The Beastie Boys - The Mix-Up
One of my biggest gripes with 2004's To The 5 Buroughs was its lack of the trippy, funktastic grooves that made 1992's Check Your Head my instant favorite of the trio's 7 studio albums.
The Mix-Up fills the void left by To The 5 Buroughs by supplying a solid 40-minute instrumental groove. If the two had been released closer together it could have made an amazing double album with straight-up rap on one side and straight-up funk on the other. If you were a fan of The Beastie Boy's compilation album from 1996, The In Sound From Way Out you will love The Mix-Up.
Stand Outs: "B For My Name", "Suco De Tangerina", "Freaky Hijiki" and "Off The Grid".
Mark Ronson - Version
Chances are, even if you haven't heard of Mark Ronson, you've probably heard one of his songs. Producing for Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and many, many others over the the last decade, Mark Ronson has made a name for himself in the U.K. as a mastermind behind the scenes.
Now, he's stepping into the spotlight with Version, an album built by his collaborations with numerous and noteworthy artists like Ol' Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan, the aforementioned Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, Robbie Williams and Kasabian, as well as his smooth, organic soul, funk orchestrations. Version is a party album. Something to nod your head and tap your fingers to and most importantly, something to dance to.
Stand Outs: "God Put a Smile On Your Face (feat. The Daptone Horns)", "Oh My God (feat. Lily Allen)", "Toxic (feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard & Tiggers)", "Inversion", "Diversion" and "Outversion".
Lily Allen - Alright, Still
In early November 2006, the iTunes single of the week was a happy little track called "Smile" by a relatively unknown Lily Allen. Now, an SNL and Coachella appearance and the release of her critically acclaimed album Alright, Still later, Allen has taken the U.K. and a good chunk of the U.S. by storm.
Thanks in part to the always stylish and hip production efforts of Mark Ronson, Alright, Still is a witty, biting, irreverant and downright funny album that can still cause spontaneous dancing.
Stand Outs: "Smile", "Knock 'Em Out", "LDN", "Everything's Just Wonderful", "Take What You Take", and "Alfie".
Linkin Park - Minutes to Midnight
With the release of the group's second album, Meteora, Linkin Park proved to be a little less than worthy of the band's cliché reputation.
Meteora played cinematically and had fantastic art direction in both the liner notes and subsequent music videos. The music itself had excellent and meticulous production values.
While not perfect by any means, Meteora felt like another massive step in the right direction for the group both artistically and sonically.
Minutes to Midnight, on the other hand initially comes off not as a step backward, but rather wandering away from logical progression and down a meandering path. That, however is just the initial impression.
What do you get when you combine Linkin Park & U2? Minutes to Midnight. While that comparison is a bit unfair, the band's sound has matured and thus, gotten a bit boring from a superficial perspective (although if mash-ups were still "cool" the first DJ to mix "Shadow of the Day" with "With or Without You" would be sitting on a gold mine).
In the end, it doesn't really matter (sorry). Regardless of what fans expected from Linkin Park, Minutes to Midnight is here and we can either accept it or reject it. At it's core, it is a very good album. A very different, but good album.
Stand Outs: "Wake", "Leave Out All The Rest", "Bleed it Out", "What I've Done", "Hands Held High", "In Between" and "In Pieces".