Brother Ali – Truth is Here

Brother Ali - Truth is Here I have not written a music-related post since December and my last album review posted in April 2008. While it may seem I was once again musicless in Seattle, the truth is I have been so busy enjoying so many recent additions to my music collection I have not made time to write about it.

Truth is Here is Brother Ali’s first release to have a legitimate shot at gaining him mainstream recognition. While his previous four releases are underground par excellence, only “Truth Is” from The Undisputed Truth received any significant coverage by mainstream radio. The Undisputed Truth peaked at 69 on the Billboard 200.

Ali’s newest release is well produced, lyrically rich and refreshingly relevant in this age of disposable hip-hop. I believe he will finally break through. The only real criticism I have is the release is too short. It is officially an extended play (EP) which means it is longer than a single but shorter than a full, long-playing (LP) album. Truth is Here consists of nine tracks composed of three sought-after B-sides and six previously unreleased songs, totaling roughly 34 minutes in length.

As for the production, Ali reunites with Rhymesayers Entertainment cohort, Ant, who weaves intricate tapestries of lush soundscapes that mesh perfectly with Ali’s burgeoning content. The two fit together as emcee and producer like hip-hop Velcro®. Ali’s lyrics are the hook and Ant’s production the loop.

Truth is Here gets 4 out of 5 on the “Tyrone Biggums” scale. (reference)

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When a release is this good, you add a few tracks and make it an LP. This EP created a lot of buzz and raises expectations for his forthcoming fourth LP, Us, due to hit the street September 22.

Winner: A picture is worth 300 albums

The winner of the “A picture is worth 300 albums” contest is: No one. 🙁

Nichole is the only person who submitted an entry. Notably, all four of her answers were correct. However, she missed two of the four Anita Baker albums. As a consolation prize, she has won her choice of one of the six albums involved in the contest. Congrats, Nichole!

The answers are below for anyone who is curious. I hope to have a better showing in future contests.

Contest Answers - Wall

Anita Baker

  • The Songstress (1983)
  • Rapture (1986)
  • Giving You the Best that I Got (1988)
  • My Everything (2004)

Coldplay

  • Parachutes (2000)
  • X&Y (2005)
Contest Answers - Covers

A picture is worth 300 albums

I have written about the Zune desktop software previously and one of my favorite features is the “Album Art Wall.” Basically, the software displays a random assortment of cover art from albums in your music collection to completely fill the screen. The example image below was captured at the full 1920×1200 resolution of my primary display at home. It’s a neat way to see about 300 thumbnails from the 1065 albums in my collection (ranging from Aaliyah to Zapp). The Zune desktop software is available as a free download even if you don’t own a Zune device. I highly recommend it over iTunes if you listen to music at your computer.

Here’s a challenge for you: Coldplay is one of my favorite groups and and TB loves Anita Baker. Can you name the Coldplay and Anita Baker albums visible in the “Album Art Wall” below? If so, leave a comment with your answer. The first person with the correct answer will win something fun.

Zune Album Wall

(Click here for the full-size image)

Control your Sonos system with the iPhone

If you are relatively new to my blog, you may have to dig through the archives to discover I like the Sonos music distribution system. Since I wrote that post lots has changed that makes me like it even more.

First, with the recent v2.7 software update, Sonos owners now have free access to Pandora and Last.fm music streaming services. I have subscribed to Pandora in the past and both services are excellent alternatives to normal FM radio broadcasts because they are commercial-free and play songs based on your musical tastes. Now that they are free to Sonos owners, users of XM/Sirius radio might also want to take notice.

Second, Sonos provides a first-party application through the Apple App Store for controlling Sonos Zone Players using an iPhone or iPod touch. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection and you can control all your zones and access your entire music library anywhere in your home using the intuitive iPhone touch interface. This is great because Sonos charges $399 for a CR100 controller that does the same thing using a smaller screen and more complicated series of buttons and a circa-iPod-Generation-2 jog dial.

Check out the pictures below that I grabbed from my iPhone while playing around with our Sonos setup.

Sonos iPhone App - Zone Menu Sonos iPhone App - Zone Grouping
Sonos iPhone App - Music Menu Sonos iPhone App - Music Library Sonos iPhone App - Artists
Sonos iPhone App - Now Playing - Pandora Radio Sonos iPhone App - Now Playing - Music Library

Blu & Exile: Below the Heavens

Blu & Exile - Below the Heavens While in Chicago a few weeks back, my brother-in-law-in-law (TB’s sister’s husband) introduced me to Below the Heavens, an indie/underground hip-hop album released last summer. The critically acclaimed work combines DJ/producer, Exile, and new-comer rapper, Blu. I purchased the album for $6.99 in DRM-free MP3 form from the Amazon Store.

The duo’s chemistry is reminiscent of that last heard on the Gnarls Barkley freshman release, St. Elsewhere, one of my favorite albums of 2006. There is an interview with pictures on illRoots.com. Curiously, while Danger Mouse is skinny and Cee-Lo rotund, Exile is big-boned and Blu could play Pookie in New Jack City 2.

All jokes aside, Below the Heavens is hip-hop Bundt cake: dense with an amazing panoply of old school samples, glazed with lyrical dexterity. This album will lift your spirit and may expand your brain matter. Last night, the album lifted my spirit (and legs) so much, I ran my first 10K (6 miles). Not bad.

Below the Heavens gets 4.5 out of 5 on the “Tyrone Biggums” scale. (reference)

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Exile’s production gets sloppy and Blu’s lyrics lose focus in a few lulls. Otherwise, it would be perfect.