Dilly's Albums: Kanye West

Welcome back!  Review #3 on the list of DIlly’s albums marks the first time that a hip-hop is reviewed.  I wish I could’ve started out with a better album to review, but hey that’s the luck of the draw.

Today’s review for Dilly’s Albums is…

Kanye West - Graduation

Review: #3

Released: 2007

Wikipedia Synopsis: (Full article)

Graduation is the third studio album by American hip hop artist Kanye West, released September 11, 2007 on Roc-A-Fella Records in the United States. Recording sessions for the album took place during 2005 to 2007 at Chung King Studios and Sony Music Studios in New York City and at Chalice Studios and The Record Plant in Los Angeles, California. It was primarily produced by West and DJ Toomp, and features guest contributions from artists including Mos Def, Dwele, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, and Chris Martin of Coldplay. The album’s cover artwork was designed by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

Discovery:  I had both of Kanye’s first two albums in my collection.  Only natural to give this one a listen and add it.  There was also a lot of hype at the time as this album release coincided with 50 Cent’s Curtis (an album that was added and then quickly dropped from my collection).

Ranking:  Kanye’s first three albums are currently in rotation in my iTunes collection.  Out of those three, I would have to say this ranks last.

Rating: 2 stars

Favorites:  Can’t Tell Me Nothing, Everything I Am, Homecoming

I’m a big fan of Kanye’s first two albums, however I find that this album strays away from the higher standards that he had for his first two albums.

When Kanye West first hit the scene he really interested me.  Being a protege of Jay-Z instantly made me interested, and the fact that he was in a car crash and dropped some tracks with his mouth wired shut (that didn’t sound like crap) was impressive.  On his first two albums Kanye did a good job of mixing hip-hop and dance style tracks that flowed well together.

On Graduation, Kanye definitely moved towards the more dance-style tracks.  He drew a lot of inspiration from bands such as U2 to do more “anthemic, inspirational music”.  Kanye produced most of this album and included a lot of synth in many of the tracks which I’m really not a big fan of.  Also a gratuitous use of auto-tune on some of the tracks didn’t impress me.

All this said, Graduation did receive the Grammy for Best Rap Album.  But we all know that music awards in this day in age are stupid and pointless.

The albums first single, Stronger, is a remix/mashup/whatever of Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.  The song got massive airplay and was a staple in many bars and clubs.  Because of this, I grew tired of it quickly.  To be honest, I didn’t find it to be different enough from the Daft Punk track.  Mostly it just seems like he’s rapping over the same track.  Lame, in my opinion.

This album also contains probably the worst hip-hop song in my library, Drunk and Hot Girls.  The content of the song is exactly what the title says, Kanye rapping about Drunk and Hot Girls.  What’s worse is that this track features Mos Def.  Considering some of the awesome songs they’ve collaborated on in the past, this was a huge let down.

The album does have it’s bright spots.  Can’t Tell Me Nothing is an awesome track over a classic Kanye hip-hop beat.  In the retrospecitve track Everything I Am, Kanye raps:

Damn, here we go again / Everything I’m not made me everything I am

Kanye also collaborates with Chris Martin of Coldplay on the track Homecoming.  I’m not a fan of Coldplay at all but I am a big fan of this track.

In general, I just find this album boring.  Aside from a few tracks mentioned above it doesn’t really flow well.  Considering how well his first albums flowed (including skits, intros, etc. that you find in most rap albums), Graduation seemed like a thrown-together piece of work after Kanye spent a week in a studio with a synthesizer and a bunch of old records to mix up.

I’m looking forward to having either of his first two albums show up for review as I believe they are much, much better offerings than Graduation.  If you’re considering adding some Kanye West to your collection, try his rookie and sophomore albums before testing this one.

Dylan

Dilly's Albums: Rise Against

Could it be fate?  It must be fate!  As I set out on starting to review the albums in my collection I was curious what my first review would be.  My worry was that the random selection would draw an album from my collection that I wasn’t fond of, and I would lose motivation to carry on with this project.

Well my friends, I’m happy to say that isn’t the case.  In fact, as luck would happen I’ve drawn my most listened to album in my collection (as per iTunes play count)!  The first album to be reviewed is…

Rise Against - The Sufferer and the Witness

Review: #1

Released: 2006

Wikipedia Synopsis:  (Full article)

The Sufferer & the Witness is the fourth album by American punk rock band Rise Against. The album was released on July 4, 2006. It was their second release on major label Geffen Records, following 2004’s Siren Song of the Counter Culture. It sold 48,000 copies in its first week, debuting at #10 on the Billboard 200. The album has been ceritified gold by the RIAA and platinum by the CRIA.  

