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TBTS Quick Takes: Big Boi, Robyn, and School of Seven Bells

July 14, 2010

He writes knockout songs, you spit punchlines for money...

Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty

There have been some formidable releases from rising stars in southern rap in recent months. Best of all, three of the best recent albums are, as far as I know, still available as free mix-tape downloads: The Huntsville International Project by G-Side, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here by Big K.R.I.T., and Diary of an ATL Brave by Donnis.

But as is plainly obvious on Sir Lucious Left Foot, Big Boi still has a lot to teach the young’uns. Of course, I already knew that Big Boi was half of Outkast and one of the Dirty South’s true godfathers. But I honestly didn’t know that Big Boi was capable of such a masterful, musically ambitious hip hop album. I also didn’t know that he was so effective at rhyming so completely “in the pocket” of his beats—I was more familiar with the manic, hundred-syllables-per-line, go-against-the flow style he commonly displayed on Outkast’s records. Here he sounds much more composed and comfortable, and the songs benefit from his restraint.

Simply put, there’s not a single bum track on Sir Lucious, and it’s all over the place stylistically, in the best possible way. Few cuts even lend themselves to rote categorization, except perhaps the most important category of all—fun, funky, and consistently interesting modern rap.

Robyn: Body Talk, Part 1

Robyn’s story is well known at this point. Global pop hit(s) in the late 90s, followed by years of corporate label wrangling over the second album, followed by hard-won independence, followed by her eponymous “comeback” album, followed by gradual rebuilding of her international renown based on near-universal acclaim for Robyn as one of the decade’s true dance-pop masterpieces. Followed by lots of “How can she top that?”

Which brings us to Body Talk, Part 1, the first of three album-length releases that Robyn plans for the next year. Only based on the remarkably high standard she set with such affecting Robyn tracks as “With Every Heartbeat,” “Bum Like You,” and “Who’s That Girl,” I’m thus far finding Body Talk slightly underwhelming. An unfair measure, to be sure, but one that’s hard to overcome when you hold the previous album in such high regard.

That said, “Cry When You Get Older,” “Fembot,” and a couple of other Body Talk tracks still display the Robyn hallmarks that make me love her—emotional insight and well-placed levity in lyrics that steadily convey both vulnerability and resilience, along with consistently well-constructed and well-executed electronic pop production.

School of Seven Bells: Disconnect from Desire

Really surprised by this one, as nothing about their first record, 2008’s Alpinisms, really grabbed me at the time. But I would strongly recommend Disconnect from Desire to anyone who hears the words “shoegaze” and/or “synth-pop” and instantly starts swooning at the prospect of getting lost in washing waves of sparkling sound. School of Seven Bells (or “SVIIB,” as their Roman numeral-savvy fans know them) have shown me that they can walk the thin tightrope that connects shoegaze’s effects-laden guitar attack with synth-pop’s general bent toward electronic elements, discernible lyrics, and relatively clear production.

As represented on Disconnect from Desire, SVIIB’s formula is a powerful, effective marriage of the two, and it makes for a moving, heady listening experience. Not to give too much of a spoiler, but there’s a moment in the song “Joviann” where these things—the light and the dark, the vivid and the murky—come together in truly breathtaking fashion. I’m obviously a sucker for moments when shining, clarion notes of brightness pierce through churning sonic opacity, and Disconnect from Desire has several. Time to revisit that first album and see what I’ve been missing.

  1. PMcD permalink
    July 14, 2010 2:04 pm

    Thanks for the info on Robyn, going to see her this weekend at Pitchfork…

    Show me love.

  2. Paul permalink*
    July 15, 2010 2:20 pm

    PMcD: I am eternally jealous. She freakin’ rocks. I’ve got some live footage of material from her eponymous record, bits and pieces mostly. She puts on a good show…and is super-hot as well.

  3. PMcD permalink
    July 19, 2010 9:59 am

    She was awesome. Incredible energy in 90+ heat with high humidity in the middle of the afternoon. And was looking and sounding as fabulous as always.


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