Wednesday, November 05, 2008

3 Albums You Need. Right Now.

It's a wonderful time to be a nerd!

The last few days have seen three very high profile music releases, each in a distinctly geeky vein. Moreover, each is also what you might term "affordable."

Oh, and they fuckin' rock too. Though I guess that went without saying.

The first is another compilation from my friends at Game Music 4 All. The GM4A crew cranks out these discs at a clip that, honestly, puts my meager efforts to shame, and I'm glad to say that this release is even better than the superlative efforts that have come before it.

LOSER: A Sega Genesis Tribute celebrates the music of those 16-bit masterpieces that graced so many of our dens/bedrooms in a 39 track monolith of Grade-A VGM. It features some fantastic work from old favorites like Spheres of Chaos, Videogame Orchestra, Elfonso, This Place is Haunted, Doctor Octoroc, Temp Sound Solutions, and many more. Of course, the highlights are many, with my early favorites being the smooth Jazz of The Runaway Five in their live reinterpretation of "Casino Night" from Sonic The Hedgehog 2, 8-Bit Duane (of The Adventures of Duane and Brondo) belting out a chippy cover of "Billie Jean" from Moonwalker, and NESMetal's blistering take on "Idaten" from the Shinobi III soundtrack. But in the end it's The Red Wing's punked up cover of the "Wilderness" theme from Golden Axe and Big Head Mode's unlikely "Here’s Johnny (John Madden Football)" that take the cake. And you can have all these amazing selections for free!

Sure, I would've like to have heard some tracks from favorites licensed games like Shadowrun and The Pirates of Dark Water, but, all things considered, it's an amazing effort from 32 fascinating artists with only one drawback: a relative dearth of nerdcore. With only a handful of MCs – MisterB, MC Cheshire Grin, HipHopMcDougal, and the aforementioned Duane and Brando – it's a little light on the hip-hop. Thankfully, there's an easy solution.

Inspired by YTCracker's pivotal Nerdrap Entertainment System, Entity created the 8Bit Boys: a perfect marriage of contemporary rap and classic NES-era chiptunes. In a community quickly filling up with supergroups, the Boys manage to hold their own by boasting an all-star lineup comprised of YT, T.y.T., The Ranger, and Entity himself. Their long-awaited debut 8-Bit Diagrams proves itself a near-perfect example of the all-too frequent and, sadly, often miscalculated nerdcore/VGM crossover. For those with the intention to launch a similar gamer rap concept album, this title joins N.E.S. and Mega Ran as an example of the right way to proceed.

Classic 8-bit fare like the infectious hook from Bad Dudes (in the song of the same name) has never sounded better, but it's on more understated joints like "1 Life" and the title track that the listener can't help but really fall into 8-Bit Diagrams. And even atypical tracks like "Gangster Gamers," which looks forward to the literal console wars of the future, prove that the 8Bit Boys can bring ample aggression without losing their clever edge. Hell, even a song like "Controller Hog," which I didn't feel at first, easily grew on me on a second listen.

The album excels on many levels, but it's easily at its best when it truly connects gaming nostalgia with sharp but relatable lyricism. "8-Bit Blisters," which aptly displays T.y.T.'s ever-improving and always distinct flow, is an easy high point that describes the folly of the non-ergonomic controllers of yore. "Faulty Controller" does the same by recalling the great lengths we sometimes had to go to keep our old cartridge-based systems functional, and tosses in an almost System of a Down-style chorus that both surprises and delights.

There's a 10-track freebie version of this album floating around that you simply must check-out, and I'd go so far as to say that dropping 10 bucks on the full version would be a wise investment.

And for those of you not yet content with the recent volley of other high-profile YTCRacker collaborations, the YT/MC Lars project The Digital Gangster LP is currently available for download. Released under the pay-what-you-like model, this album can be purchased for as little as $1, and uses a sliding scale of awesome for increments thereafter. Ten bucks nets you high quality .wavs, and $15 gets you the physical CD to boot. Thirty dollars scores you the disc, downloads, and a t-shirt; $50 bumps that up to three shirts; and $100 lands you the entire commercial catalog from both artists. Oh, and for $1200 they'll perform the LP live in your house.

Yes, that's a real offer.

The only thing more interesting than the manner in which the album is sold is its actual contents, as it's already proven itself a shoo-in for one of my top albums of 2008. From the opening bars of "We Have Arrived" to the closing strains of "Paul is Dead," The Digital Gangster LP represents what could accurately be described as the finest output thus far from both artists. It's fun, topical, and loaded with special guests like Beefy, int eighty, Schaffer the Darklord, and ZeaLouS1. It also formally introduced me to Oakland area rapper K.Flay, who punctuates some of the album's most amazing material.

But perhaps more important than its superlative cast of players and inspiring musical selections is the simple fact that The Digital Gangster LP is a perfectly constructed album; it starts gingerly enough, builds to and rolling boil, and then cools itself down without ever losing (or boring) the listener.

"Manifest Destiny," which I'm sure you've already checked out, serves as a perfect example of the project's straight-forward charms, but it's the tracks of the album's robust middle third that make this a must-own. The smoothed out "Nerdcore Players," which is the geeky lover's anthem the genre's been missing, and it's follow-up "Guinevere," in which YTCracker raps with an accent, represent the epitome of its subtle strengths.

The powerful "911 AM (Rudy Giuliani)" featuring the incomparable Doctor Popular, however, is the single to beat. An outright damnation of American fear-culture, it seems all the more poignant after last night's political housecleaning.

Album of the Year? Probably. Song of the Year? Definitely.

In short: Buy The Digital Gangster LP now. Or the terrorists win.


Anonymous said...

:D Thanks Z.

Dropped another new album yesterday though, just to keep you on your toes!

antisoc said...

Listening to DGLP now. Favorite line so far "how do you freaking steal the freaking Eiffel tower?"

Z. said...

A new album? I'm on it, Ranger! :)

I'm partial to "yeah, that's my wiener, thanks for the pat-down," Soc.

Justin said...

Am I the only one that keeps getting an error whenever I try to buy it?

"The link you have used to enter the PayPal system contains an incorrectly formatted item amount."

Justin said...

And by "it" I mean digital gangster.