Discovery: I’ve been a huge Rise Against fan for many years so it was only natural to add this album to my collection.  Bonus points that made me excited for this album was that the first single was filmed in Vancouver, BC.

Ranking: Rise Against has 5 studio albums at the time of writing.  Because they are one of my favorite bands it’s really difficult to rank the albums, but this one ranks somewhere in the middle.

Rating: 4 stars

Favorites: Chamber The Cartridge, Bricks, Drones, Survive

I remember very distinctly when I added this album to my library.  I was heading up Vancouver Island for a Maylong weekend camping trip and I was in search of some fresh tunes.  I was excited to get the album the night before and proceeded to listen to it twice on the drive up, multiple times on my iPod by the campfire (completely ignoring the social-ness of camping) and on the drive back home.

The album explodes open with Chamber the Cartridge, arguably one of my favorite Rise Against songs of all time.  In fact it’s the highest played track in my iTunes library with 103 plays, and likely countless more on my iPod and in my vehicle.  In the song, Tim McIlrath questions:

Can we be saved, has the damage all be done? / Is it to late to reverse what we’ve be become?

The Sufferer and the Witness is arguably the album that propelled Rise Against into mainstream rock.  Ready to Fall was a massive radio hit, and Prayer of the Refugee got the Guitar Hero status.  It used to be one of my favorites, unfortunately I find myself skipping it.  Regardless, the album has a great flow from beginning to end.

On Bricks, which is the albums fastest (and shortest track), McIlrath sings:

We’re setting our fires to light the way / We’re burning it all to begin again / With hope in our hearts / And bricks in our hands / We sing for change

The album closer, Survive, is a motivating tune that simply states:

How we survive, is what makes us who we are.

I’ve always found this album to be very inspiring lyrically.  Whenever I was going through tough times I could throw this album on and it would begin to turn my perspective around.

As mentioned in the intro this is one of the top played albums in my library, up there with Thrice’s Artist in the Ambulance and Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Stadium Arcadium.  I really wanted to give this album five stars, I really did.  But with a few floundering tracks like I mentioned above I had to drop it to 4 stars.  I also didn’t want to start my review blogs with a 5 star review, that would be setting the bar way too high!  Still this album is definitely worth adding to your collection.

That’s all for my first review, be sure to keep checking in as we journey through Dilly’s Albums!

Dylan

Dilly's Albums

In the interest of generating more content for my blog, I’ve decided to start doing random album reviews pulled from my iTunes library.  This series of entries will simply be called Dilly’s Albums and will cycle through my vast collection of tunes.

I’m a big music nerd and this is the best way for me to dust off some of those old albums in my collection and also continue to keep dilly.ca fresh.  I’ve got a few friends that follow this pattern in their blog and it works quite well, so I’m totally going to steal the idea!

The run-down on the process is as follows:

  1. I’ve installed the Play Random Album 2.0 script in my iTunes directory.  (By the way, be sure to check out Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes for many many more handy iTunes scripts)
  2. Every few weeks I’ll fire up this script to grab a random album from my iTunes directory.  No skipping!
  3. Listen to the full album, hopefully in one sitting.  At most, the album must be listened to in two sittings.  This will likely be stretched for multi-disc albums.
  4. Whip up a review and post it here!

For consistency each review will have the following format:

  • Name - The album name.
  • Release - The year the album was released.
  • Wikipedia - The synopsis of the album, copied from it’s Wikipedia article.
  • Discovery - How I happened to come across this particular album.
  • Ranking - How the album ranks in comparisons to the Artist’s other albums.
  • Rating - My rating on a scale of five (more on this below).
  • Favorites - A few of my favorite tracks from the albume
  • And then of course, the actual review.

Once the review is complete each album will receive a personal rating.  The rating scale is as follows:

  • Five Stars - This album is golden and should be purchased/downloaded immediately!
  • Four Stars - Solid album that can easily be listened to more than once.  Might have a few tracks that aren’t the greatest, but all in all a good offering.
  • Three Stars - Average album that likely has some flaws that keep it out of my regular rotation.
  • Two Stars - A few good tracks but mostly unintersting or crappy material.  On the cusp of being removed from iTunes.
  • One Star - Garbage the Cat.  Any album that receives a one star review will promptly be removed from my library!

I’m hoping to tackle an album every two weeks, and with about 30GB of music in my collection right now I don’t expect to run out of material anytime soon.  Of course I’d welcome suggestions on how to improve this review system, so feel free to let me know.

So stay tuned and be sure to check out my next post for the first review in Dilly’s Albums!

Dylan