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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
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

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Fly Or Die

As of late last year, you could still make a case that The Neptunes still had it, that the Virginian beatmakers had enough credentials and credibility to avoid getting swept away by the changing tides of popular culture. After years of naught but loving acclaim, you could feel audiences start to naturally draw away from The Neptunes, the duo drifting on their way to being so last-season. Still, with their The Neptunes Present...Clones gear, Chad and Pharrell showed they were still live and kickin' it, such a disc's Clipse, Pharrell, and — most importantly — Rosco P. Coldchain numbers showing their syncopated beat-made minimalism was anything but tired. Of course, such a compile also featured the musical abortions of the High Speed Scene and Spymob. Neither of those awful corporate-rock songs were produced by The Neptunes, but their mere endorsed inclusion on a disc bearing the pair's name should've set off alarm bells. And, sure enough, any Neptunian optimism still existent six months ago has dwindled. And Fly or Die is gonna be the death of it — of not just the optimism, but the continued acclaim, the credibility, and their being the definition of cool. On what's supposed to be the sound of the duo's N.E.R.D vehicle taking flight, this death is, perhaps, attributable to artistic hubris; it's the sound of someone crashing and burning in a heap of misguided, grandiose intentions. It's the disc where The Neptunes have chosen to complete their "rock" transformation, and this means heaps of terrible-sounding modern-radio guitars, a telling Lenny Kravitz guitar-soloing guest spot, and the appearances of two guys from the least threatening punk-rock band in the brief history of time, Good Charlotte.

Fly or Die doesn't find The Neptunes defining a time, as one could say the original 2001 electro version of In Search of... did. Rather, it finds them latching onto the rock-revivalist movement, with disastrous results. Whilst the 2002 remade rocked-up version of In Search of... was way dubious, it's nothing compared to Fly or Die, which is a wholly conceived funk-rock record built, from the beginning, on such tenuous stylistic foundations. It also shows the downside flipside to The Neptunes' clean, digital, precise production sound. Whilst this is great when making staccato beats sound syncopated and punctuated to beyond-metronomic degrees, such a production aesthetic doesn't work well when working with electric guitars, analog organs, and vocal harmonies. Rather than sounding surgically precise, the tone is more just antiseptic, with any natural decay of the instruments cleaned away. Meaning, their guitars/organs/voices don't ring and linger, but rather sound like they've been cleaned up so cocksucking corporate suits will allow them onto their stringent playlists, the industrial-strength-toilet-cleaner-ish tone on "The Way She Dances" being particularly noxious.

All this smells of someone who's only just started to listen to "rock" right now, like regrettable genre-raiding from hip-hop heads who've long ignored such sounds, and only now act like they're the first to discover loud guitars, funk-rock fusions, and even old Meters albums. See, whilst their bastardized appropriation mostly draws on current sanitized sounds, there are moments where N.E.R.D go beyond rock's regrettable commodified now, revisiting past pop sounds pilfered from their parents' record collections. Like on "Drill Sergeant," where they make some sort of stylized display of going "'60s" with multi-part harmonies and handclaps and kitschy analog organs. Only problem is, given the digital, modernist tone of the recordings, the results fire completely off the revivalist/atavistic mark. And, given that the Neptunes've made their name as some sort of "futuristic"-sounding production team, hearing them go back and make second-hand, third-rate versions of old sounds seems like a disastrous artistic decision. Rather than sticking to what they do well, The Neptunes have instead gone with what they do worst: buying their own myth of N.E.R.D being a "rock band," and ruining their reputations in the process.

by Anthony Carew

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