dungeon dragon.

Sadly, Boston hip-hop hero Akrobatik does not give me those chills. Sure, he's an articulate, thoughtful, challenging, funny rapper. He's got all the parts, but they don't add up to the whole. He lacks that spine-tingling ability that separaties a good rapper from a great one. On his debut LP, Balance, Ak comes correct often, but despite above-average production and an arsenal of metaphors, on Balance he just doesn't hit it over the fence.

Maybe his pedigree is the problem. The brewing Boston hip-hop scene has been compared to mid-'80s NYC. It's full of grimy street truth and conscious messages. Fellow Bostonians, namely Ak's friend Mr. Lif (who shows up on "Wreck Dem") and Raw Produce, have been producing noteworthy music for a decade. Last year's debut from Lif, I Phantom, was a minor masterpiece. It was a sprawling narrative of struggle. Akrobatik's first release, last September's "The EP," was reminiscent of his heroes KRS-One and Chuck D's best work. Maybe the bar was set too high by his forebears.

The album's first cut, the title track, offers some meaningful rhymes: "There's no balance in rap/ You either a nerd or a thug/ You either got too many big words or you bust too many slugs." He's right. There is no balance in hip-hop. He offers sharp musings on hypocrisy ("Hypocrite"), violence ("Cooler Heads") and just plain braggadocious MCs ("Feedback").

There's no filler on "Balance." Each track either tells a story, sends a message or both. The album's first single, in particular, "Remind My Soul," is a lush, guitar-accentuated piece of soul-searching. He rhymes to his people, black people, to love yourself and remember your heritage. It's hard to miss the yearning in Ak's voice in the chorus. "Remind my soul/ Of the time we were great/ Before the self-hate/ The time we were great/ Wait, but we still great." Less effective are the Martin Luther King vocal bits interpolated after the chorus. But the song is so clearly heartfelt, it's easy to ignore its weaknesses.

The soundscapes are sample-laden and smooth. Young producers DJ Fakts One, Edan and Ak himself team up with old pros da Beatminerz and Diamond to form a cohesive sound. Akrobatik's voice is always front and center, but the beats are far from minimal. It's never too jangly, nor is it ever too airy. Edan's stuttering horns on "Hand That Rocks the Cradle" are exceptionally dope.

But it all goes back to the Master of Ceremonies, and for all his wit and wonder, Ak just doesn't knock you on your ass, the way most of his heroes do. I won't hold it against him. It's nearly impossible to make a hip-hop record without filler — no skits, no wack joints about weed and tire rims, no cryfests to his mother. Just true school music. Just doing that is something to cheer about. But it just isn't the punch in the chest I hoped it would be.


by Sean Fennessey




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