Mark Ronson

Review: Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

It will be difficult to find a rap album released this year as fun as Action Bronson’s major label debut, Mr. Wonderful–how can you not love a guy who looks like this and has the bravado to claim that he “took up a meeting at Paramount/typecast as a romantic lead”?  Bronson drops plenty of one-liners that are alternately hilarious and clever, and in contrast to the prevailing atmosphere in hip-hop today, he keeps the mood light.  His particular style may bring to mind Ghostface Killah, but Bronson’s focus is less on elaborate crime-based storylines and more on finding satisfaction in the simple pleasures, like a “plate [of] some melon and prosciutt’.”

He may have gained a certain level of notoriety from a series of mixtapes and various EPs that were underground hits, but Bronson realizes that Mr. Wonderful is an opportunity to introduce himself to a whole new audience.  This explains why most of the album is focused on establishing the basic mythos of “Action Bronson”, as best exemplified by the comparing his origins to the creation of the genetically-engineered dinosaurs of Jurassic Park in “Falconry”.  The album is not just tossed-off quips though, as there are several callbacks throughout–Bronson kicks off the album boasting that he’s got a brand new guitar/got a jazz guitar over a Billy Joel sample, and then said guitar provides the melody for “Terry”.  Sometimes the clues are more difficult to spot, but reveal themselves after a bit of digging–in the line before the Jurassic Park comparison on “Falconry”, Bronson tells us he’s “listenin’ to German guitar riffs, what a life” and then a few songs later, this obscure track provides the main sample for “Only In America”.

Bronson takes a risk with a conceptual trilogy that makes up the middle third of the album.  “City Boy Blues” is the most musically adventurous track on Mr. Wonderful, providing a refreshing change of pace, and “A Light In the Addict” provides a bridge between the trilogy and the rest of the album.  The highlight though is the conclusion, the spurned lover’s lament “Baby Blue”.  Mark Ronson does a great job emulating the style of usual Bronson collaborator Party Supplies with the easy jazz, bouncy piano, and soulful hooks, but it’s Chance the Rapper that steals the show with his guest verse.  Chance wishes for a series of hilariously precise misfortunes to befall his former ladyfriend that range in malevolence from relatively harmless to rather painful (“I hope the zipper on your jacket get stuck” to “I hope you get a paper cut on your tongue from a razor in a paper cup”), though he ends on a rather mature note in wishing her happiness.

Mr. Wonderful is not a great artistic triumph, but not all albums need to be.  Sometimes you need to kick back and have a little fun, but in a way that does not insult your intelligence, and Action Bronson fulfills that role perfectly.  The man even offers some great advice: “Opportunity be knockin’–gotta let a motherfucker in.”

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Catching Up On The Week (Jan. 23 Edition)

Some #longreads as you prepare to fire off the last of your “balls” jokes this weekend…

Stereogum takes a look at the 10th anniversary of the self-titled debut from LCD Soundsystem, and I can think of no better way to kick off the weekend than to play “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” at an unreasonable volume, so here you go.

Perhaps the biggest news of this week was the surprise release of Björk’s new album, with Billboard providing the behind-the-scenes response of the leak of Vulnicura.  In order to get you into the proper mindset for the new album, it might be a good idea to read the New York Times profile on Björk as well as her already-much-discussed Pitchfork interview.

We’re not fans of Mötley Crüe by any stretch of the imagination, but when we found out that Drew Magary did a profile of the band while providing a glimpse of the life of a roadie, we were intrigued.  Magary is one of our favorite writers, so we’re glad to share his GQ article along with the extras that didn’t make it into the piece.

Many of you have been humming along to the infectious “Uptown Funk” for a few weeks now, so you might be interested in how difficult it was for Mark Ronson to put the seemingly easy song together, according to this Grantland profile.

The Guardian has a great interview with Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt about his early days working as a fanzine and newspaper columnist and seeing the best of the 80’s underground scene.  It’s a lot like revisiting Our Band Could Be Your Life from a Northwest perspective, as he reminisces about the early days of Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr., Big Black, and more.  In a related piece, The Guardian also takes a closer look at the terminally under-appreciated Portland punk legends Wipers as a part of their new celebration of cult heroes.  Hopefully more and more people go and take a look back at their classic early output.

Over the Weekend (Nov. 10 Edition)

New music, videos, and other fun as we prepare for “Foo Fighters Week”…

The Foo Fighters are released their eighth studio album today, Sonic Highways, and we’ll be running features on the band all week long.  To help get you into the spirit, SPIN has provided a ranking of all 147 Foo Fighters songs, including covers and soundtrack selections.  As with all lists, this one has its fair share of faults, including a weird affinity for the band’s weakest effort (Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace), dismissal of some of their best recent work in Wasting Light, and an unfortunate-but-expected disdain for tracks from One By One, and ranks “Hey, Johnny Park!” at least thirty spots too low.  On the other hand, it does provide the proper reverence for deep cuts like “A320” and “February Stars”, so we’ll take the good with the bad.  And though we have most of these Foo Fighters singles, including several obscure ones, this list did inform us of the existence of this performance with Serj Tankian of the Dead Kennedys’ classic, “Holiday In Cambodia”.

Aphex Twin recently sat down for an extensive interview with Dan Noyze, and not only that, provided a number of outtakes and and fragments made during the making of Syro.

Hutch Harris from local favorites The Thermals sat down with Late Night Action recently, and talked about subjects including the band’s early recording methods as well as the band’s personal involvement with their merchandise.  It’s always fun to listen to Hutch, so watch when you can.

Here’s an excellent list of “Songs You’ll Never Hear on a Sufjan Stevens Album”.

We’ve mentioned Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler’s upcoming side-project before, but now we have a bit more info about Big Noble.  They’ve also provided a video of one of their songs, which is a nice combination of Kessler’s crystalline guitar with intriguing soundscapes.

Mark Ronson is going to be the musical guest on SNL in a couple of weeks, and to get an idea of where he’s at, he recently released one of the songs he wrote with Tame Imapala’s Kevin Parker, and the result is something that sounds a bit like MGMT.

We’re looking forward to the second album from Father John Misty, since Fear Fun was such an excellent debut; plus we need an additional enticement to go see Josh Tillman’s stage show once again.  I Love You, Honeybear will be released next February, but last week FJM performed on Letterman the new track “Bored In The USA”, and it was fantastic.

Cults performed in Austin, and Pitchfork was there.  That should be enough to get you to click the link.

And because we’ve spent the entire weekend pondering the philosophical conundrum that comes with “too many cooks”, we’ll ride that out the rest of the week and post the video here.