By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Candiria is unprolific by industry standards, creates unformattable songs, and has a lackadaisical approach to touring and an altogether too-protean aesthetic, all of which seems like self-sabotage. Yes, they are extreme, but it doesn’t translate into murderous pagan recidivism, ear-bleeding volume or even shock theater. Even so, this is some basically dope hardcore with accomplished jazz snippets to help lessen the riff-intensive monotony. That in itself is worthy. (Andrew Lentz)
In transforming from beatnik to beefcake, Q-Tip‘s risking a path that’s doomed many an MC before him. Big Daddy Kane never recovered from his silk-and-satin days as the Prince of Darkness, and while the ladies adore Cool James, LL Cool J‘s ruffneck audience has shown little patience for his butter-soft rap ballads ever since his insipid ”I Need Love.“ But unlike Kane or LL, Q-Tip never sought to be larger than life as the leader of A Tribe Called Quest. A slick hepcat among vainglorious superstars, Tip generated (sex) appeal by being both meditative and accessible, offering the mind of a poet with the baby-faced charm of a high school crush. Now that he’s dumped his boho past for a future directed by Hype Williams, it‘s tempting to dismiss Q-Tip as another stargazing hopeful, but with Amplified his talents smooth the transition from everyman’s intellectual to thinking man‘s pop icon.
Have no illusions -- forlorn Tribe fans waiting for the return of the Abstract Poet are urged to abandon their hopes now. However, for a pop album, Amplified is a damn smart one, expertly efficient at only 12 songs long, and boasting much of the infectious energy shown on the hit single ”Vivrant Thing.“ Q-Tip and Ummah partner Jay Dee lace the album with floating bubbles of rhythm and melody that burst open in a stuttering shower of soapy funk. It’s far more mechanical than Tribe‘s organic vibe, but the Ummah still know how to milk a sample -- witness the honeyed guitar loop on ”Let’s Ride“ and the slamming key chords on ”Higher.“ As for Tip himself, his key rhyme sensibilities -- clever phrasings, a slippery, soothing flow -- are still in effect, though he‘s traded in his abstract poetics for simpler fare: braggadocio (”Wait Up“), party joints (”Breathe and Stop“), songs for your girl (”Things U Do“), etc. He’s also not above some duds -- ”Go Hard“ and the rock-rap mishmash ”End of Time“ (a collaboration with Korn) conform to all the worst hip-pop cliches of dull studio beats and lazy lyrics.
Moments like this make it difficult to wholeheartedly embrace Tip‘s rebirth, but as a solo debut, Amplified is more auspicious than uneven. Q-Tip’s new path of rhythm earns its share of both skepticism and admiration as he tries to find a groove in the post-Tribe era. (Oliver Wang)
DEBORAH HOLLANDBook of Survival (Gadfly)
In 1994, L.A. singer-songwriter Deborah Holland released a remarkable album called Freudian Slip with the help of Sting manager and music mogul Miles Copeland. The mainstream had already gotten a glimpse of Holland as the vocalist with Animal Logic, drummer Stewart Copeland‘s ill-fated attempt to create another Police with bassist Stanley Clarke. When Freudian Slip was released, it went nowhere fast, and the fact that the cover depicted a very pregnant Holland lounging around smoking a cigar met with resistance from the label, which was probably planning to take the femme fatale approach in trying to sell the album. But the record showcased Holland’s knack for composing a seemingly endless number of mesmerizing hooks.
Five years later, Holland is still writing terrific songs, though she‘s following a different stylistic path. If Freudian Slip was all about Holland the eclectic art-school graduate, surrounded by crunchy drums and translucent keyboards, Book of Survival introduces Holland the folksy songstress. The album’s spare instrumentation (her own acoustic guitar and piano alternately define the mood of each song) brings to mind Joni Mitchell‘s For the Roses era. Holland’s thickly textured voice implies the need for more-sophisticated soundscapes, and her gutsy delivery makes you think Copeland was right when he thought of her fronting a power-pop-rock combo. If anything, the record‘s unplugged vibe makes her sophisticated songwriting stand out. On ”Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher,“ she imagines these two most pathetic of world leaders having tea together and discovering that (surprise, surprise) they have a lot in common. ”Without You by My Side“ takes marital dispute as a starting point and transforms it into a declaration of love. The highest point is ”Kids With Guns,“ a piano-based gem with accents of slide guitar where Holland talks about the state of the world (and contemporary music) with warmth and wit.
The role of indie songwriter doesn’t suit Deborah Holland very well -- she‘s clearly destined for grander pop-glamour dreams. (Ernesto Lechner)