19. Gnarls Barkley-St. Elsewhere
Life is full of surprises. A long, long time ago I remember reading a little blurb somewhere about a side project involving Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse. In one ear, out the other. Completely forgot about it. Last year I became a new found Cee-Lo fan when he released his sophmore solo disc Cee-Lo Green... is the Soul Machine. Despite his Goodie Mob clout, I couldn't find many others who gave two shits about his disc. It was sad y'all. Jump ahead to January 2006. What is this? Gnarls Barkley EP? Press play. Track one. Go Go Gadget Gospel. On comes the sound of a film projector and just like that, the Motown soul set to bossa nova comes to life bleeding into the now ubiquitous [but still classic] hit Crazy. Pondering life and whether he can stand on the shoulder of giants, Cee-Lo wails til his heart gently weeps, while Danger Mouse envelops it all in understated bass, soulful backing vocals, and swooshing strings. With St. Elsewhere, Danger Mouse and the Soul Machine toss out ideas, building on the structures and blueprints of the previously mentioned tracks, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink; noir inspired reflections [Storm Coming], the Motown sound with a little bit of doo wop [Smiley Faces], and the crushing sound of defeat set to harsh and abrasive pieces of percussion [Just a thought]. Rarely does an artist say how about this and succeed in transferring such thoughts and ideas from the mind and the page to the studio and the stage, but Gnarls Barkley do, and that's why, as I stated upon hearing that EP in January, they are your new favorite band.
KEY TRACKS: Crazy/Smiley Faces/Just a thought
18. Basement Jaxx-Crazy Itch Radio
There's an old ad for Blue Bonnet Margarine that goes everything's better with Blue Bonnet on it! Well everything's better when Basement Jaxx is on and running. Look, the duo should get brownie points alone for taking a tired and often done wrong trend [big voiced soul singah + an ass shaking, sweat inducing beat]and getting it right, always knocking it out of the park. This time around, the boys take another not particularly novel concept [album as radio station playing the hits] and manage to get at the itch you normally can't scratch. Take me back to your house gets up on the good foot with a claptastic banjo breakdown while Hey U marches [literally] to the beat of its own drum as Swedish pop chanteuse Robyn rallies up the troops all the way to the Balkan breakdown and back. You slow down and try to keep up, but then your hit with the Carnivalesque funhouse bounce of Run 4 Cover. It may sound disjointed and all over the place, but it's not, for the simple fact that the duo's main mission in life is never lost: making you sweat and bob yo head, no matter how fast, slow, or bananas the beat may be.
KEY TRACKS: Take me back to your house/Run 4 cover/Everybody
To be continued...