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Record Reviews: Soulja Boy, Beach House, Cadence Weapon

Soulja Boy Tell ’Em | “Yahhh!” | Collipark Records

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Soulja Boy is some sort of savant. He has to be. His IQ can’t be much higher than his age (17), but the kid’s almost mystically attuned to what his peers want. His first single, “Crank That,” plugged into the universal desire among the emoticon-and-Ritalin generation to have a stir-’n’-serve anthem ideal for basement dance parties. The second single, “Soulja Girl,” tapped into the hormonal needs of adolescent girls to tape pictures of musicians not yet old enough to shave to the inside of their lockers. His third single, “Yahhh!,” is designed to be a battle cry for kids to shout at adults who just don’t get it. It’s also a legitimate attempt to dethrone “My Humps” for its ignominious distinction as dumbest song ever recorded. No joke, this one makes Fergie’s ode to her “lady lumps” sound like “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” The hook is nothing more than the words “Yahhh, Yahhh, Bitch! Yahh ... Get out my face, ho! Get out my way!” screamed ad nauseam in a voice eerily similar to that of Timmy, the mentally challenged wheelchair-bound kid from South Park.

In fact, “Yahhh!” most resembles that infamous episode of South Park where Timmy forms a massively popular band called Timmy and the Lords of the Underground, despite being, um, well, retarded. By the time you read this, this song’s video will have been viewed more than 4.5 million times on YouTube. Oscar Wilde once wrote that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” I’m not sure whether or not this is life imitating art, art imitating life, or a really shitty ring-tone rap song corroborating the thesis of Idiocracy — probably a combination of the three. I’m willing to bet that if the late Irish playwright heard “Yahhh!,” he’d be rolling his eyes in his grave. Or maybe he’d crank that instead. He seemed like the type of bloke who liked to dance. (Jeff Weiss)


Beach House | Devotion | Carpark Records

Beach House were among the first bands to break out of the burgeoning Baltimore scene, and the fact that they’re from Maryland is one of those things that seem to make sense only in retrospect. Notice that’s Beach House, not Beach Party. Drive past the drafty, shuttered-up shacks on the Delmarva Peninsula once the summer ends, and you’ve got yourself a pretty close approximation of what their gorgeous and ghostly eponymous debut of 2006 offered. Likewise, there will often be times that you’ll wish Los Angeles’ weather patterns offered more context in which to properly enjoy Devotion; dim the lights and cut off your space heater if you need to, because it was on a 5:30 a.m. drive during the relative dead of winter (43 degrees!) that the glistening Cocteaus-on-dessert-wine “Astronaut” finally made the most sense.

Devotion doesn’t stray too far from Beach House’s core sound of held-for-days organ notes, slide guitar and simple drum-machine beats. The third tracks from both records (“Apple Orchard,” “Gila”) have nearly identical patterns. But what makes Devotion a successful follow-up is the way Beach House manage to incorporate new sounds and textures without appearing as if they’ve added a third member, retaining a crucial intimacy. Things get interesting from the jump as “Wedding Bell” abuts its harpsichord waltz with hints of backward guitar and fuzz bass, two touches that are far removed from the sonics of their more blanched debut. There’s also a subtle C&W edge in the seductive riff of “Gila” and the near-twangy guitar touches on their cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Some Things Take a Long Time.”

The (relative) boldness of the instrumentation is matched beautifully by Victoria Legrand’s vocals, which tower like a cold, distant monolith transmitting themes of near-archaic romance and longing. Yet the way she aggressively moans in “Gila” and self-harmonizes in “Astronaut” portrays Devotion as elemental: warm blood under ice. (Ian Cohen)


Cadence Weapon | Afterparty Babies | Anti-

For all his critical acclaim, dexterous wordplay and hip-hop/house hybrid beats, Cadence Weapon (Canadian MC Rollie Pemberton) still has a hard time connecting with his listeners, a similar dilemma to that facing the clever but passionless Anticon Records catalog. Pemberton’s verbose rhymes are often personal and thought-provoking, as is the main conceit of the record, his fluke entrance into the world as an “after-party baby.” At the close of the album’s doo-wop opener, “Do I Miss My Friends” (the best track), Pemberton reveals, “This goes out to all the accidents out there. Keep on making mistakes.” And yes, mistakes are made, like his reliance on uniformly banging electro-tech beats. “Limited Edition OJ Slammer” offers some relief by employing old-school video-game sounds as its sample base, but as Pemberton launches into “Juliann Wilding,” asking, “Have you ever done coke off a book? It’s not the Bible, but it’ll have to do,” another four minutes of art-school stories over four-on-the-floor thumping feels vapid. Lyrical density is dope, but a little diversification and a lot of soul would elevate Cadence Weapon’s heady mix beyond the narrow range of underground nerd-rap in which it now resides. (Jonah Flicker)